“Decoys.” Andrew frowned. “But to what purpose?”
“That’s part of what Judd’s hoping to run down. He’s hearing whispers that say this might be linked to Pure Psy. I’ve also sent the techs back up to scan for anything else that shouldn’t be there.” Shoving his hands through his hair, Hawke clenched his jaw. “Whatever the truth, instinct tells me things are going to come to a violent head sooner rather than later.”
“If Judd does connect the transmitters categorically to Pure Psy,” Andrew said, slotting in the other pieces in his mind, “and we add the e-mails to the mix, then I’m certain the packs haven’t been targeted in isolation, but as part of a campaign against the city as a whole.”
The wolf looked out of Hawke’s eyes when he turned to Andrew. “You found something else.”
“Teijan called me this morning. His people have noticed a steady stream of Psy slipping into the city and setting up house. Some of them don’t appear to have jobs.”
Hawke’s jaw tightened. “Trouble?”
“Not according to what I got from Max after I spoke to Teijan. Seems like word’s gotten out that Nikita has accepted a flawed Psy in her administration.” Max’s wife, Sophia, was still in the Net. And she was no longer Silent.
Hawke thought about the cold-eyed woman who’d disowned her own daughter and knew there had to be something in the stance for Nikita. Either that, or the Councilor was simply waiting for a chance to turn on the poor souls who looked to her for hope. “Are they making waves?”
“Max has an eye on them and says most are only trying to find sanctuary.”
“But it’s going to shift the balance of the city.” And Hawke’s first priority was the safety of his pack. “I’ll talk to Lucas, make sure our own people have the situation under surveillance.”
Drew played a pen over his fingers. “The fact that San Francisco is becoming ground zero for Psy who are breaking Silence . . . well, it explains the dead Psy in the city and on the edges of the state, doesn’t it?”
“Poor buggers got caught up in the crossfire between two Council factions.” Picking up a small ball from the corner of his desk, Hawke threw it against the wall, catching it as it rebounded. “You think we’ve been hit by the crossfire, too.”
Drew nodded. “Judd’s intel is that Henry Scott is out to get rid of Nikita, and we already know Henry controls Pure Psy. And San Francisco might be a changeling city, but it’s also Nikita’s power base.”
“Psychological warfare,” Hawke murmured. “He wants the city in turmoil to undermine Nikita—and . . .” Hawke caught the ball as it rebounded again, held it. “What better way to do that than by inciting the humans and changelings against each other?”
“That’s what worries me,” Drew said. “But I think we’d have heard—sensed—if that kind of ugliness was simmering.”
Hawke threw the ball, bouncing it so that it rebounded toward Drew. “What’s the date?”
Catching the ball, Andrew glanced at his watch and gave the ball to Hawke. “Why?”
“The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown.”
“It’s on right now.” He immediately realized what his alpha wanted him to do. “Cats will have a much better chance of getting information from the population down there.” DarkRiver held the city, and they had held it long enough and well enough that they were a trusted part of its fabric. SnowDancer, by comparison, evoked a wary caution—which was how they wanted it.
“Work with them,” Hawke said, “but I want you down there as well.”
“Don’t trust the cats even now?”
Hawke shrugged. “It’s not about trust. It’s about Pack.”
Andrew understood. Hawke’s job was to protect SnowDancer. No matter the blood bond between SnowDancer and DarkRiver, he would never place the lives of his people in their hands alone.
Indigo wasn’t exactly pleased to be pulled off her—considerable—duties to come “play girlfriend,” as Drew had put it. “If you needed a decoy,” she muttered as they meandered through the bustling stalls that lined the street, offering goodies of every variety, “why didn’t you pick one of your harem?”
Tugging her close with the arm he had around her shoulders, he nipped at the tip of her nose. “Because,” he said with a grin when she glared, “you would’ve cut me to pieces with that ice glare of yours”—his hand slid down her back—“after you kicked my bleeding, whimpering ass out of your bed. And I really like your mattress.”
She would not laugh. “There’ll be some whimpering going on very soon if you don’t stop petting my ass in public.”
He stroked his hand even lower and, cupping her face with his free hand, took her mouth in a laughing kiss that simply melted any temper out of her. God, she thought, she’d have to watch him. He could charm himself out of any situation—and make her a co-conspirator.
When he broke the kiss, he didn’t pull away, but rubbed his nose affectionately against hers. “Think of it as a date.”
At that moment, for the first time in forever, Indigo decided what the hell. It was a beautiful, sunshiny day in San Francisco; she was with a gorgeous, sexy man who couldn’t keep his hands off her; and, given their underhanded tactics to date, the group of Psy behind the current attempts to brew up trouble weren’t about to come in guns blazing anytime soon. “In that case,” she said, sliding her arm around his waist, “you have to buy me an ice cream.”