8pm. Riley's room.
"Cole's Beta? Since when does he call you? Can we trust him?" Riley asked.
"I trust him," Dustin replied. "He called me up and told me about the palm root. About how a shifter uses it for only two reasons. Shifter-pox. Mate fevers." He ticked them off his fingers. "You two have been having mate fevers." His eyes grew serious. "He also said that you could die from them."
"Okay. So now what? You're ready to be our mate? " Riley asked.
"If you'll have me."
Riley huffed. I knew what he was thinking. This was all too good to be true.
"Freya," said Dustin," I'm sorry about Sunday. The whole I can't love whoever keeps Riley thing. I do like you. A lot. You're beautiful and sweet and wild and so much more. I like you, believe me."
His eyes were sad. They reflected my own because I was sad too. He had hurt me. A lot. "Why did you say it?"
He was quiet. He did not want to lie to me. But I knew.
"You wanted to hurt me hurt me," I said softly.
Just like Riley had, Dustin had too.
I looked at Riley and he turned bashful, light-blue eyes studying the floor.
"Are you done hurting me?" I asked. I needed to know.
Dustin looked me in the eye. He said," I swear it on my life."
I believed him.
I fought back a smile. "You could hurt me again. Put your life on the line and I'm sure Riley will reap relentlessly." I chewed on my bottom lip. "I only ask that you never hurt me on purpose."
He nodded. "I promise you."
I rushed forward and I hugged him tightly. "Can I hug you?" I asked.
He laughed as he wrapped his arms around me. "Yeah. Yeah you can." He kissed my hair and I fell for him a little bit.
I leaned up and kissed him. My first kiss. I initiated my first kiss. It was sweet and slow. Shy tongues and soft fingers in hair.
He smelled like chocolate.
Cinnamon came up behind me and joined the hug. Like me, he asked for the hug after giving it.
I wiggled, rubbing against them.
Dustin chuckled and pulled away, his laugh strained. Riley heard it too because he tensed against me.
"Dustin?" Riley said his name so softly.
Dustin sighed and sat on the bed. "It's not you guys."
"Lemme guess: It's you?"
"When I was with Diana--"
Riley growled, but I saw that whatever Dustin was trying to say came from somewhere deep and dark within him. I nudged Riley and made him shush.
Dustin looked gratefully at me. Then he told us what was eating him up inside.
"My wolf...it went berserk. One minute I was there, next thing I know, she's screaming. Her arm is twisted, her fingers broken, she's bruised everywhere. She said I just lost it. She pressed charges. Mom had to pay her off. That's why she got so relieved when we told her Freya was in a relationship with you and not me."
"Oh" was all I could say.
"Dustin," Riley said gently, stepping towards him.
Dustin held up a hand. "No. Don't say it was not my fault. Please don't," he begged. "I hurt her.. I loved her and I hurt her. She left town because I hurt her."
"Okay," said Riley. He sat down and pulled Dustin into his arms.
Taking away his pain.
"She was your equal, was she not?" I asked.
"Of course she was. What else could she have been?" Dustin said. So firm in his beliefs.
I lowered myself onto the carpet in front of them. "Wolves, we're not humans. We never made submission a thing about gender. Females are alphas, females are omegas. They dominate, they submit. You're an alpha, Dustin. The only people who can get away with not submitting to you are your true mates and maybe even your Betas. That's why we date pack. Fellow wolves understand this. Whatever you did with her, you lied to yourself. It angered your wolf. Your feelings might have been real, I'm not saying otherwise, but your wolf was not getting what it wanted. I'm really sorry no one taught you that. "
I shrugged. "No one is to blame, really. It's awful what happened to that poor girl."
He nodded. "She did not deserve it."
"No. She did not," I agreed.
Riley said," Take your time and heal. We will wait for you." He placed a kiss on Dustin's cheek.
"Thank you," Dustin said.
When I left Riley and Freya, and went back to my room, I called Everest. He told me the same exact thing Freya told me.
My wolf had reacted awfully.
He congratulated me of course.
Two mates. That was a big deal. It was a rare, and therefore sacred occurrence in wolf-shifters.
"Will I hurt them? Will my wolf hurt them? Because Riley does not submit.
He sighed heavily. "Your wolf recognises its true mates. You'd be surprised what he'd would let those two do." He chuckled. "All he wants to do is love and protect them. The rest is unimportant to him. I promise he won't care. Talk to Freya and Riley about the dynamics if it bothers you that much. Or just wait and see. Go with the flow. Learn yourselves."
"Okay," I said. "Thanks. Tell Ethan I said hey. Oh and tell him he's being rude by not asking to talk to me at least once."
Everest giggled hysterically-- a sound he surprisingly pulled off. "He's just insanely loyal to Cole. You're a betrayal, Alpha Dustin."
I smiled. "Goodnight, Everest."
Sleep never came though. I tossed and turned.
I felt naked, exposed and lonely.
Before I knew what I was doing I was leaving my room and entering Riley's where he lay with Freya. They were curled into each other. Face to face.
Freya woke up and stared at me. She raised the covers behind Riley and bade me to enter. I did so.
I snuggled in and it felt wonderful.
I had slept with Riley a hundred times. But this time was different. We were mates.
"Are you okay?" Freya whispered.
"Yeah. Just couldn't sleep."
She was quiet for a while. I could almost hear her choosing her next words carefully.
"Do you want me near you?" I asked.
"Of course I do."
I moved over Riley and landed behind her, facing her back.
She pushed back until her hair brushed softly against my throat and her toes touched mine, pulling Riley back with her. He never even stirred.
"Can I touch you?" I asked.
"I'd like that."
I put my arms around her and Riley, and burrowed my face into her neck. I breathed in deep and pecked her there.
My mates. My truemates.
They had forgiven me.
For a second I had truly thought that they would shun me out of anger. But they had been forgiving and understanding, and I was beyond grateful.