Nate was particularly proud of the crowning touch. Inspired by Tammy, he’d taken along a large Christmas ornament—an old-fashioned picture of the man in red and white—and hung it from the now useless comm tower. Then he’d wrapped a string of blinking multicolored lights around the metal skeleton.
He couldn’t wait to tell Tammy—she’d bust a gut over it. Taking on the Psy wasn’t usually a laughing matter, as the cold psychic race didn’t hesitate to kill. But from everything they had been able to unearth, it appeared that Solias King’s darker impulses were currently being curbed by his political aspirations. He couldn’t afford to come down hard on the changelings. Any violence and his own Council would turn against him.
Nate had no illusions that the Psy Council cared about changelings, but they damn well did care about their bottom line. And that would suffer massive depreciation if people thought the Psy were declaring a racial war. The Council would never allow such a panic to start over a small piece of land in the territory of what they considered a minor pack. Nate had a feeling DarkRiver wasn’t going to stay minor long, but until then, they could and would use the Council’s sense of arrogance to their advantage.
Shifting the second he cleared the doorway to his home, he pulled on a pair of jeans and an old cable-knit sweater. He had to see Tamsyn, no matter the ridiculously early hour. The royal blue sweater had been a gift from her. Maybe it would thaw her mood—she’d been more than a little distant when he’d dropped by this morning.
But his hopeful frame of mind disappeared the instant he got near her house—the area was blanketed in the scent of an unfamiliar male.
Unbidden, scenes of the carnage that had taken their last healer from them filled his mind. “Tammy!” He pounded on the door. “Tammy!”
The door swung open to reveal a young male. “Hel—” His voice cut off as Nate gripped him around the neck and lifted him off the floor.
“What have you done to her?” He tried to ignore the fact that the male was dressed only in a pair of pajama bottoms, his hair mussed.
I’m sick of stroking myself to sleep.
No, she wouldn’t do that to him. The agony he felt at the thought of Tammy, his Tammy, with anyone, much less this runt, was enough to call the beast to the surface. His eyes shifted to cat. He couldn’t hear anything through the pounding roar of blood in his head, was dangerously close to killing.
The single reason he didn’t do so was that his leopard suddenly started scrambling to find Tammy. He threw aside the other man and strode into the house, preparing himself for what he would find. If she was in bed—Something tore inside him.
He wouldn’t hurt her. He could never hurt her.
But that boy was going to die a slow, cruel death.
He shoved open the bedroom door…and found the bed made, with no signs of recent occupation.
“I slept on the couch,” a raspy voice said from the doorway.
He turned to find the stranger supporting himself against a wall, one hand rubbing at his throat. “Didn’t seem right to sleep in Tam’s bed.”
Tam? The leopard growled, harsh and vocal. “Who are you and what are you doing in my mate’s house?”
The other man’s eyes widened. “Mate? She never—” He slapped up his hands, palms out, when Nate started advancing. “I’m a healer. Name’s Finn.”
That stopped Nate midstep. Healers, even enemy healers, had automatic protection. Only blood-hungry packs like the ShadowWalkers broke that rule. “We already have a healer.” Claws raked his gut, twisted through his body like hard fire.
“She asked me to fly in and take over for a while.” Finn coughed a few times. “Said it might be permanent. Our pack’s got a senior healer and another apprentice, so they were happy to let me go.”
“I said we already have a healer.” Nate glared.
Finn didn’t back down. “Not anymore you don’t. She left.”
The beast wanted to lash out, to tear and scar. “Where did she go?”
The healer held up his hands a second time and Nate wondered what the other man had seen in his eyes. “I swear I don’t know. I figured she’d talked it over with your alpha—maybe a sabbatical or some extra training. She introduced me to him.”
Nate left on a mission to find Lachlan, but it was Lucas he ran into first. He would have pushed past except that Lucas stepped into his path and said, “Looking for Tammy?”
Nate stilled. “You knew she left?” At that moment, the first rays of the rising sun hit the tree line, throwing light across Lucas’s savage facial markings.
“Damn it, Luc. Answer the damn question.”
“Sure.” The juvenile folded his arms. “I heard her ask Nita to drive her out of the territory.”
The urge to grab Lucas and shake Tammy’s location out of him was so strong, Nate looked away and took a deep breath before saying, “And neither of you tried to stop her from leaving?”
“Why would we?” Lucas’s tone was hard. “You made her cry, Nathan. You made your mate cry and then you didn’t hold her.”
The blow hit him with bruising force. “Where is she, Lucas?”
“I don’t know—you could ask Nita, but I don’t think she’s around.” He glanced at the sun-touched trees. “I have to get to the Circle for training.”
Nate didn’t try to stop him from leaving, and was still standing there when Cian appeared out of the shadows. “Nate? You after Lachlan? I just left him—he’s free for the next half hour or so.”