So, they would give the Psy race this one chance.

Whether it ended in trust or in blood-soaked battle was up to them.

Chapter 11

The child isn’t psychologically suited either to the squad’s training methods or to its mandate. Normally, I’d recommend he be removed from the program, but as the usefulness of his ability makes that a nonviable option, I suggest the immediate and repeated application of physical pain interspersed with psychological punishment to break him down. Only then can he be molded into an Arrow.

Private PsyMed report on Arrow Trainee Vasic Duvnjak, age 4 years 2 months

SEVEN DAYS AFTER the attack, Ivy went to heft her pack when the weight of it was simply gone. Startled, she spun around to see Vasic standing a foot away, near a snow-heavy apple tree.

“I’ve sent it ahead to the location,” he said, as if it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Heart thudding, she realized it was for him. “Right. Of course.” She looked at Rabbit, her pet staring fixedly at where the pack had been. “Don’t do the same to Rabbit, okay?”

“No, he goes with you. I understand.”

For some reason that cool response made her want to smile through the nerves that had created a tight knot in her chest. Turning to her parents, she went to say good-bye, then thought to hell with it and hugged them one at a time. She didn’t expect much of a physical response, but they squeezed her tight, their unspoken love a vivid pulse against her skin.

Her breath caught at the idea of not having them within telepathic reach. She hadn’t ever been that alone. Now she wasn’t only about to leave her home and family, she’d disengaged her shields from the others in the settlement. It was the first time in seven years she’d been adrift in the Net on her own.

Take care, Ivy. The back of her father’s hand grazed her mother’s as he telepathed Ivy.

I will, she said, achingly conscious of her mother looking at her with an intensity that said Gwen was storing the sight for later recall. I’ll call, I promise. Now more than ever she’d need their steady, grounding advice. I’ll miss you both so much.

Gwen Jane’s modulated breathing didn’t alter, her expression didn’t change, but her words held her heart. If you ever feel unsafe, we’ll come. Day or night, snow or rain, we’ll find you.

I know. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, Ivy picked up Rabbit. She knew he had to be kept under control during the teleport, but he disliked leashes and she didn’t subject him to one unless there was no other way; she knew too well what it was like to be strapped in with no way to escape.

“We’re ready,” she said to the Arrow with eyes of clear, beautiful winter frost, his lethally honed body a powerful presence by her side.

She wasn’t sure if he touched her, if he needed to, but there was a slight moment of disorientation . . . and then her parents no longer stood in front of her. Instead, she faced several small cabins set against a backdrop of dark green firs and snowcapped mountains under a stunning blue sky, the air holding a distinct bite and the area blanketed with fresh-fallen snow. Though it wasn’t the orchard that was her home, the beauty of it hurt her heart.

A black-haired male with sea blue eyes moved out of the trees to her immediate right an instant later, nodded at Vasic, and teleported out.

Ivy was too startled to be scared. “He was wearing the same uniform as you,” she said to Vasic after putting Rabbit on the ground. Her pet looked suspiciously around before deigning to sniff the snow. “Was he a member of your squad?”

A nod. “His name is Abbot. I stationed him here as a guard after I confirmed the area was secure.” He indicated the cabin to their left. “I placed your pack inside, but as we’re the first to arrive, you can choose another cabin if you wish.”

“No, this is perfect.” Located at one end of the rough semicircle of cabins, it wasn’t far from the trees where she knew Rabbit would love to play.

Inside, the simple wooden structure proved much like her home. The kitchen nook was to her left as she walked in, a small table with two chairs to her right, the bed at the back with a private annex for the facilities. Her backpack was sitting neatly at the foot of the bed, beside a folded up screen she could use to block off the bedroom area from the kitchen.

“Where are you and your people going to sleep?” she asked Vasic, who’d remained in the doorway, his wide shoulders blocking out the light.

“We have cots stacked in the larger cabin situated at the center of the semicircle.” Vasic’s eyes followed Rabbit as her pet looked longingly at the bed. “Does he sleep with you?”

“Drat.” Ivy lightly slapped her forehead. “I forgot his basket.”

“I’ll get it.”

“Oh, thank you. It’s just inside the back d—” And she was talking to air. “That could get extremely annoying extremely quickly.” Her scowling mutter had barely cleared the air when he was back.

Vasic placed the basket near the kitchen nook. “There’s food for him in one of the cupboards.” Rising to his feet, he held out a small package of canine treats Ivy must’ve inadvertently left on her kitchen counter. “I guessed you might want these.” He was absorbed by the idea that she spoiled her pet.

Ivy’s narrow-eyed frown dissolved into panic. “Hide it before he sees,” she ordered in a choked whisper, as if afraid Rabbit would understand.

Vasic ’ported the package into the same cupboard as the dog food he’d brought in for her pet.

Hand on her chest, Ivy shook her head. “You cannot ever show him the whole package,” she told him in a tone as solemn as a church. “I made that mistake the first time, and he was like a junkie, standing in front of the cupboard salivating all day, every day.” Copyright 2016 - 2024