She should've feared this side of his nature, but found herself fascinated. "Thank you for lunch," she said to Tamsyn, wriggling her foot so the cub would let go. She didn't want to hurt him or get him in trouble. He clung.
Lucas pushed back his chair and stood. "Tell Nate I dropped by."
Tamsyn began to stand. Aware that she couldn't remain sitting, Sascha decided to take a risk. Sending out a narrow telepathic beam, she spoke to the cub. Let go, baby, or you'll get in trouble. She'd expected to have difficulty contacting him but the link was made in an instant, as if she were talking to a child Psy. The find was something she should've immediately fed into the PsyNet but she didn't. It felt like betrayal.
The cub - Julian - couldn't answer, but he let go. He was pleased she hadn't told on him because he wasn't supposed to be chewing on shoes anymore. He was a big boy. Trying not to smile, she rose to her feet. It was difficult to keep her boot out of sight as she walked to the door but she maneuvered so that Lucas's big frame was between her and Tamsyn.
"Drop by anytime," Tamsyn said. Putting her hands on Sascha's arms, the other woman kissed her cheek.
Sascha had frozen the instant Tamsyn touched her, feeling such overwhelming kindness from the brunette that she could do nothing else. She'd always imagined she could read the emotions of others but her delusions had never been this bad - there was simply no raw material in the Psy world to feed the fantasies of her fractured mind.
"Thank you." The second Tamsyn let go, she stepped back and walked out the door to the waiting vehicle. It was too difficult to be in that room full of laughter and touch, warmth and temptation, and not hunger for more... for everything.
"Oh dear," Tamsyn said, watching Sascha retreat. "I shouldn't have touched her."
Lucas hugged her to him. "Of course you should have. Just because she's Psy doesn't mean we are."
Tamsyn laughed. "Did you see her boot?"
"Yes." Lucas was the alpha of DarkRiver - he'd known exactly what was going on with Julian. What he couldn't understand was why Sascha had let it happen. And there had been that moment when Psy energy had flared extra bright. Perhaps her telepathic call had gotten heated, or perhaps she'd been doing something else. Like talking to a cub.
"I never expected a Psy to be so good with children." Tamsyn laid her head against his chest.
"Neither did I." Quite simply, she shouldn't have been. The Psy would never allow a child to nibble on their shoes. There was no reason behind it, no efficiency. Yet this Psy had. "Tell me if the cubs say anything interesting."
The healer of DarkRiver was no fool. "Still nothing?"
"Not yet." Dropping a kiss on her hair, he said good-bye and headed out.
Sascha was already in the vehicle when he took the driver's seat. "Your first time with changeling children?"
"Yes." She tucked the chewed toe behind her leg and right then and there, Lucas knew he was in trouble. "Are you always in animal form as children?"
"No." Backing slowly out of Tamsyn's long driveway, he turned onto the street, the passage of air smooth and swift under the vehicle. "We gain the ability to shift forms a year or so after birth. It's as simple as breathing to us."
She was silent for the next stretch of road, as if thinking over what he'd said. "What about clothing? What happens to it when you change?"
"It disintegrates. We prefer to change while naked." He paid close attention to the energy in the air as he spoke and detected a definite spike - Sascha Duncan reacted to the thought of him naked.
Both sides of his nature liked the idea of disturbing this intriguing female on a sensual level, but as alpha, he had to consider the deeper ramifications of what he'd learned... and how it could be used against her.
"Tamsyn - what role does she occupy in your pack?" she said, changing the subject so quickly that he knew he'd been right. "I know you're hierarchical."
"Exactly like the Psy. You show me yours and I'll show you mine." If she clammed up to such a simple request, then he was going to have to rethink his strategy. He needed to get inside a Psy mind to get into the PsyNet. There was no other way to track the killer, not if the Psy Council was covering for him.
"Our overall leadership is in the Council."
He tried to keep his exhilaration under control. "We have no overall leadership. Each pack is autonomous."
"Within the overall structure we're organized by family groups."
They hadn't known that for sure because to the outside world, the Psy concept of family looked like any other business relationship. "Family ties exist within the pack but ultimate loyalty is to the pack itself."
"What about mated pairs?" she asked, displaying an insight into the changeling mind that startled him. "Surely their loyalty is to each other first."
"That's the one caveat. Leopard changelings mate for life so no other option is workable." He wondered what she'd make of that, this woman who'd been created by medicine not passion. "What about the Psy? Where is your loyalty?"
"The good of our people," she said. "We're allowed to compete with other families for business, but that's on the inside. Against outsiders we have only one loyalty."
"To ensure the continuation of the Psy race."
"Yes." Shifting in her seat, she asked him another question he wasn't expecting. "Mating for life? Is that a choice like human marriage?"
"Actually, changelings and humans can mate. Several of my pack are mated to humans." Children from such matches always had the ability to change forms.