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Page 63

“Internal problems,” Sean said. “Nothing to worry about.”

“I can see my timing is less than stellar.” Eric lifted his hands. “All right, I give you my word, Sean Morrissey, on the sun and moon, that I have nothing to do with whatever troubles you’re dealing with on your patch. I connected with Dylan on another business entirely and fixed this day to meet him.”

“He did.”

Dylan’s voice rumbled from the back door, and he walked in a moment later, hands stuffed into the pockets of his leather jacket. Eric rose to meet him, as did Sean. Andrea kept her seat.

Dylan clasped Eric’s hand and pulled the man into the brief embrace reserved for dominant males who didn’t know each other well. I welcome you, the embrace said, but don’t try anything involving my territory, mate, or cubs, or you’ll swiftly die.

Eric and Sean performed the same ritual, before Dylan moved to the kitchen and started making coffee.

“Warrior princess?” Dylan threw over his shoulder.

Andrea shrugged and didn’t answer. This was new to her, and delicate, and she didn’t relish spilling it all to Dylan.

“Andrea has a fine sense of humor,” Sean said. He sat down again, taking the seat next to Andrea’s. He rested his hand on her thigh, and Andrea suddenly felt a little less brittle.

Eric focused sudden attention on them. “Now I understand. You two are mated.”

“Not yet,” Andrea said. “Sean’s made the mate-claim, but I haven’t given him my final answer.”

Eric shook his head, grinning. “No. You’re mated.”

Even Dylan looked amused as he finished setting up the coffeepot and sat down.

“Are you mated?” Sean asked Eric.

Eric took on an empty look, the same one that Andrea’s stepfather always wore, the same one Dylan had when he talked about Sean’s mother. “Was,” Eric said. “She is gone. I have a son, Jace. He’s of age now and my third-in-command.”

Andrea heard the pride in his voice when he said the last. Not all children of alphas stayed high in the hierarchy. “Who’s your second?” Andrea asked.

“My sister.” More pride. Females didn’t always achieve such high status, not because they couldn’t be dominant, but because of archaic Shifter laws. Alpha females were rare, because alpha males were allowed to kill them.

“Cassidy lost her mate too,” Eric said. “A couple of years ago.”

Andrea felt a stab of sadness. She whispered a quick prayer, echoed by Sean and Dylan, then reached across the table and touched Eric’s strong hand. “Please send her blessings from me.”

“Thank you.” Eric’s face softened in his gratitude. “She’d appreciate that. It hit her hard.”

“Which is part of the reason you’re here,” Dylan said. “Sean knows, and Andrea ... well, she’ll know sooner or later.”

Eric nodded silently. He remained just as silent as Dylan rose to fetch the coffee that had finished brewing. Without complaint, Dylan poured four cups and brought them to the table. He didn’t offer cream or sugar since most Shifters drank it black, and Eric didn’t ask for anything.

“The Collars,” Dylan said. “That’s why Eric’s here. He heard about our ability to override the Collars, and he wants to learn it.”

“Andrea knows about it already.” Sean sent Andrea a quick glance.

“I saw a vivid demonstration by Sean,” Andrea said.

Dylan shot Sean a concerned look. “You all right?”

“Fine. I didn’t mind beating on Callum a little.”

Eric listened, brows raised. “You got a war going on?”

“Trying to prevent one,” Sean said.

“Using your half-Fae warrior princess?”

Sean gave him a little grin. “If necessary.”

Andrea took a gulp of coffee and got to her feet. “Obviously you all don’t need me here. I’ll just be going.” She took up the sword, which hummed in a muted way when she touched it, like a child singing under its breath. “Back to pancakes.”

Sean, of course, followed her out. Ronan remained in place on the porch, giving them another salute from the porch swing. He’d stay, Andrea knew. Ronan was still distrustful of this stranger.

Sean didn’t reach for the sword as they walked back to Glory’s house, but let her carry it, as though she had every right to. “Should you leave your dad alone in there with him?” Andrea asked as they mounted the porch.

“Dad seems to have it under control.” Sean opened the door and went in first, checking for danger.

“You’re trusting.”

“I know Dad. He wouldn’t invite another Shiftertown leader out here if he wasn’t certain about him. Plus Eric has to know that if he makes a wrong move, Ronan will be on him, and if he gets past Ronan, he’ll have to deal with me.”

Sean’s quiet confidence always amazed her. Unlike Liam, who joked and charmed, Sean simply looked at a person with calm blue eyes, and that person fell all over himself to do whatever Sean wanted. He had power in his silences.

“Now, Andy-love, what’s this about you being Xena, Warrior Princess?”

Andrea laid the sword in the case Sean had left on the table. “Fionn told me a lot of things. Some of them might even be true.”

“At least he gave you his name.”

“Fionn Cillian. So he said. But what good does that do?” Andrea sighed, spreading her hands. “What do I know about warrior lords of Faerie?”

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