Born into a world where everyone has a soulmate, Scott doesn’t go out of his way to find his. He still attends soulmate parties, out of societal obligation and the opportunity to hook-up with a pretty lady. When his soulmark unexpectedly reacts to the presence of his soulmate, Scott reluctantly goes to search for her. When Scott wanders outside, a tall, handsome man with a matching soulmark approaches, introducing himself as Ross. In a blind panic, Scott flees.
Ross is ready to settle down and begins frequenting more parties outside of his social circle in search of his soulmate. When he finds Scott, he’s surprised when he runs from him. Finding Scott again, Ross realizes the man is going to be a handful, but perhaps a little bit of discipline will get him under control. Will Ross be able to tame his skittish soulmate before Scott tries to disappear forever?
Chapter 1: Unexpected
Scott climbed out of the car and straightened his suit jacket, looking over the clean lines of the modern estate where he’d been dropped off. It was Saturday, and he was attending another Seek Your Soulmate party. At thirty-two, he wouldn’t be expected to continue attending these much longer. Three more years, then no one will blink an eye if I stay home on the weekends.
Thankfully, it seemed whoever his soulmate was, she must not live in the area. Either that, or she traveled in different social circles than he did. It was just as well. The possibility of meeting his soulmate made him break out in a cold sweat and there was always this one lingering worry. What if they turn out to be a man?
Since he still was expected to attend these parties, Scott used them as an opportunity to hookup, enjoying a different lovely lady almost every weekend. He rubbed the back of his left hand, where his soulmark was, absentmindedly. It’s better this way. I won’t have to get tied down.
The party was already well underway; music throbbed as Scott made his way through the throng of bodies on his way to the bar. He always liked to have a drink first to help him relax, since he didn’t deal well with crowds of people. “Manhattan, up,” he ordered once he caught the attention of the bartender.
Drink in-hand, Scott made his way to a corner of the room to better assess his options. There was a pretty brunette walking in the door and scanning the room. He contemplated making his way over to her when her face brightened into a smile, and she waved at a small cluster of other women across the room. Ugh, no. Women who traveled in packs were rarely hookup material, so he turned his attention elsewhere.
A young, raven-haired girl approached, drawing his attention. “Still haven’t found the one, huh?”
“I’m looking for the one for tonight. Could you be her?”
“Dunno, maybe. I’ve always had a thing for older guys.”
“Daddy kink or the appreciation of experience?”
“A little of both,” she said with a wink. “I’m Emilia.”
Taking a sip of his drink, Scott studied her for a moment. He was about to say something when his soulmark began to tingle, startling him enough that he nearly dropped his drink. “Shit!”
“What happened? Is it your mark?”
Raising his left hand he turned it over. His soulmark was clearly more pronounced, the outline becoming darker and more visible. “Yeah. Wow, I never thought that would happen tonight. It’s not you, is it?”
Emilia shook her head and held up her hand. Her mark was faint and didn’t match his at all. “I’m afraid not. Go get her, tiger!”
Downing his drink, Scott looked over the crowd again. He tried to spot anyone who may also be looking for their soulmate. His eyes fell on several women, but none appeared to be reacting. Scott’s instinct was telling him to run for the hills, but he knew society didn’t take kindly to soulmates running away from each other. Well, I might as well have a look at her first.
Setting his empty glass down, Scott made his way through the crowd to look through the other rooms in the house. The tingling sensation kept getting stronger, so he knew he was getting close.
As he made his way through the house, he began to imagine what his soulmate might look like. He’d always gravitated toward pretty and petite. Occasionally a handsome man would catch his eye, but he always suppressed those desires and passed them by. Same-sex soulmates were rare and came with too many societal responsibilities he would be all too happy to avoid, thank you very much.
Besides, Scott found himself more attracted to women. Dating women felt safe, and ladies seemed to enjoy his company. He’d often been told he was sweet and such a gentleman. He reasoned, why pursue male partners, when there were so many beautiful and willing ladies to be had? His soulmate was probably a woman, so there was no point exploring that side of himself. Right?
After searching the entire house, Scott was beginning to wonder if his soulmark was somehow broken. He nearly gave up when he saw the sliding door out to the backyard was open. Making his way outside, he saw a beautifully lit swimming pool. If the evening had been slightly warmer, no doubt there would be a bevy of party goers swimming.
The crisp night air sent a shiver through him as his eyes searched around for another living soul. Out of the shadows walked a tall, handsome man. “It’s about time you came looking for me out here.”
Scott’s breath caught in his throat. The back of his hand began to tingle more intensely, as the man stalked his way toward him. Oh no.
“Hi, I’m Ross,” the man introduced, reaching out.
Staring at the offered hand, with a clearly visible mark that matched his own, Scott shrank back. If he shook his soulmate’s hand—if they touched skin-to-skin—it would continue the process of bonding between them. A process that was irreversible.
Flicking his eyes up to look at Ross, he shook his head. “No … I can’t do this. I’m sorry … I just … I can’t.” Turning, Scott fled back into the house, then out of the front door and down the street. He had to get out of there. Looking back, he saw that Ross wasn’t running after him. He pulled out his phone and scheduled for a car to come pick him up and take him back to the city.
