"Of course I did. Ripped out his throat." She brushed at her eyes with the backs of her hands. "Son of a bitch was dead before he hit the ground."
"No problems. Sascha said Ashaya protected him instinctively - he didn't feel a thing. Now that he can see his mom in the Web, he's as happy as a clam up there with the wolves." A sniff, another rub of her eyes. "We haven't been able to contact your folks."
Relief whispered through him. "Good. They'll take it better if I'm healthy when I tell them."
"That's what I thought." She tapped her finger on Ashaya's mattress. "So you got mated to a Psy."
Mate, he thought and there she was, a link tied straight to his heart. "Yeah."
Something in her tone made him tear his eyes away from Ashaya's sleeping face. "Merce?" His stomach tightened. "You're not - I mean - " He was suddenly tongue-tied. Mercy had been his best friend forever. Shit, she'd helped him pull more pranks than he could name. "Does it bother you that I'm mated?"
She rolled her eyes and punched him on the shoulder, then steadied him when he swayed. "No, you buffoon. If I'd wanted you, I'd have made my move years ago."
"Hey. I'm injured." Leaning against Ashaya's bed, he pretended to rub his shoulder. "But thank the sweet Lord. I'd hate to think of you carrying around a torch for me. Sorry, Carrot, but I don't see you as a woman."
"Yeah, that's the problem." She snorted. "If you promise not to move after you get in bed with her, I'll leave you to make cow eyes at your mate." It was said with affectionate humor.
He wanted to do exactly that, but Ashaya was still asleep and he'd known Mercy since before they were both out of diapers. "You might as well tell me what's bugging you, or I won't make you godmother to our kids."
"You heard that?" Her eyes widened and she swallowed. "Shit, Dorian, don't ever do that again. You bled all over my best pair of pants."
He had no memory of hearing her words, not consciously. "Stop stalling."
"Oh, Jesus, fine." She rolled her eyes, cheeks a little pink. "It's weirding me out because now that you're mated, it takes care of the last male in the pack with the same or stronger dominance as me. I don't want you. But it was nice knowing that at least one strong male was unmated." Mercy had honestly never had the hots for Dorian. He was undeniably pretty, but he was her friend and colleague. End of story.
Now he blinked those surfer blue eyes. "Huh. Yeah, guess I never thought about that. I don't suppose you like BDSM?"
"You know, you could crack the whip - " He didn't even try to avoid her second careful punch on his shoulder, he was laughing so hard. When he finally caught his breath, he grabbed her hand and tugged her close. "There are other packs, you know. You could ask Luc to arrange a short transfer."
Mercy had considered that. While predatory packs were very territorial, the sort of transfer Dorian was talking about did happen now and then. "I can't. Not now. The situation with the Psy is too unstable."
Dorian grunted in agreement. "I'll buy you a blow-up doll. I'm sure my mate won't mind when I explain how hard up you are."
She didn't bother to punch him this time, just glared with promise of future retaliation. "Very funny. You wouldn't be laughing if you knew how sexually frustrated I am right now." Changelings needed touch on a fundamental level. The problem was, Mercy didn't particularly enjoy sex with men who weren't equal to or stronger than her in the ways that mattered to changelings. "The last time was when that SilverBlade sentinel was in town for a communications meeting."
All amusement left Dorian's face. "You serious? That was months ago." A very long time to go without intimate touch. "Merce, that could get dangerous."
"I know. Do you think I don't know?" She thrust her hands through her hair. "Damn it, Dorian! It's getting to the point where I'm starting to wonder if some of the wolves would be good in bed." That was a lie - her recent slew of incredibly erotic fantasies hadn't focused on SnowDancer males in general, but on one very specific wolf. Not that she would admit that. To anyone.
"Cat and wolf isn't a... um... normal combination."
"And Psy and cat is?" She made a face at him. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Cat and wolf is strange." But the SnowDancer dominants were tough sons of bitches, part of a very small pool of men who might take her on and survive. And the one she was thinking about... No. Absolutely not. Never. Ever.
"How about one of the Rats?" Dorian's eyes gleamed.
She narrowed her own. "Cat and rat. Har-dee-har-har."
"It would definitely give a whole new meaning to the term 'black widow.' " He hugged her before she could kick him, his body shaking with laughter.
She hugged him back, so damn glad he was alive to tease her. "I'll get you back for that later, being that you're an invalid right now." Pulling back after another few moments, she nudged him toward Ashaya and walked out, closing the door behind herself.
She just missed seeing Ashaya open her eyes.
Ashaya had woken to the sound of Dorian's laughter and a woman's voice. She found herself tensing up, though she didn't know why. The words came into focus slowly, but by the time Dorian mentioned rats, she was fully conscious and aware that everyone who belonged to her was safe. Mate. Child. Twin.
Dorian's laughter wrapped around her as she looked into her mind and found Keenan. His star shone bright in this strange, wonderful web that was her new home. When she contacted him through it, he said, "Sascha said you were sleeping." It was a whisper. "You slept a lot. Days and days. But I could see you in the Web, so I wasn't scared."