Adria’s claws sliced out, threatening to mark the gleaming wood of the table. “They planned to break you, too.” It took conscious effort to retract her claws—Riaz had kept control over his own, but his eyes were a hypnotic, dangerous gold.
Bo took several minutes to reply, clearly fighting the rage that had caused white lines to appear around his mouth, carved into the warm hue of his skin. “We’re starting to think that that’s what happened to the old chairman,” he said at last. “It would explain why he suddenly started making those bullshit calls—at the time, we all hated him. Now … I pity the poor bastard.” Running a hand over the smooth curve of his skull, he grabbed a bottle of water, slugging back half of it before he spoke again. “One of them stunned me while I was walking home around nine at night. When I woke up, I was on the yacht.”
It was a plausible story—especially since it involved a male who, like all strong men, didn’t think anything could touch him, but something didn’t ring true. “You’re not the official head of the Alliance,” she said, never moving her eyes off his face.
“The chairman position is now largely administrative.” Bo shrugged off her implied question, his expression betraying nothing. “Just means Rika-Smythe has good sources of information.”
“Are you telling me,” she insisted, conscious of Riaz going very still beside her, “that you were arrogant enough to go out alone after dark when you’d already discovered what had been done to Reuben, knew the Psy might be out to mess with you?”
Bo’s smile was slow and dangerous. “Smart and sexy—my perfect woman.” He finished off the water. “We were working on the assumption that with Reuben down, someone else with his level of access to our systems would be a target. We made sure everyone who qualified was covered … except for me.”
“Playing bait?” Riaz tapped his fingers on the table. “No way for you to know you’d be able to handle the operatives who captured you.”
“I wasn’t stupid bait,” Bo said with an offended snort. “Had a GPS tracker implanted an inch below my armpit, where pretty much nobody ever thinks to check. We also had a team in the air above me the entire time.”
The man had guts, Adria thought. Because air support or not, he’d been on his own on that yacht. “You weren’t worried about psychic coercion?”
A small pause before Riaz whistled. “Son of a bitch.” His tone was a mix of admiration and disbelief. “You did it, you actually figured out how to make that chip work.”
IT HAD BEEN after their first run-in with the Alliance that the pack had discovered the group had been experimenting with a chip that, once implanted, acted as a shield against Psy intrusion. Or that had been the official line fed to the Alliance’s soldiers. In truth, the original chips had acted as remote kill switches.
Bo’s smile was grimly satisfied. “Hell, yes.”
Riaz was impressed, but he needed the answer to another question before he could ask Bo for more information on the chip. “Does Ashaya Aleine know?” The scientist was one of the most experienced people in the world when it came to neural implants, and had—when the dust settled after the aborted kidnapping—agreed to help Bo and his people fix the defective chip. If she, and by extension, DarkRiver, had known of the Alliance’s success and not shared the information, the shit was going to hit the fan. Hard enough to cover everyone.
“No.” Bowen sliced his hand through the air, his tone leaving no room for doubt. “Her help was critical, and not one of us will ever be anything but grateful, but she’s not Alliance, wouldn’t keep our secrets.” A blunt answer. “The most recent prototype we sent her was created from one of the earlier designs. We figured we’d share the truth once we were ready for the packs to know.”
“The yacht incident pushed things ahead of schedule,” Riaz guessed, his wolf relaxing now that he didn’t have to inform his alpha that a member of the pack that was their most trusted ally had breached their alliance. Beside him, he sensed the tension drain out of Adria, too.
“We voted to give Ashaya a twenty-five percent stake in the patent,” Bo said after nodding an affirmative to Riaz’s statement. “A patent we’ll be filing for when hell freezes over, so Aleine owns a percentage in a design that’ll never make any profit. The only important thing is getting the chip into as many humans as possible. Being protected from mental violation shouldn’t be a luxury.”
Riaz was unsurprised at the secrecy, but Bo’s confidence in the success of the implant seemed premature.
Adria echoed his thoughts, the delicate wildness of her scent licking over him as she leaned forward on the table. “I don’t see people lining up to be implanted.”
“Lot of trust if they are,” Riaz added, restraining the urge to run his hand slowly down the arch of her back, displayed so beautifully by her current position.
“You’re thinking from a changeling perspective,” Bo said, the passion in his eyes an inferno. “Humans … you have no idea what it’s like to walk around knowing one of the Psy could slip into your mind at any time and take things, or plant things. It’s rape and it’s a violation committed over and over and over again against people who can’t fight back.” Flat, hard words. “A human makes a technological breakthrough, and the next thing you know, the Psy already have a patent on the invention. Just coincidence.” His laugh was bitter. “That’s if they choose to leave the human’s memories intact so he or she even knows what’s been stolen.”