Mercy moaned. "Oh, God." Jon had been adopted into DarkRiver by Clay and Tally a few months back. He'd not only fit right in, he'd become the undisputed leader of his age group - and Jon wasn't changeling, which said something about his skills. "Jon probably did something first."
"And didn't get caught." Riley shook his head. "I wish this lot would've been better at hiding their tracks." His eyes glimmered amber when he glanced at her. "Where are the South Americans?"
Her leopard bared its teeth in a soundless growl at the unwelcome change in topic. "Don't know. Don't care." Though she had every intention of making her opinion of the pair clear to her grandmother. "And those two have nothing to do with whether or not we share skin privileges."
Riley snorted. "Please. Your grandmother threw them at you because there's a high chance your mate will be a dominant leopard."
"What's that to you?" It came out without thought, and she wasn't sure if it was a warning or a dare.
His phone beeped again before he could answer. Riley checked it with a grimace. "You'll have to come up with me."
"Hey, wolves are yours to deal with." She meant to have a hard chat with Eduardo and Joaquin during that time. No one was going to push her into a situation she didn't choose. "I have enough - "
"They had Jon duct-taped to a tree. Judd just sprung him - but he was found with a suspicious amount of itching powder in his pockets. And several of the wolf juveniles have been squirming for hours."
Mercy wanted to beat herself with a blunt object. "Please, God. Kill me now."
"I'd rather work out my frustration by stripping you na**d and letting you use those claws on me."
And that quickly, all she wanted to do was to crawl all over him.
At a quiet meeting room in the sunken city of Venice, four women and five men sat around a long, dark table. Outside the windows situated flush against the dome that kept this city and its inhabitants from drowning, water lapped in a gentle, blue-green wash. But inside, the quiet was sharp, spiked with the knife-edge of tension.
Two of the chairs around the table lay empty. Aurine and Douglas had both walked away during the discussion of the latest operation, unwilling and unable to see the long-range nature of the plans they'd helped develop. The chairman was frustrated by their lack of vision, but then, perhaps it was better they were gone - Aurine, in particular, had been vociferous in her opposition to the Nash Baker operation. She'd undoubtedly have used this opportunity to push for a less militant approach.
"Bowen's team has gone under," the chairman told the others. "But they're not our primary concern - I sent the information about the target with a brand-new team, yet Bowen and his people managed to acquire and act on that information before the others even arrived in the city."
"The leak - could it be Aurine?" another man asked. "She was vocal about her disagreement."
"No," a third man responded. "She's a woman of her word - I've had enough business dealings with her to appreciate that."
"Too weak," one of the women murmured. "He was on the board because he had money, not balls."
Some of the men grimaced, but the chairman nodded. "Which means it's either one of us, or there's a leak in our offices. I intend to plug that leak." A statement that carried the menacing darkness of a threat.
"Go ahead." This came from the same woman who'd spoken earlier. "But don't try to play the big man." A disdainful sniff. "You may have delusions of grandeur but this is a group effort. If you can't understand that, you shouldn't be here."
The chairman blinked, taken by surprise, though he hid it well. "Of course. I'd never presume otherwise. But you did ask me to be in charge of security matters - it's my job to close the breach."
And he would close it. No one was going to stand in the way of his vision - by the time this was over, humanity would rule . . . and see him as their god. Even if he had to paint the streets with Psy and changeling blood.
The situation in the SnowDancer den turned out not to be as bad as Mercy had feared. Lucas had come up with Hawke so they could discuss the Alliance matter more in depth, and Sascha had accompanied him for reasons of her own. As a result, a suitably chastened Jon was sitting in the "brig" when they got back.
"Why does he look like he swallowed raw eggs?" Mercy asked Sascha, after she found her alpha's mate in front of said brig. One cell held wolf juveniles, the other, Jon. Now that she thought about it, every single miscreant looked prune faced. "What did you do to all of them?"
Sascha gave her a beatific smile as they walked out into the corridor and began to head south. "They had to say one nice thing about each other. Jon had to say a nice thing about every single wolf he dusted with that powder."
Mercy's leopard grinned. "I like this new evil side of you." The nature of Sascha's gift meant she couldn't hurt anyone without hurting along with that person. That didn't mean her spine wasn't forged out of unadulterated steel. "I had wild monkey sex with Riley." The speed with which it came out told her, her subconscious had simply been waiting for the chance.
Sascha almost tripped over her own feet. "Oh." A pause as she glanced around the corridor and lowered her voice. "Lucas mentioned it but . . . really? You and Riley?"
"Oh, yeah." Mercy rubbed her face. "I can't believe I just told you. It means I'm thinking of doing it again."
"Was it good?" Sascha slapped a hand over her mouth, cardinal eyes wide with mortification. "I've been living too long with cats. That was a horribly nosy question."