"I've heard that Psy-changeling unions occurred in the past."
"My great-great-grandmother was Psy." He glanced at her. "Do you think I would've made a good Psy?"
She stared at him for a second before saying, "Perhaps you should watch the road." Cool, practical, and without feeling. Except for the fact that the toe of her boot had been chewed by baby leopard teeth.
He obeyed her this once. "To answer your question, no, it's not a choice like marriage - at least not for the leopards. Once we find our mate, the only choice we have is whether or not to take the final step. There's no walking away after that's done."
"What's the final step?"
"Tell me about the PsyNet."
She paused. "It is secret?"
"It is private."
"How do you find your mate? How do you know that he or she is the one?" Her tone was neutral but her questions held hints of the deepest curiosity.
He wondered if she'd be this inquisitive in all aspects of life. A curious lover was the ultimate lure to his panther soul. "I can't answer that - I'm not mated." He'd seen his father's heart shredded by his mother's death. Part of him didn't want to be that vulnerable to anyone.
It was one of the reasons he'd never nurtured a long-term relationship with any female, human or changeling. Mating couldn't be so easily influenced, but he'd done his damnedest to limit the chances of his mate finding him.
If she did hunt him down despite that, he'd accept her and then he'd never let her out of his sight. Forget about freedom - his mate was going to be protected every moment of her life. Pulling to a stop in the parking lot of the DarkRiver building, he switched off the engine and slid up the door of the car.
"Do you want to be?"
The question had him turning to face those night-sky eyes. No Psy should've ever asked that. No Psy should've ever heard the ambivalence in his voice. "Do you?"
"Is it private?" She tipped her head slightly to the side. It was a tiny movement but it wasn't in the nature of her race to make such movements.
He reached out and stroked a finger down her face, wanting to see what she'd do. "I'll tell you the answer to that once you have skin privileges."
She froze at his touch and then jerked away to exit the car. When he joined her on the other side, she kept at least a foot of distance between them. He wanted to close that distance badly enough to scare himself. The enemy was starting to look far too enticing. The feel of her skin had been a jolt to the senses, the dark honey like warm gold brushed with velvet, sensuous and luscious.
The panther in him craved more, while the man... the man was starting to think that Sascha Duncan was unique, a Psy unlike any other. Whether that made her less dangerous or more remained to be seen. What was clear was that both panther and man were captivated by her.
Kit was waiting for them in the meeting room. "Hi, Lucas." At a fraction under six feet, the boy was tall but hadn't yet filled out. Not that it mattered at his age. With his rich auburn hair and dark blue eyes, he was never short of female company. But Lucas knew the juvenile was more than good looks - he had the scent of a future alpha.
"Sascha Duncan, meet Kit Monaghan."
Kit smiled in that way he'd already learned brought most women to their knees, all slow burn and promises of delight. "A pleasure."
Sascha nodded. "Do you have the designs?"
Lucas wanted to laugh at the crestfallen look on the boy's face. "Kit works part-time as a general assistant. Zara is the designer." He shrugged out of his jacket.
As he spoke her name, a small female with mocha skin and cloud gray eyes walked in through the door behind them. Sascha immediately shifted to avoid contact but the move was so unobtrusive that neither Zara nor Kit noticed.
"I'm sorry I'm late," Zara said. "The copying machine got stuck." She was holding rolled-up copies of several designs in her arms. Lucas helped her put them on the circular table and gestured for everyone to be seated.
Sascha took a seat to his left, with Zara to her left and Kit beside the designer. Lucas had noticed Sascha glance at Zara several times since she'd entered the room and so, apparently, had Zara. "If you have a problem working with me, tell me now." The petite woman wasn't one to keep silent.
Sascha didn't react in any physical way but he was sure he smelled confusion. "Why would I have trouble working with you? Are you unable to do your job?"
"I can do my job fine," Zara bit out. "Some people just don't like the fact that I'm a darker shade of brown."
"That reaction is based on nothing but human emotion. I'm not human." Sascha pushed up her jacket sleeve. "If it soothes you then please see that I'm also a... darker shade of brown." The beautiful rich honey of her skin seemed to glow even in the artificial light.
Lucas felt Kit's beast buck at the reins and couldn't blame the boy for wanting to touch. Sascha's skin was an invitation to the senses and now that he'd stroked it once, he found himself starving for more.
Zara laughed. "If you're not bothered by color, then why are you staring at me?"
"I'm not sure, but you don't appear to be a leopard."
Lucas froze. There was no way a Psy should've picked up on that. No way. Scenting another animal was a changeling trait. Precisely what the hell kind of Psy was Sascha? Had he brought a spy into his world while trying to infiltrate hers?
Zara didn't answer until he gave her a subtle nod. "I'm not. I'm a distant cousin - wildcat."
"Then why are you working in a leopard business?"
"Because she's the best there is." Lucas drew Sascha's attention back to him. Part of it was because he thought her far too dangerous to leave to anyone else. But part of it was because he didn't like her being fascinated by anyone or anything except him. Given his possessive nature, that could turn out to be a problem. A big one.