Aden’s thoughts meshed so perfectly with Vasic’s, he didn’t waste time voicing his agreement. “The surviving members of Pure Psy remain fanatically devoted to him.” Silence was meant to have eliminated all emotion from their race, but cracks had begun to appear in the chill fabric of the conditioning each and every one of them underwent as children. Pure Psy might decry those cracks and style itself as a proponent of “Purity,” but the depth of their commitment to Henry brought their own conditioning into question. “There might well be a strong telepath amongst them.” One skilled enough to block the visible presence of Henry’s mind in the Net.
“Have you begun a trace?”
“Yes.” Chosen for Arrow training only because his parents had both been Arrows, Aden was officially a field medic, his telepathic touch so subtle, he’d always been classified in the wrong—much lower—Gradient. Walker Lauren was the first person who had understood the dangerous power of Aden’s mind … and he had kept Aden’s secret, taught him skills Aden used to this day. “If Henry is alive, I’ll find him.”
Checking an incoming message on the computronic gauntlet on his left arm, a gauntlet that Aden had watched become a living part of his body after the experimental fusion took final hold this past year, Vasic said, “Did you speak to Abbott again?”
“Yes. He stays with us.” The Tk had been on the verge of defecting from the squad to join Pure Psy.
“What did you say to convince him?”
“That Pure Psy wants to maintain the current power structure when that power structure has proven irreparably defective.” Arrows were not stupid, had never simply been brawn—until Jax. Long-term use of the drug turned them into mindless weapons, but unbeknownst to those who would leash them, Jax was no longer administered to a single Arrow. “What Abbott wants,” Aden continued, “is something else altogether.”
“An Arrow cannot want anything if he is to remain an Arrow.”
There was nothing in Vasic’s voice to betray the memory, but Aden knew his fellow Arrow had learned that lesson after having his leg broken multiple times as a six-year-old who’d expressed a desire to return home. “I’ll make sure he understands not to expose himself to outsiders.” Loyalty within the squad was unspoken and absolute.
Stepping up to the very edge of the plateau, Aden felt more than saw Vasic come to stand beside him. The mountain fell away steeply in front of them, and it was a stark reminder of the plunge the Net was on the verge of taking.
The only question was how many would die in the fall.
SIENNA ADORED BEING mated to Hawke. Living with him, however, she thought as the hands of her antique clock flicked over to seven a.m., was taking some adjustment. It wasn’t that she wasn’t used to cohabiting with others—since her defection from the ice of the PsyNet, she’d lived primarily with Walker and the kids. It was the fact that Hawke was so dominant, he tended to take over all available space simply by breathing.
“This is mine,” she said, staking a claim on seventy-five percent of the closet. It had been only last week that they’d had the chance to transfer the majority of her things to Hawke’s quarters, they’d both been so busy with other duties in the aftermath of the battle with Pure Psy. “You can have this section.”
He shrugged those glorious shoulders and put down his mug on top of the small set of shelves that had once stood beside the door to her single-occupancy room, the scent of his coffee rich and evocative. “Okay.”
Fine, she admitted in a grumpy internal mutter, that hadn’t exactly been a big battle. Her gorgeous, maddening mate lived in T-shirts and jeans—though when he did put on a suit … the word was “delectable.” “Also,” she said, refusing to be derailed from her bad mood, “stop stealing my coffee.” It was a special blend Drew always brought back for her from a very specific shop in San Diego.
Hawke grinned and took another sip before returning the mug—gifted to him by Marlee, after her niece had painted a somewhat wolflike creature on the ceramic—to its resting spot. “It’s good coffee.” Stripping off the sweatpants he’d put on after his shower, he pulled on some jeans, his lips curving in a smile that made her breath catch. “You look good in my T-shirt.”
Groaning, she sat down on the bed, resisting the temptation to walk over and rub her cheek against the soft pelt of hair that covered his chest, her need for him a gut-deep pulse. “I sound demented.” Shrewish and spoiled. “Of course you can have the coffee.” She’d made enough for two, was utterly delighted by the fact he enjoyed the way she brewed it.
He waited for her to make it every morning, always kissed the curve of her neck in thanks. The same way she waited for him to slice the bread he picked up a couple of times a week from a bakery just outside den territory, when she could as easily do the task herself. Little rituals. Little pieces of their lives. The idea that they were laying the foundations of their shared history … it made her so happy it hurt. Which was why she was bewildered by her fit of temper. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Hey.” Expression suddenly solemn, he came down on his haunches in front of her, his jeans only partly buttoned and all distracting. “I know what’s happening.”
She raised her eyes from his chest—and lower—to his face. “You do?”
“Yeah, baby, I do.” A sheepish look. “I’m crowding you, pushing you, even in our quarters, but I swear I’m not doing it on purpose.”