"Sounds good to me."
He kissed her. "Then let's get moving."
They all grabbed their duffels out of the trunk and jogged up the cliff steps. Inside the tunnels of the mountain, Jaime and Dante headed to their room while Makenna and Ryan headed for theirs.
Reaching a junction, Tao dropped another kiss on Riley's mouth. "I'll catch up with you soon."
Taking her duffel from him, she said, "Okay, tell everyone I said hi and that I'll talk to them later." With that she disappeared down the tunnel.
Once she was out of sight, Tao, Trick, and Dominic then made their way to the living area.
"I can't even begin to imagine how mixed up she must be feeling," said Trick. "You should be able to trust your Alphas and your pack with your life. I'll bet she trusts only a handful of the flock."
"The majority of them appear to be good people, particularly her uncles," said Tao. "There are always bad apples. And the bad Exodus apples are sour as fuck."
Dominic grinned at him. "At least something good came out of her trip. The two of you-"
"Are none of your business, so don't start." Striding into the living area, Tao found most of the pack lounging around. Taryn muted the TV, and everyone turned to face him.
"I got the short version from Dante over the phone," said Trey. "Give me the long version."
So Tao did. Like him, they were not only ready to burn shit down; they had no real idea what the hell was going on. "We need to tighten security."
"We already did when Ramón started harassing us." Trey slung an arm over the back of the sofa. "We haven't let it slack, and we won't until we get our hands on the shooter."
Dominic folded his arms. "Are you sure they'll follow you here?"
"I believe they will," replied Tao.
"Is it possible that they deliberately didn't fire any fatal shots?" asked Taryn. "Maybe the gunman doesn't have the stomach to take a life, so they've settled for severely injuring their targets."
Tao nodded. "That would make sense. After all, if this person did use Wade all those years ago, it was likely because they didn't have it in them to do the killing themselves. Either way, they didn't succeed in punishing Riley unless they count a graze on her arm as a mission completed. My gut tells me they'll follow us. I told Sage to let us know if any of the flock suddenly have a reason for taking a temporary trip."
"But can we trust that he'd tell us?" asked Trey.
Given everything that Ryan had quite rightly pointed out about Sage and his lack of action . . . "No. We just have to hope that he does right by Riley. Her uncles will definitely let us know if anyone leaves for any reason. They can be trusted."
"Who tried to imply that Riley had one of us in the mountains, picking off their flock members?" asked Roni.
"I expected it to be Cynthia," said Tao. "Ethan said it was actually the Beta female, Dana. Personally, I think she's just scared because aside from Cynthia, her son is one of the only people left unharmed who should have been at Alec's party. She needed someone to blame so she could feel that Duncan was safe. What Dana and her mate don't seem to know is that Duncan was never invited to the party. For some reason he never told them that."
"What kid wants to admit to their parents that they were the only one who wasn't invited to a party?" asked Dominic. "If his parents are Betas, they most likely would have reprimanded Alec for not inviting him. And that would have been damn embarrassing for Duncan
Tao inclined his head. "When you put it like that, it's not so confusing that he didn't tell them. Anyway . . . if anyone at all agreed with Dana, they weren't vocal about it. I'd expected Cynthia and Shirley to back her up if for no other reason than to piss off Riley, but Ethan said they didn't." Maybe they hadn't wanted to risk that Riley might stay just to spite them.
"I've gotta say," began Marcus, "I don't like the flock much. Riley's better off with us."
Tao agreed with that. "As I told Trick and Dominic, the majority of them-especially her uncles-are good people."
"Well, Ethan and Max are welcome to visit," said Taryn, "but my hope is that Riley will agree to never go back there."
Tao was hoping the same thing. "On to another subject . . . You said that Ramón's backed off. Do you think he's gone for good?"
Trey pursed his lips. "What I think is that he's not a guy who's likely to waste his time pestering us when his brother doesn't have long to live. He probably sought the help of someone else. He won't have liked that we refused him or that he had to back off, but he had no choice."
Nodding, Tao said, "All right. I'll be back in a while; I have something I need to do."
"Before you go," began Taryn, "I wanted to ask about you and Riley―is it just a fling?" Taryn's eyes held a plea that said she hoped to God his answer was no.
"It's more," he told her.
She beamed at him before barking a laugh at Dominic. "Told you he'd come through."
Dominic frowned. "I told you."
"Not as I recall it," said Taryn.
Jaime smiled again, rubbing her hands together with glee. "I'm glad you two are finally together."
Yeah, so was Tao.
If there was one thing that could always make Riley smile, it was the sound of a child's laugh. Since she currently had four kids bouncing on her bed, giggling and squealing, she had a big smile on her face. Her raven, relaxed and happy to be home with them, wanted nothing more than to shift and play with them.
"You're making a mess of my bed," Riley playfully grumbled. They just giggled again.
When she'd walked into their bedroom, Savannah and Dexter had launched themselves at her and peppered her cheeks with kisses. Lilah had waved and given her a picture of squiggles, which she'd then taken back and stuffed in her little pocket.
Kye had scowled and said, "I don't like you anymore; you didn't come back when you said you would." Then he'd wrapped himself around her leg and said, "Okay, I forgive you." The kid didn't hold a grudge long.
As they'd followed her to her bedroom, they'd been full of questions.
Why had she taken so long?
Did she enjoy the party?
Could they go with her next time?
And, in Savannah's case, was she still not allowed to bite Greta?
Finished unpacking her stuff, Riley balled up her dirty clothes and put them all in the canvas laundry bag. Just as she turned, Savannah leaped at her. Used to it, Riley easily caught her.
"You smell like Tao," Savannah told her, nose wrinkling.
Riley smiled. "I do?"
"Did you kiss him? I'm never going to kiss a boy. They're silly."
"Boys are not silly." Riley chuckled. Not all of them, anyway. "Having said that, I'm glad you don't intend to kiss any boys. You can do that when you're twenty-one." Her raven wholeheartedly agreed.
Savannah leaned in and whispered, "Lilah tries to kiss Dexter, but he runs away."