Mine to Possess (Psy-Changeling 4) - Page 60

It had never occurred to her that she might adore the adult Clay even more than she had the youth, but there it was. The man her friend had grown into - well, he enchanted her, brooding temper, dark kisses, animal protectiveness, and all. To her delight, the feeling seemed to be mutual. But the separation had scarred them both. What would it do to Clay if this disease succeeded in killing her?

...The future hasn't yet changed.

It terrified her that Clay could lose his humanity because of their growing relationship. Her hand clenched. No, she thought, no. The future wasn't fixed. She would not let him fall - A knock on the door had her swiveling.

It opened to reveal a pretty brunette with laugh lines around her mouth and a tea tray in her hands. "I'm Ria and I'm nosy as hell."

The introduction disarmed Talin, cutting through her churning emotions with laughing efficiency. "I'm Talin."

Ria put the tray on the table. "So, you're Clay's?"

"He's mine anyway."

The other woman grinned. "Oooh, I like you. Must admit you're not what I expected, though."

"Oh?"

"You're human. He's...intense, even for a cat." Her eyes widened before Talin could reply. "No offense! I'm human, too."

Talin jumped at the chance. "What's it like being human in a pack of leopards?"

"They tend to have to be more careful with us - we break easier," Ria said with candid warmth.

Talin didn't like the idea of Clay holding back with her. "Yeah."

"But you know, human men have to watch themselves around women, too. They're bigger, stronger, regardless of race." She shrugged. "These guys just have claws and teeth to worry about, too."

"Huh." The practical explanation made complete sense.

"And," Ria added, "we have to be careful with them, too."

Talin felt her eyebrows rise. "What could I possibly do to Clay, to any changeling?"

"Think about it - their hearing is so sensitive, we scream loud enough, we blow out their eardrums." She winced. "I learned that the hard way."

"Is he - "

"Healed. Thank God. And he mated me, so he wasn't too mad." A rueful smile. "Though he pulls it out now and then to tease me about being gentle with him."

Talin had never considered the downside to Clay's incredible senses. "I guess perfume's out then?" She thought of the way he liked to lick, to taste, and felt her body heat up from the inside out.

Ria screwed up her nose. "You have to buy the changeling stuff. Get Clay to pick it 'cause you sure as heck won't be able to smell anything."

Talin released a slow breath. "Give and take from both sides." Exactly as in any other relationship.

"Yep. Oh, yeah," Ria added, "be careful about claiming skin privileges." When Talin gave the other woman a blank look, she rolled her eyes. "I bet Clay just touched you like it was his right? Figures." She didn't wait for an answer. "It might look as if the pack's easy as far as touching goes, but they're actually very, very choosy. Wait for an indication it's okay, especially with the dominant males and females." She glanced at her watch. "Damn, gotta go. We should do lunch one of these days."

"I'd like that," Talin said as Ria waved good-bye.

It was tempting to ponder the mass of information Ria had shot at her, but she knew she had to focus. It was far harder to banish the tantalizing image of Clay nuzzling the scent of perfume from her neck, so she took it with her as she set up a small writing pad, grabbed a plain old pen, and reached for the first of the files Dev had sent. It was Jonquil's.

Chapter 28

Jonquil looked at the fine needle marks on his arms and knew he'd gotten off easy. The wolf-eyed woman, the one he'd named Blue, had done nothing to make him scream, hadn't hurt him at all. In fact, all the screaming had stopped since the day of her visit.

He was too terrified to wonder what that meant.

She'd taken blood, skin, and hair samples, made him answer what felt like a thousand questions. Today he was supposed to go in for a brain scan. He had a feeling that that was what Blue was really interested in, though you wouldn't be able to tell from her or the Blonde's expressions. They were the coldest, most icy people he had ever met. He knew what they were, of course. What he didn't know was what they wanted from him.

But no way in hell was he going to let his uncertainty show. Talin had taught him better. That thought in mind, he was waiting tall and proud when they came to the door - the Blonde and an unfamiliar male. No woman with wolf blue eyes and smooth chocolate skin.

Jonquil figured he could flatten the man in a physical fight, no problem. But these people didn't fight with their bodies. They fought with their minds. He'd been on the streets long enough to have witnessed the end results for those who got on their wrong side. Like when Sal had tried to pull one over on that group that had wanted to buy him out. He'd been found with his brains leaking out his ears.

"I'm ready." He didn't bother trying to see if they'd fall for his voice. When he spoke in a certain way, all slow and easy, people seemed to get real caught up in it, but Blue had known about it, had warned him not to try it on the others. She'd said not only would it not work, it would sign his death certificate. He had decided to believe her...for now.

The Blonde nodded. "Your cooperation has been noted."

He wondered if that meant they would give him anesthetic when they tortured him. He opened his mouth to ask about Blue, then snapped it shut, remembering what she'd said after returning him to the cell.

I was never here. You will keep your silence on that point.

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