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“Tried that. Morelli’s number is no longer in use.” That could mean a lot of things—none of which he wanted to explore right then. “Let’s not talk anymore about that fucker.” Trick caught her hand and kissed her palm. “How did the rest of your night go?”

“Good.”

“No males were hanging around, trying to steal you from me?”

She chuckled. “No.”

“No one gave you any problems?”

“No.”

The slight hesitation before she spoke made him frown, especially since agitation briefly spiked down their bond. “What happened?”

She sighed. “I was going to tell you tomorrow. You have enough shit on your mind tonight.”

“I want to know.” He pulled her on top of him so he could better look her in the eye. “Tell me now.”

She bit her lip, resting her chin on his chest. “Rio was a little . . . unfriendly.”

Fucker. “Define unfriendly.”

“He basically indicated that, as I don’t have a dick, he believed I wasn’t what you needed. He thinks you’re gay—or at least mostly gay. And if what Marcus said is right, he’s bitter that pursuing you never worked out for him.”

Trick swore, pissed with both the motherfucker and himself. “I shouldn’t have left you.” He should have stayed at her side, protected her.

“I’m a big girl, you know.”

“Tell me Marcus dealt with the bastard.”

“He, Derren, and Zander took said bastard outside for a ‘conversation.’”

“Good.”

“Of course, that was after I stabbed his hand with my claws.”

Trick blinked. “I shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve proven over and over that behind your cuteness lies a mean little she-wolf.” She just shrugged. “Tell me that you know Rio was chatting utter bullshit.”

“I know,” she assured him. “You want me, whatever package I come in.”

“But the things he said hurt you.”

“They stung a little, I’ll admit that. No one likes to hear their mate’s ex brag about how they know what he likes and what he tastes like. Not that I hadn’t already figured out that you liked it rough and were a fan of anal. According to Rio, you’ll stick around for a while if I give your dick access to my ass.”

Trick cupped her face. “Hear me, Frankie. I will fuck your ass. I’ll fill every inch of it and claim it as mine. Not because I like anal, but because it’s you. Whatever we do, it’s always about you.”

Frankie lifted a brow. “Look, I don’t mind you using a finger now and then.” She’d grown to like that. “But your cock? No. That won’t happen. Don’t give me that indulgent smile, like I’m delusional or something.”

“Oh, baby, I don’t think you’re delusional. I just think you’re full of shit.” He slid a hand down her back to cup one globe. “I will have this ass. I will fuck it and claim it and come deep inside it. And you know what? You’ll love every moment of it.” He narrowed his eyes. “You can wipe that indulgent smile right off your face.”

“Annoying, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it damn well is.”

She snickered. “We can argue about it tomorrow. I’m wiped.” She rested her cheek on his chest and closed her eyes. She waited until she was on the verge of sleep before she said, “By the way, I love you too.”

Trick went rigid. “You can’t tell someone you love them and then just go to sleep.”

“Watch me,” she slurred. And then she drifted off.

The next day, Trick frowned as he stared at Ryan. “Say that again.”

Standing in the center of Trey’s office, the enforcer repeated, “Morelli is gone. The buildings on his land, including the pack house, were all burned to the ground. It was no forest fire or accident. Accelerant was used. Someone deliberately destroyed them. There wasn’t a soul in sight.”

Trey’s chair creaked as he leaned forward and braced his elbows on his desk. “Any bodies?”

“Not that I could see,” replied Ryan. “But I can’t be sure that no one died in the fire.”

“So either someone tried to kill the pack, or Morelli did the damage himself and then scampered.” Trey tapped his chin. “Maybe he knew we had Drake. But how?”

Perched on the edge of the desk, Dominic said, “He could have someone watching our territory from a distance, or he could even have tagged Drake’s body the way he tagged our SUVs.”

“Both those scenarios are possible,” agreed Trick. “Morelli might have worried that Drake would talk—or he wasn’t prepared to take chances—so he did a runner. He could have burned down the buildings just so that no one else could claim them. He’s spiteful that way.”

Leaning against the wall, Marcus scratched at his stubbly jaw. “I didn’t figure Morelli for someone to run.”

“He’s not a guy who’s ruled by pride,” Dante pointed out. “He’s realistic enough to know that we have far more powerful alliances than he could dream of having. As we’ve said before, he has a plan.”

Ryan grunted in agreement. “His mind is centered on that. If hiding means preserving that plan, he’ll do it. But I think he’ll adapt it to include us being wiped out—probably at his hand.”

Trick turned to Trey. “You’re my Alpha, I respect you, but if you wanted me to flee with you and hide somewhere, I’d expect there to be a damn good reason. Otherwise you’d lose a great deal of my respect. That makes me wonder if Morelli’s pack is hiding with him. If they are, what reason would he give them?”

Dominic tossed a paperweight from one hand to the other. “I think we’re right that Morelli burned down the buildings, but I don’t think his pack knows it was him. I think he blamed it on someone else. Possibly us. His pack would leave with him and agree to hide if he gave them some spiel about lying low while they plotted revenge or some shit like that.”

“It’s probable,” said Ryan. “Whatever the case, I think he’ll launch an attack at some point. Not just because we messed up his plan, but because he truly wants our territory. His style is to take out the strongest members and try to recruit the others.” He looked at Trey and Dante. “That means you two will be his main targets. But you’ll need to watch out too, Trick. You and your mate both thwarted him. And in doing so, you made it impossible for his plan to work. Trey didn’t come to him for help like Morelli wanted. You also ensured that Drake was hunted down, which lost Morelli one of his wolves. In other words, you’ll be on his shit list.”

The knock at the door made Trey frown. Still, he called out, “Come in.”

Lydia took shy steps inside, teeth nibbling her lower lip. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“Everything okay?” asked Dante.

She sighed. “Well, not really.”

Trick narrowed his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“I was talking to Frankie at her studio. I just wanted to see her work and stuff. While I was there, she got a phone call. And then her face just went all weird. I asked what was wrong, but she blew me off and went back to work.”

Trick checked her through their bond. She seemed calm enough, but he knew that she could throw herself so deeply into a project that her emotions took a back seat. His wolf urged Trick to find her, check on her.

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