A painful paradox.
Maybe she'd been right in what she'd said to Tammy - perhaps she'd never be able to surrender that absolutely to a man, to trust him with that much of herself. It was a real possibility that one day soon, she'd have to watch Riley mate with someone else. Her hand fisted. "Call it what you like," she said to Eduardo, "but don't say I didn't warn you."
He shrugged. "I'll stay - after all, Joaquin's still in with a shot."
Not deigning to answer, she turned on her heel and left, arriving at her current CTX station just after lunch. She had every intention of working with single-minded focus, but couldn't forget the disturbing ferocity of her reaction to the thought of Riley mating with another woman, a woman who'd have the right to touch him, kiss him, hold him when his demons got too bad. Even now, as she made her way to the garage, the idea made her blood ignite.
"Security cameras, check, weapons detection system, needed," she muttered in an effort to drown out the cat's angry hissing. "Can't do much about Psy teleporters, though. How do you detect someone who poofs in?"
A familiar scent came to her on quiet air currents. "Talking to yourself, big sis?"
She pecked her middle brother, Sage, on the cheek. "I smelled you a mile off, Herb." It was an old joke, one that never failed to make him scowl.
It didn't today either. "Ha-ha. This is my I'm-not-amused face." That done, he put his camera equipment on the floor and rubbed the back of his neck. "Guess where I just was."
Based on the now genuinely pained expression on his face, she said, "Lifestyles of the rich and famous?" Sage normally covered the crime beat.
"Close. I had to sit through an interview with Bibi Pink." He looked like he was about to throw up. "If she has three brain cells, I'm a frickin' wolf."
Mercy's stomach dipped at the way he said "wolf." What would her family say if they realized she was consorting with the enemy on a very intimate basis? "Who did you piss off to get on that?"
"Nobody - it was Eamon's turn to do the celebrity stuff, but he got called out to a shooting at the Berkeley campus. I was the closest to Bibi so I covered."
"Another shooting?" Frowning, she turned to look at her brother. Sage had inherited the family red hair, but on him, the red was tangled with so much brown, most people didn't realize he had any red at all until he walked out into the sun. "Details."
Deep hazel eyes frowned. "Would it hurt you to say please?"
"Would you prefer I broke your arm?" She'd grown up with three little hooligans who didn't seem to understand the meaning of a closed door. If she'd let them, they'd have swarmed her like a horde of locusts. "Give it up, hotshot."
"Abuse," he said, but then gave her a smacking kiss on the cheek, the scent of him a familiar and much loved touch of firs dusted with snow, and the sweet crushed nutmeg of home. He'd hate to be described that way, but that was how she saw him - if Bastien was the rock, and Grey the sea, then Sage was the tide. Fluid. Enduring.
Now he put an arm around her shoulders. "I'm getting this second hand," he said, "but apparently it was so much of a mess that there's no way the Council's going to be able to keep it quiet. Some senior Psy professor put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger."
"Suicide by a Psy is news, but you're talking breaking news bulletin if Eamon got pulled off schedule. Why?"
" 'Cause the professor held his physics class captive for twenty minutes beforehand. He shot himself in front of them."
"Jesus." Mercy rocked back on her heels, datapad dropping to her side. "You hear of any other episodes like this?"
"I got a buddy up in North Dakota - he says they've had a couple of incidents of Psy acting out violently. One guy almost beat another to death before they managed to pull him off. And Garrick, up in Chicago, he's had a couple of hits on his radar, too."
Which meant there were probably even more that hadn't yet filtered down through the grapevine.
"Oh, and this broke a few minutes ago - they found a human male stabbed to death in an alley in Tahoe. Looks like random violence, but it's the second murder in that area in less than a week. First one was that woman in the shallow grave."
Mercy nodded, wondering if there was any connection between the two killings. Might be time for Dorian to hack into an Enforcement database. "Thanks, Herb."
"Cut it out." Turning, he grabbed her in a full hug, squeezing tight, his forehead lined with a heavy scowl. "Take it back."
"Puh-leeze. I can flip you in one second flat."
"And how will you explain the bruises to Mom?"
"Tattletale." She fought not to smile.
His eyes narrowed, but she saw the cat's laughter. "Take it back."
"Or what?" When he bared his teeth in a mock growl and squeezed her even tighter, she blew out a breath. "Fine. I'm sorry. Happy?"
He let her go with a grin that had caught her heart from the moment her mom had first laid him in her arms. "I'm still telling. You know how mad Mom gets when anyone makes fun of our names, Melisande."
About to respond, she caught another scent entering the garage. "I've got company. Talk to you later."
Sage's lip curled in disdain. "Wolf."
"We have an alliance." She parroted Lucas. "Now, shoo, baby brother."
"Nice try but I know you can't stand this one." He bent to pick up his gear, missing her guilty expression. "Dinner tonight? Bas just got back from New York, and Grey's got the night off."