The cushions had been designed by Tara, a packmate. Meant to accommodate leopard bodies as well as human, there really was no way to sit stiffly in them.
Pleased by the liquid softness of her limbs, he smiled. "Grab a piece. I'll get the coffee."
"No coffee for me."
"I don't... require it."
As he poured the coffee, he thought back over that small hesitation. Had she been about to say that she didn't like the taste of coffee? Or was he trying to convince himself of things that didn't exist in order to justify this inappropriate attraction?
He was alpha, used to putting the pack above everything. This hunger for Sascha was a threat to that loyalty, a temptation that might lead to sleeping with the worst sort of enemy. But walking away wasn't an option - he'd never been a quitter and he was determined to find out what lay beneath that hard Psy shell.
All their lives might depend upon it.
Sascha was sitting in the same position when he returned. Putting her water and his coffee beside the pizza, he took a slice and deliberately collapsed on the same sofa she'd chosen, letting his body lie loosely against the cushion a scant couple of inches from hers. "Give it a try." He raised the slice to her mouth.
She hesitated and then took a small bite. "What flavor is this?"
He shrugged. "Mexican, I think." Taking a big bite, he watched her face as she analyzed the textures. Or was she savoring them? He raised it to her mouth again. "Bite."
Those eerie eyes seem to flash. "I'm not one of your pack to be given orders."
Temper, temper, he thought, the panther in him intrigued by that hint of fire. "Please."
After another small pause, she leaned forward and bit. This time she took more... and confirmed every one of his beliefs about her. Demolishing the rest of the piece, he picked up another one. She ate a good third.
"Yes, thank you." She reached for her water. "Do you want your coffee?"
"Thanks." The mug was warm in his hands but it was the heat of her that he could feel most strongly. Her body was alive. Her body felt. Her body knew sensation. The crucial question was, was her mind strong enough to overpower her animal instincts?
They sat quietly until Sascha put down her water and turned to him. "Tell me about the murders."
A chill cooled the heat of his body. Getting rid of his own empty mug, he dropped his head against the cushion back. "We've tracked down seven confirmed victims in the past three years. Kylie was number eight. And Brenna, the SnowDancer who was taken, will be the ninth if we don't find her in time."
"So many?" It was a whisper.
"Yeah. But my gut says we haven't tagged all of his past kills - he's too good at this."
"Are you sure it's a man?"
He clenched his fists hard enough to hurt. "Yes."
"Why haven't you done more to track him down?"
"Kylie was murdered six months ago. At the time, we didn't know it was a serial and, given the clear evidence of Psy involvement, we thought Enforcement would quickly close the case. We gave them no problems regarding jurisdiction - we wanted blood but we didn't want war with the Psy.
"We were willing to settle for an Enforcement prosecution." It had nearly ripped the hearts out of them but they'd done it for the sake of their young. Dorian's rage hadn't been so great that he'd forgotten the vow he'd made simply by being born - to protect the vulnerable. "We understood that one monster didn't define a whole race. Even changelings sometimes spawn serial killers." Though they had them in the fewest numbers of the three races.
"Everyone believed the Council would launch a hunt on the PsyNet and hand over the culprit. With your psychic skills, there'd be no question of his guilt. Until then the Council had done some questionable things, but no one thought they'd protect a killer."
Sascha's body seemed to curl up further, as if she were trying to hug herself. "What have you learned about him since you started searching?"
"He hunts widely. Of the kills we've tracked, the first two were in Nevada, the third in Oregon, the remaining four in Arizona. The last was Dorian's sister." He would never forget the coppery smell of innocent blood, the darkness of the splatters on the walls, the metallic stink of the Psy.
"He left bodies to find?"
He sat upright, arms crossed over bent knees, one hand grasping the wrist of the other in a punishing grip. "The bastard takes them, tortures them, and then returns them to some place that should've been safe."
"I don't understand." Sascha's voice was nearer, as if she'd moved forward when he had.
Looking over, he met those night-sky eyes head-on. "He delivers the killing blows in a place familiar to the women. Kylie's throat was slashed in her apartment."
Darkness crawled across Sascha's eyes, destroying the stars and almost succeeding in shocking him out of his fury. He'd heard that Psy eyes did that when they were expending huge amounts of Psy power but he'd never seen it happen. It was like watching the wings of the night close out the sun. The strange thing was, the hairs on the back of his neck weren't tingling in awareness. If Sascha wasn't using her powers, why were her eyes going midnight?
"He's very sure of himself," she said, shoving him back from fascination to fury.
"Of the other seven women," he continued, "one was murdered in her home, one at her place of work, another in her family crypt." Anger for each senseless death rippled through him. "The other four follow the same pattern."