He blinked, unsure he'd heard her correctly. "All right?"
She shrugged. "I like sex, and, from what little I remember of last night, you're pretty good at it."
He'd been expecting a fight if for no other reason than that she could be a pain in his ass when she chose to be. Her reactions didn't always make sense to him, and it really did make him wonder what went on in her pretty little head.
Satisfied by her response, his wolf relaxed. Tao, however, felt a little wounded by her assessment. "I'm better than 'pretty good.'"
"Really? I hadn't noticed."
He narrowed his eyes. "Next time I have you under me, I'll prove it to you and-"
The bedroom door flew open and two small children scurried inside. They both froze, eyes dancing from Riley to Tao.
She forced a breezy smile for them. "Morning, guys." Bending, she gave both kids a peck on the cheek. "You're all washed and dressed, I see. Good."
Savannah's brows met. "You smell funny. And you have black stuff on your face."
Hmm, thought Riley, apparently she hadn't wiped off all the mascara after all. "I know, which means I need to go shower." At that moment her cell began chiming again. "I'll meet you guys in the kitchen soon, okay?"
Dexter gave a reluctant nod, and she ruffled his mop of blond curls before turning away.
Tao watched Riley quickly retreat into the bathroom. He'd like to stick around and eavesdrop on her call. Instead he turned to the kids looking up at him. Savannah's gold, unblinking eyes were staring at him steadily. The impish viper shifter might be only four, but she was a fearless little thing. She also considered him the enemy, which was kind of understandable. He hadn't been what anyone would call welcoming when they first arrived.
It wasn't that he didn't like kids. Tao had worried that they might hurt the Alpha pair's son, Kye-especially since Dexter not only was a cheetah cub but could already partially shift. But the kids had quickly grown on Tao and, honestly, he felt like a bastard for initially being such an ass toward them.
Clearing his throat, Tao said, "Morning."
The cub pulled a crumbling half of a cookie out of his pocket and held it out. Dexter was a hoarder, so heaven only knew how long that cookie had been in his pocket. Still, Tao took it to be polite. "Thanks, little man."
Dexter just nodded; he didn't say much in general. Unlike Savannah, the two-year-old had warmed up to Tao.
"Why are you in Riley's room?" asked Savannah suspiciously, cocking her head and making her little caramel pigtails bounce. She was mightily protective of Riley.
"I just needed to talk to her about something. Why don't you go wait for her in the kitchen? I'll bet Grace has made your breakfast by now." But Savannah continued staring at him, her gaze unblinking. "I'm not going to hurt Riley."
"You growl at her. And you do it a lot." Her little nose wrinkled. "That's mean."
"Only because she purposely drives me . . . You know what? Never mind. Let's just go have breakfast. Riley won't be long."
Tao hustled them out of the room, closing the door behind them. Shooting him one last suspicious look, Savannah took Dexter's hand and walked ahead of Tao as they moved to the ladder at the end of the tunnel. Incredibly agile, the kids easily scrambled up the black metal ladder. Once on the first level, the kids then turned down the tunnel that led to the kitchen while Tao went down a separate tunnel toward his bedroom. He didn't pass any of his pack mates along the way, which meant it was likely that they were already in the kitchen.
After taking a quick, refreshing shower and some much-needed Tylenol, Tao pulled on some clothes and made his way to the kitchen
. As he entered, his stomach rumbled at the sight and smell of the delicious spread on the dining table-scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, cereal, and biscuits and gravy were among the selection. Grace, the pack's cook and mother hen, stood at the stove while the rest of the pack sat around the table.
Sinking into a chair, Tao loaded his plate with food as he scanned the room. Riley hadn't yet arrived, which made him frown. He saw that many of his pack mates looked as if they were suffering from serious hangovers, especially Ryan's teenage cousin, Zac; he'd been allowed only one beer, yet the kid looked dead to the world.
Makenna in particular, who was filling Savannah's and Dexter's plates, seemed badly hungover with her puffy face and the bags under her eyes. She knew the kids well, since she worked at the homeless shelter where they'd stayed before coming here with Riley for sanctuary. It was only later that Tao had figured out that Riley didn't need sanctuary at all.
Lilah, Grace and Rhett's pup, giggled loudly and clapped at something Kye said. Pretty much everyone at the table winced at the sounds.
Jaime slapped her hands over her ears, looking close to tears. "Sound is pain."
Dante began massaging her temples. The Beta pair were an extremely tight couple, most likely because they'd known each other since childhood. "Did you have a good birthday?" he asked Tao.
Tao nodded. "Thanks to all of you for the party and presents."
His pack mates gave him strained smiles, with the exception of Jaime's brother, Gabe. Leaning his head on the table, the submissive male lazily lifted his hand to acknowledge Tao's words. He'd most likely meant to give him a thumbs-up or something, Tao couldn't be sure.
Gabe's mate, Hope, said, "I hope you liked the cake that Grace and I made."
"There's still some left," said Greta.
Marcus's head snapped up. "There's cake left?" The male enforcer ate like a horse and, like his mate and fellow enforcer, Roni, he was obsessed with cake.
"You already ate most of it," Lydia complained.
Marcus tipped his chin toward Cam. "He okay there?" Her sleeping mate had sunk so deeply into the chair he looked close to slipping right off it. Lydia just shrugged as if too tired to help him.
As Tao chatted with his Alphas, Taryn and Trey, he listened for Riley's approach. It was at least twenty minutes before she arrived, and he tracked her every move as she headed to the table. He really did love to watch her walk. She had a fluid, predatory grace that said she was confident, capable, and not to be fucked with.
As she took the seat beside Makenna, Tao studied her carefully. He'd watched her often enough to be able to read her moods-much too often, really-but nothing in her expression gave away anything about her phone call.
Had it been bad news? Was someone hurt? Had she been asked to return to the flock?
More and more questions sailed around his head, none of which he would ask her at that moment in front of the pack. The news was for her to share or not. And if he knew Riley like he thought he did, it would be not.
Riley poured herself coffee and met Tao's gaze across the table. She'd felt the burn of it on her skin as she entered the room. She warned him with her eyes not to question her now about Lucy's call-and he would question her about it sooner or later-but there was really no getting Tao Lukas to do anything he didn't want to do.
"I'm never drinking again," said Taryn, eyes closed. The blonde might be small, but she was all Alpha. She had an aura of authority and dominance that Riley's raven highly respected.