Sascha let go of his shoulder and turned to look at Lucas, a silent plea in her eyes. He shook his head. No one could help Dorian until he was willing.
"Ready to go?" Lucas asked.
She smoothed a hand over her suit, which Tamsyn had ironed for her, and nodded. "Yes." Fear crawled in from the corners of her mind. Enrique had likely left his spies around. He'd find her the second she walked back in. "I need to have something to give them since I was supposedly with you overnight. They'll expect me to have learned at least one fact."
Lucas walked closer and though he wasn't touching her, she felt the pressure of his presence. It was as if her body knew his, as if it was reaching out to embrace him though they'd only ever kissed once. Looking into that savage face with its slashing marker, she wondered whether he could see into the torment of her heart.
"Can you stall?" He touched his finger to her cheek, running it down her neck before sliding his hand over her arm to link their fingers together.
Dorian moved to stand in front of them. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm supposed to be a spy," Sascha said, frayed enough to be blunt. "Part of my mission was to gather as much firsthand information about changelings as I could, and feed it to my mother and Councilor Enrique."
"How do we know you haven't been doing exactly that?" demanded a female voice from the doorway.
Sascha met Rina's hostile gaze. "You don't. You have no way of tracking the PsyNet."
The blonde came to a standstill, beside Dorian. "No lies, Psy?" Her eyes flicked nervously to Lucas even as she spoke.
Lucas's fingers tightened on Sascha's hand. "Are you questioning my judgment, Rina?"
"Are you sure you have any?" Rina's voice held defiance. "You brought a Psy into our safe house and you knew she was a mole!"
"Be quiet, Rina." Dorian's voice was harsh.
The other woman clenched her fists. "What? I'm not allowed to ask questions anymore?"
Lucas let go of Sascha's hand. "There's a fine line between asking questions and going too far."
"I have a right to know what's going on." Rina's eyes were trained on Lucas, no longer interested in Sascha. They all knew who the most dangerous person in the room was and he was concentrating solely on Rina.
"No, you don't." There was no mercy in Lucas's response. "You were made a soldier earlier this year. Your rank is so low you shouldn't even be part of this conversation."
Sascha was stunned by the flatness of that declaration. She'd never heard Lucas sound so autocratic, almost cruel. He'd clearly hit Rina where it hurt - her pride. As she watched, Dorian moved to flank his alpha. Rina was left alone on the other side.
"Lucas," Rina began, her voice shaky, "why are you being like this?"
"Because you've shown me that being soft on you was a mistake." He gripped her chin between his fingertips. "You haven't earned the right to speak to me like you just did. Do you understand?"
Rina's eyes welled up. For the first time, Sascha realized how young the female was, something her boldness had masked. Feeling sorry for her, she tried to move forward, but Lucas's furious glance stopped her in midstep. He turned back to look at Rina.
"You're a low-rank soldier," he repeated. "Your job is to follow orders. Dorian, where is Rina supposed to be?"
"Standing watch on the left side of the house with Barker." Dorian's tone was considerably harsher than Lucas's, a whip of vibrating anger.
"So you can't even follow orders." Lucas let go of the girl's chin. "Do you think we posted you there for fun?"
Mute, Rina shook her head. Sascha could feel waves of humiliation and shock coming off the girl. That alone told her neither of the men had ever before spoken to her like this. Unable to remain silent any longer, she said, "I think that's enough."
"Stay out of this." The markings on Lucas's face stood out in stark relief. "This is Pack business."
Her hurt at the clear exclusion was beyond proportion. "Do you usually rule by humiliation?"
"This isn't the perfect, clean world of the Psy. Cruelty is sometimes necessary." He looked back at Rina. "This isn't the first time you've disobeyed a direct order. You want to be independent that much, I'll let you walk away from DarkRiver."
Rina shook her head. "No." It was a whisper.
"Then do the job you're supposed to." He glanced at Dorian. "She's under your command as of now. Don't sleep with her like Barker did. It's obviously affected his ability to treat her like a soldier."
"Don't worry. Spoiled little girls aren't my type."
Sascha saw the girl's face turn bright red and her lower lip start to tremble. "Stop it, both of you."
"Dorian, take Rina and close the door behind you."
Without a word, the other two leopards left. Sascha waited until the door was closed to speak her mind. "How could you do that to her? Nothing she said was bad enough to merit that ritual shredding of her pride."
"She questioned my authority." He reached out to touch her face but she pulled away. His jaw tightened.
"No one has the right to do that? You're protected from scrutiny?"
"There are men and women in this pack who've bled for me, who've followed orders to walk into dangerous territory without a single question. They've earned the right to say what they think about me." Anger flickered in the green of his eyes. "Vaughn, Clay, Mercy, Tammy, Dorian, Nate, Desiree, Cian, Jamie, and even that idiot Barker are some of the ones who have the right to question my decisions. Rina doesn't."