Whisper of Sin Page 14

“They’re working on getting it under control.” Ria looked up as another group burst into the waiting room.

Amber’s parents, Emmett realized as Ria greeted them in a flowing burst of Mandarin, clearly trying to stave off their panic. The couple sat down on

Simon’s other side, asking Ria more questions. She shot Emmett a grateful glance as he continued to talk to Miaoling and Alex in a low voice, telling them about life in the pack, anything to take their minds off what was happening in the room only a few feet away.

They asked him all kinds of questions, but he knew they’d be unlikely to remember any of it come morning. Still he talked, giving them the distraction they needed, as Ria did the same with Amber’s parents. Simon spoke to both his wife and mother-in-law, and Amber’s parents, in turn, obviously trying to stay strong for his family.

But Ria was the glue, the quiet strength that held everyone together.

His leopard growled in pride.

Forty minutes later, there were tears of happiness, not sorrow. Amber was pronounced stable—though she’d have to stay in the hospital a bit longer than usual—the baby was a squalling ball of red-faced anger, and Jet was grinning like a fool.

“What’re you going to call her?” Ria asked after everyone had piled into the room and reassured themselves that both mother and baby were fine.

“Joy,” Jet said, touching one gentle finger to the baby’s cheek. “That’s what she is—our Joy.”

“It’s a beautiful name.”

“Yeah. Amber wants to use Nana’s name as a middle name.” He drifted to his wife’s side as if drawn there, curling his hand around hers. Though her

face was lined with tiredness, Amber smiled. “Hey you.”

Ria began to nudge everyone out of the room.

Half an hour later, Emmett used Simon’s car to drop off Amber’s parents, along with Alex and Miaoling, since none of them were in any condition to drive, before returning to pick up Ria and her father. Simon got into the passenger seat, as Ria slid into the back. Emmett could feel the older man’s focus on him as they drove and it was no surprise to hear Simon say, “Ri, go inside. We’ll be in in a moment.”

Ria looked from one man to the other. Emmett shook his head in a slight negative when she went to open her mouth. Pursing her lips, she got out and entered the house. Emmett glanced at Simon. “I’ll take care of her.”

“She’s special,” Simon said, looking him straight in the eye. “We lost a baby girl to a late-pregnancy miscarriage a year after Jet was born. We weren’t the same after . . . but then Ria came. She healed us. She’s our heart.”

Emmett nodded, fully comprehending the sheer depth of everyone’s terror at the hospital tonight. “I understand.” And he did. Because she was his

heartbeat, too.

A pause. Then Simon opened the door and got out. “I’ll send Ria to you. Save you sneaking up the wall.”

Emmett winced. “Um . . .”

Simon’s lips curved. “Ask me sometime about how I used to get into Alex’s room when we were high school students.”

Emmett was still grinning when Ria slid into the passenger seat. Before she could say anything, he started up the engine again. “Think your dad would mind if we took the car for a spin?”

“No, but where are we going?”

“For a little ride.” Putting the vehicle into hover-drive, he took them out of the city, and through the red arches of the bridge that had been there so long, the world couldn’t imagine San Francisco without it.

Ria sat back, releasing a sigh. “I’m so glad everyone’s okay.”

“Even me?”

“Even the idiot who got himself shot up when I specifically told him not to.”

The leopard batted playfully at her sharp response, delighted by her. “Just checking.”

Passing the main lookout on the other side of the bridge, he drove up a “secret” route that all the high schoolers knew about.

“Hey, where does this go?” She twisted around. “I’ve never been up here.”

“Mink, you must’ve been one hell of a good kid.”

“I admit my nerdiness with pride.” She made a choked up sound of surprise when she saw four other cars parked at the top, all of them a good distance from each other. “You brought us to a make-out spot?”

“How else was I supposed to get my hands on you?” Parking the car at the end of the dirt lot, he slid away the manual controls, then reached over and

undid Ria’s safety belt. “Come here.”

Laughter danced in her eyes as she shifted over to straddle him, knees on the seat on either side of his thighs. “We are not making out in my parents’


“Yes, we are. That’s the rule. You think those kids own those cars?” He nodded out the window. “Exactly.”

