He forced himself to think, to focus. The rain hadn’t turned torrential until about twenty minutes ago—Nikita was right, they should’ve reached the Center by now. And then, suddenly, he realized that Nikita should’ve been able to contact Sophie on the Net. Everything stopped as he forced himself to ask, “Is she still alive?”
“Her mind is present in the PsyNet,” Nikita said, “but she’s not responding to telepathic hails.”
Relief mixed with a cold, cold anger. If the bastards had hurt her—“I need you to find out the make and model of the car the Center people were driving so I can ask Enforcement to put out an alert.”
“You’ll have the information in minutes. I’ve already notified the Center not to proceed with the rehabilitation order.”
Thanking her, he hung up. But he knew Nikita’s intervention wouldn’t help, not if Sophia had been taken somewhere else. They could’ve already—No. “Hold on, Sophie. You just hold on.” Opening his cell phone, he made another call. “Clay, I need your help.”
The changeling male turned out to be at an indoor training facility at least twenty minutes closer to the Center than Max. “I’ve got several soldiers with me,” Clay said, able to hear the incredible strain in Max’s voice. But he knew from experience that the other man wouldn’t appreciate sympathy, only practical assistance. “We’ll head out now.” Hanging up, he pulled a team together, and they drove out into the pounding rain.
“Pretty isolated,” Kit said when they reached the road that led to the Center, his auburn hair appearing deep brown in the stormy light. “Visibility’s low.”
And getting lower as thunderclouds continued to roll in, their heavy weight making it seem as if it was late afternoon when it wasn’t yet midmorning. “This is the only way to the place.” The Psy had located their new lobotomy facility in an innocuous building set on a patch of fenced land that DarkRiver had kept an eye on, but hadn’t considered a threat because it had no obvious military or tactical function. “If they’re not on this route . . .”
“Stop!” Kit’s cry came at almost the same instant that Clay pulled the car to a halt, reacting even before the proximity sensors detected the overturned vehicle on the road.
Getting out, Clay held up a hand to the packmates following in the vehicle behind them and ran to the wreck. “I have a male on this side, injured—fuck, it looks like his throat’s been slashed.”
“Same here, except it’s a female.” Wiping the rain from his face, Kit looked at him over the top of the car as Clay rose. “She had an ID around her neck, with an M in the corner.”
Rain pelted Clay’s back in hard little bullets. “I’ll call Max, get him to send us the images—”
Max’s car screeched to a halt behind the second DarkRiver vehicle at that instant.
“Man.” Kit whistled, his lashes dripping rain. “The cop must’ve driven at three times the speed limit. I didn’t even know cars would let you do that.”
“She’s not in here,” Clay called out as soon as Max exited his vehicle, knowing from the white look on the cop’s face that that was what he feared.
Max peered into the overturned car as if to confirm Clay’s words. A second later, he bent, bracing his hands on his knees, his white shirt so wet as to be almost transparent. “Thank God.” Shoving a hand through rain-slick hair, he rose to his full height. “Sophie looked like she’d been drugged. If she got out, wandered off . . .”
“Jamie, Nico, Dezi,” Clay said, pointing to the packmates who’d exited the second vehicle when Max came running over. “Do a sweep, see if you can find any trace of Max’s J.” The heavy canopy of trees around them could have protected the scent trail from the rain. “Kit, you, too.”
“Max,” Desiree said, her tone gentle. “Do you have anything of Sophia’s?”
Max blinked rain from his eyes. “I had a shower before I left home,” he said, obviously aware that intimate contact could leave a detectable scent, “just kissed her good-bye. The f**king rain’s probably washed away anything that was left.”
Frowning, Desiree stepped closer, her long, thin braids sleek ebony in the wet. “Do you mind?” At Max’s distracted nod, she unbuttoned the top three buttons of his sodden shirt and pressed her nose to his skin, taking a deep breath. To his credit, Max didn’t move. “Got it.” A fierce grin. “She’s in your skin, Cop.”
Jamie, Nico, and Kit repeated the process—the men choosing to take the scent off Max’s arm now that Desiree had confirmed it was in his skin—before they scattered. Max glanced at Clay, his gaze piercing even through the rain-lashed darkness. “Throats cut, what looks like oil across the surface of the road, this wasn’t a simple crash.” His words were practical, outwardly calm.
Clay understood—first the cop would find his mate. Only then would he give in to the demons tearing him apart. With that in mind, he followed Max’s line of thought, his eyes on the oil. “You know anyone else who might want your J?”
Rage turned Max’s blood to fire. “Bonner—the Butcher of Park Avenue.” Forcefully wiping away the red haze that would just get in his way, Max moved around the car, checking for anything that might give him a clue as to where Bonner may have taken her. “The only good thing is—if the bastard does have her, he won’t kill her.” No, unlike with the doctor, Bonner would play with Sophia in the cruelest of ways.