“I suppose someone needs to speak first,” Sascha said, her voice the only sound in the silence.
Nikita Duncan gave a single short nod to acknowledge her daughter’s words. But it was Lucas who spoke next. “We all know why we’re here. This territory belongs—in some part or another—to all of us.”
Nikita looked straight at the DarkRiver alpha. “That territory is now under threat.”
Indigo could sense Hawke exercising savage control to rein in his instinctive and feral dislike of the Councilors. The Council had almost destroyed SnowDancer once, and none of them would ever trust its members again.
“You”—Nikita glanced from Hawke to Lucas—“were both targeted, because your deaths would’ve sent your packs into at least temporary disarray.”
Neither alpha said anything, though they’d figured out that much for themselves.
“Take down SnowDancer and DarkRiver,” Anthony added, his tone measured, calm, “and you crack the city’s defenses.”
Indigo wasn’t fooled by his outwardly mild demeanor. According to SnowDancer’s research, the reclusive Councilor had access to a network of F-Psy stronger than any other. Anthony Kyriakus knew more secrets than anyone else in this room, and she was quite certain the Councilor didn’t hesitate to use those secrets to leverage power when necessary.
Riley broke his silence to say, “Our information is that the Council is at war.” The statement was a test. Judd had already confirmed the rumors. Now, Indigo waited to see what Nikita would say.
Sascha’s mother didn’t even blink as she answered. “Henry, Shoshanna, and possibly Tatiana have decided that Silence must hold at all costs. They seek to eliminate anyone who goes against that rhetoric.”
Riley spoke again, his tone so calm, you’d think they were discussing the watch rotation. “Why share that when the Council prefers to keep its secrets?”
“The reason they’re focusing on this city, this state,” Anthony responded, “is because both Nikita and I call it home, as do the two most powerful changeling packs in the country. Given all that—take this city, and they take the country.”
True, Indigo thought. Because even if Anthony or Nikita survived an attack, Henry and the others, having proven their strength on this battleground, would continue to claim city after city, state after state.
“Why target us at all?” Hawke asked, and Indigo knew his wolf was weighing all the options with cold, hard focus. Part of what made Hawke such a good alpha was that no matter how savage his emotions, both man and wolf never stopped thinking. “What makes them think we’d care one way or another about an internal Psy war?”
Sascha was the one who spoke, her gaze locked to her mother’s. “Because of me, because of Faith.” Quiet words from a woman who’d once been viciously rejected by the Councilor in front of her. “DarkRiver’s emotional connection to us, the pack’s inability to sit by and let our parents die, will have been factored into their calculations.”
“It’s more than that,” Max said as Drew shifted his position a fraction, placing his weight on his other foot.
Indigo moved her body a tiny increment to the left to support him if necessary. A pulse of love came down the mating bond, an affectionate caress that “tasted” of Drew. It was still new, that intimate connection, but it was already so much a part of her life that she couldn’t imagine how she’d existed without it.
Wrapping her mate’s love around herself, she watched Nikita shoot her security chief a cool glance, but the human male shook his head, a grim line to his jaw. “They need all the information,” he said to Nikita. “Otherwise, Hawke will be more than happy to throw us to”—a wry grin—“the wolves.”
Nikita took several seconds to reply. “It appears Mr. Shannon is correct. They are targeting all of us because I am seen as too liberal in my business dealings with you.” Another pause, and then she met her daughter’s eyes. “And because I no longer support the Protocol.”
Quiet, so quiet Indigo could hear the heartbeat of every person in the room.
Even that of the child in Sascha’s womb.
They’d all heard the rumors, seen the Psy coming into the city, but for Nikita to admit it . . .
“What are you saying, Mother?” Sascha asked at last. “Are you advocating the fall of Silence?”
“Silence cannot fall with such quickness,” Nikita retorted, “not without immense devastation. But it is starting to crumble at the edges—and I have never stayed on a sinking ship in my life. I’m unlikely to start now.”
Sascha moved a little in her chair, one hand on the hard mound of her belly. “No, you’ve always known how to ride the tides.”
“You haven’t mentioned Ming or Kaleb,” Lucas pointed out, massaging his mate’s lower back unobtrusively as he spoke.
Nikita turned her eyes to the DarkRiver alpha. “Kaleb is highly unpredictable and may, in the end, double-cross everyone, but he doesn’t stay on sinking ships, either. Ming is having issues of his own and is more concerned with that than taking over this or any territory.”
“Henry and Shoshanna are the strongest advocates of Silence proceeding as it has for the past century,” Anthony added. “They want to increase the involuntary reconditionings, force those who are fractured to submit—or face total rehabilitation.”
Max’s wife, Sophia, spoke for the first time. “By refusing to sign my rehabilitation warrant, Nikita sent a signal that she was no longer toeing the party line. It has left her . . . unpopular.”