Tangle of NeedBy: Nalini Singh
A stream of consciousness from the NetMind, a question.
No, Kaleb said in response. You can’t save him. He’s too damaged. The rot had invaded 8-91’s physical brain, was eating away at parts of his frontal lobe—a change so subtle the M-Psy would likely have missed it, even if he had been a neural specialist as opposed to orthopedic. As the infected from Sunshine Station had proved, there was no cure, and this new variant was more complex than the one that had resulted in the outbreak. Even if there had been a cure, Kaleb would’ve given the same answer—8-91’s death was inevitable.
Someone had to be the canary.
Dismissing the man from his thoughts after taking note of the development of the infection, he returned to his physical body, stopping only long enough to ask the NetMind and DarkMind both a question. Do you know the location of this individual? He sent through an image, along with a psychic profile built from his memories and the data files he’d hacked over the years.
The puzzlement was the same response he’d received each and every time he’d asked after his personal quarry ever since he’d first made contact with the twin neosentience. It was as if his target no longer existed in the Net, but Kaleb knew differently. And nothing, not even the inexplicable failure of the NetMind and DarkMind to sense the truth, would stop him from hunting down that target.
HAWKE SNAGGED SIENNA’S hand as they passed in the corridor, dragging her into a corner hidden from the eyes of curious packmates. “Where are you going in such a rush?” His wolf was delighted to see her, rolling around in the autumn and spice of her scent like a pup. It made him remember how he’d awakened her this morning, how he’d licked up that delectable scent in a much more intimate fashion.
Sienna’s voice was low and caressing when she replied, the fingers of her free hand spread over his heart. “I’m meeting some of the leopards for lunch.”
“Kit?” A feral growl.
“Yes.” Her scowl matched the straight line of her mouth. “He’s my friend.”
The boy had also kissed her, dared to put his hands and his scent on her. “No.” It was an order from the wolf, a wolf used to obedience.
But Sienna Lauren Snow had never once bowed down to him. Tugging her hand from his hold, she rose on tiptoe to thrust both into his hair. “Yes.”
His stare was met by her own, his dominance countered by the steely will of a cardinal X. “I think it’s time I bit you again,” he muttered, rubbing his finger over the curve where her neck met her shoulder, his favorite spot to mark her.
The threat made Sienna pull playfully at his hair. “You did that this morning. It’s my turn.” A quick nip of his lower lip. “Do you want to join us?”
Hell, yes—because while he might not be able to intimidate his smart, sexy, dangerous mate, he damn well could and would warn off the baby cat alpha she called friend. But—“I have to meet with the maternal females.” Wincing at the reminder, he bent his head so she could pet him more effectively. “They’re on the warpath about some of the juveniles.”
Laughing, Sienna ran her nails over his scalp, the caress making his wolf arch its neck in wild pleasure. “You sound scared.”
“Any man not scared of a bunch of maternals ganging up on him needs his head examined.” Hackles still raised by the thought of her lunch date, he straightened to his full height, his mate’s hands sliding to his shoulders. “If that cub puts his hands anywhere near you, I don’t care if he is your friend, I’ll rip his arms off.” He wasn’t joking—this soon after mating, the wolf was possessive beyond belief, the mating bond raw.
Sienna’s smile faded. “You know I would never—”
“Of course I know that,” he snapped, annoyed that she’d even contemplate he didn’t trust her. “That’s not the point.”
A raised eyebrow, tiny nails digging into his shoulders. “What is the point then, Your Alphaness?”
He snapped his teeth at her for that smart-ass remark. “The point is you’re mine. End of story. No touching by any other male.” He paused, considered. “Special family-affection dispensation for those related to you.”
When she didn’t respond, he leaned in close and whispered, “I did warn you,” his lips brushing her ear. He’d told her exactly what it would mean to be his, how hard he’d be to handle, how totally he’d claim her. And still she’d come to him, but he wondered if she was only now understanding the true depth of what he’d demand from her. The thought that he might be distressing his mate by being who he was made both parts of him go motionless, watchful.
Shivering in response to his touch, she pushed him back until she could meet his gaze. Her glare was dark … but then she laughed, the sound of it wild lightning along his fur. “I guess,” she said, the stars vibrant in her eyes, “that serves me right for mating with an alpha.”
His wolf relaxed. His mate had no fear in her scent, in her teasing smile, the bond between them vivid with the red and amber fire that was her brand. Running his hands down the sleek curve of her back, he nuzzled at her. “I may get a little more … flexible after we’ve been mated for a while.”