Hidden Shifter excerpt:
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
I’d already been sitting on the edge of my leather couch waiting to hear who my fated mate was. Now I pressed the phone to my ear as if it would make an explanation come faster. “Bad news?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” Praya said again. “Your fated mate is… dead.”
The phone fell out of my suddenly-limp hand. I slumped against the couch, unable to move. It sounded like the woman was still talking, but I didn’t have the strength to pick the phone up and hear what she was saying. She’d already told me everything I needed to know.
My fated mate was dead.
For a moment, I just let my mind wrap around the facts. My fated mate was gone before I’d even had a chance to meet him. I’d never known him – and now I would never know him. Still struggling to breathe, I pushed myself to wrap my fingers around the handset.
“Mr. Hillwell?” the matchmaker asked. “Are you still there?”
Was I? It was a good question. “I’m here,” I finally said. “There… there must be some mistake. My mate can’t be dead.”
“I know this must be shocking for you,” she said. “I can call back later and give you your mate’s information, if you’d like. I think you could still make it to the funeral.”
A fist seemed to squeeze my heart. Going to my fated mate’s funeral would be bad enough if I’d actually lived with the man. To go without having known him felt even worse. I didn’t know if I could take it.
This definitely was a shock, and I was about to ask Praya to call me back as she’d suggested. Then it hit me. If I could still make it to the funeral…
“When did he die?” I asked.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” she said quietly. “He died yesterday.”
A strangled sob came out of my lips. If I’d just written to the agency earlier, I would have met my mate. It had been open for years now. Practically every alpha and omega I knew had been written in, been matched, and fallen in love. Shifters across the country had already found happiness.
But me? No, I was always too busy. My work was more important than finding the man of my dreams. The money was stacking up in my bank account, and there was no time to feel lonely. When I did think about the coldness of my bed at night, I just put off writing to the agency. There was always more time.
That time had run out.
Somehow I managed to speak. “How did it happen?”
“He was in a car accident,” Praya said.
She sounded sympathetic. I tried to picture her – she sounded middle-aged, but what did she look like? Was she behind a desk? In a white lab coat? Her hands would definitely be folded, and her lips would be pursed. It probably wasn’t every day that she had to deliver this kind of news. Well, it wasn’t as if it mattered.
“You can look up the details, if you’d like,” she said. “His name was Idris Greene.”
The name alone sent a rush through me. Idris, Idris… They said names could influence your personality, and in this case I thought it was true. Knowing his name brought me a tiny bit closer to him. I could almost feel the man I’d been meant to spend my life with.
“I’ll… I’ll look him up,” I murmured. “Thank you.”
I walked with heavy steps through the halls of the home I’d made for myself. The elaborate furnishings and expensive tapestries seemed to mock me. The two men with arms intertwined in a five-thousand-dollar painting shook their heads. I had bought myself a yacht – a yacht! – yet I hadn’t found time to write to the agency. What was all of this worth if I had no mate?
Praya should have matched me earlier. She should have reached out to all the unmatched shifters. There were so few of us left at this point – I was sure she could have done it easily. If she’d put in some effort, done her job, I would have had some time with my mate. Maybe he wouldn’t have died if he’d been here with me.
How could fate have done this to me? Why give me a mate just to take him away? Stopping short in the middle of the hallway, I clenched my fists and screamed up at the sky. My cri de coeur was raw, primal – a howl of suffering.
When I could scream no more, I dropped my hands to my sides. Doing it had given me a kind of relief, and I saw my situation with new clarity. I had done this to myself. I couldn’t deny that. Praya had operated her business as expected. The stars had given me the same treatment as everyone else. It was me who had held off on writing to the agency.
I took in harsh breaths, knowing that I could only blame myself. Why had I waited so long for the right moment? When was the right moment supposed to be? I’d finally done it now that I was closing in on thirty. I’d done it calmly, as if writing to the agency was no different from ordering take-out. I’d only been mildly curious about what I was going to get. If anything, I’d worried slightly about how finding my mate would screw up my current life. I had it pretty good – or I’d always thought I did.
What good were all my stock trades now? They’d seemed so urgent before, and yet I’d never thought the few extra dollars in my bank account from each time I’d said “later.” Love had been waiting for me, and I had shoved it aside...
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