Tangle of NeedBy: Nalini Singh
He’d been only minutely brushed by the whip of cold fire, but it had succeeding in frying through his skin and thin layer of subcutaneous fat to melt muscle and score bone. A second’s delay and he would no longer have internal organs, his body cavity filled with ash.
As it was, he now bore a scar that made it appear as if someone had dug a furrow through his skin with a viciously sharpened spoon. The M-Psy assured him the injury could be repaired, filled in, but Ming had no intention of taking her up on it.
Not at least, until Sienna Lauren was dead.
The girl had just proven she was too dangerous to keep alive, even on a leash.
STANDING on the edge of the property that housed the primary target, Vasquez looked at the Tk who was, at present, his most prized operative, both their faces covered by black balaclavas. Low-tech, but effective as a method to obfuscate identity. Though the Tk would not wear it during the op itself—it compromised his peripheral vision, and there were never any witnesses to worry about after he was done.
Are you certain you can evade the guards? The changelings had proven more dedicated sentries than he’d anticipated, leaving no obvious vulnerability. The organization can’t afford to lose you. However, they had to strike soon, before the impact of their first strike dissipated into nothing.
The Tk took time to study the house, the movements of the outer guard, the second guard hidden from view in a windowless inner room, along with their target. That largely unused room hadn’t been photographed as part of the security file on the anchor, so it was clever of the changelings to move the target into it—but Vasquez was smarter. He and the Tk beside him had run reconnaissance on this property before the Cape Dorset operation, taken their own backup images.
As they had of a number of anchor homes in the region.
The reason they hadn’t planted a transmitting camera inside was because the anchor’s home, like those of her brethren, underwent a deep security scan every week. Vasquez couldn’t risk that the bug would be found, the transmission tracked back to him.
I only need a second to disable the animal inside, the Tk said at last. The one outside will not make it to the room in time.
I can provide a distraction. He took out a gun. Will that be sufficient?
A nod. Wait until I give the signal.
RIAZ HAD PULLED rank and taken the inside watch on the anchor—since they were dealing with a Tk, chances were high Adria would be safer on the outside perimeter. Of course, he hadn’t been stupid enough to actually say that. “You look like you want to bloody me,” he’d muttered, deliberately ruffling her fur. “Walk it off before you scare our charge.”
Narrowed eyes, the violet tinged with amber. “I know what you’re up to. Stay in one piece or I will really hurt you.”
When multiple gunshots hit the side of the house, he thought he’d been proven horribly wrong.
Even as the rage of anger and terrifying worry blazed inside his mind, he caught a flicker out of the corner of his eye. Claws out, he was moving before the assassin fully materialized. He slammed into the man’s body, trusting the anchor to react as they’d practiced and duck under her desk, cell phone and laser scalpel in hand—it was deadly when used as a weapon, especially in close quarters, as well as being the only offensive option that didn’t make this particular anchor turn green.
“Identify!” he yelled at the instant of impact, because there was a very slight chance this was a friend not foe.
In answer, the intruder shoved Riaz back with vicious telekinetic strength, crashing him into the heavy desk hard enough to fracture the wood, but Riaz had already dug his claws into the attacker’s abdomen. Their violent separation had the effect of ripping the other male’s stomach open. Clamping one arm over his torn flesh in an effort to keep his intestines inside his body, the Tk thrust out a bloody hand and invisible fingers gripped Riaz’s throat in a choking hold.
Spots colored his vision, his chest screaming at the lack of air even as his ears registered more gunshots outside. Don’t you dare get hurt, Empress.
Not bothering to try to pull off hands he couldn’t see or touch, Riaz went for the weapon in his pocket. His fingers closed on the barrel, spasmed, and for an instant, he thought he was going to shoot himself. God, that would piss off Adria. Spurred by the thought, he managed to grip the weapon and pull it out.
“Useless animal.” The Tk used his ability to smash it out of Riaz’s hand.
But that, Riaz thought, was all right. Because even though he had no air, he could scent crushed berries in ice, embers of hidden fire.
The murderous bastard’s brains exploded in a spray of blood and bone as Adria took him out from behind, her weapon held with rock steady hands.
Coughing and gasping in the air rushing back into his lungs, he crawled his way around the desk to ensure the anchor was safe. She swiped out with the laser scalpel, just barely missing his face.
Good, he thought, realizing at the same instant that the spots in front of his eyes were merging into pure black. Shit.
ADRIA wasn’t fast enough to catch Riaz before his head slammed to the ground. Ignoring the mess she’d made of the assassin, she ran to crouch beside her wolf, her fingers searching for his pulse. “Sonja, you’re safe,” she told the anchor. “Did you make the call?”