Ryan Williams woke with a feeling of renewed purpose. He stretched, yawned widely and sat up, eager to start.

Today was the day, damn it.

He was going to claim his mate.

Of course he woke up every morning lately thinking that, but Ryan refused to allow Glory’s snarly ways to get him down. She was so cute when she was trying to be all big and bad, with those long, powder-blue curls floating around her and the bangles on her arms clinking together. To Ryan, Glory was the size of a donut hole, about as frightening and just as sweet.

He adored the ground she walked on, whether she liked it or not.

He sighed and crawled out of bed, padding naked to the bathroom. It was still early out, but the sun had begun to rise, and there was no sense in remaining in bed. Better to get up, get dressed and work once more on Project Glory.

He brushed his teeth and took a quick shower, all the while trying to think of ways to get the stubborn woman to accept what he’d known since he’d stumbled into her at the hospital all those months ago. He’d looked down at the oddly dressed, blue-haired woman he’d accidentally knocked down and damn near had a heart attack. She’d blown her curls out of her eyes, glared up at him and he’d been instantly smitten.

“And hello to you too.”

At the sound of her voice he’d shuddered. His Bear, still upset over his sister’s brutal beating, had stilled its frantic pacing. All its attention had focused on the gorgeous fairy sprawled at his feet.

Ryan hadn’t expected to be so fortunate as to find his mate in the same town his favorite cousin had, but there she’d been, all five foot three of her. Glory had been bristling over the fact that he might have a mate, and she’d been unwilling to acknowledge the pull between them. Tabby had told her friend he was a shifter, and Glory had growled at him for the first time, winning his heart with her fierceness.

How sad was it that he’d never been so turned on in all his life? His Bear had wanted to growl back, to bite and claim and carry her off to his den where she’d be safe. The knowledge that his baby sister was in the hospital, clinging to life, while his mate stood defiantly before him had made him lose his damn mind. He’d commanded Tabby, a Wolf and the mate of his cousin Alex, to keep Glory safe and forced himself from Glory’s side. He had time to claim her, to mark her as his.

But that time was beginning to run out. The mate dreams had become so intense Ryan was almost afraid to go to sleep at night. Each one had him spending in his sheets, waking lonely and cold and in need of a shower. His Bear was beginning to snap and snarl, and it had only gotten worse since Glory had been injured.

Ryan felt his eyes change, his Bear coming to the fore at the memory of being unable to get to his mate. She’d been in the hospital, shot by the man who’d cast Tabby from her home Pack, and the hospital had refused him entrance. They’d claimed he was acting crazy, that he was a disruption.

His mate had been shot. What had they expected, tea and crumpets?

So instead of being there for his mate he’d gone hunting, looking for the man who’d harmed Glory, trying desperately to keep from slipping over the edge and letting loose his rage on the woman who’d denied him access.

And he’d done it. He’d found Tabby’s ex-Alpha holding Cyn at gunpoint and taken him down, but not before the rogue Wolf had shot and nearly killed her. Julian had almost died saving her, something that still gave Cyn fits. She was almost as protective of her mate as Ryan was of his.

Ryan returned to his mate’s side, happy with the knowledge that the man who had hurt her would never hurt another living soul, let alone Ryan’s tiny mate.

Ever since then, Glory’s stance toward him had softened. She’d let him in a little bit, allowing him to hold her, to shoulder some of the burden she seemed to always carry with her. But she’d refused every plea for a date, every demand that they mate. She didn’t understand how he suffered without her, but the last thing he wanted to do was to force her into accepting him out of pity.

Ryan wanted her heart. Now all he had to do was figure out how to win it, a task that seemed easier said than done. So far, the only place he was certain he held it was in his dreams.

Ryan needed it in reality as well. The madness the mate dreams could bring was slowly seeping in, and there was nothing he could do about it. If she refused to accept him, Ryan would leave Halle and literally pine away for lack of her.

Ryan turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. If he had to, he was willing to strip his soul bare to win her affection. He’d stop the sun in its tracks for her smile, take the moon and hang it around her neck to hear her sigh. Didn’t she know she was everything to him? And if not, what could he do to make her see it?

Perhaps it’s time I consulted Tabby and Cyn. The girls knew Glory better than anyone, and only his reluctance to air their troubles before her friends had stopped him before. But the stronger the mate dreams became, the more desperate he was to finally mark his mate. The girls would know what to do to win his reluctant mate. She wasn’t immune to him, but she wasn’t letting him any further into her life, either.

Ryan dressed, his thoughts racing. He’d talk to the girls, find out what he needed to do before his Bear decided to take matters into its own paws. Because if his Bear took over and forced her, Glory would never forgive him.

And neither would Ryan.

Glory couldn’t believe it. It was the sweetest yet creepiest thing she’d ever seen.

Another dozen roses sat in front of her apartment, the same as the week before.

Ryan’s really stepping up his game. She picked up the bouquet and took a sniff, hoping no one saw the sappy smile that crossed her lips.

The week before he’d left not only the roses but a small gold bracelet. The week before that had been a small bottle of her favorite perfume. And the week before that? A premium hand lotion that smelled of fresh pears. How he’d known it was her favorite scent she’d never know. Maybe it was that Bear nose of his.

She couldn’t wait to see what was in the box this time.

Glory carried the roses and her latest present into the apartment, kicking the door shut with her foot. She needed to start dropping hints about the kinds of things she liked so he’d continue to get it right.

She tore into the box, eager to see what he’d gotten for her. Inside, she found two champagne glasses with a small bottle of Dom Perignon. And this time the note was just as beautiful as the last one. Your sweet smile brightens my day.