Kiss of Snow Page 70

Walker knew both Judd and Sascha had been attempting to get through the strange shield around Alice’s mind in an effort to nudge her to consciousness on the psychic level. Walker, too, had tried. To no avail. And now—“I have to leave.”

Lara touched him in that wolf way, stroking back his hair, sliding her hand over his pectorals as if to smooth his shirt. “Why?”

He bent toward her, making it easier for her to “pet” him as the wolves called it. “Hawke wants me with the children when they evacuate.” The SnowDancer alpha’s face had been drawn in harsh lines when he returned to the den this morning, but he’d given the order to evacuate with a crisp, clear focus, as he had so many others.

According to Judd, who’d be back to full strength by tonight, surveillance at the South American compound was showing a rising level of activity as Pure Psy’s people began to recover from the virus. The runway would be complete by tomorrow morning, which meant the compound had to be taken out of the equation tonight at the latest, before any of the weapons heavy transports took off.

Everyone agreed the children needed to be gone prior to that. Because once SnowDancer blew the compound, the war began. There was no hope of peace. Both Nikita and Anthony had attempted to reason with Henry in a last-ditch effort to halt hostilities. The other Councilor’s response had been to try to assassinate them on the psychic plane.

“Of course,” Lara said, hand settling on his waist. “You’re the perfect choice—the kids will listen to you and feel safe at the same time.”

Her immediate support of him, made an unexpected warmth uncurl in his abdomen. “Drew’s promised to spy on you for me and report if you’re not eating.”

“The sneak will do it, too.” Her smile faded too soon. “It’s a hard thing to ask of you right now, isn’t it? To leave her?” She wrapped her arms around him.

“Sienna would be the first to tell me to go,” he whispered into the softness of her curls, numbing the pain permeating his chest at the thought of the girl he’d never been able to protect. The only thing he could do for her now was to ensure those she loved were safe. “She’d do anything for Toby and Marlee.”

Lara kissed him, hot and giving and possessive in a way he’d never have expected from her before he’d truly known her. Sliding his hand under her hair, he tilted her head, indulged in the wild sweetness of her for a moment out of time.

“I’ll contact you as soon as we know anything,” she said when they parted, her lips wet, her eyes determined. “We’ll keep working with Alice.”

“I know you will.” A piece of him threatened to shatter, a piece that bore Sienna’s name, the name of a girl who was as much his daughter as Marlee. “Take care of yourself, Lara.” Because she owned a piece of him, too, a broken piece she’d somehow soldered back together and that bore her mark now.

He couldn’t say the words, had spent too long in Silence, but he’d learned other ways to speak. Taking the paperweight she’d knocked off her desk out of his pocket, he put it in her hands. “It’s fixed. As long as you don’t mind more than a few scars.”

Tears in her eyes, she pursed her lips, shook her head . . . and held the paperweight to her heart. “I love you, Walker.”

He left with those words held to the most secret part of him, but rather than joining the evacuation, he went up to where Sienna sat beside a wide, blue lake that mirrored the mountains with such perfection, it seemed there was no sky, only an endless vista of jagged peaks touched with snow. When she flew into his arms, he held her tight. And watched the cold fire of an X lick at her hair, over her spine. She wrenched away, her eyes dry of tears, her voice resolute. “I have to earth.”

He would’ve waited, would’ve done anything he could for the girl he realized had become a woman of courage and strength, but he knew she didn’t want him to see her like this. So he walked forward, cupped her face, and pressed his lips to her forehead. Fight, sweetheart, fight.

As he turned away, he felt the earth shudder under a pulse of raw power and knew that if he looked over his shoulder, he’d see nothing but a column of wild yellow and brilliant red, a woman consumed in flame.

HAVING confirmed that the warehouse the novices had found in the city held the weapons cache, SnowDancer blew the South American camp at midnight.

Stealth planes flew over the city at three a.m.

Pure Psy operatives began to appear along the SnowDancer-DarkRiver perimeter an hour later, pouring out from craft that landed just out of range of the anti-aircraft weapons over changeling territory, most covering the remaining distance on foot, while a front guard stood ready for teleportation.

The intruders were loaded up with so many weapons that had the changelings been relying only on their physical strength, the battle would’ve been over before it began. As it was, Alexei’s sharpshooters, along with those trained by Dorian and Judd, were in prime position to pick off those attackers who were teleported in. And the changelings had extraordinary night vision.

