X-fire wasn’t like normal fire, the damage it caused so extensive and deep it wasn’t always possible to totally repair. Henry, he saw, had lost his legs, part of an arm. The limbs must have been brushed by the cold fire and disintegrated before the former Councilor was ’ported out. Part of his stomach was visible through the medical gown, the teak color of his flesh appearing to be merged with the melted and bubbled black of some kind of plas. His face was relatively unscathed—except for the burn across his cheek and mouth that had taken his lips. Perhaps enough of a change to stop a teleporter who locked on to people as well as places, if Henry’s shields hadn’t been so strong.
Seeing this would disturb Sienna Lauren.
It was an abrupt thought, about a girl he’d met only once—when he’d reported in to Ming as an eighteen-year-old newly minted Arrow. She’d been a child, with a look in her eyes he’d recognized on a visceral level. His response to her had been one of the first signs that he wasn’t Patton and never would be, the knowledge a gift that had allowed him to survive this long.
Now, having been watching the heart monitor, he glanced down … to see the former Councilor’s eyes staring up at him.
“No,” Henry rasped, his vocal cords clearly scorched.
“Any chance that we may have let you be,” Vasic said, “was lost when you attempted to destroy the Net itself.” The Arrows would not let anyone shatter the Net.
Reaching out with the part of his mind that wasn’t as elegant as his teleportation ability, but worked as well, he snapped Henry’s neck even as he unplugged the machines monitoring the other Psy’s broken body. The use of Tk was negligible, the effect catastrophic. Henry died in the silence he’d wanted to create in the Net, and Vasic stood guard until the former Councilor’s body was cold to the touch, with no hope of revival.
He teleported to the headland to find Aden seated on a bench someone had placed there so long ago, it had become part of the landscape. “It’s done.” Shoving back the hood of his cloak, he walked to the very edge of the cliff, the shimmering fire of the sky speaking of a luminous sunrise. “We must find and eliminate Vasquez to completely disable the Pure Psy machinery.”
“Vasquez is smarter than Henry.”
“We’ll find him.” Arrows always found those they hunted.
“I won’t let you die, Vasic.” Aden’s voice was quiet.
Vasic didn’t answer, but they both knew Aden couldn’t stop him. Once Vasic had paid his debts, once the Net was safe, all he wanted was peace. Forever.
EMOTIONALLY BATTERED BY a tender, haunting night that had been followed by the possessive wildness of her lone wolf’s loving when morning broke—a loving she hadn’t been able to resist, even knowing it was wrong—the last person Adria anticipated seeing when she opened her door to a knock a few hours later, was Martin.
Too stunned to speak, she just stared at the sandy-haired man who had once been her lover. She didn’t know what she’d expected if they did ever meet again, but it wasn’t this muted sense of loss, slivers of memory floating through her mind. As if he’d been part of another lifetime.
“What are you doing here?” she finally asked, searching for but not finding whatever it was that had drawn her to him so long ago. In spite of the pain he’d caused her, she knew that in the final calculation, he wasn’t a bad person—it was simply that there was no strength in him, and she needed that in her man.
“I wanted to talk,” he said in a hesitant voice, his hazel eyes uncertain. “I won’t blame you if you say no, but I’m asking.”
Stepping out, she closed the door behind herself, the cell phone she’d returned to the room to retrieve in hand. “Let’s walk outside.” No matter what the status of her relationship with the black wolf who refused to allow her to set him free, she couldn’t, wouldn’t, have Martin’s scent inside her room. It would be a betrayal.
Martin didn’t say anything until they were in a part of the forest that overlooked the lake closest to the den, its waters smooth as glass today. Several packmates walked along the water’s edge, played in the shallows in wolf form, or sat on the pebbled shore, but there was no one nearby, no chance anyone would overhear their conversation.
Leaning up against a sturdy young cedar, she ran her gaze over Martin. He was … different, the changes subtle but present. As if he, too, had been broken and put back together, his face holding a maturity it hadn’t had the day she’d slammed the door in his face. And his eyes, they were turbulent with emotion when they met her own. “I came to say what I should have a year ago.”
Still unsure about where this was going, she simply waited.
“I’m sorry, Adria.” Stark words, his expression devoid of pretence, of the stiff dignity that had always been his armor. “Sorry for being a bastard and sorry for not having the guts to face up to what I was doing to us.”
It wasn’t anything she’d ever expected to hear, but she had the words to answer him. “Thank you for saying that.” It meant something that he’d made the effort to find her, to speak an apology she knew couldn’t have come easily. “But it wasn’t all your fault—I played my part.”
“Don’t,” he whispered. “Don’t absolve me of blame I full well know I deserve.”
“I’m not,” she said, because she understood the courage it took to face your own failings, and she would not belittle Martin’s.