He didn't want to wake her-God knew she didn't get enough sleep as it was-but he had an important call to make. He carefully rolled her onto the bed and slipped out from under the covers. She muttered something into the pillow as her face scrunched up adorably. His chest sort of . . . clenched. He frowned, not sure he liked the sensation.
Grabbing his phone from the nightstand, he made his way into the bathroom and called Trey. Predictably, the Alphas didn't take the latest news too well.
As Taryn ranted in the background, Trey spoke to Tao. "Ramón denied having anything to do with Riley being shot at, but I didn't believe him."
"Why would you? He's a prick who does tons of illegal shit for a living-not exactly a person whose word means anything."
"I'm going to send some wolves to you. You need people there you can trust and who can help you work out what the hell happened."
Tao couldn't agree more.
"They'll arrive sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, don't let Riley go far from your side."
"Don't worry; I have no intention of doing that." Even though her instincts would probably balk at it, especially since she was a dominant female.
"Be on high alert. Suspect everyone."
Tao smiled. "The latter is pretty automatic for me."
Ending the call, he did his business and then returned to the bedroom to find Riley gone. After tugging on some jeans, he followed the sounds coming from the kitchen and found her stirring two coffees, wearing nothing but one of his shirts. He came up behind her and snaked his arms around her waist. "Morning," he said, kissing her neck.
She tilted her head to give him better access. "Morning. You called Trey," she guessed.
"I did." Tao turned her to face him and dropped a kiss on her mouth. "He's sending reinforcements. We need people here we can trust to help us figure out what's going on."
He grabbed his coffee off the counter and took a sip. "I need to let Sage know that more wolves will be showing up tomorrow. Before you assure me that you'll be fine here, know that you're coming with me. There's no way I'm leaving you here alone. Huff and stamp your feet if you want-I don't mind watching your tits jiggle."
She folded her arms. "I actually wasn't going to object. I'm not stupid, Tao. Someone means me harm. If I die, I don't get revenge."
He sighed. "Only a raven would care more about revenge than their own life."
"I'll go speak with Ruby and see how Lucy is doing while you talk with Sage."
Tao narrowed his eyes. "I don't like the idea of you out of my sight."
She rolled her eyes. "I'll be in the same building as you."
Not good enough. Tao curved his hand around her nape. "I know you can take care of yourself, and I know that keeping you close might make you feel suffocated. I don't want to make you feel that way, but I have to know you're safe. Just give me this."
Deliberating on it, she poked her tongue into the inside of her cheek. "Okay. I'll wait outside the office, where I'll call Ruby. She's not going to let me in the room while Lucy's vulnerable anyway."
Tao kissed her again. "I can live with that."
An hour later Hugh escorted Tao into Sage's spacious mahogany office. It was very old-fashioned, with antique bookcases, a double-pedestal desk, and a vintage leather office chair.
Instead of leaving, the Beta leaned against the window at the right of Sage's desk-a supportive move. Tao came to a halt in the center of the room, standing solidly and at the ready. The Alpha sat at his desk chair before him, looking tired
"Tao, I can guess why you're here," said Sage with a weary sigh. "I can assure you that my attention is focused on finding out who shot at Riley and my daughter. Hugh and I will be interviewing each member of the flock today-not accusing them of anything, simply asking questions that may help. I am ruling no one out at this point."
"Good, but I didn't come here to ask how you plan to deal with this."
"I've come to notify you that my Alphas are sending some wolves here. They'll arrive sometime tomorrow." Tao noticed Hugh stiffen in his peripheral vision.
Fingers digging into the arms of the chair, Sage pushed to his feet. "Now hold on a damn minute. If you want to bring outsiders here, you ask permission."
"The only permission I'll ever seek is that of my Alphas. They're the only people I'll ever answer to." Though, truth be told, Trey would have snorted at that comment and claimed that Tao was too single-minded to answer to anyone but himself. According to Trey it was one of the reasons he'd named Tao Head Enforcer. The Alpha didn't want blind obedience, he wanted people who were decisive and wouldn't fold under the weight of Trey's dominance.
Face reddening, Sage said, "This is my territory and my flock."
"Let me ask you a question. Do you have a single suspect?"
Sage averted his eyes. "No."
"That's a lie," said Tao. "You know who it could be, but you don't want to believe any of your flock could possibly be responsible. It's understandable. It also gives you too many blind spots. Outsiders won't have that problem. They'll be able to look at the matter objectively. You'll benefit from having them here."
Hugh pushed away from the window. "He could be right, Sage."
"I don't need the help of outsiders," Sage insisted, Alpha energy radiating from him.
Tao stood tall and strong against the dominant vibes. He didn't fold under Trey's and he wouldn't fold under Sage's, so the Alpha raven needn't think he'd make Tao submit to his wishes. "You can guarantee Riley's safety? Really?" Doubt was heavy in every syllable.
"I know you're worried for her," said Sage, "but it doesn't give you leave to show such disrespect."
Clearly the Alpha was mistaking Tao for someone who gave a shit about the feelings of anyone outside his pack. "This isn't about respect, so set aside your ego's need for it for just a minute. I'm not questioning how long your proverbial dick is. None of that is important to me. Riley's important to me. Her safety is my priority and, considering you believe her to be one of your flock, it should be yours too."
"She is part of my flock. You're not the only one who cares for her. I want this person caught too. They shot my daughter. If it hadn't been for Max, she might well be dead. Knowing someone from the flock could be the shooter . . . it's hard."
"So let my pack mates onto your territory tomorrow without playing any dominance games," said Tao. "They can help. Someone seems to believe they have a valid reason for hurting both Riley and your daughter. I want to know who that is. Don't you?"
"Yes, I do." Sage picked up his tumbler and chugged down what looked like whiskey. "All right, your pack mates can come here. But let's get one thing clear: they can talk to my flock and question them, but they don't detain anyone-they don't take over this matter."
"They don't want to; they just want Riley safe. I'd appreciate it if you could ask your ravens to cooperate when we come asking questions."