And if she continued to find herself thinking about a certain wolf much too often, she was sentinel enough to keep her emotions from interfering with the job. But those feelings were fresh in her mind when she got a call as she was about to leave to change for the meeting.
"Come up and meet me tonight." That deep, now familiar voice soaked through her skin, rich, dark, and tempting.
Her hand clenched on the receiver. "Can't. Got something else."
"When's it finish? I'll meet you."
"That's it - no?" The edge of a growl in his voice. "I thought we'd settled this."
The sheer arrogance of his commands - not requests, commands - made the cat snarl. "Doesn't mean you have an entry into my pants anytime you please."
"Jesus, Mercy, I just wanted to talk to you."
She felt a little twinge. Of guilt. Of hunger. "Talk now."
"Fine." He told her about the conversation he'd witnessed between Hawke and Sienna.
Mercy's antennae twanged. "Something's seriously wrong."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. I want you to tell Sascha. She's the one Psy we know who might have a shot at getting to the bottom of this. Judd says Sienna's stonewalling him."
"Why didn't you call her yourself?"
Not even a pause. "Because it's you I want to talk to." No lies. No subterfuge. No hiding his intent.
"Damn it, Riley. This'll leave us both broken in the end." The na**d emotional response pushed out past any logical rebuttal. She was starting to think of him as hers, but he wasn't, might never be. Not when her leopard wouldn't even accept the bonds of scent.
"And is fighting it any less painful?"
No. No, it hurts just as bad.
He was only twenty-two, a telekinetic with a Gradient rating of 7. Powerful, he was truly powerful. And he'd lost control.
Trembling, he levitated the fallen bureau off his roommate's body. The Tp-Psy lay crushed, his organs static, his brain destroyed. Dead. The Tk-Psy swallowed the word past the jagged glass of a parched throat. He'd never seen a dead person before. That wasn't part of the Psy curriculum.
But now his roommate was dead, and he was a murderer.
He didn't even try to hide it. Didn't want to. He wanted to find an answer, something that would stop him from doing the same thing ever again. Enforcement processed him quickly, since there was no question of culpability.
When a representative from the Center came to offer him mild rehabilitation in lieu of a sentence, the Tk-Psy didn't hesitate. Even if they'd said he had to do the sentence, he still wouldn't have balked. Because he never again wanted to feel his powers sliding out of his grip, never again wanted to see blood seep into the carpet.
For the first time, he truly understood the salvation that was Silence.
Mercy sat in her car, staring out at the light show of a cloudy dusk. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel until she felt like she could break the damn thing. When the first flick of rain hit the windshield, she finally turned on the engine and headed to her cabin, wanting out of her work clothes before going over to Lucas and Sascha's aerie.
Turned out she was the first to arrive. Sascha was in the kitchen, looking mournful. "Lucas went to grab some take-out."
"You found a way to destroy tacos?" Mercy raised her eyebrows. "This, I have to see."
Sascha threw a tomato at her. "I dropped the box of taco shells and managed to break every single one into a million pieces."
Looking into the box, Mercy whistled and put down the abused tomato. "Wow, sure you didn't throw this at his highness's head?"
A guilty look. Mercy burst out laughing. "That does my heart good."
"To know you two still fight."
Sascha's lips tugged up at the corners. "It's fun."
"Yeah, it is." Grinning, she used one of the broken pieces to scoop up the salsa Sascha had already made. "I got some info for you on Sienna." She filled Sascha in.
"Hmm, I'll have to go up and see what's happening. I've been working with Toby, but I don't think I've talked to Sienna in several weeks." She leaned against the wall and looked at Mercy with those penetrating cardinal eyes. "You're wound up tighter than tight."
Mercy decided to take up the implied offer. "Riley's pushing."
"That's what predatory changeling men do." A meaningful glance at the broken taco shells.
"Not that kind of pushing - though he does that, too. He's pushing for more than sex." She paused, then admitted the truth. "It already is more than sex." The strength of these new emotions threatened to crush her heart, steal her breath.
"Ah." Sascha took a few moments. "Is there a possibility he could be your mate?"
"I'm not what he's looking for in a mate, trust me." A stab deep in her soul, a twisting pain that seemed to get stronger with every day that passed.
"That hurts you."
She went to deny it, then decided it was unmitigated stupidity to lie to an empath on the subject of emotions. "Yeah, it does. But I'm glad he was honest - that's more important than anything. As long as he doesn't try to mold me into what he wants, I can deal." Because she wanted him, too, the idiot.
And maybe, since he wasn't asking for a lifetime, her leopard wouldn't resent being tied down, perhaps even find some peace in it. Except . . . "The way he draws me, the sheer strength of it . . . I don't know what to do."
Sascha gave her a surprisingly mischievous smile. "Doesn't mean you can't enjoy him while you figure it out."