“You want to discuss Pure Psy,” Kaleb guessed. The three of them—Xavier, Judd, and Kaleb— had long been bound by a mutual desire to collapse the rotten power structure of the Net, but where Judd and Xavier wanted to save the innocents of all races caught up in the rot, Kaleb had fought only for Sahara.
That he had saved a number of lives during their fight, helped some of those innocents, had been a consequence rather than an aim. Then again, perhaps Judd and Xavier had had a deeper impact on him than any one of them believed; after all, he had spared the children in his plan to wipe the Psy off the face of the planet if his search for Sahara ended with the knowledge of her death.
He’d told her about Judd, about Xavier, and about the details of their strategic war, in the quiet minutes after he and Sahara had had sex under the starlit Moscow sky, his heart beating in time with hers as she lay warm and sated against him. The only person with whom he had ever understood friendship had seen that in his relationship with the two men. He had accepted her judgment, knowing Sahara comprehended far more about emotion than he ever would.
“No,” Judd said now. “Not Pure Psy. I need information on Ming.”
Kaleb thought about why his fellow rebel would need data on the former Councilor. “He’s become too big a threat to Sienna.” Judd’s niece might be the only individual on the planet as dangerous as Kaleb, but since she had no desire to impinge on his territory, nor he on hers, he’d left her alone.
That, and his loyalty to the fallen Arrow in front of him.
“Ming’s fixated on her,” Judd confirmed. “She managed to hurt him the last time they came in contact, and Ming never forgets a threat.” He raised a hand in a silent hello as Xavier walked down the center of the church toward them, while Kaleb drew back into the shadows. It was safer for Xavier not to know his identity.
Unlike Judd, the priest had never been trained to be lethal.
Sliding into the pew beside Judd, Xavier said, “We’ve worked for a better world all this time, believing the ugliness that was the Council needed to be excised from the Net, and now it appears that the Net is fracturing, with fatal results. I do not wish to bathe in the blood of innocents.”
“Innocents were never our targets,” Judd said, his next words directed at Kaleb. “Has that changed?”
“Do you remember when you asked me if there was one person in the PsyNet who mattered to me?”
“That person has asked me not to destroy the Net.” Like the scars that marked him, the rot would be nearly impossible to eradicate without first sanitizing the network. But he knew he couldn’t do that and still have Sahara look at him the way she’d done on the terrace, a softness to her that made him believe he might understand happiness. “Your innocents are safe from me.”
“I’m glad.” Quiet words from the former Arrow.
“Would you have attempted to execute me if I’d answered otherwise?” While Judd’s Tk wasn’t as powerful as Kaleb’s, he was fiercely intelligent, might just have achieved his aim.
“Yes,” came the brutal answer. “It would’ve destroyed a piece of me to end your life, but I would’ve done it.”
KALEB FELT NO sense of betrayal; he’d known the answer before he asked the question. He also knew the other man would’ve done everything in his power to save Kaleb before he attempted to assassinate him. Judd had somehow survived the cruel life of an Arrow with his conscience, if not intact, then not totally destroyed.
Not long ago, Kaleb had watched the other man laughing with his mate and considered such an existence beyond his understanding or reach. Even should he find Sahara, he’d believed himself too damaged to give her what Judd gave his mate. Yet tonight, Sahara had kissed him, fought with him, laughed that familiar husky laugh when he not only bent, but broke every single one of the metal railings during their slow, lazy sex under the stars.
If Judd and Xavier had helped him remain sane enough to give Sahara what she needed, then he owed them a debt that could never be discharged. “Ming,” he said, “is in France.
“Champagne region as before,” he added, having updated the data the previous day, “though he’s shifted his base of operations. I’m in the process of tracking that base, but he’s tactically minded and careful.” Ming also knew how to lay traps with blade-sharp teeth.
“The confirmation he’s in the region is enough. We have certain sources in the area.”
“You can’t kill him yet. I need to stabilize the Net enough that his death won’t cripple it.” Even with the Council in ruins, each of the former Councilors held so much economic and psychic power that a violent or sudden death could cause a deadly shock wave.
The ripples had been minor when Kaleb assassinated a Councilor just over a year and a half ago, but the PsyNet had been stable then, not teetering on the brink of collapse. The backlash from the loss had been absorbed with no more than a few minor incidents. “A shock wave right now could be catastrophic.”
“It’ll take time to set things up,” Judd said. “I’ll give you a twenty-minute warning before we move, so you can be on alert for any structural weaknesses in the Net.”
“How do you plan to reach Ming?”
“The same way the packs reached Santano Enrique,” was the cool response.
Kaleb knew he’d get nothing more. As Kaleb’s first loyalty was to Sahara, Judd’s was to his mate and the changeling wolf pack he now called family. It was a measure of the trust that had grown between them that Kaleb allowed the matter to rest.