The enemy learned quickly and began to teleport in farther from the perimeter, inside DarkRiver land. But the leopards knew that land like the backs of their hands, and while their people were all in the city tonight, they’d laid out a welcoming mat—a number of the aggressors fell victim to their traps. And this time, there was no question about the enemy combatants’ allegiance. They wore the emblem on their shoulders.

“A black spiderweb.” Matthias’s voice came into Hawke’s earpiece. “That’s Henry Scott’s symbol.”

Not unexpected but it was always nice to have confirmation. “If the enemy hits you with a psychic blow,” he told his people as they prepared to engage, “aim at their heads. If you don’t have a shot, turn around and run like hell until you get out of range.” Changeling shields were strong, but they weren’t impenetrable. “I need live soldiers, not dead heroes.”

A chuckle from the line, his wolves ready for battle.

Then Henry Scott teleported in onto the perimeter, surrounded by an armed guard so thick, it was impossible for anyone to get a shot in. The Councilor held up a hand.

Knowing time and the wind would only help his people pinpoint the locations of the Pure Psy teams, Hawke gave the order to listen.

“This,” Henry said, “is your last chance. Surrender and I will let you walk away.”

Hawke’s wolf wanted to rip out the man’s throat, but it was better to let the bastard talk, find out as much as they could. “Now why,” he said from his position behind a slight rise, “would we want to do that when this is our land?” Their home.

Henry Scott’s voice was ultimately reasonable. “You’ve been caught up in the middle of a political situation you have no hope of understanding. It’s in your best interest to give in.”

“What do you say boys and girls?” Hawke murmured into the mike worked into the collar of the thin black bulletproof vest he wore over a long-sleeved T-shirt of the same color.

The howl started at one end of the line and was carried from soldier to soldier, until it reverberated around the mountain. Hawke’s wolf peeled back its lips. “Go!”

HAVING had a telepathic report from Judd as well as a call from Hawke on the sat phone he’d left her, Sienna had earthed herself and double-checked her power reserves. The chance of an unpredictable spike remained, but since that wouldn’t matter if the people she loved were dying when she could’ve saved them, she took the risk of heading down.

She reached the combat zone just as hostilities began, the hairs on the back of her neck rising at the sound of the wolf howls singing through the air. Tempting as it was to detour, to glimpse the battle, she made her way directly to the spot Hawke had pointed out on the territorial map what felt like months ago. There was a pair of night-vision lenses waiting for her, along with a tiny key on a thin silver chain.

If you want to know what this opens, stay alive.–H.

“Hello, wolf.” Placing the chain around her neck, she slid on the night-vision lenses and began to scan the combat zone.

It was automatic to search for that vivid mane of silver-gold, distinctive even through the color distortion caused by the lenses. But she couldn’t see it anywhere. Her heart stopped beating at the thought that he’d been hit, was down, and then she realized—every single SnowDancer in human form was wearing a knit cap over his or her head.

Yes, of course. The enemy would never know which one was Hawke, giving them no specific target. “Come on,” she said, whispering encouragement though she knew they couldn’t hear her, “we can do it.” That was when she spotted him, though his hair remained covered, his face turned away. Still, she knew the way he moved—a human wolf. Her wolf.

HAWKE saw several of his people fall, knew they’d been hit with a psychic blast. Racing out to the one closest, he pulled the male back out of range with a grip on his bulletproof vest, then went back to retrieve another, a woman. Around him, more SnowDancer soldiers were doing the same, as others fought off the Pure Psy operatives targeting those trying to assist the injured.

There was no doubt that Scott had a massive advantage with his telepaths and telekinetics, but from the looks of things, the Tk unit was beginning to tire from the troop movements—which meant SnowDancer didn’t have to worry about missiles being lobbed at them without warning, though the techs had prepared for that eventuality by placing a number of interception units along the defensive line.

The changelings had also evened out the field with preparation, the choice of when to fight, and the knowledge of home ground. Enemy soldiers who tried to teleport in behind SnowDancer’s defensive line found themselves caught between layers of wolves arranged up and down the mountain.

Not all of those wolves were changeling.

Good, Hawke howled to the feral wolves that treated him as alpha. Watch. Hold.

The wolves howled in unison in response, and Hawke saw the enemy freeze for a fraction of an instant. Then the crashing noise and blood-soaked scent of battle started again. Contrary to Hawke’s expectations, Henry Scott remained on the field. The Councilor stood in the center of that tight guard, his eyes closed—Hawke realized the man was using his considerable psychic abilities against the changelings at the same time that he saw a shot coming straight at a soldier.

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