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1

I had lived at the Damas estate, in Rafe’s house for years, swearing to protect the souls that had been screwed over by the system, neglected and overlooked as we thought. It was not so clear anymore or if it had all been a setup to bring the Nephilim forward and into the world, but either way, I had made a commitment to protect them, stand on the side of right, and fight to the death, if needed, to keep the scale in our favor or at least balanced.

Which I was pretty sure did not include stalking one of the souls, but stalk him I did. For weeks now. I’d first seen him mid-September when the Lundberg manor was wrapping up completion. This sexy, tiny, spitfire stomping through Rafe’s house, mumbling about all the mess… Mess, mess everywhere and no one cares about the clean.

Weird but adorably cute.

“He has not always lived here,” I had hedged, staring after the man who was to become my life.

“No, he had some, um, issues at the school with the guys living on the same floor as him,” Rafe explained quietly. “And given we’ve had some move out and there was room, I invited him to stay here. I can’t get him to stop cleaning though, Boris. We have people that do it, but he insists they don’t do a good enough job.”

“He’s not in the way or hurting anyone, right?” Rafe shook his head but looked worried. “So let him clean if he wants to. So he seems a bit obsessive about tidiness. We should all be more conscious of such things.”

Stryker rolled his eyes and stabbed his fork into some more pancakes. “Yeah, except he keeps waxing the hardwood stairs, and I almost broke my neck on them the other day. He goes a bit overkill.”

I winced. That could certainly be problematic.

I had not meant to stalk him, simply check him out. He was my mate after all. I had known that from the moment he had opened his mouth and ranted about the mess the construction made.

But I never seemed to get a chance to approach. No, that was not true. I had no clue how to approach him and that left me with simply watching him and his very strange behavior. I found it mostly cute, but a little unsettling that he had some underlying issues.

I was trying to come up with a way, seriously tired of stalking him and giving myself the pep talk to simply suck it up, grow a set, and speak with my mate. What would my brothers say if they found out, for fuck’s sake? I’d never hear the end of it!

But I never got the chance… He stopped cleaning the tricked-out home theater Rafe had and focused on me, narrowing his light green eyes and moving his hands to his hips.

Which was almost comical with the dust rags hanging from each front pocket of course.

“Stop following me. I vacuum up all this fur. Fur, fur, and more fur, all over the place, and you’re just leaving more everywhere I just cleaned by following me!” He stormed off, leaving me standing there like an idiot. I figured he had seen me by now, I mean, it was hard to stalk someone in a house and not have them catch you. Even a house as big as Rafe’s. But that was his reason to have an objection?

Wow, he was really all about the cleaning.

I jumped when I heard the vacuum start, lost in my own thoughts. Then I let out a whimper when someone grabbed my tail and started vacuuming me.

“Fine, if you’re going to stand here and shed all over my clean floor, then I’m going to stop it at the source. Damn dirty hound and his never-ending fur. Probably has fleas.” He moved enough so I could see his face. “Do you have fleas? You can understand me I hear. I bet you have fleas.” I shook my head and he snorted.

It was mortifying. I finally interacted with my mate, and he was pulling on my tail, vacuuming me, bitching about my fur, and accusing me of having fleas. Oh god, if anyone found out, I could never leave my room again.

Ever.

I lowered my head in embarrassment as he continued, but then I switched gears, annoyed and not willing to let myself be shamed. I was Boris Markova! Shifting back, I almost smirked when he gasped at the air around us pulling his breath from him.

“I do not have fleas,” I growled, snatching the vacuum from him and turning it off. “Yes, the shedding fur is an unfortunate side effect of being a shifter, but we do not have regular dog dander or any diseases or pests like natural dogs as we are paranormal beings.”

His eyebrows shot up and scrunched his nose. “You’re disease-free? Truly?”

“Yes. Ask an angel if you do not believe me, not that I have any reason to lie about such things.”

He seemed to think about that a moment and then shook his head. “You’re still Russian.” He snatched the vacuum back from me and turned away.

Oh no, I was not having any more of this hide-and-seek, insult-and-dart-away bullshit. I grabbed his arm, smiling when he yelped and dropped the handle of the vacuum, before pinning him to the nearest wall. “What does that mean? What is wrong with me being Russian?”

