Born into a world where everyone is born marked for a soulmate, Scott never tried very hard to find his. Now in his early thirties, he attends soulmate parties only to look for his next hookup. In denial over his bisexuality, he only seeks out pretty, young women for his brief flings. Unexpectedly, he encounters his soulmate one night and discovers he’s a man who introduces himself as Ross.
Scott takes one look at Ross and flees in a panic. When Ross finally finds his soulmate, he’s both disappointed and amused when the man runs from him. Scott is certain to be a handful, but perhaps it will just take a little bit of discipline to get him under control. Ross always did enjoy a challenge.
Chapter 1: Unexpected
Scott climbed out of the car and straightened his suit jacket, looking over the clean lines of the modern estate where he’d been dropped off. It was Saturday, and he was at yet another mandated Seek Your Soulmate party. At thirty-two, he could soon stop attending these parties. Only three more years.
Thankfully, it seemed whoever his soulmate was, she must not live in the area. Either that, or she traveled in different social circles than he did. It was just as well. The thought of being permanently stuck with a soulmate always made him break out in a cold sweat.
Since he still had to attend these parties, Scott used them as an opportunity to hookup, enjoying a different lovely lady almost every weekend. He rubbed the back of his left hand where his soulmark was absentmindedly. It’s better this way. I won’t have to get tied down.
The party was already well underway; the music throbbing as Scott made his way through the throng of bodies to get to the bar. He always liked to have a drink in hand before checking out tonight’s selection of beauties. “Manhattan, up,” he ordered once he caught the attention of the bartender.
Drink in hand, Scott made his way to a corner of the room to better assess his options. There was a pretty brunette that just arrived, looking around the room. He contemplated making his way over to her when her face brightened into a smile, and she waved at a small cluster of other women across the room. Ugh, no. Women who traveled in packs were rarely hookup material, so he turned his attention elsewhere.
A young, raven-haired girl approached, drawing his attention. “Still haven’t found the one, huh?”
“I’m looking for the one for tonight. Could you be her?”
“Dunno, maybe. I’ve always had a thing for older guys.”
“Daddy kink or the appreciation of experience?”
“A little of both,” she said with a wink. “I’m Emilia.”
Taking a sip of his drink, Scott studied her for a moment. He was about to say something when the soulmark on the back of his left hand began to tingle, startling him enough that he nearly dropped his drink. “Shit!”
“What happened? Is it your mark?”
Looking at the back of his hand, sure enough the details of his mark were more pronounced. “Yeah. Wow, I never thought that would happen tonight. It’s not you, is it?”
Emilia shook her head and held up her hand. Her mark was faint and didn’t match his at all. “I’m afraid not. Go get her, tiger!”
Downing his drink, Scott looked over the crowd again, trying to spot anyone who may be trying to locate a soulmate. His eyes fell on several women, but none appeared to be reacting. Scott’s instinct was telling him to run for the hills, but he knew society didn’t take kindly to soulmates running away from each other. He may at least have a look at who he was meant to be tied down to for life first.
Setting his empty glass down, Scott made his way through the crowd to look through the other rooms in the house. The tingling sensation kept getting stronger, so he knew he was getting close.
As he made his way through the house, he began to imagine what his soulmate might look like. He’d always gravitated towards pretty and petite. Occasionally a handsome man would catch his eye, but he quickly pushed those ideas aside. Homosexual soulmates were rare and came with too many societal responsibilities he would be all too happy to avoid, thank you very much.
Scott found himself far more attracted to women, so he assumed his soulmate must also be female. There was no point pursuing male partners, not when there were so many beautiful and willing ladies to be had.
After searching the entire house, Scott was beginning to wonder if his soulmark was somehow mistaken. He nearly gave up when he saw the sliding door out to the back yard was open. Making his way outside, he saw a beautifully lit swimming pool. If the evening had been slightly warmer, no doubt there would be a bevy of party goers swimming.
The crisp night air sent a shiver through him as his eyes searched around for another living soul. Out of the shadows walked a tall, handsome man. “It’s about time you finally came looking for me out here.”
Scott’s breath caught in his throat as the back of his hand began to tingle more intensely while the man stalked his way toward him. Oh no.
“Hi, I’m Ross,” the man introduced, reaching out.
Staring at the offered hand, with a clearly visible mark that matched his own, Scott shrank back. If he shook his soulmate’s hand—if they touched skin-to-skin—it would start the process of bonding between them. A process that was irreversible.
Flicking his eyes up to look at Ross, he shook his head. “No … I can’t do this. I’m sorry … I just … I can’t.” Turning, Scott fled back into the house, then out of the front door and down the street. He had to get out of here. Looking back, he saw that Ross wasn’t running after him. He pulled out his phone and scheduled for a car to come pick him up and take him back to the city.
With shaking fingers, Scott nearly dropped his keys as he tried to unlock the door to his apartment. Once inside, he hung his keys from a hook by the door and went to pour himself a stiff drink. This was not how tonight was supposed to go.
Collapsing onto his couch, with a glass and bottle of whiskey in hand, he planned to drink himself into oblivion and hope he could forget this entire night had happened. After his first swallow, he startled when his phone began to vibrate in his pocket. Who the hell is calling me at this hour?
