The orgasm was a na**d blade, one that cut her in half with the primal viciousness of it and left her bereft at the same time. Opening her eyes when he withdrew his fingers, she saw a glittering expression she understood all too well. Fury. At her. At himself. “Put me down,” she said, shaken to the core by the violent depth of her response.
Never, never had she orgasmed that hard … and felt so lost, a block of ice in her gut.
Not saying a word, he did so, putting his hands on her waist to help stabilize her when her legs wobbled. “Get your hands off me.” She’d be damned if he’d touch her with that look in his eyes, his anger a brutal heat that slapped her with every breath.
LETTING go of the stiff woman in his arms, Riaz turned on his heel. “Fuck.” What the hell had just happened? He didn’t even like Adria, and yet he’d betrayed his mate with her, would’ve had his c**k balls-deep in her by now if she hadn’t stopped things. That c**k pulsed, so rigid it was painful. No.
He turned in time to catch a bottle of water.
“Wash your fingers,” she said, red streaking the defined arch of her cheekbones. He knew the color had nothing to do with embarrassment, even before she bit out, “I don’t particularly want to advertise my lapse in judgment,” through gritted teeth.
A second later, she was inside the car, a sculpture in ice, no hint remaining of the demanding female wolf who’d been wet and hot and tight around his fingers not two minutes ago.
COUNCILOR KALEB KRYCHEK examined the consciousness of the individual he’d first been alerted to by the NetMind, the neosentience that was the librarian and guardian of the Net. The consciousness in front of him was moderately powerful—that of a Gradient 5.7 telepath employed by a major corporation. The male’s Silence was flawed, minor fractures visible to the careful eye. But that was an ordinary enough situation, and not what interested Kaleb.
This male had the bad luck to be uniquely susceptible to the unnamed and largely unnoticed disease that was carving silent, deadly runnels through the PsyNet. Others had been infected earlier, and were all now dead or insane. The mass outbreak at Sunshine Station had claimed one hundred and forty-one victims, eleven of whom had originally been put into involuntary comas in the belief they could be saved.
Subject 8-91, however, continued to function in spite of his advanced infection, leaving Kaleb to conclude that something had altered in the sickness within the Net, making it able to survive longer within its host. Contracted via direct contact with one of the “diseased” sections of the Net—though Kaleb was apparently immune to the effect, likely as a result of his connection to the twisted twin of the NetMind—the infection didn’t yet spread from person to person, but there was a high chance it would mutate further, becoming even more noxious.
Subject 8-91 was the first host the NetMind had found of the new variant, and as such, he’d become Kaleb’s barometer, his “canary in a coal mine.” The old saying was apropos. If 8-91 continued to react as he’d done to date, he would show the catastrophic effects of the quietly spreading rot before anyone else in the Net.
No, Kaleb corrected himself, 8-91 is already showing the effects. The male had had a violent outburst in his sleep two days ago, so violent that he’d broken several bones in his hand when he punched it into a wall. What made the violence interesting was that it had no connection to the male’s Silence—though he didn’t know that. It had been initiated by the changes the infection had caused in his brain.
Subject 8-91 had been smart enough to create a cover story before he went to see one of the M-Psy about his hand, but the NetMind watched him constantly, knew his every move. And since the NetMind and its twin, the DarkMind, both spoke to Kaleb, he was never unaware of the status of the subject.
Continue to watch, he told the NetMind, his order given less in words than via an intuitive psychic connection he could explain to no one, not even another Psy. Protect him from exposure. Kaleb needed 8-91 to remain an active part of the Net. Any interference would shadow the picture, dull the clear view of the progress of the male’s impairment and Kaleb’s understanding of it.
A stream of consciousness from the NetMind, a question.
No, Kaleb said in response. You can’t save him. He’s too damaged. The rot had invaded 8-91’s physical brain, was eating away at parts of his frontal lobe—a change so subtle the M-Psy would likely have missed it, even if he had been a neural specialist as opposed to orthopedic. As the infected from Sunshine Station had proved, there was no cure, and this new variant was more complex than the one that had resulted in the outbreak. Even if there had been a cure, Kaleb would’ve given the same answer—8-91’s death was inevitable.
Someone had to be the canary.
Dismissing the man from his thoughts after taking note of the development of the infection, he returned to his physical body, stopping only long enough to ask the NetMind and DarkMind both a question. Do you know the location of this individual? He sent through an image, along with a psychic profile built from his memories and the data files he’d hacked over the years.
The puzzlement was the same response he’d received each and every time he’d asked after his personal quarry ever since he’d first made contact with the twin neosentience. It was as if his target no longer existed in the Net, but Kaleb knew differently. And nothing, not even the inexplicable failure of the NetMind and DarkMind to sense the truth, would stop him from hunting down that target.