Tangle of Need

By: Nalini Singh

“Y-yes.” The young woman peered out from under the dented and now blood-splattered desk. “They said they’d—”

Sensing the air move at her back, Adria swung around with gun pointed … and recognized the two men who’d teleported in from Judd’s descriptions. “No,” she said when they went to examine the dead assassin. “Check Riaz first. The bastard was trying to choke him.” Ugly, mottled bruises had already formed on the dark tan of his flesh.

It was the Asian male with the sharp cheekbones who came to kneel beside Riaz. “I’m not a changeling medic,” he said in a voice that was arctic in its lack of emotion, after running a slim-line scanner over Riaz. “But he appears unharmed. He should recover consciousness soon.”

It wasn’t what the Psy male said but rather the fact she could feel Riaz’s back rising and falling under her stroking hands, his color returning, that had her pressing a relieved kiss to his temple, his face turned to the side as he lay on his front. “Sorry you didn’t get your captive,” she said, knowing they would’ve preferred to interrogate the assassin. “I had to shoot to kill.”

“Understood.” Rising, the black-clad man walked to join his similarly clothed partner, a tall dark-haired male with gray eyes so haunted, she wondered what he saw when he closed them.

Riaz groaned at that instant, putting a hand to his forehead as he pushed himself up into a sitting position against the side of the desk. “I have the headache to end all headaches.”

She wanted nothing more than to yell at him for scaring her, then pepper his face with kisses. “You’re alive,” she said, her game face almost crumbling when he gave her a smile that said he saw right through her tough act, “so don’t complain.” Forcing herself to leave him, she helped the anchor out of her hiding place but told the young woman to stay seated on the floor behind the desk. “You don’t want to see what’s on the other side.”

The anchor’s gaze was strangely vacant when it met hers. “Okay.”

Shock, Adria realized. Unlike the two cold-eyed men who were examining the fallen Tk, and in contrast with Bjorn’s quietly mutinous independence, most anchors were coddled and protected, never came this close to harsh reality. “Aden,” she said, using the name she’d been given for the medic.

His head lifted and she realized how handsome he was—if you liked your men icy enough to give you hypothermia. “Yes?”

“I think you need to ensure your anchor isn’t…” about to crack. Biting off the words on the tip of her tongue, she just said, “Check her.”

Aden rose with an almost feline grace to circle the desk and crouch beside the anchor. Who froze, her eyes locked on his uniform, on the single star that decorated his left shoulder. “Arrow Squad. I thought you were just a story.”

Aden didn’t reply, checking the woman over with an efficiency that said he saw her only as a living, breathing machine. He didn’t speak, but Adria knew he and the other Arrow had to be communicating telepathically. Finally, he took out a pressure injector and punched the medicine into the anchor’s body by pressing it to her neck.

Sonja slumped.

Catching her, Aden laid her down on the carpet. “We can’t afford for her to destabilize the Net,” he said to Adria. “Her mind will continue to maintain things as they are while she sleeps. When she wakes, she’ll have the appropriate medical support.”

Adria didn’t like the fact he’d acted without asking the anchor’s permission, but then, she didn’t know if he’d telepathed to Sonja, and the PsyNet wasn’t her field of expertise. More important, Judd had said this man and his partner were to be trusted, and Adria had absolute faith in the lieutenant. “We’re charged with her safety,” she said in response, checking Sonja’s pulse herself to make sure she was okay. “I can’t release her to anyone other than you two.”

“Vasic will teleport her to a medical facility.” With that, he returned to his partner.

Pricking her ears as Riaz rubbed at his face a foot away from her, she tuned in to their low-voiced conversation.

“Yes,” Vasic said. “Confirmed.”

“You’re certain.”


Realizing the two Arrows were either cognizant of the acute nature of changeling hearing, or so used to communicating telepathically that they weren’t going to let anything slip, she met Riaz’s gaze. He gave a small shrug, and she knew he’d been attempting to listen, too. Shifting closer, she said, “Let me check your eyes.” It was a ruse—she needed to touch him, settle nerves that had been shredded when he collapsed.

“Thanks for the rescue.” He sat patiently while she used the mini-torch in her pocket to determine that his pupils were reacting properly. “Good shot.”

Her wolf would’ve happily gutted the bastard who’d hurt him if Riaz hadn’t already taken care of that, but she said only, “You’re my partner. No thanks required.”

“The gunshots.” Eyes of palest brown scanning her body with protective intent. “Are you hurt?”