Tangle of Need

By: Nalini Singh

“Anchor watch isn’t much more exciting,” Riordan had said to her as he left tonight to act as backup to two senior soldiers, no novices having been posted as main guards. “Mostly they just sit there working or reading, or sleeping.”

“Maria said you had a good story about your first anchor.”

“Oh yeah, that’s the one who kept watching me as if she was waiting for me to grow fangs and try to eat her. I couldn’t help it—I used my claws to scratch my nose. Her eyes almost popped out of their sockets.”

Smiling at the memory, she wondered if those in the PsyNet would have offered another group such help. Once, she would’ve said no. But now … Though Nikita Duncan and Anthony Kyriakus might have helped defend San Francisco out of their own self-interest, stories had come in, in the aftermath of the battle, that told of ordinary Psy helping their fellow man, regardless of race.

A DarkRiver soldier had fallen in combat, been dragged inside by two elderly Psy women while they held back his attackers using their combined telepathic abilities. One of the humans DarkRiver knew well had told of how his son, a curious little boy, had snuck outside and down a block to peek at the jet-choppers dropping Pure Psy operatives from the sky.

Out of his mind with worry, his father had been getting ready to head out into danger to search for the missing child when a Psy neighbor—one of three students sharing an apartment—called to say he was safe. They’d snatched the boy off the street and hidden him in their home, protecting his mind from the psychic strikes the operatives had thrust out as a defensive measure while they landed.

It would’ve been safer for those students, the elderly twosome, to stay inside. After all, neither an injured soldier nor a small child could offer them any tactical advantage. But they hadn’t remained behind closed doors, safe. They’d helped for no reason except that it was the right thing to do.

A brush of fur against her leg, that of the wolf who’d appeared out of the trees.

Hawke didn’t have much time with everything that was going on, but he always found her during her shifts, even if it was only for a few minutes at a time.

Crouching down beside his proud head, she ran her fingers through the silver-gold of his fur. “When I think of the stories that came out of the battle, it makes me proud to be Psy.”

The wolf angled his head, his eyes piercing in the dark. She laughed, able to read the affronted expression on his face as if he’d spoken. “Yes, I’m a SnowDancer,” she said, because this was her family, her pack, her home, “but I’m a Psy SnowDancer.”

The wolf considered this before turning his muzzle and nipping very, very carefully at her jaw, those lethally sharp teeth not even bruising her skin. Laughing again, she rubbed her nose against his. “Thanks so much, Your Wolfiness,” she said, knowing that had been his way of saying her decision to call herself a Psy SnowDancer was acceptable.

A growl rumbled out of his chest, and she immediately recognized that it wasn’t the playful one he used with her when he wasn’t serious. This one was very, very, very serious. Every sense on alert, she rose to her feet, telepathically scanning the area at the same time.

“Intruders,” she said a second later, moving with as much stealth as possible beside her wolf as he padded toward their prey. “Psy mental shields.”

“Wait.” Crouching again, she used another sub-vocal whisper to convey what she’d sensed. “They’re scanning the area. They have to know I’m here.” Not her personally, but a mind with a Psy fingerprint. “I’m not sure if they know about you.” Sienna could sense the subtle but critical differences between the mind of a feral wolf and that of a changeling, but she’d been in SnowDancer for years—most of her race didn’t have that advantage.

The pale eyes of a husky or a bird of prey met hers, the glance both protective and adamant. They’d been mated only a short time, hadn’t yet learned all of each other’s subtleties, but she understood the unspoken message. And she disagreed. “Whoever it is will know I can destroy him in a split second the instant he sees me. I’ll go in prepped.”

Hawke’s lips lifted to display his canines.

“This is my area of expertise,” she said, holding his gaze, because he would stare her down and get his own way if she let him.

This time, the bite on her chin was a fraction harder, a warning not to get herself hurt or she’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Running her hand through his fur once more, she watched him become a shadow indistinguishable from the trees as she made her way to the small clearing where three Psy minds waited. They were shielded, but she knew deep in her gut who it was that had come for her before she ever glimpsed him through the trees.

The birthmark on the left side of his face was a red splotch, a pigmentation error he’d once told her his parents hadn’t had corrected because they’d believed it would make him more resilient if he had to overcome such a thing in a society that prized perfection. Ming could’ve taken care of it once he was no longer a minor, but he hadn’t. A badge of pride, she’d always thought; or perhaps a way to gain a psychological advantage over other Psy, all of whom were taken aback the first time they met him face-to-face.