“I don’t think you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart.”
Nikita had no heart. What she had were brains and a survival instinct that saw nothing wrong with killing, manipulation, and betrayal. But she wasn’t fickle. That was bad for business. “It strikes me,” she said, “that our aims have coincided more often than not in Council matters of late.”
“You’re allied to Krychek.”
“So are you.” It was, she knew, less of an alliance than she had with Kaleb, but it existed. “They are attempting to take our territory, Anthony.”
“That’s their mistake.” And, for the first time, she heard the pure steel that had made Anthony Kyriakus a threat long before he became Council.
To my Cop—I never imagined you could exist, that you would exist, for someone like me. I never imagined that you’d look at me the way you do. I never imagined how hard it would be to say good-bye.
—Sophia Russo in an encrypted and time-coded letter to
be sent to Max Shannon after her death
The main Enforcement station in San Francisco was a sprawling complex full to the brim with humanity—and at present, a Psy assassin.
Sophia took a deep breath as they were led down through the bull pen and to the short-term holding facilities at the back of the station. So many voices, so many people, so many memories and dreams—it was a ceaseless buzz in her head, her shields already strained after the time spent in the enclosed space of the airjet.
Though she kept her arms tight to her body, her face turned away, people still bumped into her. She’d managed to avoid skin-to-skin contact so far—mostly because Max had been using his own body to shield hers in the most subtle of ways, but it was impossible to do anything but grit her teeth against the onslaught of psychic noise.
Hopes and wishes. Hates and loves. Joys and sorrows.
Even though she couldn’t read any specific thoughts, she could feel the colossal weight of those thoughts battering at her. The pressure against her shields was immense—she was terrified it would create a break, crushing her under an avalanche of other people’s nightmares.
“Here you go.” The cop who’d escorted them stopped in front of a cell. “He hasn’t said a word.”
“Thanks.” Max held out his hand. “I appreciate the cooperation.”
The cop shook it, but his eyes were flat. “You have Psy backing. Call me when you’re done.”
White lines bracketed Max’s mouth as the other man walked away. She wanted to comfort him, but what could she say? She was Psy, part of the very race whose history of arrogance meant Max was being seen as a traitor to his own people.
His gaze met hers at that moment and something in him seemed to ease. Walking up to the old-fashioned steel bars of the temporary holding cell, he said, “Keeping your mouth shut isn’t going to achieve anything, not while you’re in Nikita’s territory.”
The man sitting on a bunk on one side of the room didn’t so much as turn his head. Max tried again. With the same result. Shifting to glance at her, Max raised an eyebrow. She took a step closer to the bars. “Fanaticism,” she said, keeping her tone clear, Silent, pure, “is a breach of Silence.”
No response, but she knew he was listening.
“The fact that your colleague committed suicide when he was of sound mind and body speaks to that fanaticism.”
The man lifted his head. “It could as well have been a tactical decision to deprive the enemy of an individual to interrogate.”
“But you didn’t follow that path,” she pointed out. “You didn’t agree with his actions.”
“I have nothing to hide.” Cool words. “It’s no crime to be in an apartment in San Francisco. Even one with a view of the DarkRiver building.”
Sophia wondered if the male had truly thought through the consequences of his actions. Legalese wouldn’t save him, not when he’d proven himself part of the conspiracy against Nikita. Stepping back, she lowered her voice so that it would carry only to Max.
“Nikita doesn’t know yet.” That much was apparent because if she had, this man’s mind would’ve been torn apart like so much paper before they’d ever had a chance to talk to him.
Max set his jaw. “I don’t care who the f**k she is—she does that, I’m done with this case. They can blow her up for all I care.”
Nikita would bide her time, Sophia thought. Because right now, she needed Max. “Do you want to attempt further questioning while I—”
The scream was sharp, high pitched. Even as the medical alarms began blaring, the Psy male fell forward and to the floor, his body flopping about in the throes of a seizure that had his head thumping over and over against the plascrete floor.
Max had run to grab the guard with the key the instant after the first scream, but Sophia knelt by the bars, her heart twisting in pity. The would-be assassin’s face was contorted, blood leaking out of his ears, and there, in those final moments, Sophia saw fear fill his soul. Reaching through the bars, she gripped the hand that flailed toward her. “Hold on, help is coming.”
His hand spasmed on hers, pulling down her glove.
And he touched one finger to the skin bared at her wrist.
A scream of sound, images and thought, yesterdays tangled up in dying agonies.
Someone—Max—wrenched back her hand. “Sophia!”
She blinked, desperately trying to control the ugly roiling in her stomach. “Help him.” It came out husky, rough.