Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling 6) - Page 5

"Hmm, he wants me to leave. Why?" Drew sipped his coffee. "Could it be because the little she-cat marked our esteemed lieutenant?"

Riley barely kept himself from reacting to the "she-cat" comment. He had no intention of hiding his entanglement with Mercy - she might be frustrating as hell, a royal pain in his ass, but she was also an incredibly strong, sexy woman, someone any male would be proud to call his lover. But he needed time to figure out how he was going to deal with it. The instant that thought formed, he heard Mercy's voice in his head, a fragment of memory from their many scuffles.

"Jesus, Riley, do you ever just react?"

"When necessary."

"When necessary." She mimicked his voice perfectly. "I'd call you Psy but I think that would be an insult to the Psy."

"I feel."

"But your feelings go through about ten different filters before you let them out." She flipped her hair, tied in a high tail, over a shoulder. "Doesn't bother me - except when you drive me insane with these plans." The word "plan" was about seven syllables long. "We'll deal with some situations as they arise. We don't need a color-coded flowchart."

He hadn't had a flowchart, of course. Mercy simply liked to jerk his chain as far as possible. "I think you need to go see Brenna," he said to Andrew when his brother remained seated. "Word is, she and Judd had a fight." Riley liked Judd, but the man was mated to his baby sister - Riley reserved the right to hassle him periodically. And use him as fodder to distract Drew. "She won't talk to me - go make sure he didn't push her around."

Drew left so fast, he created a breeze in his wake. Riley wondered if Judd would punch Drew for his unwanted - and entirely unnecessary - interference. "Serves him right," he muttered, rising and stealing the coffee his brother had left behind. Judd would cut off his arm before hurting Brenna. That was why he was still alive. Because while Riley wasn't Mercy, with her breathtakingly vivid nature, he felt deeply.

And he loved his sister with a strength that made her call him an overprotective bear on a regular basis. He didn't care. The pack had helped - so much - but it was Riley Brenna had looked to after their parents' deaths, Riley who'd kissed her scrapes and soothed her nightmares. The fact that she was mated didn't change his right to look after her.

A knot of guilt and fury twisted around his heart on the heels of that thought. He hadn't dreamed last night, but the ache was there, as always. Because the truth was, he'd failed Brenna when she needed him most. That Psy bastard Santano Enrique had hurt his sister, hurt her so much that she'd almost broken.

"But she didn't break. She f**king survived, and the last thing she needs now is an idiot brother who feels sorry for himself." Mercy's voice again, words she'd thrown at him when he'd snarled at her one time too many after Brenna's rescue.

What would she say if she could hear his thoughts right now?

He reached back to touch his shoulder, a reluctant smile tugging at his lips as old rage retreated under a wave of the most primal desire. If he'd known it would be this good between them, he'd have said to hell with self-control and gone after her months ago. That, he thought as he walked into the bathroom, was one mistake he wouldn't be repeating.

By the time Drew dragged his sorry ass back through the door, Riley was dressed and eating scrambled eggs. "No visible bruises," he said, eyes going to Drew's chest. His brother had been shot through the heart last winter, his blood a scarlet flower across the snow - Riley's wolf couldn't help the near-automatic check. "Either Judd was in a good mood, or your ribs must hurt like hell."

"Laugh if you will," Drew said, an evil grin cracking his face. "But now Brenna knows something's up, too."

Great. If Drew was nosy, then Bren was relentless. "You have no life, Drew."

"Then you won't mind if I stick my nose into yours."

Mercy lay in bed way past her usual wake-up time, staring at the ceiling of her cabin. She was sore as heck, marked up with bites, scratches, and bruises, and she felt like purring. Not that she'd tell him - ever - but Riley knew what he was doing in bed. Or on the forest floor.

The wolf had not only ridden her into damn near unconsciousness, he'd given her the best orgasms of her life. And that was plain embarrassing. Her best sex had been with a wolf. Pathetic. Except her body was telling her to shut up and wallow. 'Cause this felt gooooood. Good enough that she might even want to repeat it.

"No," she told herself the instant the thought reared its head. "Once - and most of the night definitely counts as once - you can write off as a mistake. But you do this again and he's going to start thinking he has rights over you." She knew predatory changeling men. They liked control. They particularly liked their women to submit. And Riley was one big giant hunk of testosterone-fueled Neanderthal wolf - he probably thought her submission was his right. She snorted. "Not in this lifetime."

Groaning as her muscles protested, she turned. She'd had a shower last night, but a hot bath was unquestionably in order. And a massage. One of her packmates would be happy to give her the latter out of simple friendship, but if they did, they'd see the marks on her body.

She could imagine their reaction when they found out she'd been getting down and dirty with a wolf. The SnowDancers were their allies, but leopard and wolf didn't easily mix. True friendship would take one heck of a long time. And, though she'd had great sex with Riley - okay, hot, monkey, freakin' wonderful sex - he wasn't her friend, either.

Most of the time, he irritated the hell out of her just by breathing.