“Just the scanner pack.” She slid the little computer into a carry bag and swung it crosswise over her body, the scanner itself held in her hand. “Dorian, are you okay using the—”
“No problem, sweetheart.” Setting the computer over his body the same way as Brenna, Dorian picked up the somewhat bulkier scanner. “It’ll do the trick, but the range is shorter,” he said to Indigo, “so we might cover less distance.”
Brenna began to move out. Andrew followed, forcing himself to keep his attention on his sister and not on a woman who was quietly furious with him. Brenna didn’t say anything until they were well out of earshot. “Judd told me.”
Andrew grunted, not in the mood to be teased.
“She’s a lieutenant, dumb-ass,” Brenna muttered. “Going all he-man on her isn’t exactly going to put you in her good book.”
He blinked. “You have eyes in the back of your head now?”
A beatific smile. “I have experience with hardheaded men—though I never thought I’d be giving you this little talk. I always thought Riley was the one who’d have trouble. And he went and got himself happily mated to a sentinel.”
Checking the area for threats and making the assessment that they were the only two out there, he allowed his attention to return to the subject of him and Indigo. “I couldn’t help it,” he muttered, feeling sulky and grumpy—though he’d have shown that to no one but the sister he’d watched over since she’d been but a babe. “My brain knew I was doing something stupid, but my hormones tell me to protect her—and right now, instinct is kicking reason’s whiny ass.”
Brenna shook her head, the late afternoon sun making the fine strands of her hair shimmer like spun gold. “The easy fix is that you grovel and she forgives you . . .”
“But?” He nudged her shoulder with his, his wolf willing to listen to her even if she was younger and far less dominant.
“But this is who she is,” Brenna murmured, her eyes troubled when she looked up. “You stood in front of a bullet for me, Drew.” Her voice hitched. “That’s who you are.”
“Hey.” He hugged her to him, kissing the top of her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Holding on to him for a couple more seconds, Brenna stepped back and started scanning again. “What I’m saying is that you protect—do you think you can handle, really handle, being with a woman who not only doesn’t need your protection, but for whom it would be an insult that you’d even offer?”
The words hit hard, cut deep. But the truth had nothing to do with his acceptance of Indigo’s rank.
“I’m jealous,” he admitted bluntly, to the one person with whom he could admit the vulnerability. “I know I don’t fit the image she has in her mind of her perfect partner, and it rubs me the wrong way whenever she interacts with another male who does fit that image.” A male who was probably far more acceptable to her wolf, for all that that wolf had accepted him on a certain level.
“Even though Dorian’s mated and a leopard to boot?”
“Yeah. Stupid, huh?”
“We’re all a little stupid when we’re in love.” Her machine beeped on the heels of her statement. “Hold up.”
He waited patiently while she did a deeper scan.
“Nothing,” she said after a minute. “It was set off by some metallic content in the rocks, I think.”
Dorian, Indigo thought, moved like the cat he was. All fluid and graceful. She’d have pegged him for a leopard even if she hadn’t known his changeling affiliation. Hamilton, the leopard she’d dated a couple of times a few months back, had moved with that same feline grace.
Sexy . . . except that it wasn’t for Indigo.
Of course, in human form, Dorian was also ridiculously attractive with his white-blond hair and eyes of electric blue. In the sharp mountain sunlight, his hair burned with pure white fire, drawing the eye. Hamilton, too, had made every female head turn when they’d gone out together in public.
Indigo had appreciated the visual impact—the same way she appreciated Hawke and Riaz. Her lungs had functioned just fine, her heart continuing to beat in a steady rhythm even when Hamilton kissed her. She’d allowed the caress, allowed him to slide his hand to her nape and hold her in place as he explored her mouth—because she’d wanted to know if there was any chance of chemistry. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
In comparison, Drew only had to—
“Earth to Lieutenant Legs.”
Indigo snapped her attention to Dorian. “You pick up something, Blondie?”
“Not sure.” A feline smile that made her instincts prickle in warning even before he said, “Is that a love bite I see on your neck?”
She wasn’t gullible enough to fall for that. “I know that’s a great big bunch of baloney I see on your face.”
The leopard male laughed, utterly unashamed of his blatant fishing as he returned his attention to the scanner. “I was trying for subtle.”
“Uh-huh.” Needing to burn off this restless energy, she looked at him. “Can you keep an eye around you while you scan?” He was one of the strongest cats in DarkRiver, and he trained in hand-to-hand combat with a former assassin—she was pretty sure there were very few things Dorian couldn’t handle.
He gave her a curious look. “Sure. You going somewhere?”
“I want to do a bit of a scout around—might see evidence of places being dug up.”