Ethan looked up at Jeff’s face, saw that he was serious, and nodded. “Okay. I guess I’ll leave now, then.”
Jeff stopped him when he opened the door to leave the apartment. “Aren’t you going to take your stuff?”
Once the bonds of love were broken, he had to start over, with nothing but what he carried on his body. The rules of his kind. Jeff didn’t understand that—he was human.
“You can keep it if you want. Or throw it out. Whatever suits you.”
Jeff frowned, and his fist clenched as he glanced away. “Fine. Get out of here.”
Ethan closed the door behind him.
Once in the hallway, he slid down to the floor and hugged his knees to his chest. It was well past midnight, so he didn’t worry about another tenant stumbling over him. Tears slipped down his face as he whispered the questions he was incapable of asking his mate. “Why?” He curled forward into a tight ball of pain. “Don’t you love me? Did you ever love me?” He’d been dumped before—in this human world it seemed an inevitability—but he’d thought Jeff would be forever. So many things about him were so…right
. He hadn’t been a perfect fit, but then, no human could ever be a perfect mate for a Novahn.
Ethan sat on the floor for nearly an hour, trying to purge the soured love from his body.
Get up. Time to find someone new.
Obeying the command of his Novahn nature, he lurched to his feet and left the apartment building.
* * * *
Three days later, he found he had no interest in finding someone new.
“Love or die.” His best friend, a Novahn named Myra, scooped a massive pile of noodles out of her Chinese takeout box. Years of practice had yet to improve her skill with chopsticks, however, and most of the noodles slid back into the carton. “You’ve already thrown away three days of your lunar cycle.”
Ethan laid his head on the arm of her couch, remembering Jeff’s hazel eyes. “I still love him.”
She clicked her chopsticks together, as if testing their viability. “That’s your problem, Ethan. You’re always falling in love
with your mates. We’re seventh-generation Novahn on this planet. That romantic stuff was for our great-great…great-something grandparents.”
He tried to banish Jeff’s image by focusing on Myra as she sat on the floor, attacking her noodles with dogged determination. “When did your hair turn red?”
“This morning.” She speared a piece of pork with one of her sticks and stuck it into her mouth. “His name is Matthew. I think it reminds him of the sunset.”
When they were children, they’d had their own forms. It wasn’t until puberty hit that they began to take on traits preferred by their mates. “Your hair suited you when it was like midnight. What happened to Cooper?”
“Dumped Cooper.” She shrugged. “Yeah, I’m not thrilled with the new shade either.”
“You know I change to a new human every few months. That’s why I never get into the fixes you do.”
Ethan couldn’t imagine switching mates so often. His heart had been ripped from his chest with this last joining. “My mother, she died of a broken heart.”
Myra paused, then set her noodles on the coffee table. “Our genetics are so strong. No matter how many generations of us are born on this planet, our Novahn essence will always dominate, and the human blood within us will never make us human. That’s why the Kaznians spliced our DNA into those Senai servants of theirs.”
She leaned forward. “But you remember what we learned in supplemental school. Our colony settled here because most of us can have better lives, without the pressure of finding a fit that’s genetically, emotionally, spiritually perfect. Your mother… She was unlucky. She loved your dad with a Novahn’s passion, despite him being human and a horrible fit for her.”
His vision slipped out of focus again. He didn’t need a history lesson. He needed his mate. “She looked…peaceful when she closed her eyes the last time.”
The chopsticks fell out of Myra’s hand. “Ethan, don’t tell me you’re—”
“I think it would be better than what I feel now.”
She climbed over the table and crawled onto the couch to wrap her arms and legs around him. “Don’t talk like that. It’s not as if he was your True mate.”
“He was close enough to True. Closer than I’d ever been.”
Myra swore and nestled against him. “You want so badly to click with someone, but that can’t happen here. Sometimes I wish there were enough of us to mate with each other and that the elders hadn’t banned those relationships. Only sometimes, though. I really believe lesser connections are better because we can live free if we try at it.”
“I don’t want to live free. I want to belong to someone.” His mother had belonged. So thoroughly that she didn’t even think to seek out someone new when his father left them. Ethan had never understood how she could allow him to suffer the loss of both
his parents by giving up that way. Until now. Until Jeff.
Myra hugged him tight. “Take another couple of days. You’ll feel that yearning need to love someone else. You’ll see.”
The words didn’t comfort him. Ethan already felt himself slipping. He’d been with Jeff for six years. A lunar month was twenty-nine days, twelve hours, and forty-four minutes. He had twenty-five days, eighteen hours, and twelve minutes left.
How could he mate with someone new by then?
Easier to let his heart break.