Dirk walked into the upstairs room Roxie used as her office. He and Roxie had spent so many hours working on his secret project--including the time he was on duty protecting her--he felt as if he practically lived in this beautiful mansion Roxie shared with her mate, Beowulf. Now that they'd completed what they'd worked so hard on, Dirk didn't know if he should feel sad about it or not. He'd rather enjoyed his time brainstorming with Roxie.
Watching her typing away on her desktop computer, he smiled. Roxie was just as much an Internet junkie as he was. She was also an exceptional web designer. She'd taught him everything he knew about HTML and coding pages.
"Hey, Rox," he said as he stepped farther into the room.
She turned her head away from the computer monitor, her hands still moving on the keyboard. "Hi, Dirk. Are you ready for your big reveal?"
He groaned to himself. He still didn't think this was such a great idea, but Roxie had insisted. And since she was the foretold one who ruled over all the werewolf packs, he pretty much had to do whatever she said. Dirk was just one of her Protectors.
"I'm still not keen on it," he said. "The others are going to think I'm an idiot for doing this. You know that's the main reason why I've kept my mouth shut about this project for the last year. And why I swore you to secrecy."
Roxie rose and walked around the desk until she stood in front of him. "There's no backing out. You should be proud of what you've accomplished. I think you came up with something that will help a lot of male werewolves. If your brothers-in-arms can't handle it, then they're the fools. And I left Saskia out of that group on purpose. I know she'll side with me."
Saskia was the leader of the Protectors, while Roan, Jager, Leif, Skylar, Kye and he made up the rest of the group. They were so close they'd basically formed their own pack and lived together in a mansion in Marin County.
"It's a given that Leif will say something. He won't be able to help himself. Jaden may have reined him back a bit, but Leif still talks shit when the mood strikes him, or if he wants to rile one of us up."
Roxie waved his concerns away with a flick of her hand. "Forget about Leif. If he knows what's good for him, he'll keep his comments to himself. You've worked very hard on this, and I won't let him spoil your moment. If he does try to be a jackass, I'll order him to shift into his wolf form, then use my magic to keep him like that for a day so I can chain his butt outside in the backyard."
Being the foretold one, Roxie had more magic inside her than the typical werewolf. Her trick of chaining a werewolf out in her backyard like a dog had been put to use a few times already. To be on the receiving end was humiliating, to say the least.
"That still doesn't make me feel any more confident," Dirk said.
Roxie punched him in the arm. "Stop doing that to yourself."
He rubbed the spot where she'd hit him. "Ow. And doing what to myself?"
"Feeling as if you should be ashamed. You should feel proud instead."
"Fine. I guess I'll do it your way, not that you've left me with any choice in the matter."
"No, I didn't. If I had, you wouldn't tell them."
Damn right he wouldn't have. He was nine hundred and fifty years old and had spent most of his adult years--which were many--fighting with a sword in his hand. His little project was so beyond that it wasn't even funny. He was a warrior through and through, but this could quite possibly make him look like a big wuss in his brothers-in-arms' eyes.
Roxie turned back to her desk and picked up the closed laptop resting on its surface. "Come on, let's go downstairs and make your big reveal."
She brushed past him and headed out the door. Dirk slowly followed behind Roxie. He'd bite the bullet and get it over with as quickly as possible.
Once they reached the bottom of the stairs, he fell in behind her as she walked toward the living room where his entire "family" sat waiting. More than one of them had asked him what this "meeting" was all about, but he'd given nothing away.
"About time you two came down," Kye said as Dirk and Roxie came to a stop in the middle of the room.
Kye sat on one of the couches while his mate, Michaela, sat next to him. They'd been mated for only the last six months. The others in the room were Saskia and Eli, Roan and Ansley, Jager and Daylen, Skylar and Braelyn, and Leif and Jaden. Jaden sat on her mate's lap while Leif's large hand rubbed her six-months pregnant belly. Roxie's mate, Beowulf, sat on the floor playing with their nine-month-old daughter, Nevaeh, and her toys. The gang was all here. There would be no getting out of it now.
