"Freya?" Dustin garbled, mid-chew on a piece a of muffin.
That morning, I had woken up to an amazing smelling kitchen. Marie had baked her "famous" muffins. I didn't taste them-- I had no interest in flavoured dough-- but I loved the smell: Chocolate and Cinnamon.
"Yes, handsome?" I automatically responded, nickname rolling off my tongue like they were made for each other.
Cue Minnie glaring at me. I rolled my eyes at her. Not today, Minnie! I was determined not to indulge her in our usual arguments.
Minnie's anger was so potent I could smell it. And emotions are difficult to scent out, especially if you have had no one to teach you while growing up.
I, for one, grew up in a family of twelve and therefore had a good idea about deciphering the different pheromones. But we were a sappy happy--even the damn town was singing rainbows-- and such an environment leaves out a lot of emotions to be explored.
Dustin and Riley? The ones raised in a shifter-free town and by humans? Horrible at scenting.
Marie, our household-manager-extrodinaire, placed my bowl of boiled then stir-fried chicken pieces in front of me--I really did not care for the "how", as long as meat was placed in front of me, but Marie took a lot of pride in the way her food was prepared.
"Of course, dear," she said, petting my pink hair in a motherly gesture.
"I could hitch a ride with you too, Dustie," Minie said.
I hated that nickname, it made Riley boil over with rage, and I'm pretty sure Dustin flinched each time it came out of her mouth.
"Minnie, you have a very expensive car that mom bought for you."
"Yeah, but your mom won't mind." She stressed the "your".
As much as Dustin previously thought of Riley as his brother, he had always subconsciously emphasized the fact that they did not share a mother. Always.
To Riley he always said "my mom", and in turn Riley always said "your mom". It was cute, even though they were completely oblivious and I literally had to spell everything out for them.
"Well afterwards, me and Freya will head out to Feral for lunch. We won't be able to bring you back home at the end of the day."
Minnie worked at the factory as an assistant of some sort. It was supposed to last until she graduated from college and obtained a degree to get her a real position.
"Take-out, Minnie. It's an actual thing people do," Dustin said, a tad bit defensively. His hands clenched into tight fists, knuckles turning white.
Minnie never realized how pissed-off her comments about Riley and me made Dustin. She just went on and on with her hateful words and mocking tones.
Quite frankly they bothered Dustin more than me and Riley. We just brushed her off. She meant absolutely nothing to us.
"Young master Dustin, you should have told me about that, I can easily pack the three of you lunch instead of wasting money buying that unhealthy food," Marie offered.
"Uhhhh... there's no time now, Marie. Maybe tomorrow."
She smiled fondly at him. "Okay," she said.
Minnie gave up on the carpool idea, and after breakfast we gleefully drove off without her.
"We're bonding today," Dustin said as we entered his office.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm your mate, not your slave. Plus," I said, squinting at the paper-filled cabinets and his computer, "I've never been an office kinda girl."
His face fell. I knew then that this meant a lot to him.
I took his larger hand in mine and gazed into his eyes, sighing. "But for you, handsome. I'm willing to try. So what exactly does a personal assistant do? Sounds like a silly romance novel and you'll sleep with me and I have to hide your babies." I smirked. "Tragic stuff."
He laughed. It was beautiful. In a wild, predatory way-- a cross between a bark and a chuckle. Like I said, beautiful.
"You just follow me around the factory and take down important notes. Meet the people that work for me."
"Okay then. Sounds easy enough."
He handed me a tablet to jot everything down in.
Webb Breweries was impressive. It was large and the workers were not miserable in the least. They smiled and waved as we passed by.
I guess I understood his need to bring me here, and even if Dustin did not know it yet, his wolf was the one pushing for this particular event. It wanted to show its future mate where it worked. It was primal. Sort of like hunting a doe for your mate.
Cole Fortis owned a number of night clubs which were frequented by shifters--the intended market for the wine.
But of course I came along, and here we were.
"I'm sorry," I told him.
"If it weren't for me, Cole would have signed that deal with you."
He wrapped his fingers around my arms and gently pulled me into his chest, hugging me closer.
"I want to help you with your factory."
"Okay, minx of mine," he said sweetly. So unlike him. This was a new Dustin, not standoffish like the old one.
I smiled at that. It reminded me of something. "You don't have to make me your personal assistant to get me to settle down with you and have kids," I teased. "I already want that." I kissed his neck and cheek and lips, giddy with feelings I could not label just then. "I feel at home here with you and Riley. Thank you for keeping me."
It reminded me that my birth family had ditched their phones at the house when they ran.
"Hey. Riley said he wants us to go shopping. Miss.Bently has a bunch of new clothes," I said.
"'Kay. We're almost done here. Text him and tell him to meet us there. Better yet call him, he might still be asleep."
I laughed. "Riley can't sleep much alone."
This stopped Dustin in his tracks. Something I could only describe as sorrow and regret passed over his features. "You're right. I can't believe I never figured that out," he said gravely.
His words tugged at my heart. I gave him the gentlest smile I could muster. "Don't worry, handsome," I mumbled, walking into his side and draping my hand around his waist. "You have your whole life to figure Riley out."
"My little minx," he whispered reverently, pulling me closer as we made our way back to his office.