Ria’s smile softened, grew serious. “I was so scared for you, Emmett.”

“Hey.” He pressed his lips to hers. “I can’t promise you I’ll never be hurt, but I can promise that I’ll do everything in my power to come back to you every day.”

Her lips trembled. “If you don’t, I’ll come after you.”

“I know.” After seeing her at the hospital, he finally understood what she’d been trying to tell him all this time—Ria might be small and vulnerably human, but she was also strong enough to take anything the world threw at her, a warrior in her own way. It was time he started treating her like one. “You want to hear how it went down?”

A jerky nod.

“Okay, we have the truck surrounded, and we’ve blocked off the streets he could use to drive out, so he’s a rat in a cage. We wait till nightfall.” He unbuttoned the first three buttons on her shirt.


“It’s to make the bad memories go away.”

Giving a burst of stifled laughter, she thrust her fingers through his hair as he pressed a kiss to the delicate skin between her breasts. “God, you’re

pretty, mink. I’m gonna kiss you all over next time.”

“I like that song.”

“Me, too.” Another kiss before he straightened. “So, everything’s going to plan. Problem is, Vincent’s smart. He’s got the immediate area around his

truck set up with sensors. No way to get to the truck without alerting him.”

“But you were sure he was in there?”

“We saw him come out earlier in the day—”

“How did you know what he looked like?”

Smart question. Nothing less than he expected from his mate. “No need. It was obvious he was the alpha dog.”

“Go on.”

He ran his finger down her bared skin, undoing a few more buttons along the way. His leopard rose to the forefront, possessive and oh-so-hungry.


Breathing past the desire to simply take, he continued. “It was clear we wouldn’t be able to get into the truck even if we somehow got past the alarms

—thing was armored like a tank. No windows, no visible vents. So we threw something at the back doors.”

Ria blinked. “High-tech.”

“All we needed was one of the goons to open the doors. Soon as he did, we shot in so many canisters of tear gas, they couldn’t throw them all back.”

He’d finished unbuttoning her shirt, but she was too involved in the story to notice. The cat grinned. “Bastards had to come pouring out eventually. But the morons came out shooting, even though they couldn’t see a target.”

“You got shot by accident?” she asked, as if it was his fault.

“I got shot by morons.” He bent to press kisses along the creamy upper curves of her breasts. “Aside from two lucky shots, they were useless. We had them down on their knees in seconds.”

“What did you do to them?”

Looking up, he met her gaze. “I’m a leopard, Ria. I protect what’s mine.”

“I know.” Absolute acceptance in her eyes, her face.

“I was the one to take Vincent down—and maybe he got a little banged up in the process, but we turned the whole lot of them over to Enforcement.”


“Scout’s honor.” He smiled, letting the leopard out to play. “Turns out the Crew killed two cops in cold blood only a few hours before our takedown.

Enforcement was real happy to take them in.”

“Two birds, one stone,” she murmured. “Vincent never again sees the light of day, and you make friends in Enforcement.”

“And,” he said, knowing she needed to know everything, “by taking down the Crew so completely, we gave notice to the Psy Council that we’re here to stay.”

Ria’s eyes darkened. “They’ll make trouble for you if they think you’re a threat.”


“Good thing you cats are so tough.” A soft whisper that told him she’d stand by him, no matter what.

Proud of her courage, he said, “We did let one goon go.”


“So he could take a message to the famiglia up north. Anyone else comes down, we’ll be sending them back in little tiny pieces. And then we’ll come up and do the same to those who gave the orders.”

“Would you really?”

“What do you think?”

“I think family comes first.” She smiled. “You did something else. I can tell.”

He began to slip her shirt off her shoulders. “We have some expert hackers. Maybe the big bosses found their data compromised and pictures of

leopards as screen savers.”

Ria’s body began to shake as the shirt dropped to the floor. Her laughter was infectious—the leopard purred into her mouth as he took it in a slow, deep kiss. She kissed him back with an intensity that was pure Ria, then slid her mouth over his jaw and up to nibble on his ear. He was stroking his hand down to cup her breast when she screamed and jerked back.

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