"Yeah, we were wondering if you two got sidetracked upstairs and forgot about us," Roan said. "And it wouldn't be the first time."
Roxie gave him a pointed stare and cleared her throat. She refused to respond to Roan's comment, and said, "You're all probably wondering why I asked you to come to this meeting."
Jager groaned. "Please don't tell me you're pregnant again."
Roxie sighed. "No, Jager, I'm not expecting another baby. This has to do with Dirk, not me."
Dirk felt all eyes turn his way. Stupidly, a wave of uncertainty washed through him. He had a feeling this was going to blow up in his face. He just knew it. He opened his mouth to tell Roxie to forget about what she'd planned, but she spoke again.
"It's finally time to reveal the project I've helped Dirk bring to fruition," she said with a smile.
She opened the laptop and shifted to a spot where everyone in the room would be able to see it. The others leaned in for a closer look as Beowulf picked up Nevaeh then stood so he was nearer.
"Mate Connection. What the hell is that?" Jager asked, blunt as usual.
"Oh. Oh, I know," Ansley said. "It's an online dating service. Right?"
At Dirk's nod, Leif burst out laughing. And it didn't help that the rest of his brothers-in-arms laughed along with him. The only males in the room who didn't were Beowulf and Eli, mostly because their mates looked at them, just daring them to join in. Dirk felt as if he should go climb under a rock somewhere.
"Oh, god," Leif said between laughs. "An online dating service? Really? Couldn't you come up with something better than that?" He then started to laugh again, but harder.
"Shut up," Roxie said with a loud growl. "All of you." The room instantly went silent. "Listen up, boneheads. No more laughing at Dirk or you'll get better acquainted with my backyard, if you know what I mean? It was seeing each one of you find your mates--your mortal mates--that prompted Dirk to come up with this idea to have a website where male werewolves can look around to find potential mortal women."
"I think that's a wonderful idea," Jaden said as she gave her mate a smack to the back of the head. Leif cringed in response.
The rest of the women quickly agreed, which made Dirk feel a trifle better. At least the females of his family sided with him. It was a start.
"Okay, I can see that having some merit," Skylar said. "But what makes your service any different than the mortal ones already out there? Male werewolves could search them just as easily as yours."
"Good question," Roxie replied. She then turned to Dirk. "Well, Dirk, why don't you answer Skylar since you haven't said a word yet."
He took a deep breath. "All right. What makes mine different is that the questionnaire the females have to fill out is geared more toward a male werewolf. It isn't obvious, but the answers the women give will determine whether or not they would be acceptable to one of our kind."
"How did you go about compiling those kinds of questions?" Beowulf asked.
Dirk smiled. "It was easy enough. I hired a psychologist, who also happens to be a werewolf, to write them up for me. And I think she hit the nail right on the head."
"So I take it you're going to somehow get word of the website out to the packs," said Roan. "If it starts to take off, aren't you going to find it hard to keep up with your protection duties as well?"
"Not really. I've already hired an employee. She'll be working from home and taking on some of the responsibilities."
"You've hired a woman?" Jager asked. "A mortal woman, I take it?"
Dirk nodded. "Yes, she's mortal. Her name is Ryann. Every time I've talked to her on the phone she seems like a real go-getter."
"You gave her the job without meeting her face-to-face?"
"Nowadays, especially with an internet business, everything is done online. Even the hiring of employees," Dirk said. "Not that I should have to explain myself to you, Jager."
"Dirk, are you hoping you can meet your mate through it as well?" Daylen asked softly.
He nodded again. "Yeah, I am."
Being the last member of his family to become mated sucked. He hadn't said anything to any of them, but he yearned for what all of them had found. He hated being alone. Dirk had been doing a lot of searching for the one woman meant for him ever since his brothers-in-arms started finding their mates. So far, he'd come up empty-handed. Even Beowulf's nightclub, Wulf's Den, hadn't worked for him. Longing for his would-be mate and wanting to find her was just part of the reason why he'd come up with the idea for his online dating service. He'd been the first person to fill out a Mate Connection questionnaire.
