Stacey crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m going, and I’m smoking.”

Barb grimaced. Damn it. Stacy went nuts when she got high, and if she did, she’d get in trouble. “Fine.”

Shit. There went her plans for a nice, quiet evening.

“Damn it.” Will watched the woman of his dreams walk away, again.

Hell. At least she was amused. He had that going for him. And it was always a bonus when the love of your life didn’t call the cops on you.

“Why don’t you just ask her out?”

He glared at his cousin. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Will sighed. “She’s just so…” His hands moved, forming curves. “And she’s got…” He patted the air the way he wanted to pat her pert ass.

“Yup. Where I come, we call that…” Steven leaned in close. “A girl.”

“Fuck you.” Will took the hand his cousin held out for him and let Steve pull him to his feet. “You’ve claimed your mate, let me claim mine.”

“Speaking of mates, yours is going to that party tonight, the one I forbade Laura from going to.”

Will bit back a curse and stared down the path Barb had taken. Laura was Steve’s new mate. A cuter little Fox he’d never seen, but the family had been startled when Steve brought her home. They’d expected him to mate either another Bear or a human, the way most of them did.

But Steve had taken one look at the tiny little redhead and known where his destiny lay. He’d mated her that night and they hadn’t looked back since.

If Steve was keeping his mate away from the party it had to be bad. The young couple was known around campus for enjoying the college lifestyle. They were frequent partiers, yet still managed to keep their grades high enough to satisfy both sets of parents.

Will hated them sometimes. Since seeing Barb his grades had plummeted. Keeping her safe was far more important to him than any grade could ever be, and after that stalker incident, he’d been unable to leave her alone.

But if he wanted to take over his father’s business some day and make it shine he’d need the dual degrees in business and landscape architecture he was pursuing. Will loved the work his father did, but he planned on being a little more hands-on. He loved digging in the dirt, planting new life and watching it grow. It soothed his Bear, kept him calm.

Will braced himself. He had the feeling he wasn’t going to like what Steve had to say.

Will snarled. That jerk had been harassing Barb for months, trying to push her into a sexual relationship she didn’t want. Will had tried to warn the guy off, but he’d just laughed at

Brian would get the surprise of his life when Will finally claimed his mate. Barb was going to eat his face off if he tried anything. And if he still didn’t get the hint, Will knew exactly where he’d bury the body parts.

“Easy.” Steve plunked some damp, partially frozen soil in his hands.

Will stared at the clod of dirt. “What the hell, man?”

Steve shrugged. “You always seem to feel better after making mud pies.”

Will glared at him and stepped back onto the pathway, dropping the mud back where it belonged. “I was twelve.”

“You shoved it down my pants.” The two men began walking back towards the center of campus.

“You’re right. You were annoying the shit out of me, and I did feel better after that.”

Will laughed as they entered the student center.

Steve immediately began scanning the area for his mate. “Do you know what you’re going to do about Barb?”

Will smiled, and three people backed away from him. “What do you think?

Steven took one look at his face and grimaced. “I think I’m going to a party so you don’t go to jail.”

Will sniffed and wiped the corner of his eye. “I love you too, cuz.”

Steven stomped off, muttering about insanity and bloodlines and crap Will didn’t really care about. He headed for his dorm room. He was a Bear on a mission.

He had a party to crash, and a woman to mark.

She was giggling so hard into her pillow she could barely breathe, but the book was so damn good she just couldn’t put it down.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Barb jumped and hid the book she’d been reading. “Nothing.”

“Gimme that.” Stacy snatched the book out of her hands and frowned. “What the hell is a

Barb tried to get her book back before it got torn. “Stop!”

“I like it.” Barb sighed and slumped on the bed. “She’s damn funny, and instead of fainting away or letting the man get away with crap she gives as good as she gets.”

Now Stacy looked intrigued instead of disgusted. “Yeah?” She eyed the cover for a moment before grinning. “The hero kinda looks like Will.”

“Shut. Up.” Barb hit her roommate with her pillow. “What time is the party?”

“Damn.” Barb scrambled up from the bed. “Why didn’t you remind me?”

“I did, but you had your nose buried in that book.” Stacy opened the paperback and began reading while Barb hustled around, changing her clothes. The jean skirt and tights would keep her warm, as would her checked Converse sneakers and two pairs of socks, one lime green, the other turquoise. She quickly changed to her favourite sweater, the turquoise one that matched Will’s eyes. She slicked some color on her lips and grabbed her parka, ready to roll. “C’mon!”

“She’s gonna get our asses kicked,” Barb sighed. She followed her crazy roommate out of the dorm and into the night.

Will watched the two women head towards the apartments lining either side of the campus and began following them. There was no way in hell he was leaving Barb to the tender mercies of the drug addicted Brian. He had to make sure she was safe.