Kiss of Snow Page 69

“Nearer a lake I know of up here. If all else fails, I’m throwing you in there.”

“I don’t know if that’ll work—X-fire isn’t like normal fire.”

“Better than turning into a human torch, don’t you think?” Turning, he went to touch his fingers to her jaw, felt his heart stop when she met his gaze.

Her eyes, those startling cardinal eyes, were drowning in shimmering, lethal gold kissed with crimson, and in them, he saw time running out at an inexorable pace.

JUDD didn’t know who was more surprised, him or Lara, when he teleported into the infirmary with Alice Eldridge’s frail body in his arms. But she threw off the shock to run to him at once, grabbing a scanner off a counter as she did so. “What do I need to know?” she asked as he placed the scientist’s naked form on the nearest bed.

“Cryonic suspension,” he said, head still ringing in disbelief.

“Impossible.” Lara put down the scanner, picked up a pressure injector, and pressed it to Alice’s neck. “No one has ever been brought back from suspension with their mind intact. Even the Psy made it illegal over a half century ago.”

“She was suspended before that, when the experimentation was at its peak.” It had been a time of chaos and change when Alice Eldridge had been taken—probably on the orders of a schemer in the Council superstructure who’d had some vague idea of waking her up later when things had calmed down and she could be properly debriefed.

But no one had ever come to wake her, her existence submerged by the wave of Silence that had swept across the Net. Perhaps the architect of her abduction had been killed, perhaps he’d simply forgotten her, but whatever the cause, the result was that Alice had slept undisturbed for over a hundred years in a small facility deep in the Balkans. A facility that ran on solar power, but that had had no gatekeepers or personnel for decades, was listed as a storage warehouse. One so small and unimportant that it was continually pushed down the list when it came time for inspections and renovations.

Judd had asked the Ghost how he’d found it.

The other man had looked at him with those eyes that held nothing of humanity. “I found it because I go where no one goes. There are places in the Net that belong only to me.”

Now, Judd shook off his tiredness over the dual teleport and told Lara everything he knew. “She was found in an experimental chamber created by a scientist who was considered to be on the verge of unlocking the secret of cryonics.”

“If he had, it wouldn’t be illegal now,” Lara muttered as she fitted a tissue-thin computronic skullcap over Alice’s head and walked around to the control pad at the end of the bed to scan the readout.

For the hundredth time, Judd tried to sense if Alice’s mind was active and came up against the same unexpected shield that had obstructed his earlier attempts. “He was a telepath, had a psychotic breakdown in which he destroyed his lab and all associated records before killing himself and his family.” Perhaps that was the reason her abductors had abandoned Alice Eldridge—no one knew what chemicals the scientist had used to induce suspension, much less how to reverse the state.

Lara slammed a fist down on the control panel. “Shit,” she muttered, staring at the woman who lay so lifeless on the bed, “just, shit.”

Judd had never seen that expression on the healer’s face. “How bad?”

“That’s the thing—I don’t know. It’s not like they teach us this at medical school.” She leaned forward, hands clamped around the edges of the panel. “I need Tammy and Ashaya.”

“Who first?” He could do one more dual teleport.

A moment’s pause. “Ashaya. She’s not a medic as such, but she’s a scientist—and she can discuss the situation with Amara.”

Ashaya’s twin, Judd knew, was insane. No one trusted her, and she couldn’t be allowed in the den, but there was no discounting her brilliance. “I’ll get Ashaya,” he said. “You call Tammy, have her drive up.” The teleport to Dorian and Ashaya’s house wasn’t difficult, since he’d been to the location before. He had enough energy to bring the M-Psy back before he slid down the wall and to the floor of the infirmary.

The two women ignored him as they worked over Alice, with Tamsyn arriving seventy minutes later. Sometime in between, Brenna found him, just like he’d known she would.

“Sweetheart,” she said, kneeling down beside him. “You’re about to flame out.”

He gave a slight shake of his head. “Not over the threshold.” But he was slurring his words, so he leaned against her when she sat down beside him . . . and then he was stretched out with his head in her lap.

The last thing he remembered saying was, “Walker, find him.” His older brother had a way of seeing to the heart of things, would know whether or not they should tell Sienna what had happened when there was a good chance Alice Eldridge would never wake. Even if she did, there was no guarantee she’d be able to tell them anything—the Ghost had found data that suggested she may have asked an E to wipe that part of her memory clean.

