She’d been out in a bad storm, searching for a pup everyone thought was lost when a tree had fallen on her. It had broken her leg and dislocated her shoulder as it knocked her into a stream that had been bloated to dangerous levels, where she’d hit her head on an exposed rock. Dizzied and disoriented, she’d begun to gasp in water instead of air.
Having described the accident to Riaz, she said, “Martin has a bone-shaking fear of the water after almost drowning as a child, but he came out into the storm because he was worried about me, and then he dove into a raging torrent to save my life.” However, that wasn’t the most important part of the jagged jigsaw that had been their relationship. “He got me out, but as he was pulling himself out, a huge rock smashed into him, crushing most of his ribs and doing serious damage to his organs. He was in the infirmary longer than I was.”
Riaz sat up, stroking his hands along her spine. “He used it, didn’t he, to hold you?”
The top of the tattoo on Riaz’s left shoulder just visible to her in this position, she traced the curved lines of it. “I don’t know if it was conscious, but yes.” The pressure had been so subtle, she hadn’t realized what was happening for a long time. “I always had this sickening bubble of guilt inside me whenever I thought of ending it with a man who’d risked everything to save me.”
After the relationship did end, she’d found herself unable to understand why Martin had fought to hold her even when it had become agonizingly clear they’d be happier apart. But if Riaz was right, if Martin had loved her in a way she hadn’t been able to reciprocate … it explained so much, even as it didn’t excuse the hurt he’d caused her.
“Loyalty’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Riaz’s breath warm against her skin.
“No … but taken too far, it can become a flaw.” Sliding her hands over his shoulders when his gaze darkened in knowledge, she gave a rueful smile. “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, isn’t it?”
He rubbed his cheek against hers. “That’s why it’s a bitch.”
Again, she laughed, startled at the vein of humor within the solemn wolf with the golden eyes. “Well, I’m done with looking back,” she said, tasting the salt and citrus bite of his skin, the hint of bitter chocolate in his kiss exotic and intriguing. “I’m ready to live in today.”
This time, their loving was an intimate dance.
Long, drugging kisses, lingering strokes of her hands over a firm chest lightly covered by a sprinkling of hair that was an erotic caress against her br**sts, and a ride as deep, as slow. His body arched under her own, his tendons straining white under the dusky hue of his skin as his hands clenched on her hips.
She’d never felt as beautiful, as powerfully female.
KALEB LOOKED DOWN at the body laid out on the cold metal slab, lit by the frigid white of the morgue lights. The corpse had been discovered four hours ago, been prioritized at the highest level of importance. “Your conclusions?” he said to Aden. The Arrow medic—trained to perform autopsies on fallen Arrows—had done the task himself.
“Cause of death was a broken neck,” Aden responded. “From the on-scene examination, it appears he tripped and fell down the stairs.”
Not an unbelievable occurrence, and nothing that would’ve drawn Arrow attention, except for the fact the victim was an anchor. All anchor deaths were investigated by Arrows, even when old age was an evident factor—born with the ability to merge totally into the Net, those of Designation A were too integral to its psychic fabric to risk any mistakes.
Anchors had many functions, but their most important one was to stabilize and “hold” the PsyNet in place. They were the reason Psy could cross the world on the psychic plane without mental stress. The death of the one who lay on the slab had caused some minor ripples, but the temporary fail-safes had come into play the instant he disappeared from the Net, ensuring no major damage. Those in the affected zone would’ve experienced a faint headache at most before the network of anchors in the region realigned their spheres of influence to cover the gap.
A single death would in no way stretch the network thin, but the loss of any anchor was a cause for concern. However, only a telekinetic at the scene could’ve prevented an accident that appeared to have been caused by a split-second physical error.
“Do you believe the on-scene report?” he asked Aden.
“Vasic and I both did a sweep of the premises, found nothing out of order. The footage from his private security system also proved to be clean. Theoretically, a teleport-capable Tk could’ve ’ported in and ‘assisted’ in the fall, but why kill an anchor?” It was the most crucial question. “They have no political power, and their deaths do nothing except weaken the Net.”
And regardless of political affiliation, every single Psy in the Net needed the biofeedback provided by the vast mental network. Sever their Net link and those of his race died an excruciating death in minutes.
“Non-Psy?” Kaleb proposed.
“If there was an intruder, it would’ve had to be a Tk. No other designation could’ve evaded the security system.”
He met Aden’s gaze. “Judd Lauren is a Tk outside the Net.” It was a statement he made for many reasons.
“Judd also has an emotional attachment to the members of his family,” Aden pointed out. “It’s reasonable to extrapolate that he wouldn’t want to cause harm to the young in the Net, and there is no way to control the widespread effect of an anchor’s death.”