Glancing up at that face drawn in rough masculine lines, she shoved the memories back where they belonged: in the past. “Sorry,” she said with a smile built out of pure pride. “I know the kit’s heavy. I can take it the rest of the way.”
Walker ignored her attempt to keep the conversation casual. “We haven’t spoken for several weeks.”
She knew he was referring to the late-night conversations they’d had before the kiss. Walker was a night owl. Lara often stayed up late with her patients. Somehow, they’d ended up having coffee around eleven most nights—with Walker keeping a telepathic eye on his daughter and nephew when Sienna wasn’t able to stay with them. They hadn’t talked about anything of particular note, but those nights had given her the courage to do something that didn’t come easily to a wolf who wasn’t a dominant.
Healers never were—though they weren’t submissive, either. Normally, her packmates’ dominance simply didn’t affect Lara, though her wolf had the ability to put all of them, young or old, at ease. However, things didn’t work the same with Walker. Still, she’d made the first move, chanced that kiss that had led to her humiliation.
Since his rejection, she’d made sure to be busy or not in the infirmary around that time; the wound was too fresh. But time had passed, things had changed; she wasn’t only surviving, she was holding her own in this encounter. That didn’t mean she was about to allow Walker to make his way back into her life, not when she was ready to move on at last.
“Have you forgotten? We spoke when I patched Marlee up after she skinned her knee,” she said with a laugh that sounded natural. “Actually”—she held out her hand for the kit—“if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to walk the rest of the distance alone. It’ll give me some thinking time.”
Walker stood unmoving, pale green eyes locked on her. “And if I do mind?”
An uncomfortable heaviness gathered in the air.
She didn’t understand why he was pushing this, but what she did know was that she wasn’t going to open the lid on that box. Not today or any other day. “If you’re okay to carry it back,” she said, misunderstanding on purpose, “then thanks.” With that and a cheery wave, she headed off into the woods in the direction of the waterfall.
There, she thought, it was done, that excruciating chapter of her life closed.
COUNCILOR HENRY SCOTT had made the decision to sacrifice San Francisco two months ago, regardless of the economic and financial upheaval such destruction would cause. Now it was simply a case of putting the final pieces in place.
With that in mind, he turned away from the view of the busy streets visible through the window of the office he kept at his London residence, and to the man he’d placed in charge of coordinating his military resources—all of which had now been integrated into the streamlined structure of Pure Psy. The original civilian personnel had been quietly moved out of command positions.
Henry didn’t need a political party. He needed a weapon.
Which was why Vasquez was now in charge of all Pure Psy operations. There was nothing prepossessing about the man—he stood a bare five feet four inches, with a build more akin to that of a gymnast than a soldier, and a face so unremarkable people forgot him within minutes of meeting him.
“How long,” Henry asked, “before we can move on San Francisco and the surrounding changeling-held areas?”
“A month.” Bringing up the files on the main comm screen, Vasquez gave Henry a précis of their current status as regarding men and weapons. “What the wolves call ‘den territory’ will be the most difficult to take, but I’m working on a possible solution.”
Henry nodded, left it at that. Vasquez would be useless to him if he didn’t think for himself—something Henry’s “wife,” Shoshanna, would do well to emulate when it came to her own advisors. She surrounded herself with flunkies, none of them with the intelligence of a gnat. Which was why Henry was running this, while Shoshanna thought she held the reins. “Are there any problems I need to be aware of?”
“In that case, we’ll meet again in a week’s time.”
It was only after Vasquez left that Henry brought up another file. It was his investment portfolio, and once again, it was in worse shape than warranted. He didn’t have to be an expert to realize whose hand lay behind the slow, untraceable strangulation of his finances—Nikita Duncan was a master at manipulating money. However, while her actions were certainly problematic, the losses were nowhere near enough to stop him. He’d take San Francisco soon enough, obliterating the base of her empire.
As for the changelings . . . they could not be allowed to live, not after their constant and continuing defiance. They believed themselves immune to the Council’s reach to the extent that they’d encouraged the conception of a hybrid with changeling blood, a fetus that if it came to term, would result in the dilution of the psychic abilities that made the Psy race the most powerful on the planet.
Henry wouldn’t permit it.
It was time the world went back to the way it had been for over a century, the way it should be, with the purest of Psy in power, and the other two races allowed to exist only so long as they followed Psy rule. When people thought of SnowDancer and DarkRiver, Henry wanted them to see the blood-soaked cost of noncompliance.
THREE DAYS AFTER the situation with Maria and Sienna, Hawke found himself looking down at a small, big-eyed face. Going down on his haunches to meet that wildly curious gaze, he said, “Looking serious, Ben.”