Wicked Cravings (The Phoenix Pack Series)

CHAPTER ON E

Dante shot a fierce scowl over his coffee mug at Dominic, Tao, Trick, and Marcus. “She’s not my mate,” he repeated for the tenth time. He knew the enforcers were playing with him, but he was too agitated to see the funny side of things. Was there a funny side to a female maintaining you were her mate to her seven brothers who wanted your balls on a plate for “abandoning” her?

“All I’m saying is that you guys looked cute together,” teased Trick as he leaned back in his seat opposite Dante at the long oak table. No sooner had he set aside his empty cereal bowl than Grace, undeniably the world’s best cook, collected it. She gave Trick a reprimanding look for his teasing, but Dante could see that she was hiding a smile.

“Yeah, you matched well,” agreed Marcus, wearing his usual clown-wide grin, which made most females melt while it irritated the shit out of Dante.

He looked at Marcus incredulously. “I matched well with an agent of Satan?”

“Someone has to have that agent of Satan.” Dominic shrugged innocently before taking a swig of his coffee.

Trick gave Dante a kind, understanding smile that couldn’t have been more false. “Don’t worry, I’m sure that in time she’ll forgive you for abandoning her.” The “abandoning” part aggravated Dante just as much as the false claim. He would never walk away from his mate, even though he wasn’t yet ready to find her. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel the absence of that bond in his life. He did, and so did his wolf. But it wasn’t as simple as that. When his mate came along, she would rightfully want all of him, she would demand to be at the center of his life, and she would expect his loyalty to be with her, first and foremost. For a Beta, that could be a problem. At present, Dante’s loyalty rested with Trey and his life was dominated by his responsibilities to the pack.

A Beta was more than just an Alpha’s right-hand man, responsible for giving advice on political matters. He was also responsible for the protection and safety of the entire pack, he was the mind behind the plans and strategies, and he acted as a go-between for his Alpha when negotiating matters with other packs. He also trained and commanded the enforcers. Betas got their hands dirty doing the jobs that no one else wanted—particularly interrogating and executing enemies. Dante was well known for his skills as an interrogator.

Every day, he spent time patrolling pack territory with whichever enforcers were on duty, milling through paperwork or making important calls to lessen Trey’s workload, and being an ear for any member of the pack who had problems to address. He was just as responsible for the pack’s emotional well-being as he was for its physical safety. Also, he was in constant contact with the enforcers, so that he was always aware of any activity near the borders of pack territory. But having such heavy responsibilities was okay, because Dante liked his position and he was honored to be Beta.

His mate, however, wasn’t going to be content to share him. He’d seen it happen many times before. Sure, the females were often happy at first, because it meant that they held the position of Beta female in the pack. But once they realized the sacrifices that came with it, the ultimatum soon came:

“Your job or me.” It was the same one that his mother had given to his father. And when his father had chosen his job…well, life became pretty shitty. If