“So can I.” A hidden tone in that husky voice that rubbed against his skin, a near tactile caress. “But I’m saying we don’t necessarily have to.” She held the brutal dominance of his gaze for a long moment before her wolf forced her to look away, her hands fisted so tight, bones pushed white against skin. “I don’t want a permanent relationship, and Indigo told me you wouldn’t be interested in one either.”
At the silken question, Adria once again met his gaze, though her chest rose and fell in jagged breaths, her wolf undoubtedly fighting her because it knew he was the stronger, more dangerous one in the clearing. “She didn’t breach your confidence.”
He respected that she’d stood up for Indigo at once, but that didn’t excuse what she’d dared to suggest. His anger turned quiet, deadly, cold. “You just want to sleep together, is that it?”
Slender fingers flexing, clenching again. “I’m talking about sharing intimate skin privileges”—red painted her cheekbones—“nothing forbidden or taboo among packmates. I don’t see why you’re reacting like I’m suggesting something awful.”
“Because I don’t like you,” he said, saw her flinch.
Ruthless though he could be, he wasn’t usually such a bastard, but Adria had torn open the greatest wound on his heart, then rubbed salt on the injury with her casual approach to something that savaged him. He could barely see straight, much less think, but he knew one thing. “You’re not a woman I’ll ever want in my bed.”
Adria could feel her face burning, the heat blistering, but she didn’t run off, tail between her legs. “Can’t get much clearer than that.”
Riaz didn’t respond, just watched her with those lethal eyes of beaten gold.
“We have to work together,” she said, refusing to allow him to intimidate her, though his dominance shoved at her own until it was an almost physical force. It took everything she had to hold her ground. In truth, her wolf should have already backed down in front of a bigger, deadlier predator, but her little “secret” about her exact place in the hierarchy gave her just enough latitude to withstand the unleashed power of him for a few more moments.
“I don’t want the … issues between us”—raging sexual arousal fused with the red haze of the anger that licked the air—“to bleed over into our working relationship. Let’s agree to stay out of each other’s way as much as possible, and be polite when it’s not.”
“Fine.” No blink. No change in his stance.
Sweat broke out along her spine, and it took teeth-gritting control to respond with only a curt nod before she left, her hand squeezing the water bottle so hard she crushed the plas in a jarring crackle. It humiliated her that even now, when he’d made it cuttingly evident what he thought of her, the tug she felt toward Riaz was a dark twist of need in her gut. But she hadn’t made senior soldier at twenty-five because she was weak.
Claws slicing out of her hands, she felt her eyes turn the amber of her wolf.
Riaz Delgado wouldn’t ever get another invitation from her.
ADEN WALKED AWAY from the back steps of the house of worship where he’d met Judd Lauren for the second time since the city’s showdown with Pure Psy, coming to a halt beside the teleporter who’d brought him to the location.
Vasic’s eyes remained trained on the former Arrow until Judd disappeared around the corner and into the streets of San Francisco, a shadow among shadows. “He still moves like one of us.”
“In all the ways that matter, he still is one of us.”
Vasic said nothing more, but a second later they were no longer in the trees behind the church, but on an isolated mountain plateau draped in the silken veil of night. The night sky was crystal clear, dotted with stars so bright, they cut like glass.
Many termed the PsyNet, the vast network that connected all Psy to one another, a starscape, but Aden had come to realize the PsyNet was missing something fundamental. Its essence, its life was devoid of that which drew even an Arrow’s eye to the night sky. “I expected the desert.”
“Both locations allow us to talk without being overheard.” Vasic’s eyes, a cool gray that never gave away anything, stared out past the edge of the plateau to the gnarled trees that sprawled out into the sumptuous black of a moonless night.
Aden knew what Vasic sought in the darkness, but they would not talk of it this night. Instead, he said, “Do you think Henry Scott is dead?” The Councilor had been hit by the cold fire of an X, but no one had seen him burn to ash—and he’d been surrounded by teleport-capable Tks.
Vasic’s hair lifted in the wind, the strands having grown in the past months, until they were now past the unspoken regulation length for Arrows. “Unconfirmed, but he had his best men around him. The probability is high they pulled him out in time.”
Aden had come to the same conclusion. “If he is alive, he’s learned some new tricks, or someone is helping him conceal his presence in the Net.” The changes in Henry had become apparent prior to the battle. Before the sudden emergence of an unexpected and impossible military expertise, the Councilor had been the beta member of the Henry-Shoshanna pairing.
“Ming.” Vasic continued to stare outward even as he spoke, and Aden wondered how much of him remained here, on this cold, windswept plateau.
“He may have advised and used Henry to his own ends, but Ming wouldn’t protect him once he was weakened and no longer of any strategic use.”