Looking up from slipping on her shoes, Riley blinked. “With what?”

“Don’t. Just tell me where it is.”

“You really need to be more specific.”

He ground his teeth. “My onyx ring. You took it. I want it back.”

She cocked her head. “I’ve never seen you wear rings.”

“I don’t wear it, but I kept it because my mom gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday.” It had sentimental value to his wolf too, but the animal wasn’t so irritated, because he was actually amused by Riley’s antics nowadays.

“Aw, that was sweet of her.”

“So where is it?”

“Where is it usually?”

Pulling on his socks, he said, “I put it in the top drawer of the dresser.”

“Then it should still be there. Don’t blame me if you’ve misplaced your ring.”

He closed his eyes. “Too early for this shit, Porter. Too early. Just hand it over.”

“I wish I could help, I really do.”

Tao cursed, shoving his feet in his shoes. “You’re a pain in my ass.”

“Well, you were a pain in mine last night, so I guess that makes us even.”

Remembering exactly how that had felt, he smiled. “I was just claiming what already belongs to me. You liked it.”

He turned at the knock on the door. He was used to the kids turning up of a morning, but the knock was too heavy for it to be from one of them. Opening the door, he found his Alphas waiting. His wolf snapped to alertness. “Something wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong,” said Trey. “Can we talk inside?”

Tao stepped back to let them enter and then moved to Riley’s side, linking their fingers.

“Morning,” said Taryn. Her nostrils flared and she smiled, obviously able to tell that their scents had mixed. “Well, hell, can’t say I’m surprised. Congratulations!”

“Thanks,” said Riley.

“True mates?” asked Taryn.

“True mates,” Riley confirmed.

Taryn spun to face her mate. “You owe me fifty dollars, Flintstone.”

Pulling out his wallet with a heavy exhalation, Trey handed over the money and explained to Tao and Riley, “I said it would probably take imprinting for you two to mate. Taryn insisted you were true mates.”

“You shouldn’t bet against me.” Taryn flicked through the dollar bills, counting them. “I know my pack mates inside out. And now that you’ve mated Tao, you’re officially one of us, Riley.”

Tao arched a brow. “You know them inside out? Then please tell me where she hides the stuff she steals—”

“Borrows,” corrected Riley.

“—because I’d like my ring back.”

Taryn tapped her cheek. “Um, yeah, I don’t know.” She patted his arm. “Riley will give it back. Eventually.” Turning to Riley, she told her, “We were hoping to catch you before breakfast so we could have a little chat.”

Riley stilled as she took in their serious expressions. “Chat?”

“It’s not bad news,” Taryn quickly added, hands held up in assurance.

Trey planted his feet. “We want to offer you the position of Guardian.”

Riley double-blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”

“You pretty much act as Guardian anyway,” said Trey. “This would just make it official.”

A Guardian watched over and supervised the children within the pack throughout the day. The Alphas would offer her such a position only if they trusted not only her ability to protect the kids but that she would do them no harm. Although Tao had told her that Taryn would probably offer her the position, Riley hadn’t been convinced, since she hadn’t expected that level of trust from them. It came as a definite shock now, since . . . “Dexter almost got kidnapped because of me.”

Taryn snorted. “He almost got kidnapped because Ramón is fucked in the head. You noticed he was gone, you tracked him, you saved him. If you hadn’t gotten to him as quickly as you did—” Taryn cut herself off and shook her head. “Let’s not think about that. You’re not at fault for what happened. You’re the hero of the hour and we want you as Guardian.”

As a thought occurred to Riley, she asked, “Would it mean that Tao lost his bodyguard position?”

“No,” replied Taryn. “Which means you’d be able to spend a fair bit of time together if you’re Guardian.”

Tao smiled, liking that idea a hell of a lot. “The position will suit you,” he told Riley, but she bit her lip, hesitating.

Trey’s brows creased. “Can I ask why you were so reluctant to join our pack?”

Riley scratched her nape. “It would have meant officially leaving the flock—a move that felt a lot like abandoning my uncles.” But if there was one thing her recent stay there had taught her, it was that there was no place for her there, Riley thought. Moreover, it didn’t feel like home to her anymore. Phoenix Pack territory felt like home.

Taryn nodded in understanding. “Well, now that you’re mated to Tao, you’re officially a pack member—not because you’re abandoning anyone, but because you’ve mated into the pack.” Taryn rubbed her hands. “So, do you want the position? It wouldn’t mean you’d be their main caretaker—everyone likes having some time with them, and, hello, you have a life to lead. It would just mean you’re their main supervisor. It makes perfect sense for it to be you. For one thing, Savannah and Dexter only recognize you as an authority figure. They’re well behaved for us, but only because they don’t want to disappoint you. Secondly, I don’t think you’ll want anyone else watching over them anyway.”

Well, that was certainly true. Riley liked taking care of them, liked knowing where they were. Her raven was eager to pick up the mantle of Guardian, proud and honored. “I thank you for your offer . . . and I accept.”

Taryn beamed. “Awesome!”

Trey nodded his approval. “We’ll see you both at breakfast. Don’t worry, we won’t tell the others that you’re mated. You can tell them yourselves.”

Once the Alphas left, Tao tugged Riley close, aligning her body to his. “Accepting the position of Guardian was the right thing to do.” The pack hadn’t needed one before Riley came, because they’d had only Kye and Lilah. Tao suspected that Grace would have been made Guardian if Riley hadn’t joined the pack. As much as Grace was amazing with the kids, she didn’t fit the position in the same way that Riley did. “What would make the morning even better would be if you handed over my damn ring.”

“You’re barking at the wrong raven, Fenris.”

Tao growled. “It’s a good fucking thing you’re worth this trouble, Porter. I need coffee and food.” In one swift move, he slung her over his shoulder, ignoring her horrified squeaks, and strode out of the room. He didn’t put her down until just before they reached the kitchen. Cutting off the insults she would have slung at him, he kissed the breath out of her. “You know better than to call me Fenris.”

“But it’s fun.”

He sighed. “Whatever.” Linking their fingers, Tao drew her into the kitchen. The pack looked up and either nodded or gave them an absent smile. It wasn’t until they’d neared the table that heads snapped up. Eyes wide, the pack were instantly on their feet, congratulating them. Well, apart from Greta and Dominic.


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