Her much younger sister had been frighteningly weak as a child, though no one could diagnose the reason behind it. Indigo would catch a cold and be up and running the next day. Evie would catch a cold and need to be hooked up to machines so she could breathe, her little body wracked by shivers. It used to terrify Indigo that she might lose the sister she loved so much—and to something Indigo couldn’t fight, couldn’t defend against.
Her mother squeezed her arm. “You’re my baby, too.”
Indigo shifted closer to her mother, the wolf wanting to brush up against her as they walked. “How is Evie? I haven’t spoken to her for a few days.” Her sister had finally thrown off the inexplicable—especially for a changeling—sickliness in her teens. Now in her second year of college, she was a sweet-tempered, submissive wolf chased by more than one young wolf in the den—and humans outside of it.
“She’s coming for a visit in three weeks’ time.”
Indigo’s wolf stretched out its paws and arched its back in pleasure.
“And,” Tarah continued, “she told me to tell you not to scare off all the men beforehand—she wants to date the wild and dangerous types, thank you very much.” Laughing at the look on Indigo’s face, she said, “Grab us a good seat. I’ll get the coffees.”
Still scowling at the idea of her willow-slender sister with some of the rougher young males, Indigo wandered through the room filled with furniture in bright citrus tones until she found two armchairs facing each other in a quiet corner. They were both a funky orange, the table between them a dark, varnished wood that bore the nicks and scratches of constant use.
Waving a casual hello at Tai as the young soldier passed by, she settled in to wait for her mom. That was part of the ritual, too. It was always Tarah who got the coffee, mixing the ingredients in a way that made it taste incredible.
It’s love, Tarah had once laughingly said. That’s the secret ingredient.
“Indigo?” Tai had circled back.
She looked up into his pretty, pretty face, all silky hair and those wild green eyes with a slight upward tilt that spoke of the Balinese ancestry on his mother’s side. “Yes, she’s coming home for a visit. No, I will not give you a free pass. You put one finger on her, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”
Tai snarled low in his throat, his wide shoulders going stiff as he fisted his hands. “Yeah, well, maybe I’ll beat you back.” Face thunderous, he stalked off as she fought her smile. Hmm, perhaps Judd’s young protégé had potential. None of the others had dared stand up to her. And Indigo wasn’t handing over her vulnerable younger sister to a wolf who couldn’t protect her from all comers.
Tarah placed a tray between them as Tai left the common room. It held two steaming mugs of coffee and a couple of large blueberry muffins. “They were the last ones there,” Tarah said, shaking her head. “And it’s only nine.”
“Pack’s got a young population,” Indigo said, taking a sip of her coffee before putting down the mug and picking up a muffin. “You should see how much some of my trainees go through in a day.”
“Speaking of the young population”—Tarah eyed Indigo over the top of her own mug—“I told you not to scare off Evie’s dates.”
Indigo wasn’t the least cowed by her mother’s mock scowl, well able to see the amusement behind it. “She’s mine to look after.”
“You always were possessive about her.” Shaking her head, Tarah sipped her coffee.
“Mama?” Indigo asked after several minutes of companionable silence.
Indigo felt her lips curve. Tarah alone could call her that and make it sound perfectly acceptable. Of course, her father tended to call her “pumpkin” and ruffle her hair like she was five years old. No respect, she thought with an inward smile, she got no respect from her parents. “Do you ever get angry at Dad?”
Tarah’s eyes sparkled. “Sure I do. You know that.”
“No, I don’t mean the little spats.” Though you couldn’t really call them that, either. Her parents were so in sync it was scary. “But at his dominance . . . don’t you sometimes wish he’d let you take control?” She’d never before asked her mother that question, had always felt it would cross some line, but today, she needed to know.
Putting her mug on the table, Tarah leaned forward and picked a blueberry from her muffin. She chewed thoughtfully before answering. “No,” she said at last, her response free of ambiguity. “My wolf needs to feel protected, feel safe.” Angling her head when Indigo remained silent, Tarah said, “I know you’ve never understood that, baby, for all that you love me.”
“Mama, I didn’t mean—”
“Hush.” A gentle command that had Indigo swallowing her apology. “The fact is, you’re a dominant—that’s why you and your father always butted heads.”
“Was I that bad?”
“A terror.” It was a cheerful reply. “But because of the hierarchy, we could deal with you without too many problems. Your father outranked you—so when push came to shove, you had to listen.”
Now Indigo outranked Abel—though she would never in a million years actually bring that up. Ever. Some relationships were sacred, and when she was with her father, Indigo treated him as the dominant. “That used to make me crazy—that he could shut me down by pulling rank,” she said in answer to her mother’s statement, “but at the same time, it was calming.”