She nipped him on the chin. "Don't push your luck, Kincaid."
His lashes lifted, to reveal warm brown eyes full of languor. "You're purring."
"Yeah, so?" She dared him to make something of it.
Of course, since it was Riley, he did. "So I made you purr." A smug smile.
She frowned. "This is now officially a two-night stand."
"It's not night." He kept stroking her back.
His big, deliciously callused hand felt so good on her that she almost sighed. "You know what I mean."
"Why?" The lazy lover was rapidly being replaced by the Riley she knew and . . . lived to irritate.
"Okay," she said, "maybe you're not the spawn of Satan as I originally thought - "
"But" - she glared at him for the interruption - "you'd be hell to be in a relationship with. HELL. In capital letters." Part of her own mind vehemently disagreed - sleeping with him last night, it had been something special, an experience that wrapped around her heart and made her want to take the wildest of chances. But that Riley might never again make an appearance, not if the lieutenant decided to contain him using his formidable self-control.
"I do have an ego, Mercy."
Hearing the warning in his voice, she ran her fingers through his hair. Beautiful and thick, it slid over her hands like water. "Riley, you still try to order Brenna around, and she's mated, for chrissakes."
"She's my baby sister. I'll try to order her around when she's eighty and a great-grandmother."
"No, I don't see. There's a crucial difference between you and Brenna. You're not my sister. Thank God."
Mercy made a sound of frustration and sat up on her haunches. "It's not about that. It's about the fact that you're anal about control. You'd try to handle me." And she was not a woman who'd take kindly to that. More . . . it would hurt her if she gave him her trust and he abused it by attempting to turn her into something she wasn't.
Sitting up, Riley looked at her for several long minutes. "How about if I promise not to treat you as anything but my lover?"
"You can't," she said, curling her fingers into fists to stop from reaching out to caress him. "You're a dominant wolf male." Possession was in his blood.
"Fine." He scowled. "But the fact is, we burn up together and we both have no one else that we see as a potential partner. What's wrong with helping each other release the tension until we find our mates?"
Mercy wanted to snap at him for that blithe assumption. But the truth was, he probably would find a mate. His chances were higher than hers - dominant males had no problem mating with less dominant, or submissive, females. And Riley, of course, was looking for exactly that type of woman. "What if I don't want to be your f**k buddy?"
He kissed her. Slow and wet and openly possessive. "You do." Another kiss, a quick nip at her lower lip. "Do the words 'nose,' 'spite,' 'face,' have any meaning to you?"
She was not cutting off her nose to spite her face. She wasn't. Okay, maybe she'd considered it. "If we do this, you have to know - the instant you go 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' on me, I'm kicking your wolf ass out of my bed." Her hands closed over his shoulders, claws kneading. "Understood?"
"I understand you'll try to kick me out." A smile that began as a bare curve of his lips, and ended up creasing his cheeks with lean male dimples. "Maybe you'll win."
Since when did the sight of his smile tug at things low and deep in her? "Maybe you're delusional - and I'm undeniably insane for even considering this, but let's try it."
Riley's wolf bared its teeth inside him. He wanted Mercy, craved her until it was a gnawing ache in his gut. It was far more than sex now, even if the stubborn cat wouldn't admit it. But since it was patently clear that a full-frontal assault wouldn't work, he'd adopt cat methods and stalk her. And if he had to swipe the competition away with his claws . . . well, they shouldn't have gotten in his way. Because Mercy was his.
Midmorning the next day, Riley talked to Judd as they supervised several eight-year-olds in the White Zone while their teachers went on a break. "So, did your contact come through?"
"Says the Council's downplaying any link between the shooter and the other incidents of violence." His voice was cool, his eyes intent. "It could be the truth."
Having learned something of how the PsyNet functioned, Riley took a moment to think. "The rebel activities in the Net have anything to do with that?"
His fellow lieutenant nodded. "Silence didn't magically happen one day - Psy chose it because we were going insane on a phenomenal level. If that Silence is now starting to fragment . . ."
"Then we're going to see more of this. Like that murder-suicide Dorian found." An entire family butchered after the head of the family shattered in the most lethal way.
"Yeah." Judd's face was bleak.
Riley could understand why. The Laurens had left the PsyNet, but they still cared about those trapped in emotionless Silence . . . and yet that very Silence might be all that was keeping those others alive. "But say it's not because of the trouble in the Net," he said. "How high are the chances of that?"
"High," Judd said to his surprise. "Apparently, there's evidence the shooter was acting under a compulsion. It's possible the others were, too." He glanced at Riley. "If that guy from yesterday survives, we might find out more."
Riley thought of the images he'd seen. "His brain was all but leaking out his ears - even if he survives, he might not remember anything."