Ansley sighed. "I think you'll find her, Dirk. It sounds as if you have the whole site well on its way to doing what you set it up for. I wish you the best of luck with it."
Roxie closed the laptop. "Now that you all know, I guess this meeting is over." She turned to Dirk. "Don't you have another one to get to soon, Mr. Boss?"
He smiled. "I do. I'm meeting Ryann for lunch in about twenty minutes."
"Then what are you waiting for? Get going."
More than relieved to have this part of his day over with, Dirk nodded then turned and walked out of the room. He headed for the front door, thinking he'd have plenty of time to get to the restaurant ahead of Ryann. He wanted to be there before she arrived to organize his thoughts on how he wanted their first meeting in person to go.
It wasn't too far of a drive from Roxie and Beowulf's place. It also was a nice and bright San Francisco day. Dirk slipped on a pair of sunglasses and took the top down on his gray metallic BMW 335is convertible. He actually looked forward to seeing Ryann. They'd talked so much over the phone since he'd hired her two weeks before, he felt as if he'd known her for a lot longer than that. They also worked well together. And with her background, Ryann was just the kind of person he needed to help out with the service.
He pulled into the lot of the Japanese restaurant he'd chosen and parked the car. Dirk had become hooked on sushi about six months before and couldn't get enough of the stuff. He found himself coming to this place at least once a week to feed his new addiction.
After getting out of his car, Dirk walked to the entrance of the restaurant, stepped inside the vestibule, then pulled open the glass door that led to the main section. The place had a definite Asian flare to it. As usual, already quite a few people were there eating. He'd learned early on to make sure he had a reservation.
Greeted by the hostess, he gave his name, saying he would have another person joining him shortly. The woman led him to a booth and left two menus on the table. Dirk's stomach growled as he looked one over, promptly deciding what he'd order first. The thing he loved about this sushi place was that it was all-you-can-eat. Each menu item had a number, which had to be filled out on a form with the amount desired on a small slip of paper. The wait staff--whoever happened to see it first--picked it up, and shortly after that, the freshly prepared food arrived at the table. Someone could order as much and as many things as they wanted, so long as they finished everything before ordering more. Not that Dirk had any problem in that regard.
Dirk pulled in a deep breath, his mouth watering at the smell of raw fish, rice, and the other items the restaurant served. Being a werewolf, he liked any kind of meat practically uncooked, so raw fish was right up his alley.
As Dirk tried to think through what he wanted to say to Ryann, he drew in another breath then one more quickly after that. His whole body stiffened--along with his cock--when he detected a new scent added to the mix of others around him. Dirk held the menu tighter as the one thing he'd longed to feel surged through him, roaring to life--his mating urge.
He looked up to find a woman standing at the side of the table, smiling at him. Dirk latched his gaze onto hers, unable to do anything but stare. She was gorgeous, with long black hair that fell over her shoulders. Friendly looking light blue eyes gazed back at him. He filled his lungs again with her scent, reveling in the fact she was the one meant for him. His mating urge rode his ass hard, making it almost impossible to think beyond the need to claim her as his.
She stuck out her hand. "You must be Dirk. I'm Ryann."
Dirk stood and wrapped his much larger one around hers and shook it. He had to fight with himself not to yank her forward and devour her with his mouth. His cock throbbed in time with his rapidly beating heart, pushing against the zipper of his jeans.
"Nice to finally meet you, Ryann," he said in a voice that had gone husky as he forced himself to let go.
"And it's nice to put a face to the voice. Just to start off, I have to apologize. My sitter bailed on me at the last minute. I hope you don't mind that I had to bring my son along. This is Tyler."
Dirk's gaze dropped to the small boy who stood next to Ryann, clutching her hand. The first thing that popped into his mind was: Oh, shit. My mate is already married.