“You’re still dirty then,” he panted, staring up at me with huge eyes. I did not know eyes could bug out that big besides in cartoons. Then again, his eyes started out pretty and doe-like, as in huge.

I shook my head, thinking about what he said instead of getting lost in his eyes. “I am not dirty because I am Russian! We bathe as much as everyone else.”

“Maybe but you drink too much vodka. Russians drink lots of vodka.”

He had me there. That stereotype was fairly accurate. “So? We have a high tolerance and that does not make us dirty.”

“It comes back out your pores and that’s nasty. I’ve heard people say it.” He shivered. “Gross.”

I had a quick thought, trying to follow his logic. “Alcohol kills germs. People use vodka and water to clean windows. We would be the cleanest people around if the germ-killing liquid came out our pores as you say if we drink in excess.”

“Maybe,” he hedged, studying me closely. “But also make you less likely to pee in the toilet accurately.”

“Oh of Christ’s sake, I pee just fine no matter how intoxicated I get,” I growled, this conversation so far off from where I wanted it to be and infuriating at the same time.

“You’re too big not to collect more dirt in between showers. You’re too big in general. I bet you step outside and gather more pollen than two normal-sized men,” he accused, and then his gaze moved from my eyes finally and he swallowed loudly. “You’re really, really big. Huge everywhere.”

He said that last part in a whisper and it hit me… He hadn’t paid attention to the fact I was naked until then.

“I am,” I murmured, moving closer as I let my hands trail down from his shoulders to his hips. “There is lots of benefits to that, Qbert.”

He bobbed his head but then it snapped up as his eyes met mine. “You know my name? No one ever learns my name. I’m always just the weird cleaning guy.”

“I do not know your last name yet, but I know who you are, and we are all weird so it matters not.”

“Durriken,” he mumbled, squirming against my hands. “Qbert Durriken and it matters. I’m weird in a way no one else is.” I was not sure what to say to that, but as I was quickly thinking of something, it ended up not being fast enough and he pulled away. “I have to get back to cleaning. Sorry I offended you with the fleas. I won’t pull on your tail again but you might want to get vacuumed if you’re going to be walking around in the house in hound form.

“And thanks for being naked around me. I’ve always wanted to see a dick. Never imagined they came that big. I’ll have to file that information away along with hounds being disease-free and Russians not being dirty though still vodka drunks.”

I stood there with my mouth open as he grabbed the vacuum, unplugged it, and just about scurried out of the room, the cord flapping about on the hardwood floor. As I watched it about to disappear from the room as well, I finally got my brain to work again and rushed after my mate.

Okay, ignoring the fact that his name is ridiculous and sounds like a horrible spy movie alias, he thanked you for being naked and paid you a compliment. Take it as a sign.

I caught up to him and wrapped my arms around him from behind, knowing something hard and big was poking him in the back. “Do not run away from a hound,” I warned as I pressed my lips against his ear, smiling when he shivered. “We like the chase and get very, very excited when we catch our prey.”

“Don’t hounds and animals eat their prey?” he squeaked, moving his hands over mine as if getting ready to make a move to escape.

“Not prey as pretty as you. Though I would like to taste you.” I turned him around, letting one hand move into his reddish-blond hair that was short, perfectly styled without a single strand out of place. But the other hand slid down to the top of his ass. Then I lowered my mouth to his, moaning at how soft, lush his lips were. I mean, they looked inviting, but I would never have expected them to be that good.

He whimpered beautifully, opening for me when I wanted more as if knowing exactly what to do for his mate… But then he pulled away from my hand. I almost stopped the kiss to check if he was okay or if I had taken things too far, too fast. Instead I felt him rubbing himself against me.

That was hot. I grabbed his firm ass and helped him, breaking the kiss when he started shaking uncontrollably. Qbert bit his lip and stared at me with his huge eyes filled with worry.

“Let go and come for me,” I demanded, guiding him to move even faster against my thigh. He nodded, digging his fingers in my chest as he stared up at me. Fuck, Qbert was gorgeous, like raw, untapped sex as he kept my gaze and took his pleasure, not even knowing the aphrodisiac he was.

It took only seconds before he came, and I hoped he did not judge himself harshly on his endurance or get down on himself. He obviously did not have much experience, and I had heard it was more intense to be with a hound, especially one’s mate… Especially for someone who had never been with anyone.

