Makenna's brow creased. "A what?"
"When ravens are injured, they go into a deep sleep to help them recover. Max confirmed that she'll be fine." The uncles had gotten a scare when she hadn't called them back last night, so they'd both rushed to Phoenix Pack territory. The first thing they'd done was check on Riley. The second thing they'd done was yell at Tao, blaming him for her injuries. Then they'd apologized profusely for yelling at him and congratulated him on the mating.
"Her wounds have faded," Makenna noted. "So have yours. That's good."
"Yeah, that's very good." Ally hadn't fully healed Riley or Tao, needing to save energy for the rest of the injured, so they had both been left with some superficial cuts and bruises.
"So many were injured, Tao. Almost everyone was at the very least skimmed by a bullet. I honestly thought we were going to lose Trick. Taryn barely managed to heal him in time."
Tao had already heard the story from Taryn, who was swamped with guilt for being too weak from healing Trick to go to him and Riley. She'd actually been in tears, apologizing for not being able to get to them. It had taken a good half hour to convince her that she had nothing to apologize for and that he wasn't angry with her. She'd sent Ally to them, which had saved them. "Thank God for Ally."
"Hell yeah," agreed Makenna. "She healed me not so long ago. I would have died if it weren't for her. She's saved a lot of lives, including Shaya's." Makenna hugged herself. "You know something? It didn't occur to me that Ramón would try to invade our territory. I knew he was a danger, but I truly didn't credit him with that much power."
"We think of humans as weaker than us-physically, they are. That means we can sometimes forget that they can be much more dangerous."
She nodded. "Do you think Ramón expected to get out of that alive?"
"Yes. He was proud and arrogant, and he'd probably thought of himself as not only untouchable but invincible." It had been his downfall in the end.
"I would have liked to be the one to kill him, so you can tell Riley I'm totally jealous that she was the one who did."
After Makenna left, Tao slid under the covers and gently tugged Riley into his arms. She didn't even slightly stir, which would have been worrying if he hadn't known for sure that it was normal for ravens.
He lay there for what could have been hours, watching her sleep and reassuring himself that she was fine. It was hard, though, because he kept seeing flashes of her in the van, hurt, bleeding, and weak. Kept remembering how often their mating bond had flickered as the darkness pulled at her. As fear clogged his throat, his arms flexed around her. Her eyelids fluttered halfway open, and two pools of violet locked on him.
"Hey, baby." He kissed her, needing her taste, needed that affirmation that she was well and with him. He rested his forehead on hers. "What a fucking night, huh?"
"You're okay," she said, relieved. Then she scowled. "You weren't supposed to almost die again."
He rubbed his nose against hers. "I'm too stubborn to die before I'm ready."
She took stock of herself. No aches or pains, and . . . "You showered me."
"I showered us both. We were covered in dried blood."
Her eyes snapped fully open as a memory came to her. "Dexter-"
"He's fine," Tao reassured her. "He had a bad wound on his head, but Ally healed him. He's not traumatized or anything, though I think the whole thing definitely shook up Savannah. She's good at hiding it, though
Her nostrils flared. "I smell them."
"They were worried about you, so I let them come in to see that you were just sleeping."
Her mouth curled. "You're good with them."
Her brow creased. "I smell Max and Ethan too."
"They panicked when you didn't call them back last night and they hauled ass here."
"Shit, I didn't get the chance to call them." Everything had happened so fast, Riley remembered. Everything had seemed completely out of control. "How did they take the news about Shirley?"
"Not too well. They're annoyed with themselves for not figuring out that it was her. Their money was on Cynthia. Am I right in thinking Shirley just wanted to punish you all for failing Wade?"
"There was a lot more to it than that." Riley told him everything that Shirley had said, and about how unstable she'd seemed. "Wade was the one good thing she had. He was her anchor, I guess."
Tao curled her hair behind her ear and stroked his fingers down the side of her neck. "That had to have been hard on Wade."
"A lot of things were hard on Wade." She frowned. "I'm still a little in shock to hear that my father was her true mate."
"She could have been wrong, Riley."
"If nothing else, she truly believed it. And she blamed me for his death. When I put it all together, I think Shirley was driven to do what she did because she was just so angry about so many things. She couldn't let go of that anger and heal. The wounds just festered and got worse and worse. I don't think she really cared about anything anymore."
Tao smoothed his hand soothingly up and down her back. "She's gone now. She can't take out that anger on you ever again." He kissed her again. "My wolf tried to get to you when he saw you drop out of the sky, but Ramón got to him first." He just had to thank the fucking universe that Ramón's bullet had hit Shirley, not Riley.
"I know. My raven saw him put you in the van and pretty much squawked in front of Trey's face to get his attention. He'd shifted back to his human form by then to hold Taryn after she'd healed Trick. Trey ordered a bunch of wolves to follow the van, and Taryn asked Ally to go along with them. Another wolf was already trying to follow-I think it was Dominic-but his leg was hurt."
"So the wolves followed you."
"The van was too fast for them to follow, so I stayed high up where the wolves would see me." And where the driver wouldn't notice her.
Tao stroked his thumb across her cheekbone. "Thank you for coming for me. But I can't thank you for almost dying for me. Don't you ever do that again."
"I wasn't trying to die for you-my death would have killed you anyway. I was just trying to keep you alive until someone came."
"Yes, but you were panicking that you wouldn't be enough to hold me there, and that was making you reckless."
Thinking back to last night, she frowned. "I guess I was."
"You were no more responsible for my life than you were for your father's. I swear I could kick Sage's ass for making you think differently."
"I've forgiven him now. Not Sage, my father. I didn't really understand just how hard it would be to lose a mate. I mean, I knew intellectually that the breaking of the bond would be difficult to survive. But I'd never felt just how strong the bond was, never knew just how it made your mate feel a part of you." She traced the shell of his ear. "I'd already feel half-dead if I lost you. It would be so easy to just slip away."