Exclusive Extra: Free Psy-Changeling Short Story
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This small vignette slots in during the peaceful lull after Kiss of Snow, soon after Naya’s birth, and while Lucas and Sascha are still living in the cabin below their aerie.
It's a fun and sweet glimpse into the lives of the characters in a quiet moment in the midst of the often chaotic and staggering changes currently shaking their world. It's one of those moments we never see in a book, but that is part of the everyday fabric of the characters lives. I love writing these, and I hope you enjoy reading them.
If you’re new to the Psy-Changeling series, this story features Lucas (alpha of the DarkRiver leopards and a man who shifts into a black panther in his animal form), and Sascha (Lucas’s mate and a cardinal empath - she has the power to heal wounds of the heart, to take the most painful of emotions and neutralize them).
And of course, it includes the recently born Naya.
by Nalini Singh
“We need to go grocery shopping.”
Lucas looked up from where he was watching a football game on the comm screen, his feet up on the ottoman and a bottle of unopened beer in his hand. “You know,” he said, solemn as a priest, “there’s a spare mobile comm in the other room. If you enter what you want, they have this thing called delivery. Right to the edge of the pack’s forested territory.”
Sascha made a face at her gorgeous, infuriating mate with his deep black hair and vivid green eyes. “Why do you always torment me?”
His smile was feline. “Because your love of grocery shopping fascinates me.” Swinging his feet off the ottoman, he put his beer aside with a loud sigh. “Didn’t we just go last week? What do we need?”
Lucas gave a pointed look in the direction of the nursery—currently full of so many baby supplies courtesy of their packmates that he’d started talking about opening a store. “Diapers.”
Bending over the bassinet she had on the table, where she could talk to Naya as she finished writing up her notes about a pack project, Sascha rubbed their baby’s tiny nose. “Your father is making fun of us. What shall we do to him?”
“Since when does Naya like grocery shopping?”
“Since she was born.” Melting as Naya’s soft fingers closed over her own, she made those nonsensical mother sounds she’d never before understood, but now knew intimately. “She’s my daughter, after all.”
A growl from the panther she adored beyond life.
“Just because you’re a telepath, don’t think you can fool me. I know my girl has better sense. She likes football.”
Sascha picked up the bassinet. “I’m going out to the car.”
Muttering under his breath, Lucas got up. “I can’t believe you’re making me miss the rest of the game. It’s the first one I’ve had time to watch live all season.”
“Want to know the score? 5-2, the red team will win. Faith told me.”
He narrowed his eyes at her mention of the gifted foreseer. “Very funny.”
She grinned and leaned forward to kiss him. “You and Naya can watch the rest in the car. I’ll drive.”
Nipping at her lower lip for her impertinence, he took the baby from her. “Come on, princess. Let’s go indulge your mother’s strange fetish.”
Sascha started up the car and waited while Lucas got into the passenger seat after securing the bassinet into the special seat in the back. He flicked on the small comm screen on his side, and reclined back to watch the game as she pulled out. It made her happy that she was about to head out to do something so mundane as grocery shop with her slightly surly mate while their baby slept in the back.
Lucas’s mood was even darker by the time they arrived. His team (the red one) had lost.
Nuzzling a kiss to his neck when he bent down to get Naya, she drew in the warm, masculine scent of him. “I love you even when you’re snarly.”
He handed her Naya. “I’m going to need more petting after this expedition ends.” A gleam in his eye that said he was going to take advantage.
Then again, Sascha wasn’t averse to being taken advantage of by her mate. “I’ll see what I can do.” She snuggled their baby, kissing her sweet face as Lucas undid a few buttons on his shirt, before taking Naya back and placing her against his skin, his left hand almost totally covering her tiny back, his other one cradling her head.
Changelings almost always carried their babies so close, and Sascha thought it was wonderful. Their baby would never ever wonder if she was loved, wanted. Right now, Naya was wide awake and listening to her father’s steady heartbeat, her little hand curled up on his skin, even as her mind touched Sascha’s.
Even so small, Naya was as curious and as tactile as any feline changeling—but she was also showing signs of strong psychic abilities. What shape those abilities would ultimately take remained an open question, but there was no doubt in Sascha’s mind that their daughter would grow into an extraordinary woman.
