"Mine is more than a little uncontrollable."
He could feel her watching him as he went through her things. Luck was with her - he found the small kit emblazoned with the globally recognized red cross symbol within seconds. The tube of dry antiseptic was right on top. "Lie on your stomach. It's the easiest way to get this stuff in." He kept his voice controlled and to the point, though his leopard was trying to shove through his skin, agitated by the scent of her blood. "Quickly."
She turned and lay down on the carpet of dry pine needles without argument. Using one of his knives, he sliced away the shredded material above the wound and dusted the antiseptic over it. The fast-acting stuff melted, clotting up the wound within seconds. "This'll give us time to get you to a medic." The antiseptic was an emergency measure. It healed nothing, its function being to keep bacteria from getting in and blood from leaking out. The fact that it was working meant the lynx hadn't damaged anything major.
The kit also came with a stack of "thin skin" bandages. Despite the nickname, the bandages were as tough as stretched steel. "Any pain?" he asked as he wrapped one around her calf, unaccountably infuriated by the damage done to her smooth skin.
"Nothing medically significant."
He sat back on his haunches and watched her get back up into a sitting position. Her eyes went to his handiwork. "You've had some training."
He bit back the urge to snarl at her frigid tone. The ice of it was a fist around his cock, arousing him against all reason, all sense. "First aid." He shrugged, stuffed everything back into her pack, then paused. "You need anything from here?"
"Tough." He did up the straps. "I have to carry you as it is - "
"I can - "
"Yeah, you can crawl," he snapped, "but that isn't going to get me home in time to catch a few z's." And nowhere near fast enough to contain the leopard's enraged attempts at exploding from within his skin. He couldn't shift, had never been able to. But the cat didn't know it was trapped. Right now, it wasn't even sure if it wanted to savage Ashaya or f**k her. "Since I can't dump you here, I might as well get rid of you as fast as I can."
It was a deliberate attempt to provoke, but her face, a face that had haunted his dreams for two months, remained expressionless. Two damn months, he thought again. Endless nights of waking in a sweat, frustrated and hard. And angry, so angry.
The sole thing that had kept him from going out and hunting her down had been an enraged defiance against a sexual pull that had begun to turn into an obsession.
Now here she sat, looking up at him with those eyes that were the wrong color - and that blatant lie only stoked his fury.
"You have a lot of antipathy toward me."
No, what he had was a bad case of lust. But he wasn't an animal in rut. And his one stupid, drunken mistake in college aside, he didn't sleep with women who might just freeze his balls off in the night. "I'm going to stash your pack up in the branches. The lynx won't come near it now that it has my scent on it. Someone can grab it for you tomorrow."
Ashaya didn't argue, knowing she had nothing with which to bargain. "Another debt?" She'd recognized his voice at once as that of the sniper. After all, she'd been hearing it in her dreams for eight long weeks.
"Don't worry. We'll collect." With those words, he shrugged into the pack and began climbing.
She couldn't believe the way he moved. It was so smooth, it appeared effortless. He was ten times faster than she had been, a hundred times more graceful. If she'd had any doubts as to what he was, they would've been wiped away by that display. "Changeling," she said as he jumped back down. "Cat."
He raised an eyebrow, his eyes a pitiless blue so true - even in this darkness - that she wondered at its existence. "Meow."
Something hidden sparked to life in her mind, and she found herself thinking that the sniper was beautiful. Darkness, she'd always cloaked him in darkness, but he was a golden god. "How did you know I was here?" Her breath came in pants as she managed to get to her feet, one hand braced against the tree trunk. Her palm landed on something sticky. Her own blood, she realized.
"I'm an F-Psy." A mocking answer. "You're going to have to ride on my back. Try not to stab me while you're at it." He came to her, turned.
The instant she put her hands on his shoulders, she froze. She hadn't had this much close contact with another being for longer than she could remember. Even with Keenan, she'd kept her distance, aware that only Silent coldness would keep him safe. But there was no point of comparison between her weakness where Keenan was concerned and this changeling who seemed to despise her.
And yet who fascinated her on a level it was madness to even consider.
This close, she could see that his hair was a blond so pure it was white gold, but that was the lone hint of softness in him. The body under her hands was hard, sleek with muscle. She had the sudden, visceral realization that he could snap her in two without thinking about it. Her stomach clenched in dangerous physical reaction, a reaction she should've been able to suppress.
"You waiting for an engraved invitation?" An almost lazy question, but she could feel his intelligence probing at her.
"No." Putting her erratic thoughts down to blood loss, she shifted her weight... and almost collapsed. "I can't jump up."
His hands slid around and to the backs of her thighs. "Now." As he lifted, she tried to push upward with her uninjured leg. Her contribution proved unnecessary - he was so strong, he had her legs wrapped around him with one pull.