Not My Mate by Hollis Shiloh - Read Online
Not My Mate
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Charlie is a wolf shifter with a massive, heart-aching crush on his boss. He loves the man but knows he can never have him. Sahil is so kind to him, so sweet — and so lonely, when his real mate is gone. Meanwhile, Charlie's friend/enemy/coworker Russ gets irritated with Charlie about the crush — and about any and everything else, too. He's another wolf shifter, but he's not sweet; he's big and rude and annoying. He's very loyal, though — and perhaps he's hiding a secret of his own...

~52,000 words

Heat level: very low

a shifters and partners novel

Contains a short excerpt from the next book in the series.

Published: Spare Words Press on
ISBN: 9781386457961
List price: $2.99
Availability for Not My Mate: shifters and partners, #12
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Not My Mate - Hollis Shiloh

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Chapter 1



It was that time of day.  Work was done, and I got to be with the man I wished was my mate.  More and more every day, I wanted that.  I knew it could never be, but I wanted it anyway.

I took off my clothes slowly, meditatively, stepped into the shower and washed myself thoroughly.  Even though the job and my hobby both called for it, I hated being dirty.  I often felt as though I couldn't get clean no matter how hard I scrubbed.  Yet when I stepped out, I certainly seemed to be clean, and no dirt rubbed off on the towel.

I didn't bother getting dressed.  I was just going to spend some time with my m— My friend.  That was all.  I didn't need clothes for that.

I shifted smoothly into my wolf form, a big, shaggy, powerful gray-and-white wolf with big blue eyes.  I'd been told they were beautiful.  By him, of course.  He was the only one who saw anything good in me.  He who could never be mine.

I nosed open the bathroom door and slid out.  It always felt good to shift into my wolf form.  This one had been a long mission, and I'd missed him so.

There you are.  He was standing in the kitchen, drinking milk from the bottle.  He was so beautiful in his half-shut dressing gown, with his small, beautiful bare feet and part of his chest showing.  He looked down at me, eyes sparkling, and rested a hand on my head.  I missed you.

I leaned against him, closing my eyes, feeling the calmness wash over me that being near him brought.  He scratched gently behind my ears and told me I was a pretty wolf.  He finished his milk and got some graham crackers from the cupboard.  I followed him into his bedroom.  He always did prefer to eat graham crackers separately from milk.  It was just one of his cute quirks, this sweet mate — I mean, man — that I liked so much.

He got into the huge king-sized bed, his petite frame dwarfed in it.  He pulled the covers up and then patted the space alongside him.  I hopped up obediently and snuggled close.  He sighed as he opened his pack of crackers.  He fed me one first, and I ate it obligingly, crunching carefully to minimize crumbs. 

He took a bite of his own and sighed again.  This time, he sounded sad.  He dug his fingers into my fur as if to comfort himself and said softly, I miss him.

I knew he did.  He liked me, but he loved another.  His husband.  His mate.  It would never be me — not really.  I could only pretend in those brief moments when I could forget. 

Sahil Singh would never be mine.  He belonged, heart and soul, to another wolf.  I might hate and rail against that reality, but this was all I got: crumbs of his affection when he was lonely, friendship where he would never dream I wanted so much more.  Crumbs, and graham cracker crumbs.  That was all I was good for.

I lay down next to him, as close as I could, and squeezed my eyes shut.  It hurt to love the man I could never have.  It hurt so much.

Hey, what's going on in here?  Why wasn't I invited?  Russ Radner's annoying voice cut into my private reverie.  Graham crackers, huh?  I raised my head and glared at him.  He was wearing a shit-eating grin.  The lines around his eyes looked tight, though.

Russ and I both worked for Sahil.  We were part of his get-things-done team.  When Sahil had something that needed to be fixed, he'd call on his army of lawyers, accountants, counselors...or his teams.  The teams that were shadowy and made up of ex-marines, Navy SEALS, and wolf shifters.  Lots and lots of wolf shifters.  Turns out, most of us are pretty damned tough, even if we haven't served in the military.

I hadn't; Russ had.  He'd been kicked out during the don't ask, don't tell years for telling when someone asked.  I hadn't served in the military; I'd been recruited personally by Sahil — I mean, Commissioner Singh — from my job as a mechanic.  So I didn't know as much technical stuff as most of them, but I'd learned fast, and I was strong and quick enough to be really useful to Sahil.  Sometimes our jobs involved shock and awe, but usually we were the fast team, in and out, snatching hostages to freedom, getting kids out of kidnapping situations, rushing into dangerous territory to get someone out.  Sahil had a big heart, and he and his husband were involved in a lot of things.  If word came to his ears about a shifter in need — or a child, or pretty much anyone else — he would become involved in some way or other.  Sometimes, being involved meant using one of his get-things-done teams, one of which included Russ and I. 

