Excerpt from STRAY: A FAKE MATE GAY ROMANCE

(Aryn, an alpha sophomore from the Greyson pack, has told his pack leader, Braedan, he'd found his omega mate, just because it seemed to be the only way to get Braedan to allow him to join the college hunting club. Now Braedan wants to meet Aryn's mate, and Aryn has to find someone to play the part for one night. He's decided to ask packless omega Trae "Stray" Vagorien, the hottest omega on campus, who also happens to be his secret crush....)

It’s 9 p.m., and I’m standing in the shadows of the giant red maple tree in front of the entrance portal of Vagorien House, waiting for Trae. I know he’s bound to show up any minute now, getting back from the gym. I might have done a bit of research. There’s such a thing as right time, right place, and, yeah. I don’t need any witnesses.

I can’t stop pacing and checking my phone for the time. I’m absurdly nervous, almost as if I were about to propose to him for real. It’s because he’s, yeah, him, and because of what I’m going to ask of him.

And we’ve never even talked before. Whenever I see him, he seems to turn away to walk off in another direction. I must be imagining that. He can’t possibly be avoiding me. Why would he? It doesn’t make sense. I’m popular with the omegas. I was voted Fennys Den’s Alpha of the Year last spring. It’s a bullshit vote the omegas hold to set us alphas against each other, distributing sexy points. I’m aware it’s just silly college antics, but it’s still a fact I got that title. And yet Trae Vagorien treats me as if I had rabies or something—

There he is. I catch his scent first, then he steps around the sandstone pillar at the far corner of Vagorien House. With me being downwind from him, he doesn’t see me until he’s almost reached me.

“Hey, hello,” I say, stepping forward into the light spilling from the large cross-windows of Vagorien House’s first floor. For a moment, his eyes go wide, blank like those of a rabbit in the headlights. A split-second later, he’s got his face back under control.

“Hey,” he says curtly and walks on, past me.

“Wait, I…”

He stops, not really turning back to me. “What.”

“I need to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“Can we… can we do this someplace else? I don’t want anyone to overhear.”

Especially not old Torîen, who’s Dean of Vagorien House and might be watching from one of these windows right now. He’s been known to drag people in front of the disciplinary committee for nothing more than kissing on college grounds.

Trae Vagorien looks at me, his eyes glittering in the twilight. "Are you asking me to join you in the forest, Greyson? Is that it? Yeah, forget it.”

His hair swings into his face as he turns to climb the stairs leading to the entrance doors.

Without thinking, I go after him. “No, wait!”

He spins around, letting his backpack thump to the ground as if he were getting ready to fight, staring daggers at me from past his bangs.

“Don’t you dare put your hands on me!”

Hastily, I take a step back.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to… I didn’t mean to… I just need to talk to you.”

“Then stay where you are and get to the point, Greyson. You’ve got fifteen seconds.”

He pushes his hair back and crosses his arms in front of his chest.

Absurdly, I feel as if I were smaller than him, and not just because he’s standing on the stairs. It’s those fighter vibes, that steely toughness in his amber eyes.

“It’s a little complicated…”

“You know what; why don’t you think about what you actually want to say and then try again. If it’s so important, you can meet me at the smokers’ corner behind the observatory tomorrow after lunch.”

“But—”

“It’s been nice talking to you. Bye.”

 

***

 

The sun shines on the little patch of untended lawn behind the observatory.  The facility manager has put a broken sink out here, then apparently forgotten about it. It stands in the overgrown grass like a parody of a fountain, its chipped basin containing a puddle of brownish rainwater and dozens of soaked cigarette stubs.

So, this is where he goes to smoke. Looks like he’s breaking rules all over the place. They say he’s doing drugs too. If he’s as wild as he appears to be, that’s actually good. That means he might actually agree to what I’m going to ask of him.

I get a sweet whiff of omega. Standing straight, I look down the well-worn trail leading to the front of the observatory. Ten seconds later, Trae appears, flanked by his friend, Fallyn, and the girl, Sunnyi.

I can’t help staring at him. There’s something to the way he moves that makes it really hard to look away from him. And he has more style than anyone on campus. It’s crazy, but somehow his old jeans and threadbare hoodie are perfect on him. Or maybe it’s simply his body that’s perfect.

“Hey, Greyson,” he says. That’s all.

He stands leaning against the wall. Flipping his hair back over his shoulder, he lights a cigarette. The alpha stands to his right and starts smoking too; the girl, standing on Trae’s other side, is chewing gum. They both watch me, looking curious. Trae’s expression is unreadable. It’s unnerving to stand before this tribunal. And I told him I don’t want any witnesses. Looks like it’s him who’s calling the shots here. Looks like I have no choice but to simply go ahead if I want his help.

