And the fact he continued to support Pure Psy even as civil war loomed in the PsyNet spoke to his belief that Silence was their race’s only hope for survival. His dedication to the cause had nothing to do with something as useless and debilitating as emotion, for his conditioning was flawless, and everything to do with history: Who had the Psy been before Silence?
A broken race on the verge of extinction, murderous and insane.
Now, they ruled the world … or had done until the changelings gained a clawhold on power. Even the humans were stirring. All as a result of a weak Council, its members ineffectual in holding back the tide of the lesser races. That Council was no longer an issue, and Vasquez had a new set of orders.
Repeating them back to ensure he’d understood correctly, he nodded to the person who had given him those orders. “I believe we have three operatives capable of undertaking the task, but I want to watch each carefully, do another deep background check before I consider which one to approach. We must be certain of the operative’s commitment.”
Good. No mistakes this time.
Responding verbally to the telepathic statement, he said, “No. This time, even an X will be powerless to stop us.”
“NEXT TIME YOU decide to stay in the city to attend a lecture series,” Sienna told Evie when she arrived at the den to find the youngest Riviere woman waiting for her, “take your cell phone.”
Evie wrinkled her nose. “Tai already growled at me for forgetting when he picked me up yesterday.”
“I doubt it—Tai lets you get away with murder.”
“He did.” Evie folded her arms, but her lips were twitching. “Thank God. I was beginning to wonder if he planned to treat me like porcelain forever.”
Sienna snorted. “Poor Tai’s going to get a rude awakening the first time he realizes you have a spine of steel.” Evie had an internal strength that’d take her through any storm.
“He knows,” Evie said, unhidden tenderness in her deep gray eyes. “He’s also a dominant male, so he thinks he’ll always be able to get his own way if he pushes hard enough.”
“I know all about that.”
Evie’s laughter wrapped around them before her best friend linked her arm through Sienna’s. “How about—” She bit off her words. “I was going to say how about we grab some food from the kitchen and go to your quarters, but you have a mate now.” A look of pure delight.
“Hawke’s not in the den.” He was in a meeting with Lucas, Nikita, Anthony, and Nikita’s security chief, Max. She knew that because he’d detoured on his way out of den territory to kiss her, their bodies pressing chest to toe in that affectionate changeling way she’d once envied in other couples. It was utterly as wonderful as she’d thought it would be.
“Meeting was meant to be tomorrow,” he’d told her, his breath a hot caress against her lips. “But Nikita”—a growling tone—“has to head urgently out of the city to sort out a business situation, so it’s been brought forward. Normally, I wouldn’t care if she lost some of her billions, but it might affect a workforce of a thousand-plus.”
“Are you getting together to do a security review?” Everyone in the region had worked together to repel Pure Psy, and that cooperation continued in the aftermath.
“Yes. The present calm’s no excuse to let down our guard. Especially with what’s apparently happening in the PsyNet.”
Putting aside—for tonight at least—the solemn knowledge that what was coming would likely be far worse than what had already gone, Sienna glanced at Evie. “Come on, there’s food in the galley in our quarters.”
“Tell me you have snacks,” Evie said after they’d entered. “We’ll be healthy and have vegetables later.”
“I’m Psy. I don’t eat snacks.” It was something she’d once said to Evie, bewildered by the other woman’s overtures of friendship. Evie hadn’t backed off, her stubbornness sweet, gentle—and relentless.
Now, the two of them laughed as she grabbed a bag of potato chips for Evie, as well as a toffee apple for herself. Her additions to the galley had made Hawke shake his head … then bring her a sugar-laden treat every Friday. Biting into the apple with a smile, she dropped into the sofa beside Evie and toed off her boots and socks, propping her feet on the coffee table.
“That’ll rot your teeth,” Evie said, crunching on a potato chip, the lustrous ebony of her hair curling over the shoulders of her white cashmere cardigan.
“Pot. Kettle. Black.”
“God I love salt.” Another crunch. “Since I have no shame, I’m going to ask you what’s it like being mated.”
“Wonderful.” Breathtaking enough that it scared her at times. “It’s the other things that shake me up now and then.”
Sienna had to finagle toffee from her teeth before she could speak. “Such as knowing I’ve become part of the center of the pack when my natural inclination is to be on the periphery.” She was an X, a cardinal, had been trained to be a covert operative. “I feel so exposed sometimes.” As if everyone was watching her.
Evie got up to grab them bottles of fruit juice. “That’s normal, Sin. Any woman who mates an alpha—forget about mating the alpha of the biggest changeling pack in the country—is going to stress a little at the sudden change in status and responsibility. If you didn’t, you’d be a robot.”