Chapter Nine

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          Wren exited the tent after three lionesses, each with a smile on their faces. He kept his head bowed, avoiding the gaze of the women when he sat down beside Siobhan. She frowned at the sight of his returned short, greasy brown hair and blue eyes. Whatever herbs the shifters had given to heal his wounds had also stripped his body of the changeling potion.

"They were purring when they worked on my gash," he mumbled.

Siobhan grabbed his chin and turned his head. A faint red mark cut through his temple. His neck wound had already healed and vanished, it hadn't been deep. The gash on his temple would scar, but would heal as well. Herbs were the one magic she'd never mastered and always marveled at their effect on a human.

"The changeling potion is no longer effective." She released her grip and returned her gaze to the fire.

"Can you give me another one?"

Siobhan shook her head. "Nay. There is no more. We could detour to the High Mages down the range a little, but I suspect you don't wish to doddle any further."

Two lionesses stepped in front of them, handing them each a plate of food. One with skin as dark as night splattered with golden spiral tattoos brushed a hand against Wren's cheek. A deep purr rumbled in her throat. Wren jerked his head away, eyes wide.

"He is claimed," Siobhan said.

"I know," she said, still purring, "I was simply wondering if you cared to share for the evening? He could warm my bed quite nicely."

"I will be warming no one's bed tonight!" He swatted her hand away and jerked the plate from her.

Her purr loudened. "Feisty. Just how I like them." She leaned over and licked his face. "Please let me borrow him. I promise I won't break him."

"Unless he agrees to it . . ." Siobhan grabbed a handful of the stringy chicken on her plate. ". . .then as he says, he will be warming no bed tonight. Find your seed elsewhere."

The lionesses purr stopped as she stepped away. "Pity. I've never had human before."

"Were they seriously planning on . . ." Wren shook his head as the lioness sauntered away, shaking her hips in what Siobhan knew was supposed to be seduction. She'd performed that very move on more than one occasion. A single glance over her shoulder confirmed it. The lioness puckered and blew a kiss toward Wren before taking a seat with the rest of her sisters.

"Aye. They'd have taken turns mating with you in hopes you plant a seed in their bellies. Once they knew at least one of them carried your offspring, you'd become part of their winter feed."

Wren jumped. "Wait. You mean. . ."

"They would've eaten you in more ways than just pleasure." Siobhan smiled. She didn't need better lighting to know Wren's cheeks turned red. "Best eat, moron. You may feel nauseous from the herbs they gave you and the food will counter the effects."

Fire danced in the pit, illuminating those gathered around it in an orange glow. The lionesses gathered on one side, leaving Wren and Siobhan to their own log. Snow drifted around the camp, vanishing within the blazing warmth. It wasn't heavy, not enough to coat the ground away from the fire, but Siobhan knew it was a matter of time. She glanced to Wren. He ran a finger through his smooth potatoes and chicken slivers as if looking for hidden poisons.

"You're claimed by me. If they didn't poison my food, they will not poison yours."

"What does that mean? Claimed by you?"

"It simply means you're under my protection. So long as I live, this pride will not harm you."

"They called you Ice Fang."

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