And no Nathan.
Her eyes, which had started to close, snapped open. “No,” she whispered fiercely. She would not, could not, live in a world where Nathan didn’t exist. He might make her cry as much as he made her laugh, but she couldn’t imagine waking up one day and having emptiness where he was.
She didn’t know much about how and why the Psy race had stopped feeling, but it had to have been a terrible thing that had driven them down this path. Her healer’s soul ached for them—for the love they would never touch, but she knew she couldn’t help them. Not when they barricaded themselves in their high-rises, their minds shut to the possibility of hope.
It’s why the Psy rule this planet.
Tamsyn shook her head. The stranger was wrong. The Psy might rule, but their world was limited to towers of steel and glass. They knew nothing of the joy of running under a full moon and listening to the music played by the wind, of feeling the sensation of a packmate’s fur against human skin, of the sheer life that existed in the forests that were her world.
But the woman had been right about one thing—how could you miss something you had never experienced? Nathan had never been hers. Their beasts might cry out for each other, but if the human half of Nathan chose to repudiate that bond, who was she to stop him?
SHE LEFT THE NEXT DAY. THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY. IF SHE remained within reach, Nathan’s beast would eventually push him over the edge. And she couldn’t bear to lie with him knowing their intimacy was nothing more than the result of a physical compulsion. It would be a glimpse into her own personal vision of hell.
Her friend, Finn, was more than happy to fly in on short notice.
“The healer in our pack’s not even forty, so I’m not going to get to do anything serious for a while,” he told her when she met him at the airport and escorted him into their territory. DarkRiver wasn’t known for its friendliness toward unknown males. They couldn’t afford to be, not after the attack by the ShadowWalkers.
“I know,” she said. “That’s why I asked you rather than Maria.”
He gave her a smile but his eyes were watchful. “I appreciate it.”
She ignored the unasked question. “I’m going to introduce you to the alpha. He knows you’re coming, of course, but the hierarchy has to be maintained.” The laws of rank and hierarchy were there for a reason—they balanced the predatory nature of their animal halves with order.
Finn nodded. “I’ll feel better once he adopts me into DarkRiver. It wouldn’t do for one of your pack to slice me up because they figured me for an intruder.”
Since she thought the same, she made sure to take him to Lachlan first thing. Even with that delay, she was ready to be on her way out of DarkRiver territory by late afternoon. “Take care of my people, Finn.”
The twenty-one-year-old healer didn’t bother to conceal his worry this time. “What about you, Tam? Who’s looking after you?”
“I’ll be fine.” She tightened her hands around the straps of her bag. “It might be permanent, you know that, right?”
“Yes.” He stroked his hand over her hair, offering comfort in the changeling way. “But it shouldn’t be. You were born to be DarkRiver’s healer.”
“I can work with another leopard pack.” But Nathan couldn’t be replaced. Not when it was clear that Lachlan was preparing Lucas to step into his role as alpha sooner rather than later. When the time came, Lucas would need to rely on Nate’s experience and rock-solid advice. “Try it here,” she made herself say. “If everything works out…”
“No rush.” Finn’s tone was gentle. “I’ll hold your place until you come to your senses. Then I’ll happily return to the civilized world of our territory instead of this jungle.”
She smiled at his joking, but as she walked away, she had the sick feeling she might never return. When she neared the fir she’d strung with Christmas decorations and lights, her eyes stung. “I’m sorry, Shayla,” she whispered to the ghost that reproached her for leaving her pack when it still needed her.
They would be okay, she told herself. She’d started them on the road to healing. All they had to do was follow it. Tempting as it was to pass by quickly, she made herself look up. There was the ornament Vaughn had painted, right next to the one by Cian. Around them wove the string of lights Nate had hung after he’d growled at her for putting her fool neck in danger. And there was the star she’d almost thrown at him, she’d been so mad.
“Oh God.” Blinking, she looked away…and kept walking.
NATE RETURNED HOME CLOSE TO DAWN, COMING FROM A night raid to “suggest” Solias King look elsewhere for his development. The damn, encroaching Psy would follow their advice, of that Nate was certain. Even in leopard form, he wanted to grin.
He’d stood watch for hours as Cian and a couple of others with tech training had methodically taken apart every piece of Psy equipment already onsite. While that might have been enough, Nate had gone a step further and buried several of the most expensive pieces in a section of DarkRiver land that bordered SnowDancer territory. No Psy would dare venture that close to wolf land. The feral pack had a reputation for ripping out intruders’ throats and using the bleached-out bones as fence posts.
Just in case Solias King missed their point even after all that, they had also removed the semi permanent survey markers and disabled the rudimentary comm tower erected a few days ago. It was why DarkRiver had allowed the thing to go up in the first place—so they could destroy it, and in a fashion that made it clear they would brook no further trespass on their lands.