Making Dinner, page 1part #11.40 of Psy-Changeling Series
by Nalini Singh
Seated at the breakfast counter, Mercy chopped a carrot, eating half in the process. "I never knew I liked carrots so much."
Riley grinned from where he stood on the opposite side of the counter, and passed her another. "So, the pupcubs like their vegetables."
Laughing at the word he insisted on using for their unborn children, she began to chop again, while Riley sliced the sweet green peppers she loved. "I have a belly now, did you notice?" she asked the wolf who was her mate.
"I examine you very carefully every day, kitty cat"--gleaming eyes of chocolate brown--"and the belly hasn't yet appeared."
Mercy scowled and got up, walking around to his side of the counter. Lifting up her T-shirt, she patted the slight curve of her abdomen. "See?"
Kneeling down, Riley closed his hands over her hips and pressed a kiss to her stomach. "Your mama's seeing things, but I love her anyway."
She pulled playfully at his hair, tugging him to her when he rose. "Smartass." Nipping at his lower lip, she pushed him back to the counter. "I want my soup."
"Demanding cat." Tapping her lightly on the butt, he continued to chop and slice as she stood beside him. "Why don't you take off your clothes so I can judge this non-existent belly of yours?"
Stealing a stick of celery, she munched. "Let's see how good your soup is first." She shifted to wrap her arms around him from behind, leaning her chin on his shoulder. Solid and strong and gorgeous, that was her Riley.
A kiss to the side of his neck. "I love you."
Turning, he smiled that slow Riley smile that was just for her. "I--" He paused and looked to the door, the smile for her changing into one full of affection. "We're about to have visitors."
Mercy didn't change her position. "Go away!" she called out when heavy steps sounded on the verandah.
"Aw, sis," Sage said, shouldering his way through the door, "don't be like that. We bought dessert." He held up a box from a gourmet bakery in town. "Upside down pineapple cake."
Mercy's stomach growled. "Okay, you can come in." The demons knew all her weaknesses. "Boots off, all three of you."
Bastien and Sage groaned, bent down, but Grey winked and walked in. "I already took them off."
"That's why you're my favorite brother."
"Hey!" Two disgruntled male voices.
Riley's chest rumbled as he chuckled. "Grey, you're on potato peeling duty. We weren't cooking for six extra people."
"Ha ha." Bastien walked over. "I'll make a potato bake. You have bacon?" He was already opening the cooler. "Cheese, onions...milk." The ingredients gathered, he made a space for himself beside Grey. "Thin slices, Shadow," he said, using their baby brother's nickname. "Yo, Herb, grate the cheese."
Sage gave Bastien the finger for using that hated nickname, but got to work. Looking over at Mercy, her middle brother jerked up his chin. "Why do you get off kitchen duty?"
"Because I can trade it for sexual favors."
"La-la-la-la," Grey sang. "I do not hear anything. My sister does not have sex. Ever. She doesn't even know what it is."
Rolling her eyes, Mercy kissed a grinning Riley's neck again, then walked around to retake her seat on the counter stool, beside where Sage stood. "So," she said to Bas, "you're dating someone new."
Bastien pointed a knife at her. "No, just no. You do not go near her."
Glancing at Sage, Mercy waited. He grinned and took his revenge on Bas. "She's a kindergarten teacher, drawl like molasses, smart as heck."
"Hmm, sounds like I need to meet her."
Bastien gave her the death glare. "I swear to God, Mercy, if you scare her away, I will teach your pupcubs the worst tricks I know."
Mercy just smiled. She had no intention of scaring Bastien's girl away--if the other woman turned out to be legit. Her brothers might be demons, but they were wonderful demons who deserved to be loved. "Riley, darling, put some chillies in the soup. I want it hot."
Her mate shot her a narrow-eyed look. "Stop baiting, Bas, kitty-cat." A slow smile. "You know he's sensitive about his kitten-defurring tools."
Mercy, Sage, and Grey hooted with laughter at the reference to the trick Mercy had played on Bastien's last would-be-girlfriend, while Bas gritted his teeth and chopped onions with the speed of a professional chef. "Why?" he asked. "Why did I have to be stuck with suchloving family members?"
Having pity on him, Mercy walked around to hug him from the side and press a kiss to his unshaven cheek, the bristles rough against her lips. "I promise to be nice."
Bastien wrapped an arm around her waist and snorted. "She can handle you, so do your worst, Carrot Top."