There was also our partner Kim Quinlan, cute, tough, military (and something more in the gray area of legality at one time), no-nonsense Kim, with her dirty mouth and sweet face, who'd seen and done more shit than anyone would guess by looking at her.  Kim, a ferret shifter, was the shortest, and she and I got along well. 

Russ and Killie (the only non-shifter on the team) vied for tallest.  Killie was our SEAL, huge, muscle-bound, and pretty damned tough.  He didn't talk much, and he could be a bit mean, but he liked me in my wolf form, so I had no complaints about him. 

Russ, on the other hand, was always interfering.  He was pretty much an asshole, I'd decided long ago.  I might work with the guy — I might trust him with my life — but he was judgey as hell, bigger than me (in our human forms and in our wolf forms, which was a kick in the teeth), and he really got on my nerves.  Since we were the only two wolves on this team of four, we were supposed to be friends.  But we were not.  No matter what he thought on the subject.

The bed creaked as he plopped his muscles down on it, and my glare intensified.  He reached for one of the crackers, the assuming bastard, and Sahil handed it over with a sigh.  Just relaxing, not trying to exclude you, said Sahil.  He could be so kind.  Sometimes I wished he'd just put Russ in his place.

Russ munched his graham cracker.  The crinkle was still there around his eyes, the unhappy one, as he pretended he didn't notice my glare.  Why?  Something the matter?

I miss Grant, said Sahil softly.  The sound of his husband's name sent a small, stabbing pain through my chest.  I bit down on a small howl. 

Russ reached across and dug his fingers into my ruff, massaging me roughly.  It kind of hurt, he put so much muscle into it, almost giving me a rough shake of a sort.

'Course you do.  He's your mate, said Russ, and he squeezed my neck with his big, strong human hand.  It would've felt good if it had been a bit lighter — and Sahil's touch instead of his.  Instead, I ducked away and reared back, showing him my teeth in a flash.

Charlie? said Sahil, sounding concerned.  You okay?

I turned to him, instantly conciliatory, and licked his wrist, looking up at him, soft-eyed and hurting.  It got to me that he was so sad when his man was gone.  But it still hurt that I wasn't his man instead.

It was a mess.  I was a mess.  I wanted him so, but I could never —

Russ caught hold of me unexpectedly and hauled me up onto his lap.  He had a long day, didn't you, buddy?  He rubbed my head roughly, like a noogie instead of a cuddle.  I made a low rumble in my throat that he could certainly both feel and hear, with his enhanced wolf hearing.

I should take him away so he can get some sleep, said Russ, half-rising, holding me under the front legs so I couldn't struggle properly away from him.

No, that's okay, said Sahil quickly.  He can stay.  I like the company, to be honest.  He reached out with his delicate hand and touched my muzzle.  I closed my eyes, reveling in his touch.  Russ's grip on me tightened painfully, but I didn't care.  Sahil wanted me.  He loved me, he did, and I would take these scraps.

Russ almost tossed me down and rose hurriedly.  The bed creaked with his absence, too.  Well.  I'll just leave you to it, then, shall I?  His voice sounded tight, possibly a little hurt.

You can stay if you wish, said Sahil, ever polite.

No, don't offer!  I turned to glare up at Russ, narrowing my eyes, warning him he'd better not accept.

For a second he eyed me with hostile wrath.  Then he reached up to rub at his temple.  No, I sleep better alone, I guess. 

He left the room with Sahil staring in a puzzled way after him.  I took the opportunity to edge closer to Sahil and rest my head on his thigh.  Ah.  It felt so good to be close to him!  I could never get enough of it.

He stroked a hand absently over my fur, and I shivered in contentment.  I wonder what's wrong with him?  He didn't seem like himself.  He looked down and met my gaze.  Do you know?

I gave him my blankest, most innocent look and licked his slim wrist.  He smiled, drawing away from me, and fed me another graham cracker, playing absently with my ears with his other hand.

This was living.


