“You wanted to see me, sir?” Ari is pretty sure his voice doesn’t waver. It shouldn’t. He has no reason to be afraid of Reuben, other than the fact that he’s massive. And powerful. And an alpha. His alpha.

He hasn’t done anything to merit that fear.

There’s only so much Ari can do about his pulse, though. Or his scent, not that he can pick up on those things like everyone else seems to be able to. Not yet.

He’s not sure he wants to.

It’s one thing during full moons, not that he’s had many of those, but during his day to day life, it’s overwhelming. Gives him a strange headache, almost.

“Ari, come in, have a seat,” Reuben says, waving at the heavy chairs that sit in front of his equally heavy desk.

Ari is pretty sure he could throw the desk. Not that he wants to find out. The breath he makes himself take fills his lungs with a scent he can only describe as alpha calm – the air of easy certainty Reuben and Astrid both seem to exude more or less at will.

It works, though. He feels steadier as he settles in the chair. Even when Reuben leans back in his own seat and cocks his head, his startlingly pale gaze focused on Ari, his pulse remains regular. His breathing slow and even.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be settling in well?”

“All considered, I think so.”

One dark eyebrow arches slightly. It’s an appraisal, not a challenge.

“How’re you acclimating to your new responsibilities?”

Reflexively, Ari catches the corner of his bottom lip between his teeth.

Before he can determine the best answer to that, Reuben grins – all wolf – and says, “You’re bored. You can say it.”

Ari sucks in a breath and pushes his hair back from his face. “I’m bored.”

“Good. Because I have a proposition for you.”

“A proposition or an order?” The question slips out, but Reuben’s smile doesn’t crack. Instead, it shifts to something wry and knowing, the expression unfamiliar but not at odds with his full mouth.

Astrid didn’t inherit his lips. Didn’t inherit much of his face at all, really, for all that she seemed to get his entire personality. Shawn did, though. He’d be devastating in a few more years. Once his personality leveled out and he settled into himself.

Ari huffs a breath at the hypocrisy of the thought. Like he has any right to comment, even internally, at the comfort other people feel over their own existences.

“An offer. One that’ll maybe give you less time to swim around in that head of yours. Or at least give you something more engaging and less destructive to do with it.”

That stings more than Ari expects. It’s only the second time since he’s arrived that anyone has even alluded to how he got here. The circumstances of his change.

“Still too soon?” The eyebrow creeps higher; it had never dropped all the way back down to rest in the first place.

“No sir. Just unexpected. People tend to… tiptoe. It’s exhausting.”

“I don’t tiptoe.”

Ari feels one corner of his mouth curve. “No, you don’t.”

“My former assistant isn’t coming back. You’ve met Jill?” At Ari’s blank look, he clarifies, “The one with the baby. Short blonde hair.”

“Oh. Sure.”

“She’s not coming back, so her spot is vacant. It’s a lot of work. A lot of travel, which isn’t… easy. I won’t lie to you there. But it’s the nature of things, sometimes. In exchange you’ll be privy to things that even my daughter’s seconds are not always made aware of, although something tells me that will not remain the case with you-“

“I wouldn’t-” he interjects before he can stop himself.

Reuben holds up a hand, still unshakably calm. “No, but the funny thing about mates is that we cannot hide from them. The sooner we learn and accept that, the easier the rest is.”

Uncertain of how to reply to that, Ari just swallows and nods.

“Do you have a passport?”

“No. I um. Never needed one.”

Reuben nods. “What state were you born in?”


Another nod. “It will be taken care of. Assuming you want the job, that is?”

“Oh, I- yes. What um- what does it entail, exactly?”

The grin returns. “Oh, a little bit of this. A little bit of that. I’m fairly confident that you’ll take to it like a house on fire. I’d say I’ll have you added to the necessary files before the end of the week, but you’ve already handled that. Are you just as thorough with paperwork?”

Ari swallows. He meets the strange blue-hazel of Reuben’s eyes and says, “Do you mean the ones in the locked store room in the basement or the ones in your desk?”

Without a word, Reuben tosses him a ring of keys. “Move your things. We’ll give it a couple month trial run, not that I expect to be wrong about this.”

“Sir?” Ari asks, his head cocking to the side.

“I know my pack. That includes you. Two months for things to settle the way they should. Then we can see about making some more changes.”

Again, Ari has no answer.

“Move your things, then take the rest of the day. We start at 6:30 tomorrow.”

“Yes sir,” Ari says. He knows a dismissal when he hears one, but instead of feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under him, he feels like something in him has become more solid. Stable. Like something has shifted, however inexplicably, into place.

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