"I want to speak to her," Sascha said.
Both men spoke simultaneously, Lucas with the protective instincts of a mate and Vaughn with those of a sentinel. Sascha rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You two still haven't figured it out, have you? I'm never going to turn tame."
"Neither of you knows how to deal with her, how to ask the questions that need to be asked. Vaughn probably terrified her into silence anyway." She turned those night-sky eyes on him.
"Psy don't feel fear." But her wrist had been very delicate under his teeth. "She's much smaller than you." And despite her height, Sascha was already fragile in comparison to the changelings.
Sascha nodded. "That would fit if she really is one of the F-Psy. Let's go. And don't even argue about it."
The low growl came from Lucas. Vaughn wisely left the room and went out onto the platform, using the chance to get out of his jeans - leaving the watch tucked safety inside - and shift. He was waiting there when Lucas and Sascha exited.
"Head out and scout the area. Sascha and I will be behind you in the car." Lucas didn't sound pleased and Vaughn couldn't blame him. "If you scent anything, let Sascha know."
Vaughn nodded. Sascha was now connected to the sentinels through the Web of Stars, a mental network that Vaughn wasn't completely comfortable with, but which did have its uses. Though they couldn't communicate telepathically, they could send each other emotions, feelings. That in itself made it different enough from the PsyNet to calm his more aggressive instincts.
With a further nod, he jumped off the aerie and onto the ground. The night air rushed past him in a cool caress and then the earth was soft under the pads of his paws. He began to run.
Faith had no concrete idea of how much time had passed since the cat had taken her watch. But she estimated that it had been two hours at least, maybe three. What if he had no intention of coming back? She took a deep breath and told herself to focus. If he didn't return, she'd get back in the car and drive on. Then it struck her that if the cat was intelligent enough to have stopped the vehicle, he was probably smart enough to have put it out of commission.
Something rustled to her right and she hunched closer over her bag, but when nothing happened, she allowed herself to relax. Strangely enough, though this was an unfamiliar place and situation, she was far more comfortable here than she would've been in a city. The rare times that she'd visited cities, she'd come away feeling bruised on the mental plane - as if she'd been under constant attack. Those experiences had always made her home seem more haven than prison.
She turned her head to scan the area again and felt every muscle in her body lock tight. Feral eyes looked calmly into hers. If she'd been human, she might've fainted. As it was, containing her reaction took every ounce of her control. "You're very quiet," she said, blindingly aware of the lethal danger scant inches away. "I guess it's one of the benefits of being a leopard."
A low, deep growl.
"I don't understand." What had she said to provoke that aggressive reaction?
Suddenly, the leopard loped off and she was left alone again. "Wait!" But he was gone. Logic stated she should get up and start walking. Sooner or later, she'd run into another member of DarkRiver. Leaving her pack on the ground, she stood and took a couple of steps in the same direction as the cat, hoping to see a path.
A hand closed around her neck and a hard male body pressed against her back, a line of living fire. She went completely motionless. He might be human now, but she knew with every ounce of her being that this was the same predator who'd growled at her a second before. The hand around her neck wasn't the least bit painful, but she felt the power in it, understood that he could crush her windpipe without effort.
"I am not a leopard," he said into her ear, and the sound was so rough she wondered if he'd come back fully from the animal.
"Oh." Her mistake was no surprise - she knew less than nothing about the reality of changelings. Her world had never been one where they intruded. "I apologize for offending you."
"Aren't you curious what I am?"
"Yes." She was also curious about his human face. "Can I turn around?"
His soft chuckle vibrated along her body and demanded her complete attention. "It's not that dark, Red - I didn't have any clothes with me."
It took a few moments for her brain to work through that statement. The second she did, she became hyperconscious of the sheer heat of the body aligned so closely to her own. The part of her that craved new experiences wanted to turn, but she knew that would be sheer foolishness. This man was hardly likely to indulge her intellectual curiosity about his body. He'd almost bitten off her head for daring to call him the wrong species.
"Please let go."
The flat no took her by surprise. Nobody said no to her, not like that. They always tried to couch it in more polite terms. That treatment may have kept her cooperative and rational, but it had also left her no tools with which to deal with the hard reality of a world where people didn't follow the accepted rules of behavior. "Why?"
She raised her own hand to the one he had around her neck and tugged. No movement. The message was clear. He wasn't going to hurt her, but neither was he going to budge. "If you're not a leopard," she said, deciding to attempt a civilized conversation, "then what are you? You're in DarkRiver territory and according to my information, it's a leopard pack."