Chapter 15

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Lucas set a hand on my knee and squeezed. Only then did I realize I'd been bouncing it. Again.

"It should be safe to bring her out of Sleep tomorrow, if not today," Fenrir said, swirling the tumbler of whiskey in his hand.

My entire body went limp in relief.

"Good," Kieran murmured.

"I assume that you'll have first shot at her time?" I asked. Or tried to. It came out as more of an accusation despite my best attempt to temper it.

Golden eyes lifted and fixed on me. "No. I thought that it would be best if we were all together for the first day, at least."

If more relief hit me, I was in real danger of puddling on the ground. Frustration roared up on its heels and shored up my spine. It was good that he wasn't going to monopolize her straight out of Sleep, but I was so tired of dancing to his tune.

"And you've decided this. Without asking any of us. Are we anything more than puppets to your strings?"

Those mesmerizing eyes flared before his lashes fell and veiled his expression. He took a sip of his drink instead of responding, the skin around his eyes and mouth tightening.

His silence broke the last chain on my restraint. This wasn't what I wanted. This wasn't what I'd signed up for.

"Look. I didn't sign up to be one of the princess' harem boys. I thought that we'd have some kind of relationship other than just being her mates. Instead, you've been playing least in sight except when you call us together to give us the news, like you're the gatekeeper to the castle or something. Maybe I think that she should be allowed to pick who she hangs out with her first day awake, even if it happens to be you. Maybe she'll decide that she's up to dealing with four men immediately after rising, but I wouldn't want to push it on her."

Fenrir's mouth worked and I held up a hand.

"And I wouldn't want to have her feeling in the least bit guilty if she says that she isn't up to anything and for us to please leave her alone until she's gotten her bearings. I get that you're trying to make everything work smoothly, but the way you're going about it just makes me feel fucking managed and like I'm a problem for you to solve so your precious princess can have the magic she needs. Fuck that. Fuck this. If this is how it's going to be, I'm happy to stay here and jizz onto gold for as long as she needs me to, but other than that I can be gone."

Pain arrowed through me at the thought of leaving. The Call had diminished with all the sex I'd been having, but even thinking about abandoning my mate nearly brought me to my knees. But she wasn't really my mate, was she? From everything I'd heard, she hadn't exactly been thrilled with the idea of having more mates and she'd been Asleep for 99.999 percent of our interactions together. For all I knew, she could be thrilled at how much easier her life would be if I walked.

My beast howled.

But what about Lucas and Kieran? If I walked away from her, I'd be walking away from them as well. Unless they felt the same way, and I wasn't vain enough to expect that of them. Kieran said that he wouldn't be able to choose, but now that I was forcing the issue...

"Maybe tradition had it right," Kieran mused.

"Fight or fuck," Lucas said.

"What?" Fenrir snapped?

Lucas shrugged one shoulder elegantly. "Fighting to establish hierarchy makes sense. How better to know another? You can see into a male from observing how he fights. If he has honor, if he's flexible or if he likes to win through brute force."

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