"How exactly did you hear about all that?"
"Max keeps me updated on how you're doing."
That ruffled her raven's feathers. Her business was her own. Max shouldn't be repeating it.
"Like I said, I'm grateful to them, but you don't belong with them. You belong here. And I don't like the guy, Riley. Not just because he's a wolf." Sawyer rolled back one shoulder. "Something about him just rubs me the wrong way."
"You mean because he doesn't feign respect if he doesn't feel it? Don't be so arrogant that you think you should be awarded respect for being an enforcer, Sawyer. Tao won't care what position you hold. If he doesn't like you or have any regard for you, he won't pretend to."
"And you like that," Sawyer guessed.
"I like that there are no guessing games with him."
Sawyer was quiet for a few moments. His eyes bored into hers, as if he were trying to read her mind. "You know nothing can really come of this thing you have with the wolf, Riley. This is your home. And I doubt he'll want to move to a flock. You've stayed away long enough. It's time to come home."
She loved Sedona, she truly did. She loved spending time with her uncles and taking in the views around her. But living here . . . she wasn't sure if she could do that. She also wasn't sure she could truly leave Savannah and Dexter. And then there was the other thing. "Shirley and Cynthia would hate it, Sawyer, and you know it."
He shrugged. "They'd get used to it." He cocked his head. "Cynthia told me about the little confrontation you had last night."
"Hmm. I wonder just how much of her story was true."
"Forget about them." He put his hand on her knee. "Riley, you can't let Cynthia, Shirley, or memories of the shooting keep you away from your own home."
Hearing the creak of the patio door, she looked over her shoulder to see Tao slowly stalking toward them, his scowl locked on Sawyer. No, locked on the hand Sawyer had rested on her knee. She moved her leg, making the hand fall away, but Tao's scowl didn't fade even slightly.
She widened her eyes at Tao, pleading with him to not make a big deal out of it. If he fought with Sawyer, it would give Cynthia and Shirley grounds to have him removed from the flock's territory-something they'd eagerly do, knowing Riley would leave with him.
Tao's scowl eased into a frown, which was better than nothing, she supposed. Reaching her lounger, he bent and dropped a kiss on her mouth. It was brief, yet still hard, possessive, and drugging. And as a searing hunger roared through her, she was thinking it wouldn't be such a bad idea to fuck on this lounger.
It wouldn't be such a bad idea to fuck on this lounger, thought Tao. Reluctantly breaking the kiss, he smiled. "Morning, baby. Ethan called the cabin landline; I put him on hold." He helped her get to her feet and nuzzled the crook of her neck, glaring at the male in front of him. "Sawyer," he greeted him stiffly.
Tao was so close to punching the prick. When he'd seen the raven's hand on her knee, he'd seen red. His temper was hot and easy to trigger at the best of times, but it was so much worse when he was on unfamiliar territory where there was someone who wanted the female he'd marked. It made him edgy and moodier than usual.
Mouth turned down, Sawyer inclined his head the tiniest bit. There was no envy in his expression, but his muscles were bunched as if he'd tensed to spring.
"I'll be back in a minute," Riley told Tao, rolling her eyes at the possessive nip he gave to her lip
. Male posturing was so boring. "Be good."
Tao watched her go, not looking away until she was safely inside the cabin. At that he raised a brow at Sawyer, who'd risen to his feet. "There a problem that brought you here?"
"No." The word was hard as stone. "Riley and I were talking."
"Ah, and here I thought that you were here on behalf of Cynthia. Don't tell me she didn't run straight to you about their little dispute."
"She told me about it, yeah."
"Maybe if you just assured Cynthia that you have no intention of trying to take Riley from me, she'd feel a whole lot better."
Sawyer's lips twitched. "Take Riley from you?" he echoed, amused. "Riley will never belong to anyone but Riley. You don't know her at all if you think differently, wolf. She doesn't tolerate possessiveness very well, you know."
"Maybe she didn't used to, or maybe she just didn't tolerate it from guys she wasn't possessive of in return."
"And you think she's possessive of you?"
"I have her brands all over my back, what do you think?"
"What about when she moves back here?" Sawyer challenged. "You can't honestly say you'll come with her."
"Move back here? That's not going to happen. She's pack now."
Dismissive, Sawyer snickered. "Bullshit."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think Cynthia had grounds to be paranoid that you still want Riley," said Tao. "But then, Riley's the type of female who can get into a guy's head and stay there, isn't she?" He took a step toward Sawyer. "I have a funny story to share with you. I went for a run in my wolf form last night. When I came back, I got a little . . . distracted by Riley, so it wasn't until later that I remembered I'd left my clothes on the deck. I went to grab them, and they were gone, apart from my shoes. Then I noticed those." He pointed to a tree, where strips of clothing were dangling from the branches.
Sawyer sighed. "I didn't tear your damn clothes."
"I believe you. At first I thought it might have been you. But I can see now just how pissed you are about the idea of me and Riley. If you'd been outside last night while the back door was open and I was fucking her on the kitchen floor, you'd have done more than rip my clothes. Or at least you'd have tried."
Sawyer growled, eyes briefly flashing raven as the avian rose to the fore for a moment. Apparently the avian was also a little possessive of Riley.
"Ooh, temper, temper." Tao grinned. "I'll bet if it hadn't rained a little last night, those strips would have your girlfriend's scent on them." Of course, there was a chance it had been Shirley, but his gut screamed otherwise. "You need to deal with her."
"Cynthia was with me last night."
Tao raised a brow. "All night?" He didn't answer, and Tao smirked. "I didn't think so."
Sawyer stepped forward. "You took Riley on the kitchen floor? Let me ask you something. Have you taken her in the shower? The bathtub? How about against the wall? Tell me you've at least bent her over the-"
Tao slammed his fist hard into the bastard's face.
"What the fuck is going on?" Riley rushed to Tao's side. She'd been so shocked when Tao punched Sawyer that she'd almost dropped her unopened can of Mountain Dew.
Licking his split lip, Sawyer smiled. "Got a bit of a temper, haven't you, Lukas?" he taunted, sounding smug. That was when Tao realized the bastard had wanted him to lose his shit.
Glaring at Sawyer, she demanded, "What the hell did you say to him? He was perfectly fine when I left."