Kiss of Snow Page 74

Her lower lip shook, and then she found herself being wrenched forward into a crushing embrace, her face buried in his neck, her arms gripping at him. “I was so scared,” she whispered, because she could admit that to him, to her wolf, who saw her through to the very soul. “Everyone’s safe?”

A pause. “We have a number of injured. Lara collapsed earlier, will get up in a while, start again. The healers from the other sectors have begun to arrive.”

She recalled the sickening crunch of bone as Henry’s men smashed weapons into the backs of skulls. “Will it be enough?”

“No.” The harsh truth of an alpha. “But we won’t give up as long as they’re hanging on.”

“Is there—” She swallowed the huge lump in her throat. “My friends?”

His arms clenched around her. “Tai’s critical. So is Maria.”

No, no. “Evie’s heart will break.” And Lake. Strong, capable Lake. He loved Maria with a tenderness that seemed to gentle even her reckless spirit.

“No surrender.” Unrelenting. Inexorable. “Never do we surrender.”

“No surrender,” she echoed, then took a long, shuddering breath.

“Does the word valve have any specific meaning to you on the psychic plane?” he asked, and when she shook her head, he told her what Alice Eldridge had said.

A sound of sheer rage escaped her mouth, and then she was punching her fist over and over against his chest. He let her expel the bitter anger, held her when she lay breathless against him. “I almost wish we’d never found her,” she said, her chest rising up and down as she tried to gasp in air. “I told myself not to hope, but I did.” A tiny secret part of her had been convinced the scientist would wake with the answers just in time to save her.

Other men might’ve given her pretty words of comfort, lies that meant nothing, but Hawke, he spoke to her martial mind, talking through the battle. “We weren’t prepared for that sonic weapon.” His tone told her that wouldn’t happen again. “But because of you, we held the mountains.”

“The city?” she asked, her voice hoarse.

“Leopards held it. A bit of structural damage but limited injuries thanks to the Rats, Judd, and Anthony’s and Nikita’s people. The Pure Psy operatives who survived turned tail and ran.” He stroked his hand down her hair, long and slow and again. “I can feel the cold fire along our bond.”

“Yes.” The battle had only wiped her out for a time. It had done nothing to change the fundamental truth of the power amplification. “It’s at fifty percent.” And it was frigid, until it froze her bones. “It feels stronger.” Darker. More cruel. Fear curled around her throat, tight as a noose. “Can we get farther away from the den?”

Hawke didn’t question her, simply said, “I know a good spot.”

They’d just stepped out of the tent when the power inside of her surged in a violent rage. Her knees locked, then gave out. She would’ve crumpled to the grass if Hawke hadn’t clamped his hands on her upper arms as the X-fire threatened to shove out of her very skin.

“No.” Even this deep into the mountains, the den was too close. Her friends, her family, her pack was too close. “Hawke, I can’t hold it.” Panic beat in her throat. “If I breach, it’ll consume everyone in the vicinity.” Her power had grown even more vast, even more voracious, would move out for miles in every direction.

Stone, steel, plascrete, nothing would stop its ravenous pulse.

Then she saw the scorching yellow and blazing crimson begin to divide and separate into pristine rivers inside her mind, in preparation for a final catastrophic merge. “I’m about to hit synergy!” Turning her into a human bomb of incalculable destructive power, one that would obliterate any trace of two packs called SnowDancer and DarkRiver, of a city called San Francisco, of a mountain range called the Sierra Nevada . . . and keep going.

If you ever go supernova, Ming’s arctic voice, the continent on which you stand might cease to exist.

Ming had been wrong, she realized in that moment when her power was so pure, so clear. There was no might about it.

A warm male hand gripping her own, ripping her from the horrifying understanding of just what she was. “The lake,” her wolf said.

She ran beside him. “It might blunt the impact.” Part of her knew it wouldn’t be enough, that even the deepest part of the lake couldn’t contain the tidal wave of her power, but she had to believe. Then she felt an unexpected psychic burn inside of her, saw that the cold fire was eating away at her network shields, would soon pour out into the SnowDancer web in a violent storm. It had never before threatened to penetrate a psychic network—but she’d never been this close to synergy.

Fear twisted knives of ice through her heart as they hit the water. “Hawke! The X-fire is spreading on the psychic plane. I can’t cut my mental bonds, but you can—”

Wolf-blue slammed into her eyes. “Don’t you dare ask me to hurt you. Don’t you fucking dare.”

