Slumped in his chair, Dominic looked at them with a baffled expression. “You’ve mated? Really? Weird. I always figured you were a ghost,” he told Riley. A grin spread across his face. “You haunt my dreams every night.”
Tao growled, clenching his fists against the urge to slap the enforcer. “Dominic, why do you hate yourself?”
“You really have to be suicidal to persist with this, Dom,” said Marcus. The others nodded or murmured their agreement.
“Ah, come on!” said Dominic. “Can you really blame me for finding her hot? Sometimes I wish I was cross-eyed so I could see her twice.”
Out of patience, Tao reached over and slapped the enforcer over the back of the head. Dominic just laughed, thoroughly pleased with himself.
Lydia sighed at Dominic. “Honey, you’ve had so many people whack that crazy head of yours that I’m surprised you don’t have special needs.”
Dominic paused in chewing his sandwich. “Actually, so am I.”
Rolling her eyes at his antics, Riley turned to Savannah and Dexter. Neither had offered any congratulations. They were both still in their seats, eyeing her and Tao warily.
“You’re mates now?” asked Savannah.
Tao crouched down. “Riley’s still yours,” he told both of them. “We just share her now. It means there’s always someone to take care of her. Right?”
Savannah thought about it for a moment and then grinned. “We’re like Team Riley.”
Tao nodded. “Exactly.” He ruffled Dexter’s mop of curls. The cub offered him an acorn from his pocket, which Tao decided to interpret as a sign of acceptance, so he gratefully took it.
Greta gave Riley one of those condescending head-to-toe looks. “Fate let you down big-time, my boy,” she told Tao.
“Here we go,” mumbled Taryn.
Riley glanced at Makenna and crossed her eyes. The old woman might have told Avery that Tao could do worse, but it was unlikely that Greta would ever actually like Riley. Even if she did, she’d still always be vile toward Riley just because the crone was crazy.
“She’s a raven, for God’s sake,” Greta complained.
Riley snorted. “At least I’m not the mascot for California’s Psychotic Bitch Department.” Ignoring the woman’s horrified gasp, Riley turned to Tao. “I’m going to call my uncles.”
“Okay.” Tao kissed her and then gave her ass a gentle pat. “Don’t be long.” Pulling out the chair next to Trick, he sat down.
“I told you,” teased Trick with a smirk.
Tao shot him a look of disgust. “What are you, twelve?”
Unoffended, Trick bit into his toast. “It’s still weird that your wolf didn’t like her at first.”
“Maybe our animals don’t always know when they’ve met their true mate.” Or maybe Tao’s wolf had been as wary of mating as he was, though Tao doubted it. Their animals were more elemental in their way of thinking. They didn’t really have “issues.” Tao couldn’t know for sure. What he did know was that the wolf’s only current problem was that his mate, standing in the corner of the kitchen, was too far away. Clingy bastard.
The phone only rang twice before Ethan picked up. “Morning, sweetheart,” he greeted her.
“Hey,” said Riley. “Call Max over and then put me on speakerphone so I can talk to both of you.”
Ethan whistled. “Riley wants to talk to us!”
“Okay, I’m here,” Max announced a few moments later.
Riley smiled and took a deep breath. “I have some news.”
“You and Tao are mates,” said Ethan. “Ow! What was that for?”
“You could have let her tell us,” Max reprimanded him.
“Why, when we already knew?” Ethan seemed genuinely confused.
“So she could have that moment of giving us the good news.”
Riley sighed. “Since neither of you are complaining about the mating, I’m guessing you’re both good with this.”
“We like Tao,” said Max.
“We like him for you,” Ethan added. “Promise you won’t have the mating ceremony without us.”
“I have no intention of throwing the ceremony until all this crap is over,” she assured them. She thought about telling them what had happened at the amusement park, but she saw no need to worry them further. It would only hurt them that they couldn’t be here to protect her because they needed to keep watch on the other ravens. “All the flock still accounted for?”
“Yes,” said Ethan. “We’re in constant contact with Hugh and the enforcers—everyone has been vigilant, but there have been no problems so far.”
“I’m guessing more and more people are thinking Dana was right and that I was behind the shootings, then.” It was more of a question than a statement.
“I’d say our trigger-happy friend has gone quiet to cast suspicion on you and make us stop watching everyone so closely.” Ethan was no doubt right about it.
“You don’t deny that people suspect me,” she began, “so I’m guessing I’m right.”
“It’s mostly just Dana, Shirley, and Cynthia.” Max’s derision was clear in his voice. “Don’t let it get you down, sweetheart. They’re not worth it.”
“Don’t waste your thoughts on them. You’ve just mated, enjoy it,” Ethan urged her.
She smiled. “Will do. Love you both.”
“You too, sweetheart,” said Ethan.
“Love you, Ri.” Max made a kissing noise just before the line went dead.
Returning her cell to her pocket, she crossed to the table and took the seat beside Tao. He’d already poured her coffee and filled her plate with pancakes drizzled in syrup. “Aw, thank you.” She didn’t miss Gabe mouthing, “Whipped” at Tao, but her mate just snickered at him.
“How are your uncles doing?” Tao asked.
“They sound good for two people who no longer trust most of their flock mates.”
“You told them we mated?”
She forked up a small chunk of pancake. “Yep.”
“They’re happy for you?”
She smiled at the “They’d better be happy for you” note to Tao’s voice. “For us, yes.”
“I think they might be a little disappointed that I’m no longer part of the flock, but they did their best to hide it from me.” She simply knew them too well.
“Did you tell them about Ramón?”
“No. It would have just frustrated them that they couldn’t be here to help, not to mention make them worry about me even more than they already do.” She sipped her coffee. “You planning to call your parents and tell them we’re mated?”
“Yes. After that . . . how about we let our animals out to play?” His wolf was craving it. “We’ll stay close to the mountain.”
Her raven perked up at that idea. “All right.”
Once they were finished with breakfast, Tao went off to call his parents while Riley settled the kids in the playroom with Grace and Rhett. To Riley’s utter surprise, both Avery and Lennon insisted on speaking with Riley to offer congratulations and promised they would visit soon. Well, it was good to know she wouldn’t forever be at war with her mother-in-law.
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