Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling 6) - Page 10

"Nate said the house had obviously been invaded. The son is missing, signs of a struggle." Eyes narrowing, he looked her up and down. Then drew in a deep breath. "Good, you took care of it."

She categorically did not want to be having this conversation. "Yeah. Can we move on now?"

"No." A glint lit those intelligent green eyes from within. "Riley's got some interesting marks on his back, and you're not touch-hungry all of a sudden. And is that a bite I see on your neck?"

"What's one got to do with the other?" She tried to brazen it out, but couldn't stop herself from sweeping her hair around to hide the incriminating mark. Of course Riley had to bite her somewhere obvious - it was exactly the sort of thing dominant males loved to do, the first stage in claiming a female for their own.

Lucas's lips curved, the savage markings on his face - four jagged lines, like the claw marks of some great beast - standing out in stark relief. "Dorian's going to love this."

She glared. "I swear to God, you tell him, and I'll" - what the hell could you threaten an alpha with? - "I'll tell Hawke you want to go on daily bonding runs with him."

Lucas didn't stop grinning, but said, "That's just mean, Mercy." He glanced over her shoulder. "But if you don't want anyone else to know, get Riley a T-shirt."

"This is not an admission of anything," she said as she ran into the house and grabbed a spare tee from the stash the sentinels kept there. It made sense since Tammy was their healer and they often came to her bleeding or worse. The tee was a plain gray but when she threw it at Riley and he put it on, it abruptly became much more interesting - the man might make her hackles rise ninety-nine percent of the time, but he was built delicious, all hard muscle and contained masculine power.

Feeling heat bloom in the pit of her stomach in spite of her teeth-gritting control, she turned away just in time to catch Lucas's smirk. "Luc."

"I'm a sphinx," he promised. "By the way, you have visitors. Came in last night - staying in a cabin not far from your place."

Anger flared, eclipsing everything else. "Why didn't you tell me my grandmother was doing this?" She knew Lucas and Isabella had a strong alpha-to-alpha bond. Over fifteen years ago, when DarkRiver had been under attack by the ShadowWalkers, Isabella had offered her help, though she'd been dealing with serious territorial problems of her own at the time. In the end, the help hadn't been needed, but the offer had never been forgotten.

Now, Lucas folded his arms. "I thought you were drowning. Your grandmother was offering to throw you a life jacket." Blunt words. "And might be one of them turns out to be your mate." He switched his attention as Riley jogged over. "Hawke up-to-date?"

Riley nodded. "Since I'm down here, I'll stay on this. What did Nate find?"

Lucas gave him the same rundown he'd given Mercy. "Willow say anything?"

"Only that they took Nash," Mercy said, putting everything else out of her mind. "Why would anyone run this big an op to grab a college student?"

"Brenna was a college student when Enrique took her." The withheld rage in Riley was an almost physical thing.

Mercy understood - Santano Enrique, a cardinal telekinetic, had killed Dorian's sister, Kylie, and viciously tortured Riley's sister, Brenna. Brenna had survived, but she'd been hurt in ways no woman should have to suffer. "Riley's right," she said, and the sky didn't fall in. "This could be another crazy, or it could be something specific to Nash."

Lucas nodded. "Parents should be able to tell us more, but don't count on scent - someone sprayed a heavy perfume throughout the house."

Riley's eyes grew flint hard. "Could be changeling."

Mercy hoped that wasn't true. Betrayal among the tight structure of the pack was rare, but when it happened it shoved an ice pick of the cruelest pain through them all. "We need to go back to the scene after we hear what Iain and Enid have to say." She met Lucas's eyes. "I want to stay on this."

"Works." Lucas nodded. "Nate's helping Emmett run some important training for Kit and the other novice soldiers. It'd be better if he could continue with that."

An instant later, they felt the vibration of a vehicle getting closer. Nate's SUV rolled in not long after. Two people who looked like they'd been dragged through hell itself got out the back as Nate stepped out from the driver's side.

Mercy heard the sound of running feet seconds before Willow screamed, "Mommy! Daddy!" and launched herself off the porch. Catching her in a bone-crushing embrace, her father wrapped one arm around his mate and pulled her into the hug as well. Mercy looked away from the private moment, her eyes locking with Riley's.

Pure, electric heat.

She held that wolf gaze, daring him to say something. He kept his silence, but those eyes . . . the intensity in them made her thighs clench in instinctive female reaction. She called him a stick-in-the-mud because he was so damn calm, so practical, and in no way hotheaded. But as she'd learned last night, when that intensity focused on a woman, it focused. Hunger tore through her, potent, rough, primal in its sensuality.

"Can you two keep from tearing each other's throats out during however long it takes to find Nash?" Lucas's dry tone did nothing to hide the feline amusement in his eyes as he broke into her line of sight. "Or maybe I should be worrying about clothes instead?"

Riley growled low in his throat. "Not your business." His voice was more wolf than human, heavy with the same need that had Mercy in its claws.