"What happened? Is she injured?" His concern was as clear as it was unexpected.
"Did the Psy hurt her?" Tamsyn said from around Nate, who was refusing to let her pass. She kicked him but he didn't move. "Let me go, Nate. She's my friend."
"She was found unconscious in SnowDancer lands." Lucas took her to the huge wooden table in the center of the kitchen and laid her down.
"And she's alive?" Kit asked, incredulous. "Why didn't they tear her to pieces?"
"I told them she might just be our entry into the PsyNet." Lucas wondered if despite Nate and Dorian's vows mere hours ago, he was going to have to fight his own pack to protect her. It would rip him apart. His loyalty had always been to Pack. Only ever to Pack. Until now.
"What happened to her boot?" Nate frowned. "It looks like most of mine."
"That's because Julian decided it tasted good." Tamsyn finally succeeded in getting out from behind him but it was because Nate had let her go. The healer walked over to the table and placed her hands over Sascha's body before closing her eyes. She didn't open them for several minutes. "I've never had a Psy patient so I don't quite know how to read her patterns. From what I can see, she's in a deep, deep sleep. It's almost like a coma."
"Will she wake?" The panther's desperation was turning into a kind of numbed pain. If he'd only understood who she was to him earlier, she might not have been hurt.
"I don't know."
"Could this have been an attack against her by the Psy?" Lucas looked at her lying there and suddenly realized how fragile she was. The Psy were physically much more delicate than changelings but they made up for it with the powers of their mind. Take that away and they were the most breakable of beings.
"It's possible but she's simply too different for me to make an accurate judgment." Tamsyn pushed back the tendrils of hair escaping Sascha's braid and looked at Lucas. "Why would they attack her and leave her alive?"
"Why would a Psy program her car to go into the most dangerous territory in the state?"
No one had any answers.
Since the beds in the house were taken, it was decided to leave Sascha on the table where Tamsyn and the sentinels could keep an eye on her throughout the night. They found some blankets and placed them under her, along with a pillow for her head. Lucas covered her with a soft throw after removing her boots.
"Let her sleep." Tamsyn checked Sascha's pulse. "If she doesn't stir by tomorrow, then... I don't know what we'll do. Do we call the Psy? What if they're the ones who did this?" She shook her head and leaned against Nate. "Would Sascha want them to see her like this?"
Lucas didn't answer. He should've been concentrating on the safety of his pack but his attention was on the female lying before him. She was in a world he couldn't enter, a woman he couldn't protect. Just like he hadn't been able to protect another woman he'd loved.
Even after all this time, he couldn't remember his mother's laughter without remembering her screams. Young and weak, he'd watched her fall in a fury of claws and teeth, watched the brilliant light of her life splutter out. Vengeance had cooled the blazing anger inside him but Lucas knew the scars were for always, markers to the lost lives of his healer mother and sentinel father. Those scars had hardened him, but today he'd discovered that they couldn't protect against everything.
Sascha had somehow become firmly lodged inside him, a vibrant presence in the heart of hearts where only a mate could go. Now her light, too, was flickering in a storm he couldn't block, danger he couldn't even see. His helplessness devastated him. He was furious at fate for giving him a mate he couldn't keep safe. Perhaps that was why he'd been willfully blind to a truth the panther had known from the start - he hadn't wanted to suffer as he'd done once before, hadn't wanted to bleed his heart's blood.
"You will wake up," he ordered in a harsh whisper, his voice holding the rough edge of a growl. He had no intention of losing what he'd barely found.
Hours passed. They watched. They waited. Birds began to wake but no Psy swooped down on them. It appeared the SnowDancers had kept their word and that whatever had happened to Sascha, it hadn't been because the Council had learned she was helping them.
Nervous mothers started to relax but the soldiers remained on high alert. Just as the sky began to lighten, Sascha stirred. Lucas ordered everyone but Nate and Tamsyn out of the kitchen.
Her eyes opened and she stared up at the ceiling for several seconds before sitting up. "How did I get here?"
"The SnowDancers found you in their territory and I brought you here." He wanted to bare his teeth and mark her. Now that he understood, he had no desire to fight the primitive urges of his beast.
"What? I was supposed to stop in your lands." She went to push back her hair and froze. "You undid my braid."
"Yes." The single word was full of possessiveness.
She looked bewildered and it was the first time he'd ever seen any Psy look that way. "May I have some water?"
Tamsyn was already holding out a glass. Taking it from her, Sascha drank it down. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Tamsyn took the glass back and her eyes met Lucas's. "Maybe I should check on the others."
Nate frowned but heard the message. A minute later, Lucas was alone in the kitchen with Sascha. Leaning forward, he did something he'd been aching to do since she'd woken. He lifted her up into his arms and sat down in a chair with her cradled in his embrace.
She froze. "What are you doing?"