But it looked like a good climax from the way he bit his lip hard enough to bleed to keep in the screams and then his eyes rolled up into his head.

Of course then he passed out, and I barely caught him in time so he did not crash to the floor. Which left me standing in Rafe’s hallway, holding my mate, smelling like his cum, while naked.

Dear Mother Russia, if someone happens by us now, I am a dead man. I hurried to the stairs, unsure of what else to do but hide him away in my room. Once we were locked and safe behind my door, I set him on the bed and studied him. What next?

Did I get into bed with him or was that too presumptuous?

Could I tend to him as every cell in my body demanded at that moment or was it wrong to see my mate naked without his explicit permission? But waking to dried cum in one’s pants was uncomfortable.

If I did not do the right thing then, he could run or it would set a bad tone for what came next like Feodor did with Joel. I shook my head. No, I immediately gave him pleasure, not jumping him and taking my own as Feodor had. Not that I judged. I understood how he could have done that much better now having met my mate. From the moment I had heard his voice, I had been itching to chase him down, strip him naked, and mount him, screaming he was mine and finding pleasure in his sultry body.

After a bit more debate, I went with my gut and instincts, hoping they were right.

“Stalker and a leering dirty man,” I chastised myself once I had his shirt off and all I could do was stare at how beautiful my mate was. I mean, he was gorgeous. I fumbled pulling down his cotton pants when I saw he was wearing boy shorts, my absolute favorite, but then got myself together.

Until I saw him completely naked. Then I itched to sniff him, lick him, spread his legs wide and explore him. Instead, I hurried to the bathroom, wet a cloth, and cleaned him up, moaning when his cock filled in his sleep. I tossed the cloth into the sink and crawled into bed with my mate, pulling the covers over us.

“I’d heard Russians were gentlemen, but it seemed so contradictory with everything else said of them I don’t think I believed it until now,” he said, blinking at me when I moved closer to him.

I swallowed loudly, feeling more exposed than being nude could ever make me. “You were awake?”

“I woke when the warm towel touched my groin. Thank you for that. Hygiene is important and the bacteria that can form from even your own spunk if left untended is disgusting.”

“Plus it itches,” I mumbled, bobbing my head. I was not sure what to do then.

“Good to know.” He cleared his throat and moved closer. “I like information. Tidbits and facts help me feel at ease, focus me when I’m not.”

“Okay,” I hedged, unsure of where this was going.

“The fact I passed out while humping you like a…” he trailed off, studying me closely.

Then I understood, the big lightbulb going on over my head. “Very sexy, untouched, desirable man,” I filled in for him, letting him see how I felt in my eyes.

He nodded and I saw some of the tension leave his body. “Means what?”

“Being with a hound can be overwhelming while someone gets used to it. Some people pass out from the orgasms with us while getting used to it.”

“Like Rafe did,” he added, nodding. I raised an eyebrow and he shrugged. “You’d be surprised how much individuals let slip in front of the cleaning people. Plus, no one really knows how to talk to me so they don’t and pretty much ignore me. I hear tons of stuff.” He cleared his throat again and scooted closer until his hip was touching mine. “Rafe and Stryker were mates though. I heard hounds couldn’t touch any of us unless they were mates. So that makes us…”

“We are,” I breathed, wondering how that would make him feel especially blurting it out right away.

Qbert bobbed his head and then looked me over. “You have no diseases in human form too, right? You said hound, or was that an overall?”

“Overall. We cannot get sick nor spread sickness of any kind.”

“But you can die. Immortal doesn’t mean immune or impervious or impenetrable. And why do all those words end up starting with im?”

“Correct,” I chuckled, wrapping my arm around him. “You are very smart to know the difference. Most assume immortal means all of that and I do not know why those words all start the same. Coincidence?”

“I don’t like coincidences. I like explanations, facts, reasons.” He frowned and then met my eyes again. “Russians are serious, stony-faced, and mean.”

“We do not simply smile to smile or be polite as other cultures do, and we can be rather serious with strangers,” I explained, taking the hint when he did not lean into me after my arm touched him. He needed to handle some things first. “But we are not cruel or the Russian stereotype depicted of us. That is normally coming from other cultures we have fought with.”

“That’s fair.” He rubbed his chin and then turned so his knees were hitting my thigh and ribs as he sat cross-legged, pushing the covers down so I got full access to his naked body. “So I’m not mated to a flea-covered, mean, dirty alcoholic.”

