"You don't smell sick to me," he snapped.
Neither of them spoke for a second, then they both spoke at once.
"What the f**k?"
She wiggled in his arms. "Lemme turn."
He loosened his hold enough that she could turn around and shimmy up to take a face-to-face position with him. "You said I smelled wrong before."
"Yeah, you did." He frowned and nuzzled at her, this time to confirm his finding. His tongue flicked out to taste her pulse. "It's gone. Nothing, not even under the surface."
Talin's eyes were huge as he met her gaze again. "Remission?"
"No, this is deeper." His beast was convinced of it, took another sip of her scent to confirm. "The decay is gone."
"Like I'm getting better?" Her hands clenched on his shoulders. "No, this kind of disease doesn't disappear on its own. It's a degenerative condition."
Clay's beast was roaring at him in agonized frustration, telling him to remember. "Remember what?" he muttered.
He was concentrating too hard to reply. It was something he'd heard, something important, something the cat had understood, though the man - "Hell!" He jerked upright without warning.
Talin bit off a cry of surprise as she sprawled off him and onto her back.
"Sorry," he muttered, reaching for and pulling on his jeans.
She got up behind him, dressed in that strawberry ice cream slip that drove him half-crazy. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Here." He threw her the lacy robe thing that came with the outfit.
She shrugged into it, eyes wary. "You okay, darling? Have too many beers with the boys maybe?"
He smacked her lightly on the bottom. "Smart-ass."
"Don't you forget it." Her smile had the power to knock his heart right out of him. "Why are we getting decent?"
He found himself petting the curve he'd smacked, pulling up the slip so he could touch bare skin. Smooth. Hot. His. "I don't want Luc to see you naked."
"Stop that," she breathed out as his fingers ventured south, dipped. "Or don't, I'm easy."
He kissed her hard on the lips before pulling down her slip and closing the robe tight. "Be good." God, he wanted to play with her like this for decades to come. She'd drive him crazy and he'd enjoy every minute of it.
"Why?" Her eyes narrowed in puzzlement until he stopped in front of the communications panel. "We're making a call?" At the same time, she grabbed the shirt he'd flung off earlier that night. "Put it on."
"Trust me, I'm not that pretty." But he shrugged into it before pushing in the code for the call.
"If no one's bleeding, I don't want to know," Lucas growled, audio only.
"Sascha there?" Clay asked, wrapping both arms around Talin and pulling her back against his chest. "Or did she finally come to her senses and dump your ass?"
"Clay, have you lost your mind?" Talin glared at him, voice whisper-soft.
But Lucas turned on the visual feed. His hair was rumpled, his shirt on as haphazardly as Clay's, and it was obvious he hadn't been sleeping. "I swear this had better be good. Do you know what I was about to tas - "
A feminine hand clamped over his mouth, then dropped away as Sascha looked over his shoulder, hair curling wildly around her face. "Clay?"
"Dev Santos said something tonight about a girl dying because she wasn't getting the feedback her part - Psy brain needed." Hope weaved through Clay's voice with tensile strength. "Something about not knowing how to link to a psychic network."
Sascha was nodding before he finished, her eyes going from night-sky to obsidian in a single blink. "You think - "
"Yeah," he finished for her. "She doesn't smell sick. Luc?"
Lucas's facial markings became more defined as he frowned in thought. "You're right. I smelled it that first night we met, but nothing set off my beast today."
Talin stood frozen in the circle of Clay's arms, trying not to hope. If she didn't hope, the disappointment wouldn't tear her to pieces. But she failed. "Can you check that?"
"I don't know," Sascha said. "I can't get into your mind, but I'll try on the Web of Stars - that's the network that connects all the sentinels and their mates to Lucas. I'm contacting Faith, too. She's not as good with the Web yet, but she's had a lot of experience looking for hidden patterns." Closing her eyes, she seemed to melt into Lucas, her bare arms wrapping around the alpha from behind.
Talin turned and half buried her face in Clay's chest. "It can't be true. My Psy DNA is a joke. Three percent, remember?"
"Shine was unable to track down your father," he said, confusing her for a second, "but what if both your parents were long-removed descendants of the Forgotten? What if they each carried a single dormant gene that came together in you? Maybe that gene is the three percent."
"A million-to-one chance."
"Not necessarily," he said. "Silence has been around for just over a hundred years. Before that, anything went. A lot of humans and changelings had Psy relatives pre-Silence - the pool for dormant genes is wider than the descendants of the Forgotten."
"But the specialists," she said, playing devil's advocate because she wanted this too much, "they did genetic tests, found no markers."
"Because they weren't looking for the right thing," he said, not budging. "Remember what Santos said about a kid's family thinking he was full human, so no one looked for a Psy cause?"