Now, his partner met his gaze. “After giving you the last report,” Aden said, “Edgard received the cross-sectional scans of several components he hadn’t considered a priority because they were designed to last a lifetime. The entire biofusion team worked through the night to recheck that data—he sent me the results twenty minutes ago.”

The fact Edgard Bashir had wanted Aden to deliver the news told Vasic it would be bad even before his partner telepathed him the short report. According to it, the team had found severe and inexplicable degradation in a number of tiny internal components that interfaced the gauntlet computronics with his brain. Those pieces were why this was biofusion; the connections allowed him to control the gauntlet with a thought, turning it from a grafted tool to simply another part of his body.

When the listed components fail, read the report, it will ignite a power surge directly into his cerebral cortex. His chance of survival is zero. Should no other components degrade in the meantime, the gauntlet will cause the subject to suffer a fatal neurological event in eight weeks, factoring in a margin of error of one week on either side.

Vasic stared out at the dawn as a cold, hard anger smashed through the numbness that only his emotions for Ivy had been able to penetrate thus far. ’Porting to the desert with Aden, he set it free in a roaring telekinetic storm that sucked the sand into violent tornados that howled across the landscape as far as the eye could see. If his mind attempted to tell him that emotion was pain, he didn’t hear it, didn’t feel it, the anger a consuming rage.

He didn’t know how long it lasted, but when the wind fell, the landscape was no longer the same one Rabbit had played across only hours before, the dunes left in an unfamiliar pattern. Pulse slamming in his throat and eyes and mouth gritty with the fine sand, Vasic let the hot desert sun beat down on him and knew he’d keep fighting, keep searching for an answer. Never would he give up.

But . . . he wouldn’t tell Ivy the truth of his current projected life span. He’d go against Judd’s advice and keep a secret. He didn’t want her sad and angry again, was thirsty for her smile, her soft sighs as she turned to honey under his touch. Even knowing what he was, what he’d done, she’d chosen him, allowed him to put his hands on her.

“Will you make sure she’s safe after I’m gone?” Her heart would break; his loyal, beautiful Ivy who’d mourn for him.

Aden, his hair dusty from the sandstorm and his uniform the same, shot Vasic a look that was an answer in itself. The question didn’t need to be asked.

“I won’t forgive you,” his partner said into the quiet. “Don’t ask it.”

Vasic accepted that. In volunteering for the gauntlet, he’d broken the trust formed between them when they’d been two scared boys who had no one else to turn to, a trust of brotherhood that said they’d fight together to the end. “I was weak,” he said. “I’ll be strong now.”

Aden didn’t look at him. “If you were weak, you’d have killed yourself years ago. It’s your strength that doomed you—and your loyalty.” Aden clenched his jaw so tight, the bone pushed white against his skin. “Take your chance at happiness, Vasic. Be with Ivy. It’s little enough recompense for the lives you’ve saved.”

“And the lives I’ve taken?”

“You gave yourself a death sentence.”

Chapter 32

Reports of an oily black “nothingness” in the Net have been trickling in for weeks. Now there has been an unexplained outbreak of murderous insanity in Anchorage, followed by another in Manhattan. Something is clearly very, very wrong with the PsyNet.

PsyNet Beacon: Special Edition

HAWKE MET KALEB Krychek in the most remote section of the woods around the empathic compound. The other male wasn’t dressed in his usual razor-sharp suit, but dark cargo pants, boots, and a camo-green T-shirt that exposed his arms to the cold, including an intricate tattoo of an eagle on his inner left forearm. His eyes, however, were the same. White stars on black. Cardinal and ruthless.

“Krychek,” Hawke said, holding the other man’s gaze.


If someone had told Hawke six months ago that he’d be working in cooperation with Kaleb Krychek in any capacity, he’d have suggested the other person find a good mental health professional. But that was exactly what he was doing. Krychek had been the source that had confirmed Ming’s location in Europe. More importantly, the cardinal had helped avert what could’ve been a catastrophic act of mass murder in San Francisco during Pure Psy’s violent rampage.

“This is about Ming,” Krychek said without further ado. “I’m requesting you delay your move against him.”

Hawke’s wolf snarled inside his chest. “The man is a threat to my mate.” He folded his arms across his white T-shirt. Unlike Krychek, he wasn’t a Tk, couldn’t affect the air molecules around himself—his changeling body was simply far more resistant to the cold.

Now the cardinal gave a curt nod. “Understood.”

Hawke knew that wasn’t just a word. From everything he’d heard from Lucas, Krychek and Sahara Kyriakus were bonded in much the same way as changeling mates. “Then you know I can’t delay.”

“I had no intention of getting in your way—Ming is no ally of mine,” Krychek said. “However, circumstances have changed.”

His wolf’s claws pricking against the insides of his skin, Hawke jerked his head to the trees up ahead. “Let’s walk. I can’t stand still and talk about that bastard.” Copyright 2016 - 2024