A noise behind Josiah made him turn. A man stood in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and Josiah instinctively knew that this was the pack alpha. At five-foot-eight, Josiah felt dwarfed by the man, who topped six feet by at least five inches. He was quite a few years older than Josiah’s nineteen, nicely muscular, and long legged. His dark hair was long and pulled back with a leather thong. If Josiah had to describe him, he’d have to say devastatingly sexy, although he didn’t think the Congress would appreciate that going into his notes.
All the werewolves Josiah had seen so far wore the same loose pants that tied at the waist as well as button-down shirts, and although the weather was cold and there evidently was no electricity in the entire compound, they all walked around in bare feet. Josiah himself had on a jacket over his long-sleeved shirt, as well as jeans and sturdy boots, and he was still slightly chilly.
“Pack Alpha.” Xavier stepped forward. “This is the human.”
The pack alpha strode into the room, and Josiah put out his hand to shake.
“Josiah Kimbrel. Thank you for allowing me to enter your pack and observe.”
“River.” The man looked impressed that Josiah was willing to shake his hand. He had the most amazing eyes, Josiah couldn’t help but notice as River clasped Josiah’s hand, squeezing it firmly.
“We don’t use surnames here,” River said. “Welcome to River Wolf Pack.”
Josiah nodded, still studying the man’s eyes. They reminded him of a bottle his uncle once had sitting on the window sill that on sunny days shone a light, clear green. The alpha’s eyes were very expressive, framed with long lashes and dark arching brows.
Josiah was a little unsettled by just how striking the guy was. River didn’t make Josiah feel like he wanted to curl up on the couch with him, as Danny had done when Josiah met him, and he didn’t exactly intimidate him as Xavier, Malcolm, and Gavin did. Instead, River made Josiah very aware of every part of himself, as though River had flipped a switch and turned Josiah fully on.
When the pack alpha released his hand, Josiah surreptitiously flexed it, fingers a little sore from the hard grip. It reminded Josiah not to let his guard down; as human as the werewolves seemed, they were definitely not human.
“You can relax, Josiah,” River said. “We mean you no harm.”
“I know that.” Josiah straightened his shoulders defiantly. He was there as ambassador for the humans, after all. “You signed an agreement.”
River smiled and nodded, but it didn’t help ease Josiah’s mind any. The man exuded strength and vitality and a wildness that was almost frightening. Josiah tore his eyes away from River and looked about, wondering which room was his. It would be nice to set down the heavy backpack and settle in; the trip had been long and rough.
“I suppose you’d like to see where you’ll be sleeping,” River said, stepping aside to gesture toward the front door. “Your bungalow is nearby; we’ll take you there now. Gavin will be staying with you.”
So Josiah wouldn’t be staying with the pack alpha. He supposed that was for the best. The man was damned distracting. Josiah glanced at Gavin, unsure if he liked the idea of the surly alpha sharing a bungalow with him.
“It’s safest this way,” River said, evidently sensing Josiah’s concern. “Although an alpha, Gavin is mated and wouldn’t attempt to mount you.”
“What do you mean?” Josiah asked, alarmed. He looked to Xavier and Malcolm, who appeared amused.
“Well, you are a very beautiful young man.” River’s eyes moved over Josiah from the top of his head to the tips of his toes in a way that felt oddly like a physical touch, and Josiah held in a reactionary shiver.
Josiah wasn’t sure how he felt about being called beautiful. He might be attractive, sure, but beautiful made him sound like a woman.
“Those of us who are unmated have needs,” River continued. “Weres are highly sexual creatures; but the fact that Gavin is already mated means he won’t pose a threat to you. He’ll be there for your protection.”
Josiah glanced at Gavin again, not too sure about that, given the barely concealed animosity Josiah could feel drifting off him. Gavin gave Josiah a leer.
“I assure you, you have nothing to worry about.” River started for the door.
Josiah followed, cheeks warm.
The guest bungalow was also built into a tree, although closer to the ground than the pack alpha’s house. It was small and clean with a view of the valley from one side and the dense forest from the other. If Josiah stood on his tiptoes on the back balcony, he could just see the shimmering waters of the Cascade River past the trees.
River led Josiah through a comfortable sitting room with a large fireplace, past a small kitchen, to the master suite, which was dominated by a king-sized bed and large dresser. The room had its own fireplace, which Josiah was thankful for, as the weather was chilly and there was no heating system.
Gavin would be staying in a smaller room at the back of the house, and Josiah was relieved the other man wasn’t going to be sleeping close by, no matter what River had said. Overall, Josiah was impressed. His uncle had always told him the weres weren’t the uncivilized animals so many people made them out to be, and he had been right. Josiah looked forward to jotting down his first impressions for the Congress.
“We really aren’t animals, you know,” River said, and for one crazy moment, Josiah wondered if the pack alpha could read his mind.