"Nothing major," she said. "I wanted to know if you could cover my grid two Fridays from now. I have a late shindig." Mercy worked for CTX, a communications network funded by DarkRiver and SnowDancer in concert. It was a good position for a sentinel - work took a backseat to Pack business and management fully understood. Possibly because management was made up of wolves and cats.
"How's it going with your latest piece?"
"It's done." He'd already begun a new project. A sculpture in marble of a woman who was passion and heat, temptation and mystery. "If you run into Barker, can you tell him it's ready for pickup?"
Mercy nodded, her red hair blowing softly in the wind. The color reminded him of Faith, though his Psy's hair was darker, more like ripe cherries. "Will do." She waved goodbye. "Catch you later."
Vaughn decided to run part of the watch in human form - his speed and strength were more than enough to take on most intruders. As he moved, he considered his new piece. He knew it would be stunning, the best he'd ever done. He also knew he'd never sell it.
The forest zipped past him as he ran, his mind on the curving lines of a woman with night-sky eyes. But he wasn't so distracted that he missed the blur of leopard yellow where there should have been only forest. Backtracking, he followed the scent to find two cubs engaged in a- mock battle. His growl had them splitting apart and staring at him. They knew they were in big trouble.
"I thought I heard Tamsyn say you were going to spend today with Sascha." He folded his arms across his chest, wondering how Tamsyn - DarkRiver's healer and the cubs' mother - dealt with her double dose of trouble without tearing out her hair. "What are you doing way out here?" Cubs were curious by nature - it wasn't unusual for them to wander off while exploring, and they were safe within Dark-River lands. But they still needed limits. And the first rule was, no moving more than a mile outside the home they were supposed to be in.
The cubs dropped on their bellies and mewed, trying to charm their way out of this.
"I'm not Sascha or your mother," he told them, though he was amused. These two would make good soldiers when they grew up. They'd also attract women the same way Kit, one of the older juveniles, currently did. "Let's go."
Getting up, they started to pad their way in front of him. Identical twins in human form, Julian and Roman were identical in cat form, too. Only those who knew them very well could distinguish one from the other. Vaughn had always been able to do so, perhaps because his beast was so close to the surface. Herding them back into the safe zone, he crouched down to their level. "You know the rules. They're for your protection and to ensure the women don't go insane." That was no lie. The maternal females were already driven to the brink by some of the stunts the cubs and juveniles pulled. "You want Sascha to go nuts looking for you?"
Small shakes of kittenish heads.
"Then stay in the perimeter." He knew Sascha could track the twins using her psychic gifts, but that didn't alter the rules.
One small clawed paw scratched at his arm. Another joined it on the other side of his body. He chuckled. "No, I'm not that mad. Come on, let's go tell Sascha you're okay." Shifting, he allowed them to playfight with him for a few minutes before he escorted them back to the aerie from which they'd made their escape. Sascha was standing at the foot of the tree.
"I think I'm going to put a leash on you two," she said, sounding very, very sure and very, very Psy. "And didn't I say something about turning you into rats if you misbehaved?"
Both cubs froze.
"What do you think, Vaughn?"
He nodded in agreement. Julian looked at him like he was a traitor and Roman tried to hide behind a tree. Laughing, Sascha picked Roman up by the scruff of his neck and kissed his furry face. Julian ran over and started growling for attention. As she scooped him up, Sascha nodded at Vaughn. "Thanks for finding the Terrible Twosome. I swear, I turn my back for a second and they're gone."
He made a deep, throaty sound to let her know that was alright.
"I'm working with Zara on a revised plan for one of the new houses in the complex," she told him, referring to their outside-Pack design consultant. "Apparently the wolves aren't happy." When he snarled, she smiled. "Yes, I know. Damn wolves. You're as bad as each other, not one of you ready to fully embrace the new treaty."
Julian and Roman wiggled in her arms and she looked down. "Okay, okay. We're going into town to meet Lucas and Nate." At the mention of Nate, their father, the cubs got excited. "I've got clothes for you two little beasties in the car."
As Vaughn was about to turn to leave, Sascha said, "How is she?"
He shook his head. Faith was nowhere near where he needed her to be. And he wasn't comfortable with admitting he needed anyone that deeply.
Faith had just produced a lucrative forecast for FireFly Industries when her comm console chimed. She used her remote to flick it on, but the call was cut off before she could speak. Shrugging, she put it down to an incorrect code and got off the chair. "I'm going for a walk," she said to the M-Psy on this shift. "Tell the patrols not to approach me." It was the same request she made after every time she had a particularly strong forecast. Her Psy senses always seemed to function at a higher level following such visions. She ended up hearing everything around her, including chatter from the guards' supposedly shielded minds.
However, today she felt none of the usual hypersensitiv-ity, was in fact in total control in spite of what had happened the previous night. And she wanted privacy to think about why that might be. Deciding that her simple ankle-length dress would do, she stepped out into the cool afternoon air.