"Come on." Tamsyn beckoned her over. "These are decadent."
Sascha had never thought of food as decadent. Curious, she walked over to pick up a warm cookie. Chocolate. It was a sweet substance coveted by humans and changelings. The Psy meal plan didn't include it as it had no nutritional value that couldn't be provided by other, more efficient means.
"You're looking at it as if you've never tasted chocolate before." Lucas leaned on the counter beside her. There was no mistaking the amusement on his face.
Her hands itched to trace his markings, to find out if they were soft or hard, sensitive or not. "I haven't." She concentrated on the cookie instead of the heat coming off Lucas's skin. Now that he'd taken off his jacket, she could see far too much sun-golden male flesh.
Tamsyn's eyes went wide. "You poor thing. You've been deprived."
"I've been given balanced nutrition every day of my life." She felt compelled to defend her people, though she knew they'd discard her without a thought the second they discovered her defect.
"Nutrition?" Lucas shook his head, sending dark hair sliding across muscular shoulders. "You eat so you'll function?" He disposed of a cookie in two bites. "Darling, that's no way to live." Laughter flickered in his eyes but there was also something hotter, something that whispered that he could show her how to really live.
She swallowed the flare of desire threatening to shatter her control. Lucas Hunter was potent. And a crazy part of her wanted to take a sip of him to see if he tasted as good as he sounded.
"Go on," Tamsyn said, snapping her back to reality none too soon. "Try one before Lucas demolishes the whole lot. It won't poison you."
Sascha took a careful bite. Sensation flooded her. It was all she could do to stop herself from crying out. No wonder the church had once termed chocolate an enticement of the devil. Pacing herself, when she wanted to gulp it down and snatch the whole plate for herself, she finished it off. "It has an unusual taste."
"But did you like it?" Tamsyn asked.
Before she could answer, Lucas did. "The Psy don't like or dislike, do they, Sascha?"
"No." Not if they were normal. She wondered if anyone would notice if she took one more cookie. "Something is either useful or it isn't. Liking doesn't come into it."
"Here." Lucas lifted another cookie to her lips. "Maybe chocolate will change your mind." Temptation lingered in the playful curve of his lips.
Sascha wasn't strong enough to resist. "Since we haven't yet had lunch, this'll provide needed calories."
"Lucas! You worked through lunch again? Both of you, sit!" Tamsyn pointed to the table. "Nobody walks out of my kitchen hungry."
Sascha was confused by the hierarchy in the room. "I thought Lucas was your alpha."
Lucas chuckled. "Yeah, but this is Tamsyn's kitchen. We might as well sit before she throws a pot at us." He headed over to the table. "Tammy, I confess. I came here so you'd feed me. Nobody cooks like you."
"Cut the sweet talk, Lucas Hunter." In spite of the sharp words, the brunette was smiling.
Sascha tried to finish her cookie in sedate bites instead of inhaling it. She was going to have to smuggle some chocolate into her quarters. For the first time, she'd found something relatively safe with which to indulge her senses. One more sin would make no difference to a life she'd lived in secret since before she could remember.
They'd just taken their seats when two small leopard cubs barreled into the room. Eyes wide, Sascha watched the pair slide across the shiny wood of the floor before being caught on the rug. Several long, thin scratches marked their passage.
"Roman! Julian!" Tamsyn walked out from behind the counter and picked up both cubs by the scruff of their necks. "What do you think you're doing?" Two sheepish leopard faces turned to look at her. Sascha was riveted by the kittenish mewls coming from their throats.
Tamsyn laughed. "You two charmers. You know you're not supposed to run in the house. I've already lost two vases this week."
The cubs wiggled.
"Here." Tamsyn walked over and dumped them on the table. "Explain yourselves to your uncle Lucas."
The cubs put their heads down on their paws and looked up at Lucas as if awaiting judgment. Sascha wanted nothing more than to stroke her fingers through the silky-soft pelt of the one nearest her. They were so beautiful, their eyes a lively green-gold that had her spellbound.
She almost jumped out of her chair when Lucas growled beside her, a low rumble that came from a human throat but sounded completely feral. The cubs sprang up and growled back. Lucas laughed. "Scary, aren't they?" His eyes invited her to join in the fun.
She couldn't resist. "Fierce."
One of the cubs suddenly skidded to stand in front of her, so close they were almost nose to nose. Sascha stared in fascination at those eyes. Then he opened his mouth and growled a baby growl at her. Laughter bubbled in her throat. How could anyone remain unmoved around such mischief? But she was Psy and she wasn't allowed to laugh. Yet there was no way she wasn't going to indulge at least one more sense. She might never get this chance again.
Reaching out, she mimicked Tamsyn's hold and lifted the cub up by the ruff of his neck. His fur was soft, his body warm. He wiggled and growled, batting at her hands with sheathed claws, and she realized he was playing with her. At that moment, the other cub jumped to land on her lap and began to climb up her body.
Lost, she turned to Lucas. His amusement was obvious. "Don't look at me, darling."
She narrowed her eyes at her two little playmates. "I'm Psy. I can turn you into rats." The cubs stopped wiggling. Picking up the one in her lap, she put them both on the table in front of her and leaned down to their level. "Be very careful of people like me." It was a soft, sincere warning. "We don't know how to play nice."