Her body dipped low, making her large, slightly curved bill lift. It made him think of a wolf getting ready to pounce. She let out a toc-toc-toc sound.
"I don't know what that means."
She edged along the rail, moving closer to him. Swift as lightning, she snapped her beak around the cell phone sticking out of his pocket and was gone in a rustle of wings.
"Hey, give it back!"
She didn't. Instead she circled him low enough that he could almost touch her. Again and again she did it-taunting him. He jumped up to grab her tail and almost had her. She settled on a tree branch, dangling the phone toward the ground . . . and that was when he realized there was a huge rock at the base of the tree.
"Don't you dare!" But she would dare. The raven could be a little devil at times. He balanced his cup on the wooden rail and stalked over to the tree. "Give it back." He held out his hand, repeating, "Give it back." But of course she didn't. "Riley, tell your damn raven to hand it over."
The raven soared out of the tree and landed on the porch swing, where she dumped his phone. Her throat feathers puffed up and a deep croak seemed to rattle out of her. It sounded like a complaint-possibly that he was no fun-but Tao couldn't be sure.
"Whatever," he grumbled, snatching his phone just as she flew off. Instead of heading back to the trees, she retreated into the house. A few moments later, Riley came out in one of his flannel shirts. "I don't think your raven likes me much," he said.
"Actually, she thinks you're freaking hilarious."
Leaning his back against the porch post, he curled an arm around her and drew her against him. "Hilarious?"
"She likes to play, and she thinks it's funny when you moan and whine."
Affronted, he frowned. "Dominant male wolves do not whine."
"If you want the truth, she's becoming worryingly attached to you. You should probably run while you still can." Her raven didn't get attached to people easily. When she did, she held on tight. It took a lot to make her let go.
He snorted, sliding his hand under her shirt to cup her delightfully bare ass. "You think my wolf's any less attached to you? He hasn't given me a minute's peace since he caught your scent. Even at the beginning, before you managed to charm him, he wanted you." Tao licked at the mark on her neck. "All he's done is hound me to take you. It's not easy to not be at peace with your inner animal. This is the most relaxed he's been in a while, even though you're in danger and he hates it."
Taking all that into consideration, Riley said, "Our animals are weird."
"I can't argue with that." He combed his fingers through her hair, letting his gaze drift a little too possessively over her face. She wasn't wearing any makeup, and yet she looked too beautiful for words. "I have no idea why you wear makeup. You don't need it."
Riley's mouth twitched. From anyone else that might have been a compliment. But this was just Tao being his direct, outspoken self, complaining about her use of cosmetics. "I'll take that on board."
"You should." Cupping her pussy, he slid a finger between her folds, humming as he found her wet. "I didn't like waking up alone. I like finding you next to me."
"You like morning sex," she corrected. She slid her hands up his chest and he winced ever so slightly, but she caught it. Her smile faded. "I really am sorry about the marks."
He rubbed his nose against hers. "I told you: don't be."
"You can't be serious."
"I pushed you too hard; you reacted."
"Clawing you is one thing; scarring you is another." His mate would hate her for it. Yeah, well, Riley would hate her right back just for having him
. God, she despised jealousy.
"What are you thinking that has you scowling?"
"That your mate will hate me for leaving a permanent brand on you." It wasn't so much that that bothered her, it was that . . . "And then you'll hate me for upsetting her."
Snapping open his fly, he said, "I could never hate you." Tao lifted her and settled her over his cock, groaning as she took him deep. "Not ever." He turned them so she was up against the post as he took her with short, feral digs until he came so hard it almost blew the head off his cock. And he knew it wasn't just his wolf who was becoming attached to Riley; it was him.
Later, after breakfast, Tao called Sage for an update. They hadn't yet found the gunman, which pissed Tao off and had Riley pacing up and down the den like a caged tiger. The Alpha assured them that the Beta and his enforcers would continue their search until the human was found.
A whole day passed without success. And another. And another. The shooter seemed to have literally disappeared. That didn't go down well with Riley at all. She'd gotten more and more restless as the days went by. Tao had kept a close watch on her, worried she'd get tired of waiting and go hunting for the human herself. So when they were invited to share a meal with the entire flock, Tao accepted the invitation, hoping it would cheer her up a little.
Unlike his pack, the flock didn't share daily meals, but it did eat together once every two weeks. Of course, his nature balked at the idea of spending time with a bunch of people who were, for the most part, strangers. But if it would distract Riley from her worries, it was worth it.
So, he and Riley made their way to the main cabin for the evening meal. It quickly became clear that the event wasn't being held inside the building, but in the pretty garden outside. The style in which the long wooden tables were set up, forming a U shape, made Tao think of a medieval banquet. Circular stands of food stood within the U shape.
Spotting Cynthia at the head table with Lucy and the Alphas, Tao was sure to send the bitch a narrow-eyed look, communicating that he knew exactly who'd shredded his clothes. Her brow furrowed in confusion, but he wasn't buying it. He didn't miss that Riley tossed her a hostile look, and he wasn't at all surprised.
While they ate, Tao scanned the tables. Although the ravens were smiling and laughing, there was a tension that hadn't been present at the anniversary party. One of their own had been injured and there had been no justice, so they were naturally a little on edge. But soon after the last plates were cleared, bottles of tequila were brought out and the whole atmosphere changed.
"Ravens love tequila," Riley told him. Of course, she tended to despise it when she was hungover.
Lucy, who'd joined them after finishing her dessert, said, "Riley usually drinks us under the table. Not tonight, though. No. Tonight, I will be the last one standing."
Riley smiled sweetly. "You always say that. And you always fall flat on your face at least an hour before Max does."
"I do not fall on my face," insisted Max, flushing, but Ethan snorted.
"There will be no falling on my face this time." Lucy shook her finger at Riley. "Tonight, your wolf here will need to carry you to your cabin and I will be perfectly alert and coherent."
Tao wasn't surprised that things didn't quite work out like that. The tequila kept flowing and, though it seemed that ravens had a high tolerance for it, most of the flock retired to their cabins after a couple of hours.