“You knew who I was,” I whispered as my eyes went wide.

He shrugged. “I figured. This hound starts following me around for weeks, never says anything, but always watching me as if he has something important to say.” His eyes darted to mine but then he looked at my abs. “And I know you’re the eldest Markova, but could you tell me your first name now that you’ve kissed me and given me my first orgasm, touched me intimately when cleaning me?”

I groaned and brought my hands up to smack myself in the face. “I am as bad as Feodor! I did not even tell you my name? I am messing this all up. First, I stalk you because I am so nervous that we are so different and you are special and I know not how to approach you, now I—” I stopped when I felt the bed shift, lowering my hands and blinking when I saw Qbert sliding off the edge. “Where are you going?”

“You think I’m special,” he sniffled.

“I do. Why does that upset you?”

“No, you think I’m special,” he snapped, moving over to the chair and grabbing his jeans, forgoing the dirty boy shorts. “Like short bus, eat paste, special. Wanna send me to the counselor, get me fixed up in twelve sessions or less, special. No thank you. I’ve had enough of that. Been around enough people like that.”

“That was not what I mean at all,” I argued, leaping out of bed and plucking him off the ground, tossing his jeans right back on the chair, before tucking him under me on the bed. “I meant special as in quirky in a way I find adorable, but you have obviously been hurt and retreat into yourself, and I am big, blunt, loud Russian as you pointed out and I did not want to hurt you, upset you.” He gave a slow nod but still seemed to reserve his opinion so I went for honest. “Do I think you need counseling?”

His eyes filled with rage as he shoved at me. “Get off—”

“Of course I do, but we all do,” I blurted. Qbert stopped struggling and lost the anger in his gaze. “We have all been through so much. My brother goes to counseling with his mate, and it is the best thing for them given the hardships and constant turmoil we face. I would like to go with you to understand you, make sure I never hurt you as Feodor accidentally did Joel. I guess I would think you would need to talk to someone as well who is used to dealing with people wrapping their mind around being with men as old as I am.”

“You don’t think I’m a freak, do you?” he whispered, his lower lip trembling.

“I think we are all freaks,” I chuckled, kissing each of his eyes. “I am Boris Markova, and it is my honor that you are my mate, Qbert Durriken, cleaning quirks and all.”

“Several heritages claim the origins of Boris,” Qbert informed me, blinking up at me. “One is that it’s a derivative of a Turkish name, meaning wolf, snow leopard, or short, which you certainly aren’t at seven feet massive.”

“Six-nine,” I corrected, but he just kept going.

“Others say it’s of Bulgarian origin and the Russians simply claim it though it’s also been found in Germanic references, Russians have the only saint with the name. They also have a different meaning of the name, fighter or warrior, which ended up skewing the actual meaning so most agree that the true meaning is now unknown.”

I simply stared at him when he stopped talking, feeling oddly comforted when he squirmed a bit under my gaze. Good, he was nervous too. “My mother, who was a bitch of Hell, and thus, probably not the most loving woman, named me Boris, her little fighter, because I was the one of our litter to come out first and claim the title of eldest.” I held my breath to see how he reacted to this news. I could deal with quirks. I appreciated them even.

What I did not do well with was someone who was argumentative or always had to be right, inflexible still… Only one hardheaded person in a relationship tended to work.

“Fighter it is,” Qbert agreed, smiling up at me. “I’ll adjust that in my reference and make sure I never misspeak it again going forward.”

“Yeah, I meant you are special in the best way, my mate,” I purred as I lowered myself down to his smaller body. I went slow, noticing the tension in his figure and the way he was pushing at the sheets, but then he looked away from me and at the bunched up bedding.

“Can we go to my room? I mean, can we do this in my room? I just—I can’t enjoy it here. I was distracted and didn’t notice, but now I did and I can’t think of anything else and—”

“What is upsetting you?” I interrupted, pushing myself up and raising an eyebrow at him.

“When was the last time you washed your sheets?” he blurted after several moments of silence.

I felt my nerves ease as I ran my hand along his side gently. “There has not been a man in this bed in a long, long time. You have nothing to—”

“No, I don’t care about that,” he grumbled, waving me off as he scrunched his nose. “I know how long ago my sheets were washed, how they were washed, and that they weren’t sitting in the washer to get moldy before being dried. Plus, do you have a bag on the mattress even? I keep thinking about all the dust mites and everything else that could be getting me through your sheets.”

