Fury was an inferno in Ivy’s blood. “Bastard,” she said, as Vasic returned the injector to wherever it was stored. “Why is he still alive?” She might hate violence, but she also understood evil on a visceral level, knew that some people found pleasure only in holding cruel power over others.
Vasic’s answer made too much sense. “He might be a monster, but that monster is holding Europe together right now.”
“What if he comes after you again?” she said, laying her head against his shoulder and nuzzling close so she could draw in the scent of him. “He sent three highly skilled Tks after you—that’s serious.”
Vasic squeezed her nape. “And all three Tks are now in Arrow custody. Ming knows how to do a cost-benefit analysis, and I’ve just tipped the scale to the wrong side by depriving him of three senior men.”
Ivy nodded, made herself believe. This was Vasic’s world, and he understood it far better than she did. “I hate that another man’s lust for power forced you into violence tonight.”
Shifting her onto her back, Vasic caressed his hand down her side. “Before you, I would’ve handled the situation by withdrawing further into the numb state where nothing really impacted me.” A lazy, possessive kiss. “I like working out the tension with a na**d Ivy much, much better.”
Her lips curved. She believed him; she was the one who was tense with anger right now. Vasic, by contrast, was lazily relaxed. “I so need a manual.” Her lover—her lover—was proving to be lethal in a most delicious way. A woman had to have some weapons of her own.
That got her a kiss, his hand petting her breast. She would’ve melted right into him if she hadn’t felt his gauntlet graze her shoulder. “Wait.” Pushing at the muscled width of his own shoulders, she said, “What time is it? We have to go see Samuel Rain.”
Should we stop him?
No. Repair any glitches when he’s out of visual range but don’t interfere.
Message stream between Haven Maintenance Team and Clara Alvarez
SHOWERED AND CHANGED, they arrived at Haven two hours after the time they’d told Clara to expect them. Accepting their apologies with a quiet nod, the manager said, “Well, it appears you woke Samuel up at last.”
Ivy caught the glint in the woman’s rich brown eyes. “What did he do? Tell you all you were monkeys attempting to run an asylum?”
Ivy could’ve sworn laughter warmed Clara’s gaze, but the manager’s voice was even as she said, “No, but he rewired the entire complex in the space of eight manic hours. We had a backup team checking his work, but they said he’d done things they didn’t even know were possible, and we’re running at fifty percent increased efficiency when it comes to our power usage.”
“Is he still insisting he’s brain damaged?” Ivy asked.
A nod. “He may well be right—we can’t know if all the systems in his brain are functioning at full capacity. It’s only as he attempts to use them that that will become clear.” She looked at Ivy and Vasic both. “Please don’t get your hopes up. If he senses it, then fails in helping, it could undo all the progress he’s made.”
“We’ll be careful,” Ivy promised, her fingers locked with Vasic’s.
The first thing Samuel Rain did when they found him in the rose garden was to scowl and say, “Where’s the dog?”
Ivy felt her heart clench. Placing one arm around her shoulders, Vasic hugged her close as he answered the engineer. “He was injured and is resting in the care of friends.”
With Jaya and Abbot at the hospital, Vasic had left a peacefully sleeping Rabbit under the watchful eye of the Arrows at Central Command. Had Rabbit been healthy and happy, the idea of those deadly men and women taking care of a small, curious dog would’ve made Ivy smile, but right now, all she felt was a deep worry.
“Injured?” Samuel narrowed his eyes at Vasic. “Is he healing?”
“Yes. He’ll make a full recovery.”
Ivy knew the statement was as much for her as for Samuel. Holding the truth of it to her heart, she said, “Clara told us you’ve made some improvements to the complex.”
“Yes. Come on.” The engineer rubbed his hands.
They spent the next hour on a tour of the facility’s power system. Samuel Rain didn’t even glance at the gauntlet. Frustration gnawed at Ivy, but she held her silence. She could sense Samuel now, and below the excitement at his accomplishment was a bone-deep fear—as if the hard crust of a lake in winter had been sheared off to reveal the liquid beneath. It made her heart hurt.
The engineer, she realized, was aware enough to understand that he might not like what he found if he pushed himself. But he was far stronger than she’d guessed, because right at the end, while he was closing a maintenance panel, he said, “I need the prototype gauntlet the imbeciles who worked on you used to test the connections.”
Vasic lifted his arm as the other man turned to face them. “This is the prototype.”
Ivy thought Samuel Rain’s head was going to explode. Literally tearing at his hair, he said, “Why didn’t you just walk into a butcher’s shop and have them hack you up?”
“Stop it,” Ivy said, having had enough. “You don’t get to talk to him like that.”
Staring at her through his spectacles, the engineer said, “Are you doing something to me?”
Suspicion writ large on his features. “I wasn’t like this before.”