Why the fuck am I here? Gauge Reed stared at the alluring mature woman sitting in an afghan-covered chair across from him, her legs crossed. The white-haired woman was none other than the renowned Gerri Wilder of the Paranormal Dating Agency. She studied him like a science project.
Since he couldn’t make amends with his brothers, Diesel and Axle, Gauge was left with one last alternative. One last hope for redeeming his dignity: finding a mate. But that outlook seemed bleak. What worthy mate would want a clan outcast who does nothing but occasionally tinker with cars?
Gauge’s life was pathetic. What he really desired was his place as Alpha of the Whitetide Streak—the position Diesel had willingly given up as if it were an insignificant piece of lint. But after Gauge’s first failure to conquer the throne, he was walking a thin line, thinking Axle would spare his life when they met again—if they ever met again.
“If you poke one hole in my couch, cub, I swear, I’ll tear your pretty fine ass a new one,” Gerri scolded him.
Gasping, Gauge shook himself out of his thoughts and uncurled his fingers, which were digging dangerously deep into the couch cushions. Gerri’s sharp tone reminded him of his late aunt Evaline, the former matriarch of the Whitetide Streak. Gerri’s narrowed icy-blue eyes bored into him. “You sure you’re ready for a mate?”
Gauge took a deep breath and, not making eye contact, replied, “Yes, it’s important to me.”
“Is it really what you want? Or what you feel obligated to do?”
Gauge thought for a moment. “Both?”
She uncrossed her legs and sat back in the chair. “I sense this has something to do with your wanting to get some sort of revenge and whatnot, having learned little bits and pieces of your… interesting family, but my services do not operate that way.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I believe in life-lasting bonds and happily-ever-afters. Not brief whims or temporary conveniences. If you want my help, then you need to be serious about what you want. You need to be all in.”
Gauge thought over her words carefully. He wanted nothing more than to show his brothers he was capable of being an Alpha, but deep inside, his lonely tiger also desired a mate. Living under Axle’s tyranny, Gauge had never had the opportunity to meet someone special. Ironically, Axle himself couldn’t keep a mate longer than a few days. As a result, the Whitetide Streak lacked heirs, and the pack’s enemies knew it.
“I want to settle down with a mate,” Gauge finally said.
Gerri studied him a moment, as though trying to read his expression. But it was all he had to say from what was left of his broken state. If the famous Gerri Wilder couldn’t help him, then his broken life probably wasn’t worth living.
Gerri’s scrutinizing expression softened. “Wonderful.” She scooted forward to the edge of her chair and reached for the tray of tea sitting on the coffee table between them. She poured herself a cup and plucked a tiny cake from a plate of sweets. “In that case…” She scooted back in her chair and recrossed her legs. The hem of her long black dress hiked up her calves. “Tell me what kind of mate you’re looking for.”
Gauge paused. Talk about a loaded question. “Um… I want a plump female that I can sink my claws into. And I want one who shares some common interests.”
“Such as?” Gerri ate the tiny cake as she listened.
Gauge scratched the side of his rough jaw. “Some sort of creative hobby. Like building or fixing things.”
Chuckling, Gerri plucked a notepad from the coffee table and scribbled. “So in other words, you want a woman who’s good with her hands. Got it.”
Gauge opened his mouth to retort, only to realize what he’d said before. “Damn, well, I didn’t mean it like that, but why the hell not, eh?”
“Mm. So you must be the sibling who inherited your father’s hobby.”
He was about to ask her how she knew about his father, but he suddenly came to a realization. “Diesel told you?”
“Did he!” Gerri snickered. “When he mentioned your father was a diehard gearhead, I thought he was being facetious.” Gerri took a sip of tea. “Anyway, I have just the woman in mind.” She scribbled something on a new page of her notepad, tore it out, and handed it to him. “Go here.”
He took the slip of paper and stared at the writing—an address. But to where? He looked back at Gerri curiously. “Is this where she lives? Is she expecting me?”
Gerri shrugged. “All I can tell you is that she’s been expecting someone for some time now, poor girl. She’d had the worst luck with some of those other dating services.”
Gauge made a face. “So you’re matching me with one of your rejects?”
Gerri’s face turned stony, her blue eyes shifting to a golden yellow. “Absolutely not,” she spat. “My clients are not ‘rejects,’ and you’d be wise to curb that attitude if you want my help.”
Gauge snorted. Indeed. She definitely sounded like his aunt come back from the dead. As disturbing as that was, a small part of him felt compelled to reconsider this woman’s offer. He stayed silent with his thoughts for the moment, not wanting to risk saying the wrong thing and finding out if Gerri’s wrath was equally as brutal as his former matriarch’s.
Gerri’s lips pursed. She slammed her teacup and saucer on the tray, stood, and pointed to her apartment’s front door. “If you do not want my help, then leave. I’ve plenty more important matches to make. Your attitude is disappointing. Perhaps when you’re ready to get your head out of your ass and stop hiding behind your own fears, you might want to go to that address.” She picked up the tray and disappeared into the kitchen with it.
Gauge stood alone in the living area, still dumbfounded about what had just happened. When Gerri didn’t return after a few minutes, he let himself. out. There was no way Gerri could possibly have the perfect woman for him, despite all the hype about her agency. Gauge was damaged goods. Moreso than Diesel. Happily-ever-afters were never meant for people like him. And even if he managed to get lucky, that happiness would most likely come with a steep price.