Mercy elbowed him to get away, reaching up to pull at his own dark red hair. However, she was intrigued and encouraged by the fact he thought his girl was tough enough to handle her--the fact was, anyone who couldn't handle Mercy couldn't handle Bastien. Her brother might not be a lieutenant, but he had a steel core. They called him a shark in the financial world; he was the reason DarkRiver had such a good investment portfolio.
Stealing a piece of cheese, she walked over to ruffle Grey's hair. "What's up with you, baby brother?"
Grey, who despite his wicked eyes was the sweetest of her brothers, smiled and pecked her on the cheek. "Studying, training, chasing girls when I get the time--which isn't often. Emmett's busting my ass."
She knew Emmett was pushing Grey, and she knew why. Her gorgeous little brother was a very strong dominant with aggressive tendencies that made him perfect soldier material. Only the thing was, most people didn't realize it, he was such a sweetheart--and because his strength had developed later on in his teens than it did in most changelings. But it had become crystal clear to every one of the senior people in the pack that Grey was built to protect, built to be one of the cornerstones of the pack.
Not only that, he had the right personality and temperament to be in the highest level of the pack's hierarchy. "Don't worry, Shadow," she said. "You can handle Emmett."
Her eyes met Riley's as she walked over to let him wrap her in his arms, the soup she'd asked him to make for her bubbling on the stove while her brothers stuck the bake in the oven and argued over whether or not to make the entire box of chicken schnitzel they'd discovered in the freezer.
Leaning up, she whispered, "See, I was worried about having multiples, but then I realized I've been riding herd on three hooligans most of my life."
The hooligans protested as Riley grinned and drew her in for a kiss. When he released her, her heart was threatening to thud out of her ribcage, her claws pricking at the warm wall of his chest as her leopard rubbed against the insides of her skin. Had they been alone, she'd have dragged him to bed and spent an hour kissing and nibbling her way across his muscled body.
Eyes telling her he was reading her mind, Riley ran a finger down her nose and to her lips. She nipped at it, made his smile deepen.
"Tut, tut, that's what got you into this situation in the first place," Sage said in a sonorous tone. "Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen."
Turning to lean her back against her mate's wide chest, Mercy smiled at her brother, in charity with the world. Riley's touch had a way of doing that to her. "So, what's the betting pool saying today?" Everyone was trying to figure out (1) how many babies she was carrying and (2) whether the babies would shift into leopard or wolf form.
"What betting pool?" Total innocence from Bastien, the ring leader and treasurer of said betting pool.
Knowing that look, Mercy knew she'd get nothing. Bas could be a Sphinx when he wanted to be. "Come for a walk," she said to Riley instead. "The demons will finish making dinner." Pointing at Bas, she said, "Don't ruin the soup."
As Riley walked outside with her, their fingers tangled
It was a beautiful, romantic moment, but for Mercy, the greatest romance was in the way Riley unconsciously angled his body to protect her from a light wind. That was her wolf, protective to the core. They'd butted heads about it, would undoubtedly do so again in the future, but she knew some things were instinct. Asking him not to take care of her in such a way would be akin to asking him to change the very core of his being.
And she wanted to change nothing about Riley. "You're going to be an amazing father, you know that?"
A startled look, pleasure in eyes gone wolf. "I think we should spike the betting pool so we take it."
Mercy's leopard prowled forward in interest. "How?"
When he told her his plan, she threw back her head and laughed in delight. And when he nibbled on her ear, curling her toes, she hauled him in for a kiss as hot as her blood. The last rays of the setting sun hit the wild amber of his eyes as their lips parted, the beauty in them haunting. Fascinated, her leopard rose to the surface of her own mind.
He growled playfully at her, said, "Run."
Backing away, she gave him a teasing little wave... then she ran, joy in her every step. Riley might be protective, but he hadn't forgotten who he'd mated, hadn't forgotten that she was a sentinel with fire in her heart and the hunt in her soul. God, but she loved her amber-eyed wolf.
Forty-five minutes later, the three demons who were her brothers--suddenly pious as monks--took great pleasure in pointing out that she had twigs and leaves in her hair, while Riley's clothing bore grass stains.
Nalini Singh, Making Dinner
(Series: Psy-Changeling # 11.40)
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NALINI SINGH SERIES:
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- Archangels ConsortAwaken To PleasureWild InvitationAngels BloodArchangels KissSlave to SensationSilver SilenceWhisper of Sin
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