I’m here, sweet baby, she telepathed, her heart huge with love for her child and her mate both, then went for the hover cart.
Shifting his hold so he was supporting Naya with one muscled arm that likely barely felt her slight weight, Lucas said, “Give me that. You know the man controls the cart.”
“Right, how could I forget that rule?”
Lucas growled at her again, but she saw the panther’s amusement in his eyes.
Holding Naya safe and protected, he easily handled the cart as they walked down the aisles of the old-fashioned grocery store. Even though most people opted for delivery, there were enough that wanted the physical experience that boutique places like this thrived. Heading straight for the fresh goods aisle, she picked a small pumpkin, tapped the outside. “Lucas, does this sound right?”
Lucas murmured a response, but he was far more fascinated by Sascha than he was by the pumpkin. The stunning night-sky eyes that marked her as a cardinal dramatic against skin of dark honey, and ebony hair tumbling over her shoulders, she had such delight in the whole shopping process, wanted to touch and smell and feel everything. She was always the first to line up at the taste centers, often had long conversations with the produce manager about the best vegetables.
“Your mother,” he whispered to Naya as Sascha frowned at a bunch of spinach, “is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
He felt a curious mental touch, knew it was his daughter. “Of course you’re the prettiest girl.” And a piece of his heart that existed outside his body. As it did with Sascha.
Sensing eyes on him, he looked up, saw another male with a baby cuddled to his chest. Lucas immediately identified him as a deer changeling named Theo, one of the more dominant bulls; as the alpha of the strongest predatory changeling group in San Francisco and the surrounding areas, it was Lucas’s job to know these things.
Theo wandered over when their eyes connected. “Hey, Luc. I heard your mate had given birth. Little girl, right?”
“Yep. How’s your boy?” Theo’s child had been born a month or so before Naya.
“Laid back but stubborn.” A proud grin. “According to my mate, he clearly takes after his father.”
They stood there in companionable silence, watching the women. Even if Lucas hadn’t already known, it would’ve been clear from their scents which family belonged to Theo: his mate, a slender woman with a sleek cap of black hair streaked with red and skin of deepest brown, held the hand of a pigtailed little girl. The two were in serious discussion over the grapes. Sascha smiled at the girl as she reached them, and a second later, they were all chatting away.
“Women,” Theo said.
Lucas nodded. “Tell me about it.” Then he grinned, having caught the twitch of the other man’s lips. “How long do you think it’ll take before they figure out we actually like doing this?”
“Hopefully never.” Theo rubbed his son’s back in a gentle motion. “Half the fun is in being coaxed to come along.”
Naya made a ‘pay attention to me’ noise, so Lucas looked down and kissed the top of her head, while inside him, the panther batted its paw gently at its cub. “Shall we walk, pretty girl?”
At the same time, Theo bent to catch the hand of his daughter as she ran over to him, her face shy as she looked at Lucas. When he smiled, she gave him a little wave. Her father stroked his hand over her hair just as his mate called him over.
“See you again sometime, Luc.”
Saying good-bye, Lucas walked across to Sascha. “Done?”
She scowled. “We just got here. Behave or I’ll cook tonight.”
“That’s just mean.” Tugging on an ebony curl, he sighed. “Fine, let’s go get the diapers.”
“We don’t need diapers. We have enough to diaper the entire nursery school,” Sascha muttered, moving on to the oranges. “Touch this, Lucas. I love how it feels.”
He did, enjoying seeing the world through her eyes. Never, he thought, would Sascha lose her wonder in sensation, not after having been deprived of it for so very long. “You told me we needed to come out to buy diapers,” he said with a straight face, realizing she’d forgotten her fib.
A pause. “Did I?” Smile innocent, she took his hand. “I think Naya wants you to talk to her.”
His panther was impressed with her sneakiness. “You’re a cat under that Psy skin, Sascha darling.”
Wrapping his arm around her, he dragged her close and claimed a kiss from his unrepentant mate. “I’ll go get the cart. How many oranges do you want?”
A beaming smile that kicked him right in the heart, just as Naya’s hand opened on his chest, a quiet second punch. And he knew he wanted to be nowhere else on this earth.
Copyright ©2014 by Nalini Singh
If you enjoyed this moment in time, and haven’t yet read the story of how Lucas and Sascha first met, you can find an excerpt from Slave to Sensation on this page of the website.