**And here’s part three! Time for Sean’s POV, and a date. And don’t worry. We’re not done yet. Enjoy!
I was a problem solver, cool under pressure, but it turned out that planning a date that didn’t involve food was harder than I anticipated. It was easily the fall back, the way we’d all become accustomed to dating. But I was very conscious of the fact that Jamie had a problem with food, and even though I really wanted to know what that was all about, I wouldn’t push it.
I wanted to. The fact that he was hurting in some way just about killed me. I’d been leading this pack for five years, and I was only peripherally aware he was having a problem. I should have pursued it sooner. Or, at the very least, kept an eye on him. I knew he was eating some, because he was in good body condition and seemed healthy enough. But clearly there was something more at work there.
I wanted to take care of him. But it was more than just me being his alpha. I wanted to do it on a more personal level, to be the one that supported and cared for him as a partner. I should have made a move when I first recognized my attraction to him, even though I knew that was walking a fine line. I’d been honest and serious when I told him I was aware of the power imbalance. So many alphas in the past had abused their position, forcing their pack members to do what they wanted because they could. I refused to be that man. So I bided my time until I could be sure there was no coercion.
When I picked Jamie up, he gave me a shy smile and for a moment, I couldn’t speak. He looked amazing in the dark jeans and light gray button up. When all I could do was stare, he fidgeted a little and dropped his gaze from mine.
“Am I dressed all right?” His voice was soft, uncertain, and shook me out of my daze.
“You look fantastic. Perfect.” I sounded like an idiot, but since I meant it, I didn’t care. I stepped into his space, loving the way he tilted his head to show throat. It was instinctive for him but it still sent a thrill through me. I didn’t hesitate to scent mark him with a touch to his throat, but then quickly took his hand and led him to the other side of my car.
We were quiet as we began the ten minute drive to our destination. I could tell he was nervous by the way he fidgeted and bit his thumbnail. I reached out to capture his hand, and kept it tucked into my own.
“You all right?” I kept my voice soft, inquisitive, and hoped he would answer honestly.
He let out a shaky breath that was tinged with the hint of a laugh.
“Yeah. just…just nervous, is all. Been a while since I’ve been on a date and…”
When he didn’t finish the sentence, I gently prodded him. “And what?”
“I’ve wanted you,” he said, barely above a whisper. “I sort of can’t believe this is real.”
“It’s real.” I smiled, taking my gaze off the road for just a moment so I could flash him a smile. “And hopefully, this is just the first of many dates.”
He shook his head, letting out a little chuckle. “I don’t get it.”
“What you see in me.” He sighed, and it sounded sad. “I’m probably going to end up sabotaging everything but I just don’t understand. Why me?”
“Besides the fact that I find you adorable, you mean?” This wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have in the car. I’d rather be able to see his face clearly, and for him to see mine. But it was more important to me that he knew I was sincere and earnest. I didn’t want there to be any doubts.
“Well, I expect it’s for a lot of the same reasons you gave me.” I had to let go of his hand to make the sharp left turn off of the boulevard, but once it was done, I reached out again. I was gratified when he didn’t hesitate to reclaim my hand. “I see you, Jamie. I see your kindness and your selflessness. I see how you interact with the pack, and how you put everyone else first.”
Now that I thought about it, I wondered if that had something to do with his tendency to try and shrink into the background. He gave ground to everyone else in the pack. Was he that submissive a wolf? Or were there other self-esteem issues at play? I gave myself a mental kick. I thought I was such a good alpha–and I knew I was to a degree–but clearly I’d missed important things with Jamie. What else had I missed?
My name on his lips did funny things to my insides, sending a thrill through me. I wanted to hear it a lot more. And the fact that he hadn’t used my title made me that much more sure that he viewed us on even footing. Yes, I was his alpha. But right now, I was his date, and that was important. I was glad he could separate the two. I wasn’t sure I could. I was an alpha because I had a drive to care for the wolves under my protection. But with Jamie it was so much more.
“Sean?” he repeated, and I realized I hadn’t answered him. I pulled into a parking spot and turned off the engine so I could give him my full attention.
From his wide-eyed stare at the building in front of us, I had a pretty good guess of what he was going to say and he didn’t disappoint.
“We’re at the aquarium.”
He turned to me, and the hint of suspicion in his expression made me want to smirk. I held it in, but just barely.
“The aquarium which closed–” he glanced at the dashboard “–fifteen minutes ago.”
“Ah. Well, ordinarily yes.” I drew out the silence for a moment, letting the anticipation build. “But once a month, they do limited after hours tours. I’m told it’s amazing, with the low lighting and the tanks lit up. It’s sold out months in advance.”
Jamie squinted at me, suspicion growing. I didn’t know what it said about me that I loved seeing it on his face.
“Then how did you get tickets?” His face paled. “Were you planning on bringing someone else and–”
“No.” I cut that off really quick, not wanting him to think for one second that this had been meant for anyone but him. “I called Lorraine, and she made it happen. There are perks to being alpha. And one of them is sometimes, you can call the wife of one of your pack members and get special treatment.”
Jamie stared at me for a long moment, then turned his attention to the building. After another minute, he looked back at me.
“I don’t even know what to say to that,” he admitted, bewilderment clear in his tone.
Slowly, so he would have time to pull away if he wanted to, I reached toward his face. When he didn’t move, I cupped his cheek and let out a soft growl of contentment when he turned into the touch. He let out a long slow breath as I caressed his cheekbone with my thumb.
Needing to be fully transparent, I went for complete honesty. “I’m glad I thought of it, and was able to make it happen. I wanted to do something special for you, show you how serious I am, without it being a trigger for you.”
Jamie went tense but didn’t pull away. I was glad, because I would have wanted to pull him back. He swallowed hard, the click in his throat a telltale sign, but I stayed quiet, letting him figure out what, if anything, he wanted to say.
“You haven’t asked me about the food thing.”
“And I won’t.” I made that a vow, and a reminder to myself. “When and if you’re ready, we’ll talk about it. Until then, we do what makes you comfortable.”
“How are you real?” he whispered. I wasn’t sure that was meant for me, but I answered it anyway.
“I assure you, I’m real. This is real. We’ll figure it out, you and me, together. All right, sweetheart?”
Jamie melted into my touch, the tension leaving his body, and he nodded against my palm. I wasn’t sure if it was my acceptance–which was easy because I knew, eventually, I’d find out what his issues were and if we could work on them–or the pet name–which was also easy, because he was a total sweetheart–but it didn’t matter. All that did matter that he was here, we were together, and we were going to see where things led.
I slowly pulled away, hiding my smile when Jamie whimpered at the loss. Instead, I got out of the car and, quick as a flash, ran around to open his door. He blinked up at me with his big brown eyes, and when I held out a hand, he took it with a grin.
“Let’s go see the fish, yeah?”
His grin grew impossibly wider, and he squeezed my fingers. “Yeah.”