Sascha wasn't repulsed by the violence. It was far more palatable to her than the hypocrisy of the Psy, who let killers roam free while championing their peaceful image. At least the changelings were honest. At least they loved enough to hunger for vengeance. All the Psy hungered for was power.
"Five years later," Tamsyn said, wrenching Sascha out of her bleak thoughts, " Lachlan, our ruling alpha, stepped down in favor of Lucas. The sentinels vowed their blood oath without hesitation." She shook her head. "He was only twenty-three. Most leopards are barely mature at that age but Lucas was already tougher than any of the other males."
"He was honed in fire." Sascha thought of the pain that had created Lucas and mourned for the boy who'd never had a chance to be a youth. What must it have been like to grow up in the shadow of his parents' blood?
"Do you understand?" Tamsyn looked into Sascha's eyes.
"Yes." Tears fell in her most secret heart - she didn't yet know how to cry in the open.
The healer wasn't convinced. "The ShadowWalkers kept him tied up. They made him watch his father being tortured before turning on him. The things they did... Don't ask him to be the one who anchors you."
Don't ask him to watch you die while he stands helpless.
"He'll volunteer." Sascha knew what kind of a man Lucas was, what kind of a leader.
"Then stop him. Tell him he won't do. I'll take his place." Raw pain darkened Tamsyn's eyes.
Sascha nodded but they both knew that turning Lucas from his chosen path was an almost impossible task.
In spite of her mental exhaustion, she was lying awake in bed when she felt his presence nearby. A minute later, he pushed open the bedroom door and closed it behind him, treating her room as his territory.
She knew that to let him have his way would only reinforce his already autocratic tendencies, but she also knew that her chance of surviving her impending mental collapse, trap or no trap, was close to nil. Either she'd flame out or the Council's mercenaries would hunt her down after her shields failed.
Time was rushing out from between her desperately cupped hands - she didn't want to pretend not to adore him tonight. Quite simply, he was everything she'd ever dreamed of and never dared to touch.
In the soft darkness he was all masculine prowl as he got into bed beside her, lying atop the blankets while she lay below, barely dressed in an old T-shirt that Tamsyn had found. She'd given it to Sascha with an odd comment: "No other scent will pacify him."
He put one arm over her body. "I want to be na**d under those sheets with you."
She felt herself blush and gloried in finally being able to just "be." Death was certain. She might as well enjoy the life she had left. "Is that how you usually woo prospective lovers?" She was teasing; this felt right, as if she'd been loving him forever.
He nuzzled at her neck, one hand moving up the sheet to clasp hers as it lay open beside her head. "Only women who already know my body inside out, who know my every desire, my every pleasure point. Only you."
Her heart threatened to stop beating. "What are you talking about?"
"You've loved me in my dreams, kitten. What about in reality?" He raised his head and those cat eyes glowed eerily.
For an instant, she was completely fascinated. "Do your eyes always do that in the dark?"
"No." Leaning down, he nipped at her lower lip, startling her... pleasuring her. "I just don't want to miss even an inch of your body." He tugged at the blanket.
She pulled it back up. "I'm not responsible for your dreams."
He spoke against her lips. "Do you know my favorite part?" Not waiting for her response, he said, "It was where you tasted me. I've never orgasmed so hard in my life. I was mad as hell to wake up and find myself alone."
Sascha couldn't breathe. It was suddenly far too hot. Pushing at the confining blanket, she shoved it down, helped along by Lucas. Too late she realized that her legs were now bare to her upper thighs. It didn't matter. Only the dreams mattered.
"How could you have seen my dreams?" she whispered. They'd been her most secret, most precious treasure. In those dreams she'd been who she might've been had she not lived the life of a Psy.
"You invited me in." He sat up above her with his knees on either side of her thighs. As she watched, dry-mouthed, he raised his black T-shirt over his head and threw it to the floor. "Do you know what I like?"
Without stopping to think, she scraped her nails down the hot steel of his abdomen. Hard. He purred and she froze. "I don't know how I did it - it wasn't intentional." She'd never have had the courage to taste him if she'd thought him real.
"You're a cardinal Psy." When she didn't continue to pet him, he raised her fingers and nibbled at them in playful warning. Her stomach filled with a thousand butterflies. Tugging her hand away, she tried to sit up. He wouldn't let her. "No, kitten. I like you like that." He braced himself on his palms beside her and sniffed at her neck like some great hunting beast.
Which was exactly what he was.
Then he did something utterly unexpected and mind-blowingly sensual. Giving her no warning, he moved his head and bit her nipple gently through the T-shirt. Her back arched. A scream threatened to rip from her throat. Instead of letting go, he sucked hard, making her mindless with lust. By the time he released her, his knees were on the inside of her thighs and he was slowly spreading her open.
"You smell of me," he growled against her throat, giving her a quick lick. "All over, you smell of me."
She moaned. "Wh-what?"