"I'll see you then." He closed the phone.
She figured it had to be pack business and was practical enough to know it would most likely not include her. It was, she thought, one thing to become his lover, quite another to be welcomed into DarkRiver. "You have a meeting?" She tried to keep her voice bright, unwilling to spoil the morning by asking for something he didn't want to give her.
"We have a meeting." There was a satisfied glint in his eye.
Her determination not to ruin things gave way to interest. "With whom?"
"A SnowDancer. I gave him a call last night before the dance. I had a feeling Judd still had some very interesting contacts inside the PsyNet."
"But, the SnowDancers are wolves." She frowned. "How could he have contacts?"
"He's Psy. Mated to a SnowDancer wolf."
Excitement tore through her with the force of lightning unleashed. "Would he be able to find out if they're taking the children, confirm if it is the Psy?"
"Damn Psy walks like an assassin - who knows what info he can get his hands on." He kissed her without warning, derailing her thoughts with the dark heat of it. "But I know what I want to get my hands on."
Half an hour later, she glanced at her neck in the bathroom mirror and scowled. "Why didn't you just bite me?" she asked, rubbing at the mark he'd left.
"I did." Patting her on the bottom as he passed, half-dressed in jeans, his hair wet, he gave her an unrepentant grin. "Want me to do it again?" His gaze angled downward.
Blushing, she pushed him out of the bathroom and continued brushing her own wet hair. "Make me tea!" she called out after him, knowing they had time since this Judd person was coming down from the Sierra Nevada.
"How the hell do you make tea?" he muttered. "I don't have tea."
"Yes, you do. It's on the top shelf - I got some from Tamsyn." She really had to go grocery shopping if she was going to be living with Clay. That thought froze her. "Clay?"
He heard her, though her voice had been a whisper. "I'm making the damn tea."
"I had a question."
"Are we living together?"
A few seconds of silence and then he was in the doorway, his eyes cat-green. Walking over, he kissed the mark on her neck. "You try to leave and I will hunt you down."
Relief poured through her, but she smacked at his thigh with the back of her brush. "Like a rabid dog? Very romantic."
"I'm serious. This is it. Forever."
She met his gaze in the mirror and wondered how long forever would be. As yesterday's inexplicable allergic reaction had proved, the disease in her blood was getting stronger day by day. But, she thought with a fresh wave of fury, damn if she was giving in. "Forever." She'd fight hell itself to stay with him this time.
He rested his hands on her h*ps and bent down until their faces reflected side by side. He was so beautiful - all masculine arrogance and possessiveness - that she knew she'd have to be on her guard constantly. Otherwise, she'd give him everything he wanted.
His fingers pushed up, touched skin. "You want me."
"We'll be late." But she leaned into him, luxuriating in the strength contained within that muscular body, needing him enough to indulge this small selfishness.
"Judd hasn't been mated long," he murmured, hands slipping up to curve over her unbound br**sts.
Her breath caught at the bold move, at the sultry image of his hands moving under her T-shirt. "What's that got to do with anything?" The last word was a moan as he began playing with her br**sts, sure of his right to touch her as he pleased.
"It was early when he called." He flicked out his tongue in a quick catlike caress she was already addicted to. "He'll be delayed."
It took her desire-fuzzy brain several seconds to get his meaning. "Oh. Oh!" The last was a cry as he did something with those big hands that was surely illegal. But even as she surrendered to him, part of her knew that this was an illusory happiness. The ache in her belly, the endless need, it was a silent cry for something Clay could no longer give her.
Now that she'd met some of the couples in the pack, learned more about the leopard side of Clay's soul, she understood the depth of her mistake. These predators loved with wild fury, but they were also darkly possessive, crossing the boundary into what humans might term obsession. But for a leopard male, it was simply part of his nature. Clay would never forget what she'd done, the way she'd given her body to others.
With a human man, she might have continued to argue that he had no right to judge her. But the truth was, it wasn't about judgment. And Clay wasn't human, his changeling blood was too strong. For him, it was about fidelity, about loyalty. It didn't matter that they had been children when he killed Orrin to keep her safe - they had already belonged to each other. Until she had cut their link. Now the past was an unacknowledged third between them, pouring a corrosive acid on the love they had managed to salvage.
He kissed her. Enough, she thought, banishing the ugly thoughts to a far corner of her mind. She was with Clay; that was what mattered. Finally, for the first time in two decades, she was almost whole.
She and Clay arrived at the meeting point - a small cabin on DarkRiver land - at almost exactly the same time as the SnowDancer. Judd Lauren was the coldest man she had ever seen. Dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans, his eyes measured her with icy precision. She'd have run very fast in the opposite direction had Clay not been beside her. And had Judd not been holding the hand of a small blonde with amazing eyes of brown shot with blue, and the brightest smile Talin had ever seen.