Pain ripped her in two, the world already tinged crimson and gold, and she realized her eyes were drowning in X-fire. A single tear trailed down her cheek as the frigid water reached her thighs. “I’ll burn out your mind.”

He continued to swim farther into the lake, pulling her along. “The others?”

The water hit her breasts, soaked into her chest, into her bones. “The web”—she kicked her legs in an attempt to help him—“will collapse without you.” He was the center, the key. Had her family been part of it longer, they could’ve built failsafe bonds, but as it was, the web was a wholly changeling construct, created by ties of blood . . . Hawke’s blood. “The changeling members won’t suffer any ill-effects.

“Walker and Judd”—she gasped past the cold that consumed her—“will be able to drag the children into a smaller LaurenNet.” She ’pathed Judd a warning. Her sweet Toby, and smart, funny Marlee remained unconscious, a small blessing.

“When you die—” The words wouldn’t come, and it had nothing to do with the fact that her body was in the coldest, deepest part of the lake. “When you die,” she forced herself to say, “the psychic shock will tear me from the web, regardless of the links to my family.” He’d become her anchor in every way and losing him would destroy her, ending her life and the threat of synergy. “We should dive just in case, but once separated from the web, I won’t be a danger anymore.”

Her wolf cupped her face, nothing but a wild devotion in his touch, in his voice. “Then what’s there to be scared about?”

It broke her heart, that he was hers. “I love you.” I’m sorry.

A caress down the mating bond, an untamed kiss that she knew was her wolf before he said, “Forever,” and dived with her in his arms, the water closing over their heads in a sheet of sparkling blue.

Cold. So, so cold.

It was the last thing she had physical awareness of before the crimson and gold collided to create an inferno that poured over and through her shields with a vicious strength she could never hope to control. Hawke! It was a telepathic cry as the flame seared down the mating bond, turning it into an incandescent ribbon.

His arms clenched around her, shocking her back to the world for a single instant before she was wrenched to the psychic plane once again. She watched in horror as the rapacious tempest of her power surged into Hawke. Instead of burning out his mind, it encased it . . . and continued to spread out on the bonds that tied him to his lieutenants, their mates, the healers.

It wanted all of them.

No! No!

Chapter 53

THE FIRE RACED along the familial bonds, too.

First it hit Judd. Then it hit Walker. And held. She knew both men had risen to consciousness, were shielding to the limit of their strength to save the children as well as Brenna, but she also knew they’d fail. The power continued to pour out of her, surge after surge after lethal surge.

For a blazing instant, the SnowDancer Web was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, a brilliant gold and crimson network lit with pure raw energy. It spoke not of death, but of life. But of course, that was a lie. Even as the minds of Hawke’s lieutenants blazed a terrible red, Walker and Judd finally broke.

WALKER knew the moment before Sienna’s strength overwhelmed him that he was going to break. Reaching out with his telepathy, he knocked both drowsy children back into unconsciousness. They wouldn’t feel any pain, have any awareness of going into the final goodnight.


A single, painful thought before there was no more time. The brutal energy of an X shoved into his mind. For an instant, it was a thing of beauty, such unadulterated power that he was staggered by it. If only there was a way to harness this.

Then it rammed into his final telepathic shields, burning them to ash as the wave crashed. He had a moment to glimpse the web and think that the power was arrowing itself to him, as if he was some kind of lodestone. The flame—so cold, so violent—shoved into his psychic core a second later.

Death had never felt so exhilarating.

In the physical world, he went to his knees, his vision flame yellow and bloodred, but on the psychic plane, his telepathic reach was magnified a thousand times over for a gleaming instant, and he had time to be grateful that he hadn’t been born that way, for a man was not meant to know the world’s secrets.

He waited to die, to feel the frigid burn of an X’s touch, but the power continued to pour through him. Gritting his teeth against the impact of it, he reached out to touch a telepathic hand to the children, found them unconscious but unharmed. That was when he focused his psychic eye beyond the avalanche of power. And saw something so incredible, it would’ve brought him to his knees if he hadn’t already been on them.

The strange twisting motion at the center of his mental star, it had nothing to do with children, nothing to do with telepathy. It blazed diamond bright as it spun at phenomenal speed, acting as a filter for Sienna’s energy. The destructive potential was trapped, eradicated, the rest returned to the network. The interconnected threads of the web continued to burn but second by second, the vicious red was fading into a shimmering gold . . . until at last, there was no more raw power.

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