She jumped as the comm panel beeped. It was an effort to stretch out a hand from the warm cocoon of her bed and pick up the portable handset. "Yeah?"
"Turn on the visual, Mercy."
All laziness fled. "Gran?"
"Of course it's me. Now, the visual. Hurry up, girl. Your grandfather's waiting so we can squeeze in some horizontal tango time before a meeting."
Mercy blushed. "I so didn't need that image in my head. And no visual - I'm naked." What she was, was worried that her eagle-eyed grandmother would spot the bite mark Riley had left on her neck.
"You haven't got anything I haven't," her grandmother said.
"Gran." She smiled despite herself. "I'm not one of your pack, so don't act the alpha with me." Her maternal grandmother led the AzureSun pack down in Brazil. Isabella's sentinels had stood by her as she aged, because it wasn't always about strength with changelings - age and experience counted just as much. Not that her grandmother wasn't also in phenomenally good shape.
"I don't act the alpha, Mercy girl. I am alpha." It was said with the calm confidence of a woman who knew exactly who she was and didn't give a damn what anyone else thought. "And this alpha has a present for you."
Every single cell in Mercy's body went on high alert. "Gran? What did you do?"
"Don't sound so worried, darling. I know you said you couldn't leave your pack to come see if one of my sentinels might work as a mate, but we're pretty calm down here so I'm sending Eduardo and Joaquin up to you."
Oh. Dear. God. "Gran, you don't need to play matchmaker. I already found someone." To have wild sex with, but she didn't think her grandmother needed to hear that part.
"Really?" A sharp sound. "Less dominant?"
Say my name, kitty.
Her claws sliced out, threatening to destroy the sheets. "No."
"Is he your mate?"
The leopard snarled at the idea. "We've only just - "
"Then there's no harm in having a wider field to choose from."
Mercy was all but strangling the handset. "Gran, I seriously don't need any help. Don't send your sentinels up here." Dodging two undoubtedly determined males was not her idea of a good time. Especially not when the only man her body seemed to crave was a wolf she'd threatened to kill more than once.
"Too late," Isabella said. "I cleared it with Lucas days ago - my men are probably already in your territory. And if they don't work out, I have several other unmated sentinels who all think you'd make an excellent mate."
Mercy thumped her forehead with a fist. "I'm sending them straight back. I don't need the complication."
"Of course you do, dear. And if the man you're seeing can't handle a little competition, he should get out of the game." Her voice changed, became pure alpha. "You need a tough man, Mercy. Otherwise, you'll stomp on his heart and eat it for breakfast."
"Fact of life, kitten." A muffled whisper. "Speaking of tough men, your grandfather is out of patience. I'll talk to you after you meet Eduardo and Joaquin."
She was about to put the handset on the bed stand when it came back to life in her hand. This time, she checked the caller ID. "Lucas? What's up?"
"I need you to run a check out by the Grove. Something's there that shouldn't be."
Her mind shifted into sentinel mode. "Like last time?" Then, it had been a wounded Psy defector they'd found. The aftermath had almost gotten both Dorian and Ashaya killed.
"No" - Lucas's voice was grim - "tip was, there's a dead smell in the air."
Ice water in her veins. "Psy, human, or changeling?"
"No confirmation - call me the second you know," he said. "One of the SnowDancers is already on the way to join you."
"Why?" Her leopard bristled. "The Grove's in our territory."
"It was one of their juveniles who sensed something off when he passed through - "
"Hah," Mercy said. "He probably came down to do mischief." As DarkRiver's official liaison to SnowDancer, there wasn't much she didn't know about the little turf war the cat and wolf juveniles - and young adults - were having. Anything that involved both packs and didn't need an alpha's attention went through her . . . and Riley. The bite mark on her neck tingled in sensory memory - she could all but feel his lips, his teeth against her sensitized flesh.
"Anything serious I need to worry about?"
Snapping back to the present, she shook her head. "No, they're just blowing off steam, trying to figure out the hierarchy between themselves." Both DarkRiver and SnowDancer ran disciplined packs - the younger members knew exactly how far they could go. "Maybe I can beat the SnowDancer to the Grove."
"We're allies." Lucas sounded very patient. "Be nice."
She knew he traded barbs with Hawke, the SnowDancer alpha, every time they met. "I will if you will."
"Shut up. I'm your alpha. Go look and see what's up."
Hanging up with a grin that quickly faded as she considered what she might find, she hurried to throw some water on her face - the bath would have to wait until she had a few hours to relax. Though her muscles were still a little sore, it was nothing that would hold her back. She was a sentinel for a reason - she was fit, lethal, and well able to take down most men twice her size.
Not including Riley.
Her teeth bared at the way he'd pinned her - maybe she'd enjoyed it last night, but if the wolf tried to use that to change the balance of power in the sentinel-lieutenant relationship between them, things would get seriously ugly.