I did what I usually did with Bran—I let my energy gently stroke his. Sykes stiffened and slowly leaned back, something flashing in the depth of his hazel eyes. I winched, regretting the impulsive gesture. “Sorry.”
“What was that?” he asked in a shaken voice.
I shook my head. “Nothing. I have to go. We are having dinner with the other Cardinals.”
“You are running away. What did you do to me?” There was wonder and wildness in his eyes. “I can still feel its effect.”
“Forget it, Sykes.”
“Can I come over to your place to talk?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Please. Leaving my parents was…traumatic.”
I bit my lower lip. Bad idea on so many levels. “Give me about ten minutes to shower and change.”
I laid out what I planned to wear—a beautiful gypsy skirt and top, lacy panties and a matching bra—then hopped into the shower. I wished I hadn’t removed the cute French braid Izzy’s hairdresser had done on my hair. I brushed through the curly mass and wrapped it with a towel as I stepped out of the shower. I reached for the terry robe and froze. A quick psi scan and I knew I wasn’t alone.
Sykes was in my room.
Tightening the belt around me, I stepped into my bedroom. He stood by my bed with his hands in his back pockets, busy studying my clothes.
“What are you doing?”
He smirked naughtily. “You said I could stop by.”
“I asked for ten minutes. Out.” He was such an opportunist. I quickly gathered my clothes, glared at him and started back for the bathroom.
“It’s been thirteen minutes already,” he said in his defense.
“So? You’re supposed to ping me first before entering my bedroom. Not just waltz in.” I shot him another mean look and froze. He was twirling my lacy panties around his finger. Growling, I marched back and snatched them from his hand. “Leave.”
I was calmer by the time I finished getting dressed. Sykes was sprawled on my lounge when I left the bathroom. My first reaction was to scold him, but I couldn’t. Besides, he had his hand across his face and this time, I could feel his sadness.
“Come on. Let’s go to the kitchen for a drink and talk. And just so you know, I’m beginning to question why I agreed to this.”
He lifted his hand and grinned. “You would never kick out a wounded dog.”
“You are a dog all right. Wounded? I don’t think so.”
“How can you say that? Mom took all this Tribe mess and sealed portal thing pretty hard. Dad was stoic. For once, I wish I have a sister or brother for them to focus on now that I’m out here.”
That was big coming from him. He loved being the center of his parents’ attention. In the kitchen, I headed straight to the fridge. “Do you want pop or juice?”
“Pop. So that thing you did back in the pit—?”
“It’s no big deal,” I said as I opened the fridge. He got up from the stool and started around the counter.
“What did you do? Can you do it again?”
After the reaction I got? I didn’t think so. “Nope. I invited you here for a talk and a drink, not an experiment.”
“Can I have a drink too?” a voice asked from the living room doorway.
I turned and smiled with relief at Remy. “Sure.”
“We’re talking here, Remy. Get lost.”
Remy flipped him off, plopped on a stool and dropped his head on the counter. “What I’d give to be an only child.”
Sykes and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. I explained to the bewildered Remy why. He had four sisters, who tended to drive him nuts.
“I had to promise them to get back home in one piece,” he said, opening the can of coke I’d given him.
Sykes chugged his then wiped his lips. “My parents too. We’d better nuke those bastards.”
“And give them one way ticket to Tartarus,” Remy added.
If they only knew. The truth was going to shock them. I wished I could tell them everything. I hated keeping secrets.
“We’ve been invited to dinner by Cardinal Esras, the head of Southeast Sector,” I said when there was a lull in their conversation.
“Why?” Sykes asked.
“So we can get to know each other. Are the girls back yet?”
Remy stood. “I don’t know. When and where is this dinner?”
“At Cardinal Hsia’s. They didn’t decide on the time because you guys were gone.” A quick scan told me Izzy and Kim weren’t back yet, “I can ping you with the time after I talk to the girls and Esras.”
“That’s my cue. I’m heading home to shower.” Remy looked at Sykes, who looked like he was glued to the stool.
“Take him with you,” I begged.
Sykes expression was serious as he got up. “We’ll still discuss you-know-what.”
I sighed with relief when he left with Remy. Never again was I going to pull that stunt. Or hug him. Back in my bedroom, I picked up the book on Goddess Xenia and curled up on my bed.