"Where's Riley?" I asked the next morning.
"Still asleep," Freya answered. She slowly took a sip of her milk, watching me closely.
Marie, our housekeeper, was busy at the stove, cooking God knows what. I pecked her on the cheek before I sat down. I fixed myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table with Freya and Minnie.
"How do you know Riley's still sleeping?" Minnie asked with a frown.
Freya sighed and narrowed her eyes at her. It seemed these two had been at it since dawn. "How do you think?" she snapped. She went back to her glass obviously expecting Minnie not to answer, but I knew better.
"I think you're sleeping with him." Just like Minnie to say whatever she wanted, just to rile people up.
I waited for it to hurt. Riley sleeping with Freya. Freya sleeping with Riley. I frowned at my coffee as the argument around me faded into nonsensical blabbering.
I cared. But it did not hurt me, nor make me angry.
Oh, the jealousy was there, just not for either. Instead it was for the both of them.
I wanted Riley because I loved him. I wanted Freya because well, she was beautiful. That did not feel like good enough a reason. It felt like there was more. But right now, all my attention was on Riley.
For one glancing moment in New York, I had thought of Riley as something very different from a brother. Thinking about it again tightened my throat around a gulp of my coffee.
My brain started to hurt. It had two and two, but they just would not go together, no matter how hard I tried to make them.
I loved him. I had always him. But he was like my... my brother. So what was happening to me?
Warm hands rested on my shoulders and a chill crept down my back.
"Hey," Riley whispered in my ear. His breath was warm against my skin, his lips grazed my neck.
I jumped to my feet and gulped. Riley watched me with puzzled eyes and I was pretty sure I was sweating.
"I’ve got to go," I said in a surprisingly steady voice.
Be still my heart. Could he hear it pounding in my chest? I fought to calm my breathing.
I gave him wide berth as I walked away from him.
At work, in my office, I slouched in my chair and ran my hands furiously though my hair. What in blazes was that reaction! The whole thing was messing with my head.
If Ethan had not talked about the mate thing, it would have never crossed my mind.
Which gave me an idea.
I picked up my phone and dialed the number. Two rings, and then he answered.
"Dustin? Miss me so soon?" he teased.
I rolled my eyes, thankful that I was alone and no one had seen me do that. "This is important."
"Okay." He paused. "Shoot."
I dived right in with the issue. "Riley's like a brother to me. He always has been. And now...."
I could almost see him nodding sagely.
I groaned, and then I cursed. "I guess it's always been there, inside me. I just ignored it, and now...." I stabbed my desk continuously with my pen. "He talks and I just stare, at his lips, at his fucking eye lashes!"
"You aren’t related by blood though, right? Cause he's a coyote, and you're a wolf. So it's definitely not blood."
"No," I moaned. "We just grew up together. Sort of. I mean, he was ten, I was fifteen. We were already grown up, but after that, it was me and him."
"Then your only enemy is your head. Get that "brother" word out of your system." His tone went serious. "Cause I have a brother, and I tell you, I do not stare at his mouth when he talks."
"You better not!" an indignant voice said in the background. Ethan.
I smiled. Crazy E twins. "So what do I do?"
"That's easy. We're shifters. Go with your instincts." Then. "The ones that are staring at lips. Not the ones saying "brother". For real though, get rid of it. Next time you call, it better be out of your dictionary. It’s really kind of nasty.”
He hung up.
I stared at the phone in shock. The nerve of that man!