I stayed with Sahil all that night.  He slept restlessly, but I pressed close, offering him what warmth and comfort I could with my furry presence.  His husband was also a wolf shifter, and he liked wolves (and all shifters) a lot.  Being close to me, feeling warmth and safety, was something he liked.  I was not a husband substitute, I knew that, but I was something on a lonely, cold night when he would probably have cried himself to sleep otherwise.

For all his fierce ways (and Sahil could be surprisingly fierce in defense of those he loved or needed to protect), Sahil had a fragile, easily hurt heart, and he minded it dreadfully every time Grant Ralstead was away.  His husband, being a rich businessman, of course had to travel a lot for work or for their rescue projects.

They also ran the Shifters and Partners program together, although there was a lot more help these days.  They'd expanded the program into many arms, certifying and training cops and shifters to work together all around the country.  There was also a medical wing, various consultant positions, etc.  There was a lot of work involved, even with a lot of delegation.

Sahil was much less likely to recruit shifters in a hands-on way for the program these days.  There were other methods of outreach now.  But he'd recruited me himself — and he kept me for his own teams.  Not for cops.  Not for strangers.  For him.

Technically, I answered to him alone, not his husband.  Which was good, because it was hard for me to be around Grant.  He was so big and lordly and strong, and so very smug about having Sahil.

And most of all, Sahil was so sappily in love with him, leaping into his husband's arms and kissing him desperately, unashamed to show how much he cared, even though Sahil was the most buttoned-down person ever around strangers and enemies.  Only with friends — and Grant — did he show his fiercely sweet, loving nature.

It hurt every time.  I had to excuse myself so I didn't accidently see their reunions.  My heart hurt to witness it and not have it.  I would never be in Sahil's life in place of that person.  I wasn't his hero, his beloved.  That would always be someone else.

No doubt Grant Ralstead was a perfectly nice person if you weren't horribly jealous of him.  But I was.  He was rich, confident, swaggering, and generous, as well as extremely fit and strong — and he had Sahil.  I could never like him, no matter how I tried.

And I had tried.  I'd tried to resign myself to being happy for the man I loved.  But I loathed Grant Ralstead with a passion.  He was so freaking perfect, there would never have been any competing with him even if he hadn't already won Sahil's heart and soul.  I was just a regular-looking, medium-sized ex-mechanic, or a big shaggy wolf with blue eyes.  I would never be anything special compared to him.

During one of the times he woke up during the night — Sahil did not sleep very soundly, any more than I did — he turned to me, wrapped himself around me and held on tightly.  Thank you for being here, he whispered, pressing a silent kiss against my fur.

My heart hurt.  We shared a secret, Sahil and I.  We didn't talk about it.  Even if I hadn't loved him with all my heart, I'd have stayed with him during these times, doing my best to make him feel safe.

When he was small, Sahil had been raped by an adult male relative and was warned not to tell anyone.  From the ages of thirteen to almost sixteen, I'd been molested by a family friend my parents had trusted completely.  My parents weren't wolves — I was adopted — and I had felt alternately special and afraid because of the attention I received.

I'd thought, at the time, that I loved my abuser.  That I'd found my mate, my one true love, a little earlier than most people did.  That it was normal to sometimes feel confused and uncomfortable.  After all, every relationship had problems, and I just needed to try harder.  It had been exciting, scary, confusing — and humiliating, when I realized later what had really been going on.  I had been groomed, used, and discarded by a sexual predator.  I had not trusted adult men since. 

Except for Sahil, of course.  Sahil was different.

He didn't tell many people.  I was one of the few he'd shared that with, because I'd needed to know.  He'd wanted me to believe that someday I could be happy and feel normal, and fall in love and trust again.  It was a nice thought, and I was glad it was true for him.  I would've been gladder if I could've been the lucky man, of course.

I stayed close to him all night, offering what wolfish comforts I could — warm fur, a solid, strong presence for protection — but in the morning, his eyes were still shadowed and dull, as if he hadn't gotten much rest.  Sometimes he had bad dreams.  Sahil was strong, and he'd done a lot of healing since his abuse, but sometimes the past was still there, breathing down his neck, making him remember things he didn't want to, shouldn't ever have to. 

That he should still have to suffer sometimes because of evil someone else had done to him made me wish I could kill his abuser.  I wouldn't be fast about it, either.

He kissed my muzzle softly, rustled my fur one more time, and then wandered out to the bathroom, shuffling like he was far older than his actual age.  I wanted to follow, to stay close to him all day.  I had to leave, though.  We had work to do today, I couldn't lounge in his bed instead.

When we weren't on a mission, the four of us trained together, worked out, taught other