"How did you figure that?"
"I'm not stupid, Vaughn. It's clear there's some type of psychic connection between the two of them." She dropped her chin onto hands folded atop her knees. "I can almost touch it, but not quite. It's as if it's something outside the Net but brushes by it."
Every one of his senses went on high alert. If the Psy could pick up the Web that connected the alpha pair to their sentinels, DarkRiver would lose one of its crucial tactical advantages. However, if Faith was unusual, it begged the question why. He had a very good idea of the answer, but the cat never pounced before it was completely certain of success. That was what made him such an efficient hunter.
"And if I were able to bring you out of the Net, do you think you could take me on?" He pressed the pads of his fingers a touch harder against her lower back.
Her spine stiffened. "Don't push me, cat."
It was the first time she'd really clawed at him. Intrigued, he spread his palm and slid it up to the curve of her ribs. Her br**sts were so close he was having a hell of a time keeping himself from stroking even higher. "Or what?"
"You don't want to find out."
"Maybe I do." Moving with the animal speed of his kind, he had her flat on her back with him braced above her before she could reply. Her eyes flashed velvet black and then streaks of silver began to tear jagged lines through the rich darkness. "What the hell - ?" That was when he spied the giant wolf in one corner of the room. The clearly rabid creature was crouching down in preparation for attack.
Jaguar instincts took over.
Shoving Faith to the side, he pounced soundlessly toward the wolf. .. and went straight through it. Only his agility saved him from making a racket as he landed hard on the carpet. The awareness of soft feminine laughter, so low that he could barely catch it, the sound rusty and unused, had him narrowing his eyes as he stood. "Very funny." He met the silver-black gaze of the woman sprawled on the bed watching him, dark red hair falling around a face she'd propped up on her hands. He didn't think he'd ever seen a more beautiful sight. Immediately, the sexually hungry cat in him amended that - if she were naked, that would be even better.
"Did you beat the bad puppy?" she asked.
He knew she didn't even realize what was happening. She'd laughed and now she was teasing. Would the change last or would she try to bury it? Not that Vaughn had any intention of letting her choose option two. "Illusions? Don't you need to get into my mind for that?" And his mind was changeling, nearly impossible for a Psy to mess with.
"I'm better than that," Faith said, no hint of arrogance in her tone. "My illusions are concrete in the sense that if a camera had been present in the room, it, too, would've seen the wolf."
He prowled over to her and had the pleasure of watching those amazing lightning-shot eyes flicker and then shiver to a black that was somehow softer than the pure darkness in them after the visions. Going down on his knees beside the bed, he slid his hands under her hair and cupped her face. "You feel like woman." My woman.
Dipping his head, he kissed her. It was a chaste kiss from his perspective, a mere taste when he wanted to gorge, but she whimpered and clung to him. For all of five seconds. Then she pulled away. He swore under his breath, the language rough and explicit. This was not going to work if Faith couldn't bear anything more than an innocent kiss - touch was the cornerstone of what he was.
After that week he'd spent in the wild as a child, the only way the DarkRiver leopards had been able to make him respond was by surrounding him in touch. His first month in the pack, he'd slept in cat form, surrounded by other furred bodies. Deprived of touch, he tended to get more and more aggressive, more and more feral, the cat in him rising to the surface until the man was buried deep. Pack usually helped, but these days, he wanted someone else's strokes, "Vaughn." Faith made her voice very submissive, extremely nonconfrontational. "Vaughn, your claws are out." She could feel them against the skin of her scalp and face and she was terrified enough to admit it. Her reaction came from a primitive self that had existed before Silence, before civilization. All it cared about was survival... at any cost.
A shock wave of psychic power would stun the predator holding her prisoner, but might possibly cause permanent damage. She couldn't bear the thought of that. "Don't hurt me, Vaughn." She deliberately used his name again. "I need to feel safe with you." Irrational as it was, she did feel that way even now.
He'd gone cat on her, but those claws were pressed so lightly against her skin they didn't even threaten to bruise, much less cut. However, she knew that control was a fine edge and, right now, the jaguar in Vaughn's eyes was walking the thinnest part of it. "You'll never forgive yourself if you hurt me."
"I would never hurt you." His voice was a guttural sound caught between humanity and the animal within. "Touch me."
About to refuse, she stopped herself. Why was he making that request at this moment? She was smart, she could figure this out. Suppressing her body's instinctive fight-or-flight response, she closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe in a pattern meant to foster mental clarity. The scent of Vaughn rushed into her, wild and earthy, but it somehow had a centering effect on her chaotic thought processes. Why would a changeling demand touch when so out of control? Logic stated it was because he believed it would help reestablish discipline. And if logic was wrong?
"I'm trusting you." Excruciatingly aware of his unsheathed claws, she moved with slow precision and brushed her lips over his. He felt hot, primal, unapologetically male. Her mind started to misfire almost immediately. Tonight had pushed her too far even before Vaughn had gone cat on her. Her brain screamed that she was on the verge of a meltdown. Too bad. She would not let Vaughn down. He'd brought her out of her nightmare - she could do no less for him.