The club had gotten really busy, leaving me no choice but to become the personal server of the Bachelorette party and most of its surrounding tables.
Riley quite literally ran into me as I was dashing back to the bar with another order of a dozen completely different, unrelated drinks. All thoughts fled when he did because, well...
"You smell like sex."
He turned beet red. "Ummm. I...in my office." His eyes darted around wildly. "I gotta go." He dashed off and left me standing there, confused and dazed.
And then. "Ooomf!" Dustin ran into me too.
"What is it with you two?" I asked. Then I sniffed him too. "You also smell like sex."
His eyes widened, then narrowed angrily. "How do you know what sex smells like?" He put his hand in my face. "Don't answer that. Get your stuff. Riley is gone, and I'm guessing he's your ride."
I looked back at the path Riley had taken. "He is. Let me finish this order first."
By then I could not remember what drink had been ordered, only a vague idea, so I made twelve random drinks, put them on the largest tray we had, and shuffled them over to the raging, screaming girls.
"We love your hair."
"I know, right?"
"She looks like a doll."
It was all coos and admiring cries.
"What conditioner do you use?"
"Wolf conditioner," I answered. They were drunk, they would not remember. And if they did: I make bad jokes.
Dustin raised an eyebrow at me when I turned back to him.
"What?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Nothing. Just get your stuff."
The ride back to the Webb mansion was stiflingly quiet. It scrubbed my nerves raw.
"So," I began. "You two...."
"Should I apologize?" his tone was bordering on hostile. It told me he had no intention of apologizing.
I turned fully in my seat to face him. He stared straight ahead, but I could see the naked pain twisting in his features. Which was interesting considering his voice gave nothing away.
"Why do you think you have to apologize? Riley was yours way before he was mine."
He braked suddenly and only my seatbelt kept me from flying through the windscreen.
I did slam my shoulder onto the dash board, though. "Alright," I mumbled, fretfully sitting in my chair the right way. "You drive worse than Riley. I may need to learn to drive myself."
"What do you mean by I had him first?"
I frowned at him.
It was strange, but he really did not know. Over the past few days of speaking to him I had discovered that. The poor man knew nothing about his mate bond with Riley.
Riley had sworn me to secrecy, scared of rejection from his supposedly straight mate.
But Dustin and Riley had had sex, right? Meaning, Dustin must have accepted Riley. On some level, at least.
"Freya!" he practically yelled, when I continued to say nothing.
"Riley is your mate."
He watched me through narrowed eyes. "I know that."
He did? Had Riley told him? Then what was the problem?
"So you should not have to apologize to me," I said.
He sighed. "He's your true mate, Freya. I should not have done what I did."
Truemate? Did he honestly believe....? "I don't understand," I said.
"I got close to him. " He hit the steering heel. Hard. I felt the car shake. "I imprinted on him and I formed one of those mate bonds wolves that are not true mates form. But now he has you and I--" His voice broke. "I have nothing," he whispered, brokenly.
"Dustin, stop! None of that is true. And if it was, both of you would have formed the mate bond-- it takes both shifters to form that kind of thing. Furthermore, you don't have "nothing". You have far more than "nothing". You have Riley. Dustin, Riley loves you. More than anything in the entire world."
"Shut up!" he roared.
He would never believe me. He needed to hear it from Riley himself. "Tell me one thing, Dustin."
He moved the car forward, glaring at the road as if it had personally offended him.
"Do you like me?"
He hit the brakes again, cursing violently. "What kind of question is that?"
A certain hollowness took residence inside me.
He laughed. It was not a happy laugh. It was bitter, like poison, and sad, like death.
He sat quiet for a while. I thought he would not answer me.
"How can I feel anything other than hate for the person who gets to claim Riley as their own."
I dug my nails into my hands. I cursed everything. Tears prickled at the back of my eyes.
He hated me.
My mate hated me.