Z2—Eat this sandwich. I made it especially for you. xoxo Sunny
Dear Z2, I hope you like the roses. I think men should get roses, too, don’t you? Love you, Sunny
Z2—Gone out to party till I drop with the bride. I promise not to run away with a stripper. Love, Sunny
p.s. I wouldn’t say no to a private show from my man ;-)
Zie Zen, how dare you?! Samantha
That last was the note he held in his hand today. She’d been so angry that day, his magnificent Sunny. “Send me the complete file,” he said to his great-grandson now. “I will find a solution for you. It is not your time to die.”
His own death, he thought after the conversation ended, was coming. But not yet. Not until he’d seen this through. Then, he could finally close his eyes and see his Sunny again. She’d be angry with him for taking so long . . . and for many of the decisions he’d made, but she would love him. Always, she would love him.
As Vasic’s Ivy would love his great-grandson. All Zie Zen had to do was unearth the answer to a seemingly impossible problem.
• • •
THREE hours after his conversation with his great-grandfather, Vasic was on night shift while Abbot caught some sleep, when his mind alerted him to a threat. As there were no intruders in the apartment, he checked the PsyNet.
Vasic didn’t warn the mind that was attempting to hack Ivy’s open with brute force. He simply reached out with his own and crushed the attempt, tearing open the other man’s shields in the process. Abbot, he said at the same time, wake up and take over.
I’m up, the other Arrow answered almost immediately.
Having gleaned the attacker’s physical location by slamming in through his torn shields, Vasic used the image coming in through the man’s visual cortex to teleport to a utilitarian room with brown carpeting. The attacker lay convulsing on the floor. Vasic came down on one knee beside the thin man in his forties and waited until he’d stopped convulsing to speak.
“Why did you attack?”
“She’s an abomination.” Zeal in his blue eyes, fanatical and furious, his ears and nose dripping blood. “Tainting the purity of the Net with her strange mind, like the others. They must all be destroy—” He began to convulse again, his teeth slamming together over his tongue.
Vasic used his Tk to stabilize the attacker’s head as blood pulsed from the self-inflicted wound and his back arched, fists and feet pounding the carpet. When it stopped, he was dead.
Vasic contacted Aden using the mobile comm built into his gauntlet. “I shouldn’t have hit his shields that hard,” he said, after giving his partner the rundown on the situation. Vasic’s control was legendary in the squad, but the dead male had been a threat to Ivy, Vasic’s reaction arising from a primal instinct that awoke only for her. “We need to find out if he was part of a larger cell—I’ll check his apartment for any physical indicators.”
“I’ll get our people to go through his life, track down his associates,” Aden replied. “He might simply have been working on his own—we’re seeing more and more incidents of people unable to cope with the fall of Silence. The Es are an easy, visible target.”
“Tell me if they find anything pertinent.” With that, Vasic began a meticulous and detailed search of the apartment. He discovered nothing obvious but dropped off several datapads at Central Command for further investigation before returning to New York. I’ll take over now, he told Abbot. Rest the full six hours. You need to recharge.
The next voice he heard was softer, feminine . . . and one he did not want to hear while his hands were stained with death. “Vasic?”
HE TURNED FROM the night-dark living room window to see Ivy in the doorway to her bedroom. Sleepy eyed, her body clad in a pair of what looked like pale pink flannel pants teamed with a strappy white top, she looked warm and vulnerable and touchable. He wanted her in his arms, wanted to sink into the softness of her.
“Go back to sleep,” he said instead, his fingers curling into his palms. He hadn’t used his hands to kill tonight, but he remained a killer nonetheless. That instinct had been trained into him, and it wasn’t one he could ever erase. Nor would he even if he could—it was part of what made him capable of protecting Ivy.
It also put him permanently on the dark side of the line, while Ivy stood in the light.
His empath covered a yawn with one hand and rubbed her eyes with the other. “I felt something,” she said, padding across the distance between them. “A pounding at my temples, but it was gone before it became truly painful.”
Vasic used his Tk to nudge her slightly. “You can’t be in the line of sight of the window.” He’d made certain his body was angled so as not to give any assassin a target.
“Oh.” Changing trajectory, she walked to stand in the corner beside him, walls at her back and side.
He couldn’t keep from turning to face her, and the instant he did, he realized his mistake. The corner blocked her in, and when he shifted slightly, his body completed the shadowed, intimate cage. Ivy didn’t recoil or look afraid. Her eyes no longer hazy with sleep, she touched her fingers to his jaw in that way she had—as if he was the fragile one.
“You took care of it, didn’t you?”
Sliding her hand down his neck to his shoulder, the black fabric of his T-shirt little barrier to the lush heat of her, she said, “Did you have to kill?”
“I used too much force. Death was the outcome.”