"It's not a lie. He's an ass."
"I could've told you that." A sniff. "I know wolves can be attractive, but seriou - "
"Back up." Mercy held up a hand. "How do you know?"
"None of your business."
Mercy grinned. "Played with a wolf, did you?"
"If I did, I came to my senses in time." But her lips were twitching. "Be careful, Mercy girl. They're different from us."
"No, you have to know - they are different. They tend to be more brutal in their pack structure, for one."
Mercy thought of Hawke's rule, compared it with Lucas's. Yeah, there were differences, but both men would kill for those under their care. "We're the same as far as the things that matter."
"If you mate with him - "
Mercy all but screamed. "Who said anything about mating? I just had my own bit of fun. End of story."
Isabella raised an eyebrow. "Never seen a man rile you up like this before."
"I'll get over it." She had to. Because what he'd done . . . "He f**king hurt me, Gran."
Sascha lay curled up in bed beside Lucas, playing her fingers over his chest. "Do you think Sienna's alright?" They'd decided to stick with the girl's real name. With her eyes covered up and her hair dyed a temporary brunette, she looked nothing like her old self.
"Kit knows who she is - he'll make sure she's not overwhelmed."
"At least it's an outdoor dance, easier for her to acclimate - she can walk off if things get too much." The older juveniles and young adults had thrown together the dance/dinner/excuse for flirting after Sienna had "come to visit from Talin's hometown."
The fact that she was actually sleeping at Lucas and Sascha's fazed no one - packmates were used to accommodating others and Tally's house was full. So the logistics had been neatly skirted, but still . . . "She's been so sheltered, first in the Net, then in the SnowDancer den."
"She'll be fine. I made sure everyone knows she's under my protection." He squeezed her. "Not that it's necessary - Kit won't leave her side."
"I'm worried it's too soon."
"The whole point of this week is to give her some time out." He spread his fingers over her lower back. "If she can get things under better control - "
"She's already more stable," Sascha said, having felt the girl settle as soon as they left the den.
"Good. That'll give her more time."
But Sascha knew what he wasn't saying - sooner or later, Sienna was going to need more training than anyone in either pack could provide. No one knew, however, just who might be able to train a cardinal with her destructive abilities. "She's safe around the pack," Sascha said. "Judd and Walker have an eye on her through the LaurenNet, and she knows to contact me for telepathic assistance the instant something happens."
"Can you calm her down?"
"Yes, for a while. We decided that if she gets really bad, Judd will hit her with a telepathic blow that'll cause unconsciousness. Not what I would've chosen, but it gives her the confidence to move about without worry."
"Which means we have the aerie to ourselves." He grinned. "Kit said she could crash at his and Rina's tonight since it's closer, but I want you to check she's comfortable doing that, with it being her first night."
"Hold on." Her telepathy was enough for a quick conversation with Sienna, given the girl's much longer reach. Sienna could "hear" the barest whisper.
First, a polite mental knock. When Sienna responded, she asked, Are you still fine with staying over at Rina and Kit's?
Yes. Kit said I can have his room and he'll take the couch.
Be careful. His room's probably a pit.
No, Rina told me he's soldier-neat. A pause. I'm okay, Sascha. I'll 'path you if anything happens?
Catching the rising intonation, Sascha said, Of course. Now go enjoy yourself.
Dropping from the link, she pressed a kiss to Lucas's shoulder. "She's coping. But I can already feel her itching to return to the den."
"I don't think that's anything either of us can change." Worry laced his tone. "Hawke called to check that she was settling in - I talked him into letting her stay with us indefinitely, with regular visits up to see Toby and the others."
It was more than Sascha had ever expected. "How?"
"I told him the truth - she's better down here." He blew out a breath. "Keep an eye on her, kitten. That kid's got a hard road ahead of her."
Sascha nodded. "Do you think . . . maybe?"
"Even the panther doesn't know the answer to that." Turning, he looked down at her, bright green eyes gone night-glow. "But it knows it wants to pet its mate."
"Well, it just so happens that I need some petting," Sascha murmured and was about to kiss him when he went hunting-quiet, then relaxed.
"Dorian's here - let me see what it's about."
"I hope nothing's wrong." She sat up, sheets clutched to her br**sts.
Kissing her on the lips, Lucas got out and pulled on a pair of jeans, which, Sascha thought, was a shame. As if he'd heard the thought - and he might have, through the mating bond - he turned to throw her a grin. "You can bite my ass in a minute."
She threw a pillow at him but she was laughing. Falling back onto the bed, she realized she really did want him - quite desperately. The need between her and Lucas was a wild, growing thing, but she'd been extra aroused this past week. She'd never had a problem with letting Lucas know she wanted him - it was easy when the man could tell by her scent. But she'd all but ripped off his shirt an hour ago.