Kiss of Snow Page 55

Hawke glanced at Riley. “We got the manpower to hold the perimeter while we do this?”

“I can ask a few of the cats to cover. Riaz can do the same for me in the den since Lara’s ordered him not to rip his stitches out on pain of healer wrath.”

“Then,” Hawke said, holding Sienna’s gaze, “let’s do it.”

Chapter 38

IT WAS NOT wholly unexpected when Kaleb responded to Nikita’s message by teleporting into her office only minutes later. When you were the most powerful Tk in the Net, such things required a negligible use of power. His gaze zeroed in on the twisted piece of metal on her desk before she could say a word. “I see,” he said, taking a seat in the chair on the other side of the glass expanse.

The chair was positioned an inch lower than her own, meant to put visitors at a psychological disadvantage. Of course, none of them were Kaleb Krychek.

She watched him examine the metal, conscious that he could lie with such smooth ease she’d never pick it up. He might have been an ally of sorts, but she never forgot that the man across from her had been in the control of a true psychopath from a young age—there was no way to know what echoes Santano Enrique had left in his psyche.

“So,” he said at last, “what do you think?” Cardinal eyes watched her without blinking.

“I think you’re too smart to mark your assault craft with your emblem,” she said. “I also think you’re smart enough to do precisely that to throw us off the trail.”

He smiled. It meant nothing, she knew, was a physical action he’d learned to mimic to manipulate the human and changeling masses. “True,” he said. “All true.” Returning the piece of hull to her desk, he looked out at the city through the plate-glass window at her back. “However, while the squad is mine, I do not yet own them.”

“You don’t need the Arrows.” Notwithstanding his telekinetic abilities, Kaleb had independent command over hundreds of men.

“Still, it makes no rational sense to strike now when I could go in later with a force almost guaranteed to take control with very little destruction.” Rising, he did up a button on his jacket, the material a deep navy featuring razor-thin pinstripes, the cut perfect. “The fact is, I don’t want this city. That has never been my goal.”

That, Nikita thought, was the most honest thing he could’ve said. Kaleb had far grander ambitions—he wanted to control the Net itself. Not taking her eyes off him as he gave a clipped nod before teleporting away, she reached for the phone. “It’s not Kaleb,” she told Max Shannon, aware the changelings felt more at ease dealing with her security chief.

But when she hung up, she didn’t return to her work. Instead, she reached out with her psychic senses along an old and familiar telepathic pathway. Your child. She is healthy.

Yes, Sascha answered, though it hadn’t been a question. She is extraordinary.

Half-Psy, half-changeling—that in itself made Sascha’s words true, but Nikita knew that wasn’t what her daughter meant. You’re not safe in the city. Not with war lingering on the horizon.

It’s home, Mother. A long pause. Do you plan to leave this region?


A push along the telepathic pathway, and she realized Sascha was trying to send her something bigger than a direct thought. Aware her daughter’s Tp was weak, she reached out with her own, “caught” the sending in a psychic grasp . . . and saw an image of an infant with cat-green eyes and skin of a smooth golden-brown a shade paler than her mother’s.

Sascha’s child. Nikita’s grandchild.

Chapter 39

HAWKE SPOTTED THE ambush from a ridge high above the isolated road that lay along one of the routes they would’ve used to evacuate their vulnerable. His wolf’s anger turned cold, primal. There were some things you did not do even in war. “Will they be able to sense non-Psy minds getting closer?” he asked the male lying on his stomach beside him.

Judd gave a single nod. “You might be able to distract them by sending in a decoy—fill up a transport with soldiers.”

“They can’t tell the difference between immature and mature minds?”

“Not if they’re running a general telepathic sweep.” He lifted the binoculars to his eyes again. “I can make out the weapons. They’re high-velocity—” A dangerous pause before Judd passed the binoculars to him. “Twenty degrees to the left of the man in the center.”

Hawke scanned twenty degrees, stopped. The cold-blooded bastards had a grenade launcher. “No mercy. They die. All of them.” This war was not going to be fought with the lives of their young and their old. “Scotts, Ming, whoever the fuck is behind this needs to know we mean business.”

“We eliminate the ambush, we give away the fact that we’re not only aware of their strategy, but capable of predicting it.”

