The Lion's Pride

By: Terra Wolf & Olivia Arran

The True Date Agency



I rolled the silver pen back and forth between my fingers while eying the woman sitting in front of me. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this, Gretchen.”

She curled her lip at me in mock disgust. “Don’t be so melodramatic! It’ll be fine. You need to stop worrying or you’ll end up with wrinkles.” She flicked a finger toward the large floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass that separated us from the main room below. Her feeble attempt at reassuring me.

I knew exactly why I had let her talk me into this; we were family, and when family asked—you just did. And though we weren’t really family, we had grown up together. Her, Gabriel, Trent, Maya, and me. The terrible five, our foster mom, Kathy, used to call us. Right after she scolded us for getting dirty while proceeding to stuff us full of food. It was the only love I had ever known. Still was.

I took a deep breath, stifling the urge to snarl at the crowd gathering below. My lion was agitated, pacing inside my head. “So, tell me again. Exactly what is happening tonight?” Some kind of dating thing, if I remembered correctly. Though I had tuned out when Gretchen had started explaining the finer details. Like I always did.

She blinked at me, then narrowed her big blue eyes. “Zane, do you only ever listen when it benefits you?”

I flicked the pen onto the glass-topped chrome table and rose to my feet. Striding over to the one-way window, I scanned the crowd. “Of course.”

She snorted at my admission. “Then I feel sorry for the poor woman who will eventually end up with you as a mate.”

“Mate? I don’t have time for that.”

“You don’t mean that—”

“Gretchen, I’m not bickering with you about this again. Now, tell me—what the hell is happening in my club tonight?” The crowd was getting bigger, the buzz from the ground floor growing, managing to penetrate through the thick walls of my office. Though only a shifter would be able to hear it through the soundproofing.

“It’s the launch of my new company. And if you’d even bothered to listen—” At my glare, she hesitated, then with a shrug, continued. “True Date. Speed dating to find your true mate? Is any of this ringing a bell with you?”

It was, unfortunately. Speed dating. Rationally, I understood the concept, along with the need. As the rate of shifters finding their true mates among their own kind had dwindled, many had searched among the humans. Some had found success, which in turn had spurred others on to try the same. And it seemed that human women—and men—liked shifters. Hardly surprising, really. Mainly because when a shifter found their mate, that was it. We mated for life with a single minded determination and passion that blew human marriages out of the water. So, The Pride was a nightclub predominately for shifters, but since the world had accepted our kind, I had opened the doors to those who wanted to mingle with shifters. In all ways. My venue was a place for people to socialize and, as the humans liked to put it, take a walk on the wild side.

Gretchen had decided to take things a step further, to organize the chaos and streamline the matchmaking process. Her words, not mine. I wasn’t in the matchmaking business; I preferred the money-making business.

“I take it from your shudder that some of your memory is returning?” she asked in a coy voice. “Maybe we’ll find you a match here tonight.”

“I won’t be attending.”

“But you’ll be watching…”

She knew full well that I always watched the floor from up here. Someone had to ensure everything ran smoothly, that the staff were behaving and that there was nothing…inappropriate going on in front of the humans. And I liked to watch. Not because I had a kink or anything, but because it was a game. I challenged myself to figure out what made individuals tick, to guess their next action, and subsequent reaction. To try and understand the why behind it. Emotions were like water—they spilled and flowed from people freely and without restriction. Hate, love, greed, jealousy, happiness, anger, trust—they were so unpredictable. I found it equally fascinating and terrifying. And that’s why I stayed behind the glass, not as Gretchen liked to say because I was an uptight, emotionally stunted caveman.

In the reflection of the glass, I watched as Gretchen smoothed down her spiky platinum-white hair and pursed her lips. “You need to get out more,” she muttered, knowing full well I’d hear her. Standing up, she sauntered over to the glass and linked arms with me. “Thank you,” she murmured, bumping my hip with hers. “I know you hate this; you’ve never been one for change. I appreciate it.” She pecked my cheek, her lips leaving a sticky mark, and strolled out of the room, letting the door bang shut behind her.

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