I was being watched. I had never been watched or followed before that moment, so it was not exactly a feeling I was familiar with, but definitely, most definitely I was being followed.
I locked my car, pack of palm root safely tucked in my arm and strolled as nonchalantly as I could to the elevator that would take me back to my apartment. Back to Riley.
The thought made me quicken my steps.
Almost there, I thought. Twenty or so steps to the metal doors.
I heard footsteps. I could not smell the person, no, people, behind me, but I could hear them just fine. I made it and reached out to push the button.
“Hey! Dustin!” Crap. “Hold up!”
My hand hovered over the button. I knew that voice. And if I was correct, I knew just who he was with.
I could not lead them up to Freya, so I plastered a smile on my face and turned.
“Hey, guys. Fancy meeting you here,” I said. Not quite keeping the irritation I felt out of my voice.
Dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes.
Simply gorgeous. I sort of resented that.
They walked briskly, confidently, so alike, yet so different. It was rattling to the mind. Just as your brain began to process their mirrored strides, and decided that: Damn these guys are like two coins!, it would immediately start to catalogue their differences.
Ethan was strung-up muscle, ready to pounce; his energy was lethal and vibrated angrily around him. Everest on the other hand, was cool and laid-back, definitely a hugger not a fighter, and the calm energy pulsing around him said just that.
Which is why I narrowed my gaze at Ethan when I asked, “What are you doing here?”
Ethan smiled an easy smile which was oh-so-deceptive, it only amped up my anger. I fought back a growl and waited for him to answer.
“We just wanted to apologize about your cancelled meeting on Wednesday with Cole. He had a few things to sort out--”
“You could have texted,” I interrupted.
Everest’s eyes widened a little. “Yeah, but...” he said, before his brother could say anything, “…just thought it would seem friendlier this way.” He grinned. “Maybe convince you to join the pack.”
He seemed genuinely confused. “I guess pack-life isn’t for everyone,” he said shrugging.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but Riley isn’t a wolf-shifter. He can’t join your pack.”
“Ohh.” This time it was Ethan. He nodded in sympathy. I wanted to punch him in the face. “I wondered about you two. Your mate, right? You didn’t introduce him as such, and as you know--” he shrugged slightly, “--it’s rude to ask.”
My heart hammered in my chest.
It sounded so right, so fitting; and yet so wrong I wanted to vomit. “He’s not my mate. Shifters can’t be gay.”
Everest looked at me like I had two heads. “Why not?” he asked. “I hate to break it you, but they can and they are. Plenty of us. Hell Ethan’s bi.”
His brother scowled at him. “Thanks for outing me, baby bro,” he said, slapping Everest on the back. He focused on me, ignoring Everest’s mumbled apology. “Love is love dude. So you don’t have to hide anything.”
Heat rushed all over my neck thankfully it was hidden by my jacket, I hoped. Thankfully, I was one of those people whose blushes did not get passed their necks. I smiled tightly, desperate to get rid of them. “We’re not mates, but thanks for clearing that up.” I turned and reached for the elevator button.
My heart stopped midway when Everest opened his mouth. So damn close.
“Is that palm root? Is the little coyote sick?”
I did not realize just how riled up I was until my wolf snapped. I grabbed Everest’s collar and crowded into his face, growling at sneering at him. “Do not call him that!”
He lowered his eyes and tilted his head to the side. Submission? I was not sure. But it lessened my anger and endeared him to me. Ethan stood next to us, staring straight ahead, shoulders rigid, body taut.
“Sorry, Alpha,” Everest mumbled.
I took in a few breaths and dropped my hands. I blinked at him. “I’m not your alpha.”
“No, you’re not,” Ethan said, forcefully. His voice was hard and his hands were fisted at his sides. Everything he did was a challenge. Everything he said made me want to punch him the mouth.
Instead I said, “Thanks for your visit. Call me when Cole sets up another meeting.” I turned but stopped midway, then looked back at them, feeling an insane urge to clear something up. “Riley is not my mate.” He was my bestfriend, my brother. Thinking of him as otherwise made my head hurt.
Again my hand hovered the damn elevator button, when behind me I heard, “He smells like you though. And you, like him. The way mates do. You should look into that. Make sure.” Ethan. Their voices were the same, but their tones and speeds were different.
I turned back, for the hundredth time.
Everest was standing sort of behind Ethan, with put their faces side to side. They looked like the damn same person. I could only tell them apart when they walked and talked. Otherwise, their faces were mirror images-- even their hair was styled the same.
“You two smell alike too. I dare say, more than me and Riley.”
Ethan chuckled, but Everest spoke. “We smell alike like siblings. Only more. Mostly because we were one that split into two, so we’re more than just siblings. But also because we were raised as pack twins. It’s hard to explain, but we share a bond, almost as strong as mates--”
“Stronger than mates,” Ethan corrected.
“Except fated mates.”
Ethan nodded carefully, thoughtfully, agreeing with his brother.
" Your scents are intertwined together. You carry each other wherever you go. And it’s stronger than any mates we’ve ever come across. So we don’t believe you when you say you’re not mates. Which only leaves the question: why are you lying to us?”
“Look,” I said, tired with the all the circles, “I don’t know why you’re here, or what you want. But I really need to get back to my apartment, so if you don’t mind. Just tell me.”
Ethan stiffened his face, “We’re here to search your apartment.”
As if I wasn’t pissed enough already!