Hawke’s wolf was howling for blood, but both man and wolf had learned to think past the red haze of rage long ago. “It’ll also get rid of ten of their men at this location, however many the others have found.”

“Indigo’s team has another group in their sights,” Judd reported on the heels of his statement, “as does Drew’s. Riley’s sector looks clean.”

It was, Hawke had to admit, damn convenient to have telepaths in the packs. Sienna was paired with Indigo, Walker with Drew, Riley with Faith NightStar of all people. While the DarkRiver F-Psy was a noncombatant, she had the necessary telepathic range. Her mate was acting as her shield.

Because of that telepathic network, it took only minutes to organize the decoys, another hour to get the transports in position. None of the vehicles could be allowed within range of the grenade launchers—their purpose was simply to distract. In the interim, the changeling teams made their way down to just beyond the scope of the enemy’s telepathic sweeps.

“Stay out of sight,” Hawke told Judd. “They can’t know we have a Tk on our side, not until it’s unavoidable.” Getting the lieutenant’s nod, he said, “Everyone ready?”



“Fifty seconds till the vehicles come into view, fifty-two till mobilization.”

It was a hard, fast battle. That was the only way to win with the Psy, given their ability to obliterate minds with their psychic strikes. There were also no teleport-capable telekinetics in this group, which signed their death warrants.

Afterward, Hawke stood looking down at the bodies and felt nothing but savage satisfaction. He wasn’t a man who liked to kill, but these people had planned to savage SnowDancer’s young. For that crime, death was the only penalty.

SIENNA had never seen the wolves move with such cold, sleek violence. The Psy units stood no chance. Part of her was shocked at the bloody reprisal, but it was nothing to the protective rage that had filled her when she’d seen the grenade launcher, understood the true malevolence of their intentions. For an instant, the X-fire had threatened to slip her grasp, but paradoxically, it was her protective drive toward the pups that had helped her get it back under control.

It was over in a matter of minutes, and as day turned to night, she found herself walking through the den with a man who had the eyes of a hunting wolf and hair of silver-gold. Today, he’d not only spoken to her about pack issues, he’d treated her as an integral element of SnowDancer’s defenses. Part of her was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but at that instant, for the first time, she felt like a partner in some sense, not simply a young girl who wore her heart on her sleeve.

“The cats are holding off on any evacuations, same as us,” he told her as they walked. “Right now, everyone is safer within our protections.”

“It’ll be quiet,” she said. “When the children are eventually moved.”

Hawke’s wolf hated the idea of a silent den. “It won’t be forever.”

Sienna began to turn left as they reached a fork in the corridor.

“No.” He gripped her hand. “This way.”

She didn’t say a word, and neither did anyone else who saw them along the way. A few days ago, they’d have been teased, whistled at, and otherwise hassled in the most playful of ways. Today, the mood was somber, everyone aware what was coming. The corridors were emptier than usual, many pack members having gathered in the common areas to talk, take strength from one another. There was no one at all in the corridor paved with river stones and painted with images of wolves at play, in sleep, during a hunt.

Hawke knew why Sienna avoided this particular exit from the den. She’d damaged the mural once by accident, her X-fire acting as a laser to fracture a small area of the wall, destroy the paint. “I was never angry with you for that,” he said as they entered the painted wonderland.

“This place . . . it’s important to you.” Her hand curled around his.

Tugging her to a particular section, he said, “Look.”

Sienna leaned forward. “It’s a sleeping pup—Oh!” He watched as she traced the second pup hiding behind the broad green leaves, waiting to pounce. “I never noticed him.”

“She hid a lot of things in the mural,” he said, the ache inside him an old grief. “It was meant to be an artwork that made the pack laugh, linger, want to play.”

“Speaking to the heart of the wolf.” Dropping her hand from the wall, Sienna raised her head. “It was your mother, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.” His gifted, laughing mother. “She was a submissive wolf.”

Sienna’s eyes widened. “I just assumed . . .”

“I think it surprised my father, too.” Inside, his wolf howled at the bittersweet memories. “He first saw her here. She’d flown in from a different sector, started the mural only hours earlier.” Hawke could almost see her, her white-blonde hair tied back with one of those colorful scarves she’d favored, a streak of paint on her nose or across her cheek. “He came running through from the outside in wolf form with an urgent message for Garrick. And he just stopped.”

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