He listens to my stuttered little speech not moving a muscle. All the reaction he shows is one raised eyebrow. When I’m done, he snips the ash from his cigarette so the silver skull ring on his thumb catches the sunlight and says, “And what made you think of making this flattering offer to me, I wonder.”

“Well… you know.”

“Because you’ve heard I’m this slut, is that it? Because no family, no morals, and because packless is reckless? Is that it, Greyson?”

I don’t know what to say. He makes me feel all kinds of guilty and lacking. It doesn’t help he’s so gorgeous, so flawlessly beautiful, even in broad daylight, even from up close. Especially from up close. The fact is, he looks more the aristocrat than all of the snobbish Starling omegas with their noble pedigree put together.

He’s a head shorter than I am and very slender, almost skinny. He’s barefoot, like a wildling, and his clothes are worn. But the delicate, proud lines of his jaw and shoulders would befit ancient royalty, and his amber eyes flash with pure challenge. He’s never once lowered his gaze during our conversation. No well-bred omega would dream of meeting an alpha’s gaze like that, and it goes straight to my dick. Same as his scent.

Smelling him from this close takes me back to the night I spent under the windows of his room in the heat house last spring. Those windows are supposed to be airtight, but his scent still got out; it was in my nose day and night, wherever I went, tormenting me, until I snapped and crept out there one night to spend three hours wanking into the shrubs in the dark.

He’s still looking at me, and it feels as if he were reading my mind. I shake my head. “It’s just that I need this permission slip from my brother. I love hunting.”

“Do you now? Right. You know, I’ve heard about you too, Aryn.” He makes it sound as if it were me who had a reputation, not him. He’s heard about me. He knows who I am.

He’s called me by my given name.

“Yeah, you know, Vagoriens talk too,” he continues wryly. “You’ve slept with half a dozen omegas from my house. Looks like you’re quite the slut yourself. Or I guess you’d prefer to be called a heartbreaker. Well. Don’t expect to break mine, alpha.”

“I won’t try any funny business. No sex. I promise it on my family name. Just dinner and breakfast with my pack and one night in a double room with me, then you’ll get your money. I’ll keep my distance at all times.”

“You bet you will.” He grins, baring his teeth.

He’s threatening me. He’s actually threatening to bite me away. The provocation triggers an echo of some ancient instinct in me, and I see myself making him roll onto his back and submit to me. I fight down the animal reaction.

He’s just said he’ll do it.

He has; he’s going to do it. I have a mate to present to my brother.

God, the relief.

He smirks. “Your bro seems to have you on quite the short leash. Must be hard, being expected to bring home a mate and good grades too.”

“My grades are good enough—”

“Are they? I’ve heard you failed your courses.”

“I didn’t fail my courses! I had a bit of bad luck in Were Studies, that’s all, and—”

He’s openly laughing now, and it lights up his face like magic. He’s laughing at how I’m defending myself. I could kick myself.

“You don’t have to prove anything to me, Aryn,” he says softly. “I’m not one of your alpha cronies you have to outshine. Or an actual mate you’d need to convince he made the right choice. Am I.”

I’ll have to just ignore his insolence.

"Okay, so, do we have an understanding?”

He draws on his cigarette. “If I do this, I’m going to miss the feast. I love moon feasts. You’ll have to make it worth my while, Greyson.”

I look at him, trying to get what he expects me to say. Again, he holds my gaze, letting the gleaming ash eat away at his cigarette. I feel myself getting, like, drawn into his eyes. Black and gold. Night and moonlight…

“Have you lost the thread, man?” he says. “What kind of money are we talking?”

I try to shake off my confusion. “Oh, right. A thousand dollars.”

The blond alpha, Fallyn, audibly inhales. The chime of the clock tower announcing the beginning of the afternoon classes drifts over from the south court. Trae pushes himself off the wall and puts his cigarette out in the sink. It leaves a brown mark on the cracked porcelain.

“Fine.”

“Trae!” Fallyn hisses. “Shit, are you serious?“

"Honey, think twice,” Sunnyi says. “It’s Moon Night. There’s going to be loads of people at Fennys Lodge partying, loads of alphas on the lookout for a fling. And you’re going to be all on your own!”

“I’ll be with Aryn. He’ll take care of me and keep me safe. He’s an alpha; it’s what they do.”

He winks at me, making my dick jump and my heart stop.

Next thing I know, he’s waved at his two friends to follow him and is gone.

...

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