Even if she couldn’t heal herself.
Her eyes narrowed at the self-pitying thought. “Snap out of it,” she ordered herself. Sulking be damned—she would not let Nate’s idiocy ruin this Christmas for her. And she was going to make sure he knew it.
SOLIAS KING WAS A TP-PSY, A TELEPATH WITH A GRADIENT 8 ability. That meant he was strong enough to use mind control should he ever decide to. Solias had done so before—politics didn’t allow for such niceties as high moral principles.
His current plans, too, would have been far easier to implement had he been able to utilize his telepathic abilities to coerce and persuade. Unfortunately, changelings had rock-solid natural shields. He might be able to turn one of them—and that with considerable effort—but he couldn’t control the entire DarkRiver pack. “But it shouldn’t be necessary.”
“What, sir?” his aide and son, Kinshasa Lhosa, asked.
“Nothing of note.” Solias turned. “Do you have the details?”
“Yes.” Kinshasa passed them over. Despite his youth, the eighteen-year-old was extremely efficient. Solias had made a good investment when he’d entered into a reproduction contract with the Gradient 7 Tp-Psy who was Kinshasa’s mother. Both Kinshasa and the second child from the contract were high Gradient minds, powerful in their respective abilities.
“Give me a précis.”
Kinshasa spoke from memory, his dark skin unlined. “The land in question is perfect for your needs. You can locate a small comm station and office there, then use it as a base for further expansion.”
“The leopard pack?” Solias didn’t trust Kinshasa—he trusted no one, blood relative or not. But the boy was undoubtedly good at research. “Will they pose a problem?”
“No,” Kinshasa said, his tone holding the cool emptiness of Silence. “DarkRiver is a small group with no real presence. If we were going up against the SnowDancer wolves, it would be a different story. They’re somewhat more aggressive.”
That was why Solias hadn’t looked into “acquiring” wolf land. “Begin preparations for development.” The leopards—animals shackled by the choke of emotion—were clearly no threat.
“Yes, sir.” Kinshasa paused. “There was another matter, sir.”
“The Psy Council has requested a meeting with you.”
Solias nodded. “Forward me the details.” The Council was likely interested in the details of his political aspirations—power never changed hands without the Council’s approval. If Solias played his cards right, he might not only take over the leadership of San Francisco, he could rise to the Council itself.
The Councilors would appreciate his firm hand with the animals. And if it all ended with a few dead leopards thrown into the mix, so much the better.
HAVING HALF-FROZEN HIMSELF IN THE ICY CHILL OF THE waterfall, Nate finally hunted Tamsyn down well after sunset. It wasn’t that he didn’t know where she was. It was that he wasn’t sure he could face her without doing something stupid. Like yelling, “What the hell are you doing up there?”
Her eyes were night glow as she stood on a tree limb several dangerous feet off the ground, in human form. It would have been another matter if he’d found her there in leopard form. That was normal. The same couldn’t be said for a woman with a rope of Christmas lights slung over one shoulder. Now, that woman snorted and began to string the lights around and along the boughs above her head.
“Tamsyn, I swear to God,” he grit out, tracking her so he could catch her if she lost her footing, “if you make me come up there, you won’t be sitting without wincing for weeks.”
“You won’t lay a hand on me, Nathan Ryder,” she said. “That’s the problem, as I recall.”
She was right, of course. He’d rather cut off his hand than hurt her. “Fine.” Slicing out his claws, he prepared to scale the tree and drag her down to safety.
“Don’t you dare mess up my Christmas tree.”
He stopped. “Your what ?” The fir was so tall it seemed to touch the night clouds. Only a crazy woman would attempt to decorate this. But instead of asking if she’d lost her mind and chance getting his head bitten off, he decided to point out another fact. “It’s not Christmas for weeks.”
“It’s a big tree.” She continued walking along the branch as she strung the lights. “If you’re not going to leave, make yourself useful and string the other side. There are more lights at the bottom of the trunk. Don’t insult my cat by playing catcher.”
Knowing she was right about her leopard being agile enough to ensure she’d always land on her feet, he looked down, then wished he hadn’t. “Where did you get this many lights?” He picked up the heaviest rope, shoved it over one arm, and started climbing.
“People liked the idea of a giant Christmas tree.”
“It’ll draw Psy to the area like magnets.” The other race knew nothing of the pack’s network of lairs and aeries. It was a form of protection against the Psy hunger for power. “You want to announce our Pack Circle?”
“I’m not an idiot.” The words were blades. “The lights are special low-impact ones. They won’t even show to the top of the tree, much less put out a detectable heat signature.”
He wondered if insanity was catching. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you. It’s ten o’clock at night.”