“Yeah, but Hawke said it’s like that for some of us.”
“He should know.” Hawke’s own wolf was difficult to spot, because his eyes never changed color—which, of course, was an answer in itself. “But he can control it. Has he been teaching you to handle your wolf when it gets pushy?”
Joshua nodded. “The things you’ve been teaching me—about focus and discipline—that’s helping as well. I think I’m coming to an understanding with my wolf.”
That made Indigo relax, because the boy was talking of his wolf as a partner, not a combatant. “I hear you’re seeing Molly,” she said, having made a few discreet inquiries after Drew hinted at it this morning.
Joshua’s eyes went wide right before a hot flush burned across his cheekbones. “Jesus, Indigo, do you have spies everywhere?”
“Yep.” Laughing at his embarrassment, she reached out to ruffle his hair. “She’s good for you, puppy. And too good for you.”
He bore the affection in silence but shot her a pleased look. “I know, but I’m keeping her anyway.” Such a smug expression, she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or growl. “She’s much more mature than I am,” he said bluntly, “so calm and easy with her wolf.”
Surprised at his insight, she looked at him. “That doesn’t bother you?”
“No.” His shoulders were relaxed, his lips curved. “My wolf wants to please hers so much, it behaves . . . and I think we’re both learning and becoming better from it.”
It was such an astute comment that Indigo was silent for a while. Because she, too, understood about learning from another wolf.
“So,” Joshua said into the silence, “are you and Drew going to mate?”
Indigo’s wolf flexed its claws. “Why exactly,” she said, looking at the boy who was very much her subordinate, “do you feel you have the right to ask me that question?”
Joshua winced at her tone. “Um, never mind. I’ll just go get a clue now.”
Her wolf resheathed its claws. “Don’t forget your session tomorrow.”
“I won’t.” A pause as he got to his feet. “And Indigo . . . thanks.”
Indigo sat there staring at the water long after he left. Mate. She knew Drew was it for her, but the idea of taking that final step . . . it made her breath catch in her throat, her wolf pace from side to side within her mind.
Startled, she looked up to see Mercy scrambling down the bank. Dressed in a white peasant blouse embroidered with red roses around the deep neckline and faded jeans, the DarkRiver sentinel’s freckles glowed against her creamy skin. Her red hair, in contrast, appeared lighter, shot with strands of blonde.
“When did you get back?” Indigo cried, rising to her feet and grabbing Mercy in a hug as the other woman reached the edge of the lake. Odd as it was, Mercy had somehow become one of her closest friends—and even odder, the feeling seemed to be mutual. They were both the lone high-ranking female dominants in a group of men in this area, and it was damn nice to have someone to talk to who understood the unique issues they had to face.
Drawing back from the hug, Mercy said, “Just now. Riley’s talking with Drew and Hawke, but I caught your scent and decided to follow you down here.”
“Want to sit?”
Nodding, Mercy took a seat on the pebbles beside her, her gaze on the tranquil surface of the lake. “It’s good to be home.”
Indigo shot her a glance. “Do you think of SnowDancer territory as home, too?”
“Anywhere Riley is,” Mercy said simply. “We stopped in at my parents’, too, on the way up. Oh, and the DarkRiver building—Dorian would’ve never forgiven me otherwise.”
Indigo laughed and asked a question she’d always wondered about. “Why did you and Dorian never . . . you know?”
“God, it would’ve been like sleeping with one of my brothers.” Mercy shuddered. “But hey, I’m not the one with all the hot news. You and Drew, huh? Riley told me he scented the mating dance.”
Indigo blew out a breath, tried to keep her words light in spite of the chaos of emotion within her. “I don’t know how it happened. He just sort of snuck up on me.”
Mercy patted her on the shoulder. “He’s got sneaky down pat. But”—a pause—“there’s a damn powerful heart in there, Indigo.”
“I know.” Swallowing, she glanced at Mercy’s suddenly solemn face. “I’m afraid, Mercy,” she said, admitting the truth to perhaps the only person who’d truly understand.
Mercy didn’t give her platitudes. Hooking her arms around her raised knees, she nodded. “It’s terrifying,” she said with frank honesty, “when you find yourself facing the one man who you know could cut through your defenses and lay you bare. Our animals don’t like that, don’t even like the idea of it.”
“That scared part of me wants to snarl at him until he decides I’m not worth the effort,” Indigo admitted. “But I know he’d never leave—and that makes me want to take his face in my hands and kiss the hell out of him.”
Mercy snorted. “That sounds like the kind of response Drew would provoke.” A pause, then the leopard sentinel said, “I don’t know if I should point this out, but . . . you do realize he’s not at full strength yet.”
Indigo whipped her head around so fast she got whiplash. “What?”