SIENNA scraped a kick by Hawke’s ear as the stars turned into glittering beacons overhead. “You can’t stay up here,” she said as he made a fluid move to avoid the blow. “You know that.” No matter how well prepared his people, how well drilled, they were changeling, were wolf—without their alpha, the pack would be lost, rootless. More, she understood his wolf needed to stand in the line of fire, to be SnowDancer’s first line of defense.

He danced out of the way of her strike. “You can do better than that, baby.” Blocking her next kick with his hand, he pushed up until she had no choice but to flip and come down hard on her feet. “I won’t leave you up here alone.”

When he’d suggested a bout of hand-to-hand sparring, she’d figured she might as well accept since she wasn’t going to sleep. Now she knew his cunning plan—to exhaust the argument right out of her. But they both knew she was right. “I’ll be fine,” she said after her teeth stopped vibrating. “I have supplies.” Taking a moment to catch her breath, she decided it was unfair he had that lickable upper body on display. “Put your sweatshirt back on.”

His eyes gleamed wolf-blue in the night. “Come closer and make me.”

Her lips twitched, though she’d thought the cold fire had seared the laughter right out of her heart. “Maybe I should take off my own top.”

A smile full of teeth. “Maybe you should.”

Laughing, she set her feet for another attempt at taking him down. “Talk me through the pack’s defensive plans.” If she managed to hold off synergy, then she might yet be able to assist SnowDancer.

Moving with lethal grace around her, Hawke spoke, listened when she asked questions or made suggestions. There was a perfection to the moment that made Sienna think: Yes, this is it. This is who we’re meant to be together.

If she could have, she would’ve frozen time at that instant, but second by second, minute by minute, the stars would dim, the sky would lighten—until dawn streaked a brilliant explosion of color across the Sierra. As brilliant as the cold fire inside of her, voracious and violent.

“Sienna, your eyes.”

“I know.” Stepping a small distance away, she let the flames pour out of her and into the earth in a storm of wildfire that was an impenetrable wall between her and her wolf.

Chapter 50

HAWKE HUNG UP the sat phone feeling as if he’d been punched in the chest by a granite fist. Sienna glanced back at him from where she sat on the edge of the lake, the early morning sunshine dancing over hair as black as the heart of a ruby. “What is it?”

“A dead woman come back to life.” When he told her what—who—Judd had brought home, hope flared a shiny new coin in her eyes for a single bright second.

It turned dull almost as fast. “There’s no knowing if she’ll ever wake,” Sienna said, “much less if she’ll come back whole. I have to stay up here.”

He’d thought he could leave her, could sacrifice his heart for his pack, but now that the moment had come, man and wolf both rebelled. “No,” he said, going to crouch by her side. “You’re heading down with me.”

“Hawke, you promised you’d listen to me about my ability.” A firm reminder, but the fingers on his jaw were a caress. “I know what I am. I know the destruction I’m capable of—don’t make me kill those I love.”

“You’re able to monitor your power levels, know when you’re about to go critical.” He’d watched her leach off the violence of her ability twice more during the night, the flames seeming to flicker out over the lake itself.

“We can’t gamble on that.”

“You can move closer to the den.” He wasn’t used to losing.

However, Sienna’s iron will was one of the things that had first drawn him to her. “No.” Rising to her knees, she put her hands on his shoulders, no stars in her eyes. “But I won’t go any farther from this point.”

He stared at her, the wolf attempting to dominate her into acquiescence. Even when he said, “Promise?” there was nothing of acceptance in it.

“Cross my heart.”

Hauling her against him, he branded her with his mouth, his lips, his breath before leaving with a single, furious command. “Stay alive.”

WALKER knocked on Lara’s office door that afternoon, wasn’t surprised to find her still dressed in the clothes she’d worn yesterday, black shadows under her eyes. This time, he didn’t berate her for not taking better care of herself. Instead, he drew her into his arms, held her for a long moment before allowing her to pull back. “Eldridge?”

Lara’s gaze was bleak. “The scans detect brain activity, but that means nothing if we can’t figure out a way to wake her. Ashaya and Amara came up with a chemical cocktail, which we shot into her a few hours ago, but so far there’s been no change.”

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