Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling 6) - Page 30

"It was fantastic," Mercy answered. "Fan-fucking-tastic. I want more. It's making me insane."

"What's stopping you from . . . ?"

"Aside from the fact that he's a wolf?" She raised an eyebrow. "And I'm a cat? There's all sorts of wrong there."

"Mercy, don't try and snow me. Changelings aren't animals. You're human, too. And there's nothing wrong with a strong woman like you finding Riley attractive."

Mercy reached up to redo her ponytail. "You know how predatory changeling men are." But now she knew he was more than that - she'd felt the depth of his hurt, seen a glimmer of a heart so strong, it made the leopard hunger to be invited in.

"You're hardly a cream puff." Sascha's expression filled with mischief. "I don't think Riley's going to know what hit him."

A shiver sizzled down her spine even as she grinned at Sascha's comment. Glancing instinctively to the right, she saw Riley heading out from the area where the boys were contained. "Finished?"

"This time." He looked at Sascha. "They're calling you the Devil Incarnate."

Smile wide, Sascha dusted off her hands. "My work here is done." She glanced at her watch. "I have to go see Toby," she said, mentioning Judd's nephew, "and then I'd better go rescue Hawke and Lucas from each other. You two going to sit in on this meeting?"

"I might swing by, see if they need us for anything," Mercy said. "After that, I'm gonna go for a long run, clear my head." There was too much crap clogging her up - the Human Alliance going suddenly psychotic, juveniles acting up now of all times, and this damn, unquenchable thirst for Riley "the Wall" Kincaid. They'd been antagonists for so long, the increasing complexity of her feelings for him kept catching her unawares.

Riley didn't say anything as he accompanied her to Hawke's office, which didn't surprise her. The wolf could be very quiet when he was thinking - and strange as it was, she'd come to be comfortable with his silences. Because Riley never stopped being there, his focus as absolute as always.

Hawke was picking up a call as they walked in. Mercy leaned over the back of Lucas's chair, intending to ask if he needed her to do anything before she headed down, but Hawke swore, sailor-harsh, before she could get a word out. She looked up to find his face a mask of anger and, oddly, pity.

"Send it through," he said, and flicked on the comm panel to their left.

The screen filled with the image of a golden-blond SnowDancer soldier. "We found him collapsed on the edge of the cliff. Looks like he was trying to crawl over it. Hold on." The soldier turned his cell phone so they could see the rough tent that had been rigged a few feet away. Getting closer, he lifted the edge of the canvas to reveal the male who lay unconscious inside.

"He's covered in blood, and as far as we can tell he's continuing to bleed from the nose and ears." A pause. "Jem says it looks like the fine veins in his eyes are starting to go as well. We don't have the resources to treat him - I've called an Evac unit, but I don't think it'll get him to a hospital in time."

"Anything to tell us who he is?" Hawke asked.

"Full ID in the pocket - Samuel Rain, a robotics expert employed at Psion Research."

"That's a Psy company," Mercy muttered. "He Psy?"

"Doesn't have the smell," was the response. "But from the density of his bones, I'd say so. One more thing - he had a loaded semiautomatic in the trunk of his car."

Lucas tapped a finger on the arm of his chair. "We can get word to someone who might be able to get him out of there in time, get him directly to Psy medics."

The SnowDancer alpha didn't hesitate. "Do it. Jesus, what a way to freaking die."

Mercy was already pulling out her cell phone, knowing exactly who Lucas was talking about. Anthony Kyriakus knew a very, very fast teleporter. "What are his precise coordinates?" Heading out of the office soon as she had that info, she made the call to Faith in private.

Riley met her eyes as she reentered. "Still keeping secrets?"

"Of course. Don't tell me you share everything?" She returned her attention to the comm panel. "What would drive a Psy to throw himself off a cliff?"

"He probably didn't want to use the gun," Riley said with quiet pragmatism.

Lucas shoved a hand through his hair. "If this kind of thing is the outer edge, what's going to happen when the PsyNet really fractures?"

"Hell on earth," Hawke said, eyes on the screen.

"Whoa!" It came from the soldier on the cliff. "He's gone." He switched the camera to show the empty spot where the body had lain. "Fuck, that teleporter must be good to do it from a distance."

Mercy agreed. She'd rarely seen a teleporter in action, but Sascha had told her that most needed contact with their "passenger." "Well," she said after the comm screen cleared, "I guess that's that."

"Do you think," Hawke murmured, those pale wolf eyes contemplative, "they'd do the same for us if we were lying injured and bleeding in front of them?"

"Depends on the individual Psy," Mercy answered, having some idea of how much Hawke despised most of the psychic race. "Lucky for this guy we aren't the vicious animals the Council makes us out to be."

Riley stirred beside her. "You need us the rest of the day?"

It was Lucas who answered. "No. Go . . . play."

Hawke's grim look turned wolf-wicked as Mercy narrowed her eyes at her alpha and left the room. She felt Riley exit beside her, though he didn't say a word until they were back in the main corridors. "I guess the secret's out."