Tangle of NeedBy: Nalini Singh
Riaz didn’t respond, just watched her with those lethal eyes of beaten gold.
“We have to work together,” she said, refusing to allow him to intimidate her, though his dominance shoved at her own until it was an almost physical force. It took everything she had to hold her ground. In truth, her wolf should have already backed down in front of a bigger, deadlier predator, but her little “secret” about her exact place in the hierarchy gave her just enough latitude to withstand the unleashed power of him for a few more moments.
“I don’t want the … issues between us”—raging sexual arousal fused with the red haze of the anger that licked the air—“to bleed over into our working relationship. Let’s agree to stay out of each other’s way as much as possible, and be polite when it’s not.”
“Fine.” No blink. No change in his stance.
Sweat broke out along her spine, and it took teeth-gritting control to respond with only a curt nod before she left, her hand squeezing the water bottle so hard she crushed the plas in a jarring crackle. It humiliated her that even now, when he’d made it cuttingly evident what he thought of her, the tug she felt toward Riaz was a dark twist of need in her gut. But she hadn’t made senior soldier at twenty-five because she was weak.
Claws slicing out of her hands, she felt her eyes turn the amber of her wolf.
Riaz Delgado wouldn’t ever get another invitation from her.
ADEN WALKED AWAY from the back steps of the house of worship where he’d met Judd Lauren for the second time since the city’s showdown with Pure Psy, coming to a halt beside the teleporter who’d brought him to the location.
Vasic’s eyes remained trained on the former Arrow until Judd disappeared around the corner and into the streets of San Francisco, a shadow among shadows. “He still moves like one of us.”
“In all the ways that matter, he still is one of us.”
Vasic said nothing more, but a second later they were no longer in the trees behind the church, but on an isolated mountain plateau draped in the silken veil of night. The night sky was crystal clear, dotted with stars so bright, they cut like glass.
Many termed the PsyNet, the vast network that connected all Psy to one another, a starscape, but Aden had come to realize the PsyNet was missing something fundamental. Its essence, its life was devoid of that which drew even an Arrow’s eye to the night sky. “I expected the desert.”
“Both locations allow us to talk without being overheard.” Vasic’s eyes, a cool gray that never gave away anything, stared out past the edge of the plateau to the gnarled trees that sprawled out into the sumptuous black of a moonless night.
Aden knew what Vasic sought in the darkness, but they would not talk of it this night. Instead, he said, “Do you think Henry Scott is dead?” The Councilor had been hit by the cold fire of an X, but no one had seen him burn to ash—and he’d been surrounded by teleport-capable Tks.
Vasic’s hair lifted in the wind, the strands having grown in the past months, until they were now past the unspoken regulation length for Arrows. “Unconfirmed, but he had his best men around him. The probability is high they pulled him out in time.”
Aden had come to the same conclusion. “If he is alive, he’s learned some new tricks, or someone is helping him conceal his presence in the Net.” The changes in Henry had become apparent prior to the battle. Before the sudden emergence of an unexpected and impossible military expertise, the Councilor had been the beta member of the Henry-Shoshanna pairing.
“Ming.” Vasic continued to stare outward even as he spoke, and Aden wondered how much of him remained here, on this cold, windswept plateau.
“He may have advised and used Henry to his own ends, but Ming wouldn’t protect him once he was weakened and no longer of any strategic use.”
Aden’s thoughts meshed so perfectly with Vasic’s, he didn’t waste time voicing his agreement. “The surviving members of Pure Psy remain fanatically devoted to him.” Silence was meant to have eliminated all emotion from their race, but cracks had begun to appear in the chill fabric of the conditioning each and every one of them underwent as children. Pure Psy might decry those cracks and style itself as a proponent of “Purity,” but the depth of their commitment to Henry brought their own conditioning into question. “There might well be a strong telepath amongst them.” One skilled enough to block the visible presence of Henry’s mind in the Net.
“Have you begun a trace?”
“Yes.” Chosen for Arrow training only because his parents had both been Arrows, Aden was officially a field medic, his telepathic touch so subtle, he’d always been classified in the wrong—much lower—Gradient. Walker Lauren was the first person who had understood the dangerous power of Aden’s mind … and he had kept Aden’s secret, taught him skills Aden used to this day. “If Henry is alive, I’ll find him.”
Checking an incoming message on the computronic gauntlet on his left arm, a gauntlet that Aden had watched become a living part of his body after the experimental fusion took final hold this past year, Vasic said, “Did you speak to Abbott again?”