With shaking fingers, Scott nearly dropped his keys, as he tried to unlock the door to his apartment. Once inside, he hung his keys from a hook by the door and went to pour himself a stiff drink. This wasn’t how tonight was supposed to go.
Collapsing onto his couch, with a glass and bottle of whiskey, he planned to drink himself into oblivion and hope he could forget this entire night had happened. After his first swallow, he startled when his phone began to vibrate in his pocket. Who the hell is calling me at this hour?
Fishing his phone out of his pocket he looked at the screen. Unknown Number. Scott dropped the phone onto the coffee table and ignored it, opting to take another long swallow of his drink. The burn of it in his throat helped make the continued tingle of his mark feel less pronounced.
The next morning, he awoke, bleary eyed. It took a few moments for him to realize he was still on the couch, a half-empty bottle of whiskey sitting on the coffee table next to his phone. Sitting up, Scott winced and rubbed at his neck. Ugh, I’m getting too old for this.
Purposefully ignoring his phone, he rose to start a pot of coffee before stumbling to the bathroom. After relieving himself and taking a hot shower, he began to feel almost human again. Dressed in sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, he poured himself a cup and contemplated the rest of his day. Usually he’d be having a round of morning sex or discussing breakfast options with his latest conquest. Often, he’d spend the bulk of the next day with them before parting ways. It was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
His soulmark’s ongoing tingle began to turn into an insistent itch. It burned slightly and felt more … urgent. Was Ross nearby, searching for him? Fuck, I hope not.
Draining his cup, he went to pour another cup when his phone buzzed. Scott stared at it for a moment before getting his refill in the kitchen. He knew who was trying to reach him and he wasn’t prepared to deal with that. Not yet.
Leaving the phone behind, Scott made his way to the little office he had set up in the spare bedroom. He needed to do some research first. He vaguely remembered the soulmark classes he was required to take back in high school but couldn’t remember all the details.
Everyone knew that such same-sex pairings were treated differently. They were so rare; they were viewed as something special. Scott needed to know if there was any way he could avoid bonding with his soulmate. He also looked up why his mark continued to itch when he was pretty sure he wasn’t anywhere near the man he’d met last night. Ross, his traitorous mind reminded him.
Scott spent a couple of hours researching everything he could find on the topic. It was worse than he’d feared. Ever since he’d gotten within touching distance of Ross, his soulmark had begun to change. The proximity alone was enough to start the bonding process. However, since the physical contact hadn’t occurred, the chemicals in his body were now in a disarray and his mark was becoming irritated. If he and Ross didn’t complete the next stage and touch each other, the irritation would only get worse.
That also confirmed his other fears. There was no known way to reverse the bonding process safely or cure the irritation once it began. In addition, since they were a same-sex soulmate pair, he’d likely be ostracized for refusing to bond with his soulmate.
Refusal to bond happened so rarely in their society as it was, but occasionally it would come out that one or both of a pair had initially refused to bond. However, if the pair were of the same sex, all hell broke loose. The pair would be shamed, their lives destroyed, and in some cases forced to flee into exile.
I shouldn’t have run from Ross last night. Why the hell did I panic like that? Shit, this is a disaster.
While he was researching, Scott had heard his phone buzz several more times. Scratching his irritated soulmark, he sighed and resigned himself to his fate. Going back to the living room, Scott glared at his phone. Taking a deep breath, he picked it up and unlocked the home screen. There were several texts and one voicemail, all from the same unknown number.
He clicked the first text message.
Hey Scott, it’s Ross. I tried to call you. The host of the party gave me your name and number. I’m sorry if meeting me freaked you out. Please, give me a call.
Scott let out a sigh of frustration. Ugh, why does he have to sound so understanding? Glancing back down at his phone, he read the three other texts.
Hey there. Are you awake yet? We need to talk about this.
Scott, please. Your mark must be starting to itch, too. You know what that means, right?
Scott Hansen, if you don’t call me by 5pm, I’m going to come to your apartment. We need to talk.
It was 4:32pm. Shit.
Scott then listened to the voicemail.
“Hey, this is Ross. You know, the guy you ran away from at the party? Your soulmate? Look, I’m sorry if I wasn’t what you were expecting, but we need to talk about this, face-to-face. Now that we’ve activated our marks, this isn’t going to go away. Please, call me.”
Rubbing his face, Scott groaned. His hand shook as he clicked on the unknown number. Come on, I can do this. It’s not like I have a choice. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, Scott clicked the call button and put the phone up to his ear.
“Yeah, hi. Sorry for dragging this out. I … needed some time to process.”
“So, let me guess, not expecting me to be a guy, right?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s a shame. I was really happy to find out you are.”
“So, you said you wanted to talk in person? I agree … but no touching. Not yet. Okay?”
“Okay, but we can’t wait too long to complete this part of the bonding. This irritation from our marks will only get worse.”
“Yeah, I know. I was reading up on it before I called you.”
“Let me take you out to dinner. Meet me at 7pm at that burger dive down on Seventh.”
“Okay, that sounds good. I’ll see you there.”
Rubbing his hands over his face, Scott took a deep breath. What the hell have I gotten myself into?