Toby made a face but obeyed. “Can’t I have a cookie instead?”
“Abuse.” But he was smiling as he bit into the shiny red fruit, the smile turning into a grin when Aisha slipped him a palm-sized oatmeal raisin cookie.
“Finish the apple first,” the cook ordered, tousling his hair.
“Thanks, Aisha,” Toby said before looking back at Sienna, his eyes sparkling in a way that would’ve startled her if she hadn’t seen Sascha Duncan’s eyes do the same thing. Because the stars were no longer white. Not quite. It was as if Toby’s eyes shimmered with color . . . with life.
Sometimes, Sienna thought Toby had been sent into the world to balance the scales, an antidote to the sister who loved him to the depths of her soul, but who could create only pain, only suffering, only horror.
HAWKE blocked Elias’s kick and put the senior soldier on his back. “Damn it, Eli. You’re leaving yourself wide open.”
Elias lay on the ground, chest heaving. “No, I’m not. You’re just not pulling any punches.” He winced. “I’m going to set Yuki on you—she doesn’t like it when you beat me up.”
Unamused, Hawke waited as the other man rolled to his feet. “You said you wanted to spar so you could figure out what you needed to work on.”
“I take it back.” Elias braced himself with his hands on his knees. “The single person who can spar with you in this kind of a mood is Riley.” Rising fully, he shoved a hand through dark brown hair damp with sweat. “I need to give you my report anyway.”
Hawke’s wolf was tensed and ready for action, but he drew in a long, deep breath, brought the animal under control. “Problems in the city?” DarkRiver and SnowDancer had both kept a constant and visible presence in San Francisco ever since the attempted bombings the previous year.
“I dunno.” Elias rubbed his jaw. “The leopards always get the best intel, so you should liaise with them, but my instincts are itching. I can’t quite put a finger on it—the thing is, you know we’ve got more than the usual number of Psy coming into the area.”
“Yeah. Side effect of Nikita deciding she no longer supports Silence.” Not out of the goodness of her heart, but simply because it made the most political sense. Sascha’s mother was one cold bitch. “They causing trouble?”
“No, quiet as church mice.” Elias fell into step beside him as Hawke began to make his way to the training run. The obstacle course would give him a much-needed physical outlet before he headed inside to talk to Tomás about a couple of people Hawke wanted to send to the lieutenant for training.
“But with so many of them coming in,” Elias continued, “it’s hard to pinpoint the friendlies from the others.”
Hawke had raised the same concern with Lucas not long ago. “The Rats,” he said, referring to the small changeling group that ran a very effective spy network, “know to keep an eye out for any unusual Psy activity, but I’ll have Luc talk to them, have them amp up their efforts.” He trusted Elias’s instincts. The soldier was one of his most capable men, not dominant enough to be a lieutenant, but smart and experienced—and more important, he had a head as stable as Riley’s.
“Thanks.” Elias looked at the training run, blew out a breath. “Jesus, Riaz is a sadist. What the hell are those spike things? They weren’t there last time.”
“Time me.” Hawke’s wolf bared its teeth in anticipation. Riaz had outdone himself this time. As Hawke ran up the first incline, he hoped like hell that Elias’s gut was wrong for once, but given the events of the past few months—and the fact that every F-Psy on the planet was apparently forecasting war—he knew that to be a bleak hope.
WALKER went to retie the ribbon around his daughter’s ponytail, playing a game with her on the LaurenNet as he did so. She was fascinated by the unusual twisting motion at the center of the mental star that was his mind, and kept getting distracted.
He’d been something of a puzzle to the staff at the Psy-Med hospital, too. No one had ever been able to explain the reason for the odd moving helix that had become apparent long after he was past childhood. There had been discussions about studying it further, but when it became clear the twist neither detracted from, nor added any strength to his already strong telepathic range, the issue was put aside.
It had, however, proven an excellent gauge of a child’s psychic development—to the extent that Walker had come to believe that to be the reason for it. Since his telepathic touch worked particularly well with the young and the helix had developed soon after he began teaching, it made sense. As it was, while Toby had matured to the point where he could ignore the distraction of the motion, Marlee hadn’t.
Almost, he encouraged on the psychic plane as the ribbon slipped out of his grasp on the physical. Picking it up, he said, “You know I’m not good at this.” His hands were too big, too clumsy for such a delicate task. “Why didn’t you ask Sienna?”
Waiting until he finished and moved around to crouch in front of her, she wrapped an arm around his neck. “I like it when you do it.” A wide smile.
In the three years since their family had defected from the PsyNet, Walker had learned many things—how to live in a world without Silence, how to manage the dominance challenges within a wolf pack, how to look after Marlee and Toby in a way for which he had no template. But the one thing he still hadn’t learned was how to handle the overload of emotion caused by his daughter’s smile.