Marked Northern Shifters 1
For my family. I’m so lucky to have you all.
Alec Ryerson watched the golden boy move through the crowd. For his height, his was a lithe figure, his movement a kind of dance, and Alec was mesmerized. As if burnished, his hair shone gold like the rays from the sun on its way down. And while Alec didn’t normally go for blonds, this one was lovely to watch. Hot.
Alec had no reason to believe the golden boy swung his way. But if Alec enjoyed watching the sun-touched man with animal grace wend his way through a crush of people, then he enjoyed it. Some infatuations were meant to last only a half hour or so.
The stranger disappeared and with some regret Alec turned his attention back to the stage. Tonight the Jazz Festival crowd was out in full force. Alec soaked up the music and the people and the humid heat of a late July evening. A light breeze made the hairs on his arms rise, and his skin tingled, waiting for the next song to begin.
Not that he was a jazz connoisseur, but he liked the music in the street and the woman’s voice. His body moved with the rhythm. His mind floated. When the song ended and the band broke up, he felt a momentary loss.
“You enjoy jazz, do you?” The voice, low and distinct, jolted Alec back to the land of the living. Turning to look into gold eyes, Alec felt something like shock to think his fantasy had stopped to talk to him.
“Uh, yeah,” Alec managed. He’d never seen eyes quite this color, brown almost, but too light. They shone slightly in the twilight. Very pretty.
Under Alec’s scrutiny, the stranger’s smile, which hadn’t exactly been on full beam, faded and his expression became remote. Alec surprised himself by moving to halt the withdrawal.
“I’m Alec.” He held out his hand. In this moment, he absolutely wanted the golden boy’s attention, even if Alec hadn’t a clue how he’d caught the man’s eye in this crowd.
“Liam.” They clasped hands. Liam’s palm was rough, his shake firm.
“I’m glad you stopped by.” Alec didn’t relinquish his grip. He hadn’t met a Liam before and Alec rather liked the name. Well, everything about the stranger pleased Alec, including the fact they stood about the same height. Given Alec’s habitual caution, it was an odd reaction, even unwise, but Alec didn’t care. This evening he needed some kind of contact. The loneliness had driven him out of his apartment.
Liam, Alec realized, hadn’t retrieved his hand, but he wasn’t quite at ease with the contact either. There was a stiffness in that arm.
“You were alone,” Liam observed.
Understatement of the year. “Yeah.”
His gold gaze intensified. “Do you live near here?”
“In fact, I do.”
That remoteness again infused Liam’s face, so Alec released his hand. He didn’t push himself onto people, especially now—even before it had never been his nature.
Liam’s next words were at odds with his expression. “Maybe you could show me where you live.”
Alec was flattered, disappointed and nervous. He wanted Liam, had wanted him half an hour ago when he first moved through the crowd. But Alec also liked company and a little courtship before sex. Well, not everybody did. Ignoring his rising heart rate, and the accompanying fear, Alec waited for Liam’s next move.
“I saw you watching me earlier.” Liam gave a smile—tentative. But Alec liked tentative. If Liam wasn’t sure of this potential hookup, well, neither was Alec.
“I thought you were looking for someone.”
Liam paused. “Not really.”
Alec raised a doubtful eyebrow. There’d been purpose in Liam’s movement.
“I was looking for you,” Liam offered.
Alec had to laugh at the corny line. “Very smooth.”
Liam went quiet and still. Wary, perhaps, but that was okay—Alec preferred a cautious dance.
A new band started up and Alec swayed to the music. Liam watched with a ghost of a smile, then stepped closer. Alec liked the proximity, could feel the heat off Liam’s body and decided he was glad that Liam was less debonair than appearances would suggest. “You’re easy on the eyes, Liam.”
Liam blushed at the statement, as if he wasn’t sure of his beauty. But he had to know he was stunning.
“And so…?” Liam’s cool voice belied his heated gaze. Alec waited a beat, to see if Liam would say more, but words, it seemed, were not the golden boy’s forté. The music was in Alec and, ignoring his rule about strangers at his apartment, he took Liam’s
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