Ricoh ran to the café and out of the door, collapsing onto the first stone step. He leaned back and closed his eyes in despair. He was so confused, and his head ached abominably. He hadn’t been sleeping very well in recent weeks. Sometimes he thought he heard Nate crying out to him in pain; what really frightened him was that because the mate bond was so strong, the cries might be real.
Then what had happened in the meeting room? Marcus had offered support and like a sap Ricoh had clutched the man’s hand. At the time he had thought it was Hunter, but his wolf had quieted immediately at the human’s touch — and what did that mean? Everything was so messed up.
Ricoh heard a step at the same time he smelled Marcus. He opened his eyes in confusion. If anyone was going to follow him, he would have expected Hunter or Aden, but he knew Conner had said something to Aden to make him stay, and Hunter had been more and more distant every day.
Ricoh didn’t say a word as the human gingerly lowered himself to the ground. Marcus bumped shoulders with him. “Don’t rush off before you’ve got a hoist to get me back on my feet, will you?” Marcus faltered, and Ricoh sensed the man’s pain at his irony. He had meant to make Ricoh feel better, but he didn’t have feet to get back on.
Ricoh peered cautiously at Marcus. The man had a big heart.
“If it helps, I’m a good listener,” Marcus prompted gently.
Ricoh swallowed. He owed the man an explanation if nothing else. “I know you have spent a lot of time amongst werewolves, but do you understand our mating?” He tried to ignore the interested little yips his wolf was making in Marcus’s presence. It was ridiculous. He was human, and Ricoh had enough problems with Nate and Hunter at the moment. There was the other tiny problem that if he had to guess he would say the six-foot tall warrior was as straight as a board, and humans weren’t like wolves. Wolves were often a lot more fluid in their sexuality as they never really knew which sex their true mate would be.
Ricoh was definitely gay though, and it had taken one glimpse of Hunter’s huge powerful shoulders and wash board abs after his Alpha had shifted one day, to convince him of that.
Marcus spoke, pulling Ricoh from his thoughts. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Blaze. This place feels more like home to me than Kansas City.”
Ricoh followed Marcus’s gaze at the pack land in front of him. Past the cars were the dais and the huge grass area where the pack met, the river visible as it wound through the fields. To the left were the hangars for Conner’s helicopters. To the right the forest encroached more closely. There, the path that led to the side of the trees went deep into the woods and eventually came to Aden’s old pack area. Those lands were mostly empty now. The forest needed to restock after the old Alpha had hunted the grounds nearly to extinction.
“It can seem complicated, your mating,” Marcus continued. “I would imagine it is hard enough work to keep one partner happy and satisfied, but they make it so simple sometimes.”
Ricoh frowned. “Simple?”
“The Alphas. They love each other. The only problems they have had have been from outside sources. Their love for each other has never been in any doubt.” Marcus glanced sideways at Ricoh. “I envy that.” He hesitated. “One perfect person for everyone. Or three.” He grinned, obviously amused.
Ricoh pulled at his bottom lip. He wished it was that simple, but he understood what Marcus was trying to say.
Marcus nudged him again. “There are plenty of humans who could learn a lot about wolf relationships. One true mate? Forever?” He smiled.
Ricoh moved a little closer. The nudge seemed to have caught his wolf’s attention again. Ricoh was just puzzling it when Marcus spoke again.
“I’m sorry about Nathaniel. Is he your mate?”
A fresh rush of tears sprang to Ricoh’s eyes.
“Oh hell,” muttered Marcus. “I’m sorry. I’m always putting my foot in it.”
Ricoh shot a surprised look at him. The answering wry smile confirmed Ricoh’s suspicion that that joke had been deliberate.
Marcus nudged him again. “If I say I’ve got two left feet will it make you feel better?”
Ricoh smiled cautiously, and Marcus beamed. “It sounds like they’re zeroing in on him, though. Good intel.”
Ricoh wrapped his arms around himself. As if he could give himself the reassurance he needed.
“Can I ask you another question? You can tell me to get lost,” Marcus added.
“Go ahead,” Ricoh said distractedly. His wolf was focused on the gentle hand that Marcus had quietly laid on his arm to still his rocking.
Marcus pinked a little and Ricoh watched, fascinated. “It doesn’t matter. It was a silly question.”
“No, please,” Ricoh urged and let his hand drop to Marcus’s arm without thinking.
“Wolves gossip, and they tend not to notice me,” Marcus started almost apologetically. “Everyone seemed to think that you, Hunter, and Michael would form an Alpha triad like Blaze, Conner, and Darric.”
Ricoh interrupted. “Not an Alpha one. Hunter is an Alpha, but I’m certainly not. Neither was Michael even though he wanted to be.”
Marcus raised his eyebrows. “So a triad can be formed with only one Alpha then?”
Ricoh nodded. “They don’t even need to be Alphas, but triads aren’t very common. Most wolves form bonded pairs.”
Marcus seemed to think on that a little. “So, your bond is with Nate, not Hunter?” He blushed. “I’m sorry, this is really none of my business.”
“Ricoh?” A deep voice interrupted them both. It was Hunter looking down on them. “The meeting has paused for a few minutes while everyone gets some lunch. I need you back in there.”
Marcus had snatched his hand away as soon as Hunter spoke, but Ricoh knew Hunter wouldn’t have missed it. He’d been pleased before when Marcus had shown him some attention in front of his Alpha, hoped he would get jealous and maybe show Ricoh some of the attention he’d been longing for these last three years.
Ricoh stood fluidly and at the same time, hooked Marcus’ arm under his. Marcus stood, clearly shocked that Ricoh had brought him upright with barely any effort.
Ricoh smiled. The man had offered comfort to a stranger twice. There was no way he would have left him struggling to stand.