"From you, Red, who else?" Teasing grin slashing across his face, Vaughn followed Dorian and Faith into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind himself.
Ashaya was already in the kitchenette, heating water. "Coffee would probably be a good idea," she said, looking not at him but at Faith.
The F-Psy let go of her mate's hands, stared back. "You know."
"No." A quick shake of her head. "But when an F-Psy comes calling, it's better to be prepared. You're Faith NightStar, aren't you?"
As Faith nodded and introduced Vaughn, Dorian wondered if the other couple heard what he did in Ashaya's voice - a fine thread of suffocating panic. Closing the distance between them, he put a hand on her lower back. "Want some help?" Protective instincts clawed through his veins. It should've been an unwelcome shock. It wasn't. It felt right.
"No." A stubborn answer, but when she looked up, he saw the truth. She was terrified.
He caught Vaughn's eye. There was no way to have a private conversation with the other sentinel in the room - his hearing was too acute.
"Mind if we go out onto the balcony?" Vaughn was already opening the French doors that led out to the tiny outdoor area.
Dorian threw him a grateful look, knowing that once the doors were shut, the noise from the streets below would drown out his and Ashaya's voices. The instant the other couple stepped out, he forced Ashaya to look at him. "Now talk or I'll have to get mean."
"You're always mean." Despite the words, she came into his arms without any hesitation, displaying a trust that tamed the leopard.
"Hey." He found he'd curved his body over hers, his lips brushing her temple. "Knowing the future means you can change it."
"I've never feared emotion for its own sake," she whispered, "only for what it would mean - Amara's deviance being set completely free, perhaps leading to both our deaths. But today, I'm afraid and I wish I could erase that feeling from my mind."
He thought of the carnage he'd seen in a small white house, the body he'd held in his arms. "I know." Because he'd had those same thoughts. "After Kylie was murdered," he said, tearing open a piece of his heart that he'd protected with feral viciousness, "I was so angry the rage ate me up from the inside out." His recollection of those days was a foul pit filled with hatred and violence. "But I never wanted to be without emotion. Do you know why?"
"Because if I wiped out emotion, I wiped out Kylie." His arms clenched around her, the embers of his deep-seated anger stirring anew. He'd torn out Santano Enrique's heart with his bare hands, but his leopard wasn't satisfied. So long as even one of those who had allowed Enrique to roam free remained alive, he would hunt. "Our emotions color our memories. Without them, one day would be the same as another... and my sister would've faded long ago."
Finally relaxing her hold, Ashaya backed up a little, those amazing eyes holding him in thrall. "You should hear your voice when you speak of her. It hurts my heart and I know that's not possible."
"Yes, it is. You know love when you hear it." He'd adored Kylie, had no problem admitting that. "And she lives right here." He thumped a fist over the pulse of his heartbeat.
"Dorian." Her hand lifted as if she'd touch him, but then she shook her head and turned. "I need to prepare the coffee."
He should've kept his hands to himself. He wasn't much good at doing what he should. And he needed a little joy to alleviate the chaos of emotion that always came with thoughts of his murdered sister - maybe someday he'd stop blaming himself for not saving her, but that day wasn't today.
Putting his hands on Ashaya's hips, he pulled her back against his chest.
"Dor - "
He kissed the curve of her neck. "Just want to give you a friendly warning." She tasted so good, he licked at her with quick catlike flicks that made her pulse turn to thunder. When she couldn't seem to gasp in enough breath to ask him about the warning, he smiled. "I wasn't kidding about having you in my bed. Get ready to dance with me." Pressing another kiss to the soft warmth of her, he drew back to his previous position.
It took her a minute to stop staring at his mouth after she turned to face him again. "You're used to getting your own way."
"So now you look like you want to take a bite out of me."
He let his eyes close to half-mast, his lips curving into a slow smile. "That's because I do." Delighted by the flush that brushed over her cheeks, he decided to indulge himself a little more. "I want to have you flat on your back in my bed. Then I want to spread your thighs, and - "
"Coffee!" She gripped the edge of the counter. "It'll be ready soon."
"Oh?" Disappointed, he leaned forward and nipped lightly at her ear. "I'll tell you where I intend to take that bite out of some other time then." Leaving her flustered but definitely not scared any longer, he walked to the balcony doors and gave Vaughn the signal to return. There was a momentary rush of noise from outside as the mated pair entered.
A few minutes later, Ashaya put the coffee on the low table in the center of the room and took a seat on the sofa that faced the balcony, while he leaned on its back. Faith took a seat on the opposite sofa, with Vaughn sprawled beside her.
"Aren't you going to have some?" Faith asked when Ashaya didn't pour herself any coffee.
Ashaya shook her head. "I'm not used to it and it tends to have a strong effect."
"I understand." Faith took two cups, passing one to her mate. "I've become addicted to the stuff but it's far more potent than I initially realized." Her words were friendly, but there was a jerkiness to her movements that gave away her unease.