“There, you see, you do understand.” Tarah plucked out another blueberry. “Strict adherence to the hierarchy helps maintain the balance of the pack. Our wolves are happiest when they know their place in the scheme of things. For my wolf, that place is in the shelter of Abel’s arms.”
Indigo gave a slow nod, seeing a deeper truth in her mother’s words. “I would never be happy,” she said, the words spilling out before she realized how much they might betray, “either with a man who treated me as a submissive or with a man my wolf saw as weaker.”
Tarah gave her a penetrating look and Indigo knew her mother saw too much, but all she said was, “Yes, that’s true. Your place is not the same as mine. For you to be happy, you must accept and respect your partner to the very core of your soul—or your wolf will make both your lives a misery.”
Having come down to the city to talk to one of his contacts in the human population, Andrew decided to say hi to Teijan as well, figuring he might as well use the time in a productive fashion. Because if he went back to the den, he’d undoubtedly end up tracking Indigo. And he couldn’t tip his hand, not yet, not before he was prepared.
So he was waiting for the Rat alpha at Fisherman’s Wharf as the sun rose high enough to chase off the whispers of fog that still licked over the bay. Teijan turned up as slick and neatly attired as if he’d stepped out of some sophisticated men’s magazine.
“Shucks,” Andrew said, leaning his arms on the metal fence that lined this section of the wharf, “you didn’t have to get all dolled up on my behalf.”
“You should be so lucky.” Teijan aligned his cuffs with the sleeves of his jacket. “I’m going for a job interview.”
Andrew narrowed his eyes. “Since when does the Rat alpha need to find a job?” Teijan operated what was effectively the biggest information network in the city, and probably the state. And there was serious money in information—especially since SnowDancer and DarkRiver had both decided to share the profits from any deals that came about because of intel the Rats passed on.
Brutal fact was, they could’ve demanded that data as a condition of allowing the weaker changeling group to remain in the city, but Lucas and Hawke were highly intelligent men. They understood that the Rats would be far more invested in the protection of the city if they not only had the right to call it home but were treated as an integral part of its functioning. Which they were most assuredly becoming.
Now Teijan shot him a sharp little smile, full of teeth. “Funny how easy it is to get into some buildings if you carry a résumé and look ‘respectable.’”
“Do I want to know?”
“No. Nothing to tell yet.” The dark-haired male looked out over the glittering sun-struck water of the bay. “My animal knows it can swim,” he murmured, “but just the same, neither it nor the human part of me is too fond of the water.”
“Then why San Francisco?”
A shrug. “We’d been scraping by, trying to find a home for a long time, and the old subway tunnels were unclaimed.” A whisper of wind ruffled his GQ-perfect hair. “Good thing it was the cats who found us out. You wolves would’ve probably decided we tasted good spit-roasted over an open fire.”
“No self-respecting wolf would eat a rodent—though we might’ve been able to use your teeth as decorations,” Andrew said with a straight face.
Teijan hissed out a very unratlike snarl. “Why the hell do I bother to talk to you?”
“Hawke thinks I give you cheese.” He pulled a small, foil-wrapped wedge out of his pocket. “Here you go.”
“Fuck you.” But the Rat alpha was laughing. “Why’d you want to meet?”
Putting both hands in the pockets of his jacket, Andrew let the salt-laced wind sweep across his face. “Wanted to see if you had any news to share.” DarkRiver always copied SnowDancer in on any reports as per their alliance, but Teijan quite often had little tidbits in progress that he didn’t put into the reports until he’d confirmed everything.
“Something weird going on with the Psy,” the Rat alpha now said. “Can’t quite put my finger on it, but if I didn’t know better, I’d say they were jumpy.”
Since Psy didn’t feel, that kind of apprehension was more than curious. “Anything to back up that feeling?” he asked, knowing Teijan had finely developed antennae for trouble after keeping his people safe and protected for years in spite of their lack of numbers and physical strength.
Teijan made a clicking noise with his tongue. “I’ve heard whispers of two or three Psy dead in suspicious circumstances, but no confirmations yet. Could just be a bad rehabilitation or two.”
Andrew felt his skin creep at the thought of the Psy punishment of choice—a total psychic brainwipe that destroyed the individual and left a drooling shell behind. “Maybe they suicided.” At Teijan’s glance, he shrugged. “If that was me . . .”
“Yeah.” Teijan blew out a breath. “But word is there’s nobody home after rehab, and there would have to be for them to understand what they’d become.” He glanced at his watch. “I better get going. I’ll send the intel through the grapevine if I hear anything else.”
As Andrew watched the other man leave, he wondered what face this world would’ve worn if the Psy Council had been successful in seizing total power as it had been trying to do for decades.
The vision was chilling.