Nerves and anger collided.
He was pushing her, but of course he would. That was who he was. Like she was a dominant who knew her own strength. Breaking contact, she shifted, not bothering to strip. Her clothes disintegrated off her as the agony and ecstasy of the change took over, sparks of light blazing in the lush mystery that was the night.
A heartbeat later, she stood on four feet, her head angled toward the black wolf who was so much bigger and stronger, but who she knew would never cause her physical harm. That knowledge, it was enough for the wolf, but the woman needed more, needed the devotion she knew he would offer only one woman his entire lifetime.
He nuzzled at her, but she danced away, racing through the willowy shadows of the trees and across the silent music of a moon-silvered stream. He was fast, so fast, but she was clever, and she tangled and twisted around trees young and old, over jagged rocks and across sleepy flowers to cross another stream, splashing downstream to conceal her scent before coming up on the other shore.
The black wolf was nowhere to be seen.
She wasn’t fooled, knew he was stalking her. Padding quietly along the verge, she kept her eyes on the other side of the stream … and caught a glimpse of feral gold. He lunged across the water, but she was already racing to put distance between them, squeezing through gaps he wouldn’t fit, skating under fallen trees that wouldn’t accommodate his size.
The next time she halted, her heart thumped a pounding beat, the wolf’s exhilaration mixing with the woman’s. The air was a treasure trove of scents, the night full of song. It intoxicated. Knowing she needed to think with a clearer head, she shifted back into human form, her hair tumbling around her as she crouched on the forest floor, her head angled to the wind.
Dark, of the forest, kissed with woodsmoke and a wild bite of citrus.
All around her. In her skin. Against her tongue.
His lips smoothed over her neck, his hand gentle on her hip, but she knew she was caught. Turning, she watched him with the wolf’s eyes. His own hair fell over his face, his gaze luminous. This time, those eyes said, he wouldn’t let her run. But she wasn’t a wolf because she gave up. She twisted to the left without warning.
He was there almost before she moved, taking her body to the earth. She shivered at the cool kiss of the dew-laden grass, but he didn’t let her up. “I have you.” His voice was gravelly, dark with the determination of the predator inside him. “And I’m keeping you.”
She lifted a hand to his cheek, the tenderness within her an endless river. How could she have ever thought to keep any part of her heart safe from him? It was an impossibility. She was caught, well and truly. Tears burned her eyes, trickled down the sides of her face and into her hair.
“Shh.” He kissed the salt-laced sadness away, rolling onto his back and taking her with him, one hand cradling the back of her head, the other stroking down the curve of her spine. “Don’t cry, sweetheart.”
His gentleness twined another tendril around her heart, until she was so entangled in him, she knew she’d never break free. For the first time in her life, her wolf had chosen. And it had chosen this lone wolf. “You have me,” she whispered. All of me.
KALEB WAS AT his home office when Silver called. “A. V. is Vasquez,” she said, “of that my family is as certain as we can be without having his DNA. He also appears to be running things as far as Pure Psy is concerned. However, the rank and file believe he speaks for Henry.”
So did Kaleb. The NetMind and DarkMind both had had too calm a reaction to Henry’s “death.” Kaleb had attempted to use the twin neosentience to track the former Councilor, but they had been acting increasingly erratic of late, and he’d been unable to focus them on the target. That bespoke a profound problem in the Net, the depth of which perhaps he alone understood—Henry’s fanaticism and the continued deterioration of Subject 8-91 were simply symptoms of a more dangerous malaise.
Concluding the conversation with his aide, he rose from his desk, playing a small platinum star through his fingers. The metal was warm from his touch, but his mind worked with ice-cold precision as he decided what was to be done with Henry. Aden.
The telepath’s reply was crystal clear. Councilor.
Kaleb will do. The Council is no longer in existence except in the minds of the populace.
Henry will continue to be a problem if he lives. Do you have any issue with eliminating him? Kaleb needed to know how much of the Arrows’ loyalty was his.
No. His policies are not good for the Net.
Kaleb rubbed his thumb over the shining surface of the star. Then regard it as an authorized mission.
Telepathic connection severed, Kaleb considered those who’d remain after Henry’s demise. Shoshanna, he didn’t waste time on. Henry’s “wife” had flaws that would make it easy to manipulate her. Nikita would leave Kaleb alone so long as he didn’t attempt to violate her territory—or harm her child and grandchild. The other Councilor hid it well, but Kaleb could glide through the Net without causing a single ripple. He saw everything. Nikita’s conditioning might be flawless, but she wasn’t Silent.
Not in the way he was.
Nikita’s protective instinct was her Achilles’ heel, but Kaleb had no reason to exploit it. Not as long as she didn’t attempt to get in his way. If she did…
His eye fell on the star. He halted his movements. And knew he had his own weakness, one Nikita would never guess at, and so he still had the advantage in his dealings with her.
As for Anthony, Kaleb didn’t think there would be any problems—he had no desire to encroach on NightStar lands or capture Anthony’s stable of F-Psy. No foreseer could stop him once he’d decided on a course of action.