"Don't call me that," I snapped.
"Fine, fine," he said, but his tone was very unconvincing.
"What do you want?" I asked him. He had called me in the middle of a very important meeting.
Ordinarily, I would have ignored a call at such a time. But it had been Everest. Cole Fortis' Beta-- one of them anyway. The bastard was still looking for Freya and I needed all the information I could get.
"Okay." I recognized that tone of his. He was done joking. It was time for business. "That palm root; the one you were taking for Riley two weeks back at the elevator?"
"How long has he been taking it?"
I did not need to think about it. Information concerning Riley was always at the front of my mind.
"Yes," I answered slowly.
"Well I'm sure you're aware, but shifters are resistant to just about any kind of medicine. And just as resistant to diseases. There's a few exceptions. Very few, Dustin. Two to be precise.
"One of them is shifter-pox. Just as rare. Strikes only once in a lifetime, cured by palm root in about a week or so. There's no way Riley's been battling shifter pox for five years."
"And the second?" I asked, a touch of dread creeping into my voice. Was Riley dying? I started the walk to my office to grab my car keys. I had to see him immediately.
"Spit it out, Everest."
He sighed. "Mate fevers. They happen when a wolf finds their true mate and doesn't...you know... mate. And also when a wolf loses its mate. Or when a wolf is rejected by their mate and so on. You get the gist; mate issues."
I sunk heavily into my chair. My mind was reeling with the information
Five whole years.
"You weren't affected," he said. "I'm guessing it's because your wolf did not realize what Riley was to him. And also....because it was waiting for another mate."
"Another...?" I struggled to wrap my mind around it.
By then, a week had passed since the office incident with Riley. He had been avoiding me like the plague. So had Freya.
"Yes," Everest said with care. "He needed both his mates to be there before acknowledging any kind of mate bond."
Freya who I had practically told I hated.
"But Riley's coyote recognized you as his, and well..."
Freya who was drinking palm root every night and had missed work two days ago because of "a sickness".
Wolves did not fall sick.
"Don't beat yourself up about it, Dustin. You had no idea--"
"Everest, what does shifter-pox look like?"
"Oh, umm. Horrible rash. Itchy. Lots of vomiting. Runny nose. Splitting headaches. It was the absolute worst!" Ethan agreed with his brother from somewhere in the background.
Freya had had no rash.
"Everest, Freya has been taking palm root for about a week now. I asked her about it. She said she was fine. But she...she looked and smelled just like....just like Riley had when he had those fevers."
"Exactly what I'm trying to tell you. Freya is Riley's truemate. You're Riley's truemate. Your wolf was waiting for both its mates. Which can only mean--"
"I told her I hated her for taking Riley away from me."
"Oh, Dustin," he mumbled, quietly.
I cursed and grabbed my keys, rushing for my car.
I had to take everything I said back.
Every single word.
"Freya's your mate too. The three of you....are true mates."