“I like the quiet.” Her face softened, the husky thread in her voice more apparent. “There’s a kind of secrecy in the world at this time of night, as if I’m allowed to see mysteries hidden in daylight.”

Vasic thought of the deserts and isolated mountain outlooks where he went in an effort to find peace from the shades of those he had erased, considered if Ivy Jane would see mysteries in those locations, too. “You should go inside.” His thoughts were immaterial because Ivy would never experience the places in question. “My readings tell me the temperature will drop considerably in the next fifteen minutes.”

Getting to her feet, the throw bulky around her, Ivy nodded. “I think you’re right. I can taste more snow in the air.”

It was a sensual way to describe a meteorological function, another sign that Ivy Jane was in no way Silent. Not that he needed the confirmation—her presence was sandpaper against his senses, harsh and abrasive. It didn’t matter. As Aden had pointed out, the sensation might be uncomfortable, but it wasn’t debilitating.

And Vasic had made a promise.

So long as he drew breath, he would protect her.

Chapter 7

Sahara Kyriakus has simply been sucked into the gravitational pull of Kaleb Krychek’s power. We should be considering how to rescue her, not peering in fascination at a bond that is a prison.

Letter to the Editor from “Concerned Citizen,” PsyNet Beacon

KALEB AGREED TO meet Lucas Hunter and Sascha Duncan only because the alpha pair had been blunt in their request. “We need to see that Sahara is happy, content,” Lucas had stated.

“Some men would take that as an insult.”

The DarkRiver alpha had given an unconcerned shrug in response to Kaleb’s reply. “Not in a pack, he wouldn’t. We look after our own.”

Kaleb was feral in his possessiveness when it came to Sahara, but he understood that such a connection to a powerful pack was a good thing for her to have in her arsenal.

“Sometimes, my gorgeous man,” Sahara said when he stated that, “it isn’t about strategy but about family.” Her fingers in his hair, nails lightly grazing his scalp. “If DarkRiver and SnowDancer permit the empathic compound in their territory, it won’t be because of politics, but because of ties of family.”

“An unsound way to make a security decision,” he pointed out, while the most scarred, most violent part of him stretched out lazily under her caresses.

“Is it?” Rising on tiptoe, she pressed kisses along his jaw. “Would you ever cause either pack harm when I call them family? Together, they are, after all, a dangerous aggressive force.”

Realizing he’d lost this battle, he decided to be seduced instead. Later that day, when they arrived at the meeting, he was ready for Sascha Duncan to ask him and Sahara to lower their surface shields. He’d have drawn the line at that—no one had the right to intrude on his and Sahara’s bond.

As it was, the cardinal empath asked nothing of the kind, yet her smile made it clear she’d sensed enough to ease her concerns. It gave Kaleb an acute insight into how deeply integrated an empath’s abilities were to her ordinary senses. “Any team with an E on their side has a tactical advantage in a negotiation,” he said to Sahara when they returned home. “Political, social, or business.”

Sahara frowned. “I never considered that an E might work in a business capacity, but it makes perfect sense. If both sides have an E at the table, it balances out the negotiation.” Kissing him with an affection that was still a surprise, she smoothed her hands down the black of his suit jacket. “But we can talk about that later. You don’t want to be late for this next meeting, and I have a paper to write.”

A minute and a much more thorough kiss later, Kaleb teleported onto the roof of a New York skyscraper to talk to a man who might hold the secret to the Psy race’s future survival. “I appreciate you responding so quickly to my request.”

Turning to face Kaleb, the city at his back and the wind tugging at the rich brown of the tailored coat he wore over a business suit, Devraj Santos raised an eyebrow. “It’s not every day the most powerful telekinetic in the PsyNet asks to speak to one of the Forgotten.”

Not simply one of the Forgotten. Dev Santos was the leader of the people who had once been Psy but were now something else, having defected from the Net at the dawn of Silence and intermingled heavily with the human and changeling populations. As a result, their psychic abilities ranged from zero to potent—and according to Kaleb’s sources, for those Forgotten who did carry psychic abilities, the biofeedback from a neural network remained a necessity for survival.

“The PsyNet,” he said to the dark-haired male, “is undergoing certain changes.”

Santos slid his hands into the pockets of his open coat, an amused glint in his eyes. “That may be the understatement of the century.” Not waiting for a response, he continued, “You want to know how we survived without Silence.”

“Yes.” The ShadowNet, as the Forgotten apparently called their network, was the most analogous construct to the PsyNet in the world. Yet, as far as Kaleb had been able to determine, the Forgotten network carried no infection. Furthermore, the percentage of serial killers among Santos’ people was comparable to that of the humans and changelings, far less than that in the Psy population pre- or post-Silence. “I need to know why you survived, and are now thriving.”

Expression darkening, Santos said, “We didn’t. Not at first.” He shifted to face the city, his gaze on the skyscrapers piercing the snow-heavy sky and beyond them, the turbulent water of the East River.

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