Waking up to find yourself sweating tequila was not fun.
Riley Porter groaned. She was dying. She had to be. Everywhere hurt. Her head was throbbing, her stomach was spinning, and it felt like someone was jabbing her eyeballs with a dull blade. It would seem she'd spent the night exploring the wonder that was tequila, and now she'd descended into a black hole of pain.
The hum of the ceiling fan was like nails on a chalkboard, but the breeze felt good on her heated skin. She swallowed, wincing at how dry her throat was. That bitter taste in her mouth was foul. Water. She needed water.
No, she needed to throw up.
Since she couldn't feel her legs, both needs would be hard to answer. That was bad, because her senses were drowning in the pungent smell of tequila and wouldn't be able to take much more of it.
Flashes of fuzzy memories came to her. Music. Dancing. Laughing. Party poppers. Mojitos. Shots.
Ah yes, the Phoenix Pack had thrown a party to celebrate the birthday of one of their wolves.
When she came to the pack for sanctuary six months ago with two young lone shifters, Riley hadn't once thought that the Alphas might offer her a permanent place. It wasn't such a surprise that they'd adopted Savannah and Dexter, given that the kids were so utterly lovable. But Riley was a lone raven shifter who'd refused to give them an explanation for why she didn't live within a flock. Despite that, and despite the fact that she hadn't accepted or declined their offer to stay, the pack still treated her as one of their own-well, most of them did, anyway.
The snippets of the party she could remember had been fun, but most of the night was pretty much a blur. God, she detested tequila. In fact, while every part of her ached and death seemed so close, she detested everything. Except Tylenol. All she needed in her life right then was Tylenol. Or maybe to just crawl into a hole and crash.
Forcing her heavy eyelids open, Riley winced as the sunlight stabbed her eyes. It shone through the glass balcony doors, casting shadows across the smooth, light-cream sandstone walls. It had been one hell of a surprise to find that the Phoenix Pack inhabited a modernized cave dwelling. The place made Riley think of a giant ant colony with all its tunnels and levels. There were dozens of bedrooms, and this particular one was more like a luxurious hotel room with its plush carpet, modern furnishings, canopied bed, and lush linens.
Speaking of the bedding . . . she was guessing the black smudge on her pillow was mascara. That meant it was probably smeared all over her face-great. She clumsily reached over to grab her phone from the nightstand, intending to check the time. She frowned. Where the fuck was her phone? Probably in the gutter, right alongside her dignity.
See, this was why she was single.
On the upside, getting smashed had helped her sleep the whole night through. That was something that very rarely happened, thanks to her good friend Insomnia.
She shifted slightly and groaned as a sharp pain lanced through her head. She was going to have to somehow manage the impossible and get up so she could find some painkillers. She took a centering breath, nose wrinkling as she picked up something else beneath the overwhelming scent of tequila-something that didn't belong. Was that . . . ? She tensed. Oh God, no. No. Even her drunken self couldn't be that stupid.
Clamping her lips to stop herself from retching, she stiffly rolled onto her other side. Waves of nausea rose up, but she was more hung up on the fact that, yep, she was that stupid. The proof was sleeping right beside her on his stomach, smelling of sex and his signature scent-harvest spice, warm apple, and wood smoke. Honest to God, she was looking at six and a half feet of solid muscle, olive skin, and raw animal energy.
Tao Lukas, the pack's Head Enforcer.
Riley closed her eyes, silently cursing herself as it all came flooding back
. Oh yeah, she remembered it now. Remembered his cock stretching her, his teeth digging into her neck, his tongue licking into her mouth. Remembered coming hard as she clawed at his nape and shoulders while he hammered into her. She opened one eye and winced at the sight of her brands on his sleek skin, raking over the tribal tattoo on his upper back.
Damn, this was bad. While Riley didn't have any hang-ups about one-night stands-shifters needed touch, social and sexual-she did have some standards, believe it or not, and she at least required that any guy she took to her bed actually like her. Tao might want her, might even act possessive of her, but he didn't like her. And yeah, that kind of chafed.
His attitude might not have bothered her if she hadn't been stuck in the grip of a wicked, sensual need since they first met. Her raven wanted him with that same primitive intensity, not at all hung up on the fact that he didn't like her. The avian was much too intrigued by him to care, which was understandable. Tao had a very warrior-like mentality: he was fearless, brutally blunt, action oriented, and forceful, and he had no time or patience for diplomacy.
Many seemed to find his outspokenness off-putting, but Riley admired his refusal to tailor his judgments to placate others. She liked people who were up front and didn't dance around what they thought or believed. That didn't mean she liked waking up in bed with him after a one-night stand.
Well, as far as she was concerned, if they'd been drunk, it didn't count. Nope.
Now what to do . . . The best option would be to wake him up and send him on his way. But there was nothing wrong with enjoying the view for a few minutes, right? It was an incredibly hot view, with his smooth jaw, prominent cheekbones, and broad shoulders. And then there was all that taut, toned skin . . . She hadn't before noticed the caramel ribbons streaking through his tousled brown hair that made her think of liquid milk chocolate.
Asleep, he looked peaceful. Awake, he was constantly alert and watchful. Like those dangerous, menacing guard dogs that eyed strangers with suspicion and a snarl that said, "Fucking try me."
When she'd first arrived, he'd looked at Riley with that same distrust. But after a month or so, things had shifted between them. The distrust in his gaze had been replaced by something else. Something just as intense that made her tingle in places that had no business tingling. That intensity made Riley a little wary, because she had super-bad judgment when it came to guys and didn't always make good decisions-case in point.
And now she'd need to do something to address that dumb decision. She slowly and carefully eased out of the bed. The room spun and pain spiked through her head, wrenching a soft moan out of her. Tao's eyelids fluttered open, revealing golden-brown orbs that reminded her of tigereye stones with their silky, lustrous quality. His gaze locked with hers and he stilled in surprise. Then those eyes drifted over her and, just like that, tension-thick, electric, and hotly sexual-snapped the air taut.
She probably should have grabbed her dress from the floor to shield her naked body, but there seemed little sense in trying to rescue her dignity now. That ship had sailed hours ago.
Riley swallowed, and there was an audible click of her tongue. "You should go." No, it wasn't a nice thing to say, but really, was there a nice way to kick someone out of your room?
One dark brow slowly lifted, but he said nothing.
"I say we agree to forget it happened," she proposed.
"Forget it?" he echoed, voice deep and gruff with sleep. It made her a little tingly.
"No one has to know. We're adults. We can have a one-night stand and not make a big deal out of it." Even if she would have to look at him every day and remember how it had felt to have him inside her. It was fine. Riley totally had this. Really.