"That's what the SnowDancers think. They've found a witness who saw an unfamiliar large vehicle with muddied license plates." He rolled down his window as they entered a leafier part of the city. "Enforcement doesn't know. Except for the detectives working underground, this time nobody's even bothering to pretend to carry on an investigation."
The conceit of whoever it was who was controlling Enforcement stuck a spear into the bubble of hope Sascha had been carrying around that her people were innocent. "Were you able to identify the owner of the vehicle?"
"What was she wearing when she was taken?"
Lucas's scowl sounded in his voice. "Why do you need to know that?"
"The PsyNet is full of information. Anything that helps narrow things down might be useful." There was no way to explain the Net to those who hadn't experienced it. It was a mass of data and the only controlling factor was the influence of the NetMind, which tried to make order from chaos. An entity that had evolved into its own separate sentience, it wasn't alive but it thought in a way that took it beyond mere machinery.
"Blue jeans, white shirt, black sneakers."
She shot him a glance. "I didn't expect you to have that information at your fingertips."
"An alert's already gone out to every changeling clan in the region, friendly or not, warning of the killer's proximity and asking for assistance. This is Brenna's photo." He slid the glossy hard copy out from the pocket of his jacket but waited to hand it to her until she'd pulled up at a stoplight.
She took it with a feeling of inexplicable dread. The woman was laughing in the picture, her brown eyes brilliant with amusement, her head thrown back. Sunlight glinted off the pure blond strands of her straight hair and highlighted the curves of her body. She was short, perhaps five-four, but there was such life in her that she seemed to dwarf the two men in the photo with her.
"The males are her older brothers - Riley and Andrew," Lucas said when she handed back the picture. "According to the SnowDancer alpha, they're homicidal."
The light changed as she tried not to give in to the despair she'd felt from touching that photo. It was as if Brenna had reached out and pulled her into the hell she was undergoing. Brenna. A name. A face. A sentient being. "He wants to steal her life," she whispered.
"After torturing her."
"No, that's not what I mean." She turned down the leafy lane that would eventually lead to Tamsyn's home.
"She appears so vibrant, so full of joy and life. He wants to take that from her, wants to keep it for himself."
Silence in the car.
"I don't know how I know that. I just do." She came to a stop outside the sprawling house she'd visited once before. "He must be driven by the most poisonous rage." She hadn't felt any such emotion in that odd, fleeting moment when she'd seemingly been sucked into Brenna's world, but what else could drive one being to so savage another?
"He doesn't know what rage is."
She turned to look at Lucas, not frightened by his open blood-hunger. There was something clean about it, something real. "No one who feels the dark things he must is going to be able to hide it forever. He's going to break sooner or later."
Lucas's eyes were hard green crystals. "For all our sakes it better be sooner. The clock is ticking."
Tamsyn was edgy. "I miss the cubs," she said to Lucas the second he walked in.
Hugging her, he tried to lend her some of his strength. Sascha stood quiet beside him but he felt the stirring at the base of his nape. It was, he realized, an almost constant feeling around her, so constant that he'd hardly been noticing. Something about Sascha gave off a low-level indication of Psy power in continual use.
Exactly what the heck was his Psy up to? Despite her unsuccessful attempt at betrayal, he wasn't immediately suspicious. The panther said that she was safe and the panther's instincts had never been wrong. Tamsyn took a deep bream and let go of him after several minutes.
"Better?" he asked, brushing her hair off her face. Every time he looked into those healer's eyes, his heart broke a little and then rejoined. She was a persistent reminder of the mother he'd lost but she was also a reminder of the goodness Shayla had been.
She nodded. "I made Nate go to work. Stupid." With that, she turned to head to her domain - the kitchen.
Sascha waited until Tammy was out of earshot. "If having the cubs away from her makes her this anxious, why did she let them go in the first place?"
"Overprotectiveness isn't good for predatory changelings." He'd been guilty of making that mistake, especially in the months after Kylie's death. His need to keep his people safe, to not lose anyone ever again, had threatened to suffocate them. He'd caught himself before he'd caused irreparable damage but it was a fault he had to guard against day in and day out.
"Tammy didn't appear overprotective. In fact she seemed very open to letting them explore by themselves."
"You've only seen her with them once." But she'd guessed correctly. Tammy was the one who'd ripped into him for his behavior toward the juveniles. However, he couldn't tell Sascha that. It was one thing to trust his instincts about her, quite another to place the lives of others' cubs in her hands. That was a trust she hadn't yet earned.
It was the right decision for an alpha but maybe it was also made because he was still fuming over the betrayal she'd contemplated. "What smells so good?" he asked, walking into the kitchen.
Tammy finished setting the places. "Chicken pot pie with strawberry tarts to follow."