Fishing his phone out of his pocket he looked at the screen. Unknown Number. Scott dropped the phone onto the coffee table and ignored it, opting to take another long swallow of his drink. The burn of it in his throat helped make the continued tingle of his mark feel less pronounced.
The next morning, he awoke, bleary eyed. It took a few moments for him to realize he was still on the couch, a half-empty bottle of whiskey sitting on the coffee table next to his phone. Sitting up, Scott winced and rubbed at his neck. Ugh, I’m getting too old for this.
Purposefully ignoring his phone, he rose to start a pot of coffee before stumbling to the bathroom. After relieving himself and taking a hot shower, he began to feel almost human again. Dressed in sweats and loose t-shirt, he poured himself a cup and contemplated the rest of his day. Usually he’d be having a round of morning sex or contemplating breakfast options. Often, he’d spend the bulk of the next day with his conquests before parting ways. It was a pleasant way to while away a Sunday.
His soulmark’s ongoing tingle began to turn into an insistent itch. Was Ross nearby, searching for him? Fuck, I hope not. Scratching at the back of his left hand, he began to realize that the irritation felt different than it had last night. It burned slightly and felt more … urgent.
Draining his coffee cup, he went to pour another cup when his phone buzzed. Scott stared at it for a moment before getting his refill in the kitchen. He knew who was trying to reach him and he wasn’t prepared to deal with that. Not yet.
Leaving the phone behind, Scott made his way to the little office he had set up in the spare bedroom. He needed to do some research first. He vaguely remembered the soulmark classes he was required to take back in high school but couldn’t remember all the details.
Everyone knew that such homosexual pairings were treated differently. They were rare, so homosexual soulmates were something special. Scott needed to know if there was any way he could get out of bonding with his soulmate. He also looked up why his mark continued to itch when he was pretty sure he wasn’t anywhere near the man he’d met last night. Ross, his traitorous mind reminded him.
Scott spent a couple of hours researching everything he could find on the topic. It was worse than he’d feared. Ever since he’d gotten within touching distance of Ross, his soulmark had begun to change. The proximity alone was enough to start the bonding process in his body, however since the physical contact hadn’t occurred, the chemicals in his body were now in a disarray and his mark was becoming irritated. If he and Ross didn’t complete the next stage and touch each other, the irritation would only get worse for both.
That also confirmed his other fears. Not only was there no known way to safely reverse the bonding process and cure the irritation once it began, but since they were a homosexual pairing, he’d be practically ostracized for refusing to bond with his soulmate.
Refusal to bond happened so rarely in their society as it was, but occasionally it would come out that one or both of a pair had initially refused to bond. Yet, if they were a common heterosexual pair, no big deal was made of it. They would eventually reconcile and bond because they were soulmates. It was inevitable.
However, if a homosexual pairing resisted the bond, all hell broke loose. The pair would be shamed, their lives destroyed, and in some cases forced to flee into exile. Running from Ross last night might have been enough to doom them both. Shit.
While he was researching, Scott had heard his phone buzz several more times. Scratching his irritated soulmark he sighed, as he resigned himself to his fate. He went out to the living room and sat on the couch, staring at his phone for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he finally picked it up and unlocked the home screen. There were several texts and one voicemail, all from the same unknown number.
He clicked the first text message. Hey Scott, it’s Ross. I tried to call you. The host of the party gave me your name and number. I’m sorry if meeting me freaked you out. Please, give me a call.
The host of the party had everyone’s soulmark, name, and contact information on file. It was standard practice at every soulmark party. Scott never thought anything of it before. Now he feared that everyone would know he’d fled, and that would make everything so much worse.
Glancing down, he read the three other texts.
Hey there. Are you awake yet? We need to talk about this.
Scott, please. Your mark must be starting to itch too. You know what that means, right?
Scott Hansen, if you don’t call me by 5pm, I’m going to come to your apartment. We need to talk.
Looking at the time, Scott saw that it was after 4:30pm. Shit.
Scott then decided to listen to the voicemail before calling.
“Hey, this is Ross. You know, the guy you ran away from at the party? Look, I’m sorry if I wasn’t what you were expecting, but we really need to talk about this. Now that we’ve met, this isn’t something that will just go away. Please, call me.”
Rubbing his face, Scott groaned. Alright, he could do this. He didn’t want to, but what choice did he have? Clicking on the unknown number, Scott hit the call button and put the phone up to his ear.
“Yeah, hi. Sorry for dragging this out. I … needed some time to process.”
“So, let me guess, not expecting me to be a guy, right?”
“Something like that.”
“Shame. I was hoping you would be.”
“So, you said you wanted to talk. I agree … but no touching. Not yet. Okay?”
“Okay, but we can’t wait too long, or this irritation is going to get worse.”
“Yeah, I know. I was reading up on it before I called you.”
“Let me take you out to dinner. Meet me at 7pm at that burger dive down on Seventh.”
“Okay, that sounds good. I’ll see you there.”
Rubbing his hands over his face, Scott took a deep breath. What the hell have I gotten myself into?