His beast snarled at the idea.
Agreeing with the sentiment, he maintained his silence and continued to study her. As he'd witnessed a number of times now, she could put on the appearance of a perfect Psy on cue, but he knew in his gut that that was all it was - an appearance. No woman could have faked the reaction he'd scented in her on the balcony. Fury. Pure, pissed-off female fury.
But not only was her act damn good, the fact that she'd survived in the Council ranks for as long as she had meant she was also brilliant at the games of manipulation that were the Council's stock in trade. Yet she'd never played those games with him, choosing brutal honesty instead.
What right do you have to call me anything? You, with your prejudice and your self-pity.
It made him want to bare his teeth, but not in anger at her - he'd been acting like an ass and she'd called him on it. But there was one thing he couldn't understand - the way she wouldn't go to her son. He'd offered to take her again this afternoon. She'd refused.
Yet even that disquieting fact wasn't enough to temper his hunger where she was concerned. Lucas was right - he was snarling at her because he wanted her as he'd never before wanted a woman. His leopard was constantly fighting him for control, trying to overrule his humanity. It was strong. Getting stronger. So strong that Dorian had begun to wonder if a latent could go rogue in the true sense of the word, losing his humanity and surrendering completely to the savagery of the cat... becoming a leopard on two legs, a man who cared nothing for a woman's fragility, only for her submission.
Her eyes opened.
Locked with his.
"Why are you watching me?" Her eyes, he saw, were not blue, not truly. They were a vivid pale gray with blue shards coming in from the outer ring to hit the pure black of her pupils. Strange eyes. Wolf eyes.
"My leopard is fascinated by you." By her sensuous, flawless skin, her wild hair, her damn curves. He leaned in and blew a gentle breath that made a rebel tendril dance. "I dreamed of running my tongue across your skin." He spoke to release some of the tension, to leash the beast before it broke its bonds. "Of exploring you in long, slow licks."
She didn't break the deeply intimate visual connection. "You're crossing lines again."
Hell, yeah. It was either that or go insane. "And your heartbeat just got erratic." The cat smiled, pleased. Ashaya Aleine wasn't as immune to him as she liked to pretend. "What would happen if I tasted you? If I took a bite out of you?"
Another spike in her heartbeat, music to the leopard's ears. But when she spoke, it was to say, "Nothing."
He gave her a sleepy-eyed look that he knew screamed challenge. "Then come here."
"You're disturbing me."
"Good." He smiled, playful and wicked, realizing he had the advantage - Ms. Aleine wasn't used to playing with cats. "I don't like being ignored."
"Get used to it," she said, surprising him, delighting him. "I'm working."
"Oh?" He was genuinely interested. "I though M-Psy saw inside the body and diagnosed illnesses." His family had consulted several when his inability to shift had become apparent. All had been brilliant, but not one had understood what it meant to a changeling to be denied half of who he was.
Ashaya's gaze skimmed down his body. "Isn't that an uncomfortable position?"
He'd listened to her body, knew she was aware of him on a level she'd never admit. It soothed the cat, even as it ratcheted up his need. "I'm fine, sugar," he said, fighting the urge to sink his teeth into the delicate curve of her neck. He tended to like his sex slow and intense, but right now, with this woman, his body wanted hard, furious, a little rough. Reining in the leopard's territorial instincts made sweat bead along his spine. "M-Psy?"
She became very still, as if she'd sensed his tenuous control. But she didn't retreat. If she had...
"Like all Psy designations," she said, "medical, or M, is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of specializations. It includes those unusual few who can actually heal - "
"Anything?" He'd never heard of a Psy with that power.
She shook her head. "No, their scope is limited. Some can reset bones, while others can seal wounds - the types of things that might be needed in the field. The healing abilities apparently appeared in children born during the Territorial Wars, though there's no proof of that. As far as I know, no M-Psy can psychically cure diseases or reverse hereditary conditions. May I continue?" A scientist's cool question.
He wanted to bite her. "Go on."
"The scanning you mentioned is the most well-known and prevalent manifestation of the M designation. My ability is a subset of that - I can't see broken bones or diseased organs, but it's because my mind sees too deep."
"To the DNA level."
His cat's attention was momentarily diverted from the seduction of her skin. "No one can do that. It would make you a walking DNA scanner."
"Yes," she said, not seeming to realize she'd maintained constant eye contact. "Only a very small percentage of the M designation possesses the ability. Even fewer master it to the level where we become more accurate than the machines." Her eyes traced his lips and his entire body grew taut with the caress - she might not call it that, but that's what it was. She was stroking him. Purring inwardly, he didn't move, didn't break the spell.
"Because of available equipment," she continued, "it's a fairly redundant ability in itself. You have to pair it with study - it was my knack for working with nanotech and implants that made me of interest to the Council. My ability gives me an edge with technology at that level of miniaturization."