After much thought, she'd decided that the only way to get rid of the voracious need pushing at her shields was to indulge it in a safe environment. The actual event couldn't be that difficult - she'd done her research, memorized several books of positions and skills.
Her heartbeat staggered at the thought of what she was considering, throwing doubt on her certainties. What if it didn't work? What if a taste made her crave more?
Impossible, she told herself. She wasn't that far gone, not yet completely lost. She was still Psy, still cardinal. It was all she knew how to be.
Lucas met with his sentinels late that night. Sprawled around his lair, Nate, Vaughn, Clay, Mercy, and Dorian were the toughest members of the pack. In a one-on-one fight, every one of them would lose to him. But together they were formidable. As he'd told Sascha, if he broke vital Pack laws they'd take him down. Until then, they were his absolutely.
Not all pack alphas commanded such pure loyalty, but he'd earned his, earned it in the bloodiest, most terrible of ways. A fist squeezed his heart as memories of his parents awakened. It was always worse at this time of year, the ghosts of the past constant whispers in his mind.
They'd been cut down before they'd had a chance to live, and he'd been forced to watch. Like all children, he'd grown. Unlike most other young men, he'd grown into an alpha Hunter with the capacity to track down murderers and the brutal strength to demand justice. For some crimes forgiveness was impossible and vengeance the only cure.
"Nate, you first." He nodded to the most experienced member of the team. Nate had already been a sentinel for five years when Lucas had been confirmed as alpha a decade ago. But Nate hadn't waited for that official recognition of Lucas's status to give him his loyalty - he'd chosen to walk into hell beside Lucas years before, when Lucas was only eighteen, earning his absolute trust.
"We've confirmed our suspicions about the seven kills in Nevada, Oregon, and Arizona beyond any doubt." Nate's blue eyes were cold with withheld fury. "It's definitely the same killer."
"Bad news is, we have no new leads," Mercy picked up. The female sentinel was a tall, shapely redhead who could fight like the most lethal of blades. At twenty-eight she'd been a sentinel for a short two years but she'd earned the respect of all five males. "The cops are worse than useless as an information source - they refuse to call this a serial. It's like they can't even think the idea."
None of them had to voice what that might mean. The Psy were more than capable of clouding human thinking and changing the course of an investigation if they were determined to do so. There were Psy scattered through every level of Enforcement, probably for that very purpose.
"From what Sascha let drop, I'm certain that the PsyNet isn't equal opportunity," Lucas told them. "Democracy bypassed their Council a few centuries ago." He thought of his personal Psy shadow and wondered whether she had access to the core, whether she was guilty of covering up after a killer. Somehow, it didn't fit with the image of the woman who'd let a baby leopard gnaw on her boot. Nothing about Sascha Duncan fit the Psy mold and that made her unique. A unique Psy was a contradiction in terms.
"I can't find out any more information about that damn hive mind," Dorian muttered from his seated position on the floor. "Not even the dope fiends are willing to talk and, Psy or not, they'd sell their mother if it would get them another fix."
Lucas agreed. The Psy had the biggest drug problem on the planet. As long as they didn't try to addict his people, he didn't care how many of them killed themselves.
"I tracked your Psy's mother." Vaughn crossed the room and leaned against the wall by the door, his thick amber-gold hair gathered in a tie at the back of his neck. It was clear that he was a predator. What most people never guessed was that he wasn't leopard but jaguar.
Adopted into DarkRiver over twenty years ago at barely ten years of age, he was Lucas's closest friend and quite possibly the only male capable of holding the pack together if Lucas were killed, in spite of the fact that, to the leopards, he didn't have the scent of an alpha.
The jaguar changelings had remained truer to their animal roots - they were solitary wanderers for the most part and didn't need a hierarchy. But Vaughn had been raised as a leopard and Lucas thought of him as another alpha, one who'd given him his loyalty by choice. He was also one of the three sentinels who'd been there the night Lucas had turned the moon blood-red with vengeance. The jaguar had been seventeen at the time.
"I wouldn't want to meet Nikita Duncan on a dark street." The look in Vaughn's eyes said he wasn't joking.
Lucas raised a brow. "What did you find out?"
"She's held on to her Council seat for more than a decade because other Psy, even cardinals, are terrified of her. The woman's a seriously powerful telepath." He folded his arms across his chest, the small tattoo on his right biceps clearly visible. An echo of the markings on Lucas's face, it was a quiet statement of where his loyalty lay. All of the sentinels had followed the jaguar's lead, though Lucas hadn't asked it of them. Lucas's own upper arm bore the image of a hunting leopard, the promise of an alpha to his pack.
"That's not unusual enough to scare people," Dorian pointed out. Nothing about him indicated that he was latent and people had learned not to taunt him, because when Dorian bit, you didn't survive.
"No," Vaughn agreed. "But her talent has a little twist. She can infect other minds with viruses."
"Run that by me again?" Mercy sat up on one of the huge flat cushions that served as Lucas's sofas and pushed back her thick waist-length hair. "A virus?"