Okay, maybe his quirks were not always adorable. It also sounded like an excuse to get away from me or a brush-off. “Of course we can continue this in your room. If you want. Otherwise I can leave you alone to process what has—”

“I’m not blowing you off.” He sat up so fast I had to move or he would have head-butted me. I sat back on my heels and suddenly I had a lap full of Qbert, his pert little ass snuggling up to my cock in a delicious, torturous kind of way. “I’m not playing hard to get or trying to be a jerk and run. I accept I’m your mate, and I’m grateful you’re hot, disease-free, and apparently like freaks. Please, I just want to move to my room where I know the creepy dust mites aren’t sucking my blood and biting me when we’re having sex.”

“Sex?” All the air came out of my lungs in one whoosh.

He frowned. “Oh, you don’t want to have sex with me? I thought that’s where this was heading. You cleaned me up but kept me naked. You moved over me like you were going to spread me out and insert yourself in me. I know it will be dirty and messy, but so is cleaning until it’s all done and if it’s anything like earlier, then worth extra washing and laundry.”

“No, I want to have sex with you,” I moaned, grabbing his ass and rubbing it against my cock, watching as his eyes went wide and his chest heaved. “I simply—most do not—jumping into—”

There really was no good way to put it.

He smiled and seemed to figure out what I was trying to say. “Most don’t spread their legs and immediately allow someone permission to land their first time out?” I slowly nodded, finding the wording funny, but not sure how to put it better. “I have lots of quirks as you call them. Getting in my own way of things I like isn’t one of them. I liked that orgasm. I like kissing you. You’re hot. You want me. If you don’t mind me wanting to move rooms and germ issues, you can have me.”

Qbert pretty much said exactly the perfect thing to get me off that bed, him in my arms, and out the door. “Which way?”

He pointed down the hall, told me which door, and seconds later, we were there. I went to set him on the bed, and he wrapped himself around me. “Wait!”

I moved back, staring down at him and realized we had another problem when I saw nothing but shame on his face. “What is it? You can tell me. I promise I will not simply leave in a huff, Qbert. There will be things that are not easy for you to get used to and I hope you would stick it out and try for me.”

“If you had dust mites in your sheets, they’re on us and now we’ll bring them in my bed,” he sighed, still not looking at me.

“Okay, what is your solution?”

“We need to shower,” he mumbled, practically crumpling into himself. God, people had picked on him a lot for him to have this sort of reaction. Granted, there were some extra hoops, but it was not as if he was asking me to Purell my entire body each time I wanted to touch him.

Then again, maybe he would if I had been human.

“I would love to shower with you,” I purred, carrying him to the bathroom. He sighed, melting against me as I said nothing more and turned on the water. As I waited for the water to heat up, I was rewarded for my patience with kisses along my collarbone and up my neck to my Adam’s apple. “Oh, zaika, do not stop such sweet attentions.”

He did not. I walked us back into the shower, closing the door behind us, and it was his turf so he recognized where everything was. Next thing I knew, I was melting against the tiles under the stream of water, doing nothing more than holding my mate up under his pert ass while he kissed every inch of me—after washing it of course—and showering me. It was heavenly.

I was not thinking past how turned on and into Qbert I was and moved my fingers to his crack, letting one tease his hole… I immediately realized my mistake when he just about turned into a cat with claws getting wet, scratching the crap out of me as he dropped the soap, and basically tried to climb up me to get away from my finger.

“Too soon?” I drawled, moving my hand away and trying to settle him down.

“Umm, yeah, sorry,” he mumbled, half wrapped around my shoulder and head. “Right, umm, sex between men means you go in my dirtiest parts. Forgot that. Okay. I can deal with that. I guess.”

I felt a knot in my stomach as he loosened his grip and slid down me. Clean freak I could certainly manage. OCD germophobe would be harder, but totally doable for my mate. Off-the-walls nightmare when it came to cleanliness, germs, and everything that kept us from even having sex was pushing it.

“You’re mad,” he whispered, shaking as he took a step away from me. I snapped my wandering thoughts back to the present and my mate and opened my mouth to answer but did not.

Was I? Was I mad that I finally found my mate and he was royally messed up like this?