Some things, Kaleb thought as Sahara looked up and saw him, had to be survived.
“Kaleb!” She flew into his arms.
Holding her close, her breath warm on his cheek, her body slender but strong against his, he felt as if he’d come home. He didn’t know how long they stood locked together, but when they did draw apart, he kept his promise to not withhold anything from her and told her about the attempted poisoning.
Sahara hissed out a breath, eyes incandescent with fury. “Take me to her.” No one hurts you.
“Only a retrieval, Sahara,” he said, gripping her chin. “Nothing else, nothing that will affect your memories.” I need you to remember me.
“She’s not worth a piece of my life.” A scathing judgment. “Now take me to her.”
This time, he did as ordered. Sahara didn’t speak, simply stepped close enough that her hand was an inch from the blindfolded woman’s face, then nodded at him. He ’ported them directly to the Moscow house. Should her language skills be needed again, he’d take her back, but the nonspecialist volunteers were capable of handling the cleanup.
“That woman is one of Ming’s people,” she said, heading into the kitchen to get them both energy supplements. “A low-level operative who was in the area. It wasn’t a well-planned operation, but a chance opportunity Ming decided to utilize.”
“He knows I’m on the verge of taking over the Net.”
Sahara stirred cherry flavoring into her drink, after passing him an undoctored glass. “What will you do to him?”
“Nothing.” Seeing her open disbelief, he traced the shape of her upper lip with his finger. “There are others who have deeper grievances against Ming. It’ll be handled.”
“Kaleb, you don’t trust anyone except me . . . and your two friends.” Sahara nudged at him to finish his drink. “Is it the fallen Arrow who has the prior claim?”
“Not Judd alone. He’s simply the one with whom I have a connection.” Kaleb put down his empty glass. “I’d be extremely surprised if Ming doesn’t end up torn apart by changeling claws and teeth.”
Sahara halted with her own drink halfway to her mouth. “Changelings?”
“Judd’s niece is someone Ming wants dead or in his control. She’s also mated to the alpha of SnowDancer, considered the most dangerous changeling pack in the world.” Kaleb tapped her glass until Sahara lifted it to her mouth. “Man like that won’t rest until he’s eradicated the threat against his woman.” Kaleb wondered if the wolf alpha would be surprised to find he had something in common with Kaleb Krychek. “Hungry?”
Sahara wrinkled her nose. “Shower first.”
They’d just reached the bedroom when his cell phone rang. It was Aden on the other end. “Vasquez is proving his intelligence,” were the Arrow’s opening words. “His entire team split up after Geneva and scattered in different directions. We captured one; two others suicided when cornered. There are signs two more remain at large.”
An impressive result, but they both knew it wasn’t enough. “Vasquez?”
“Signs point to him being here, but he slipped away.” Though Aden’s voice betrayed nothing, his frustration level had to be high—in the icy way of any Arrow denied his target. “Interrogation of the captive did yield one piece of data; he was assigned to the Luxembourg site with a member of the team we haven’t yet captured. Luxembourg and Paris, however, were also both meant to be distractions.”
“The prisoner didn’t know why Pure Psy needed the distractions, did he?” Vasquez was smart, smart enough to keep information on a need- to-know basis.
“No,” Aden confirmed. “But whatever it is, it’s happening soon, and it’s important enough that a lieutenant we were about to capture threw herself off the side of a building rather than surrender.”
No organization could afford to lose its entire leadership, and now not only had Vasquez risked exposure, his top people were sacrificing themselves to protect their secret. “Leave the teams who have live leads in the field,” he said to Aden. “I want you to rest, along with a rapid response team.
We move the instant Vasquez surfaces or Pure Psy makes a move.”
Hanging up, he relayed the information to Sahara. “Vasquez might have gone under,” he said, “but his options for safe harbor are limited and shrinking by the minute.”
We wanted to protect our people. We didn’t want the blood of children on our hands.
It was a refrain Kaleb had seen over and over again in the reports Silver had forwarded him, of minor players who had either turned themselves in after his warning blasted through the Net or been turned in by others. “The populace isn’t so Silent,” he said, watching Sahara peel off her T-shirt, “as to not be horrified by the growing atrocities.”
She dropped the T-shirt to the floor and kicked off her shoes. “It makes me hope,” she said softly, “that we have inside us the capacity to build a better future.”
Kaleb didn’t understand hope, but he knew he would do everything in his power to give Sahara the future that was a fragile dream in her eyes as she walked toward him, bare to the skin. Reaching him, she tugged up his long-sleeved black T-shirt, then undid his belt.
“I’ll wait for you in the shower,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to the center of his chest. “I think, after so many years, no one can begrudge us for stealing a little time.”