"When did they leave?" A ban on non-authorized travel had gone into effect early that morning.
"Before," Rina said, glancing at Sascha.
Normally the three kids' absence wouldn't be a cause for concern. Juveniles were notoriously wild, but Lucas suspected that Kit's sudden trip had to do with witnessing Dorian's collapse. He hero-worshipped the latent sentinel. "I'll track him down." The SnowDancer lieutenants who controlled those areas were usually reasonable, but these weren't ordinary times.
"Tamsyn, I'm going to head out with Rina." He stood and looked down at Sascha. "You staying?" He wasn't convinced of the safety of what she was planning to do but as Rina had reminded him, more rested on this than his own desire to keep Sascha safe from harm. That didn't make it any easier to leave her - comprehension about her place in his life was starting to creep in, in spite of the barriers erected the day he'd lost everything.
"Yes." Night-sky eyes met his without blinking but refused to look at Rina.
Notwithstanding the bleak situation, it made him want to smile. "I'll catch up with you if I return before six. If not, leave a message with Tammy."
"All right. I hope you find Kit and the others."
"We will." They'd lost one of their young. It was more than enough.
Sascha stood in the guest bedroom trying to concentrate but all she could see was Lucas with Rina. Sensuality had poured from every molecule of the female, rich and heady and almost tangible. She'd felt as if she were drowning in it as she'd sat across from the two of them.
Then they'd kissed and she'd had another shock. Affection had whispered between them. Not passion, not hunger, not desire. Her mind was having trouble with the thought that Lucas's kiss hadn't caused Rina to burst into sexual flame.
A knock on the door startled her into a soundless gasp. "Yes?"
Tamsyn's smile appeared in the doorway. "I brought you a cup of hot chocolate. If you need anything else, let me know." She put the mug down on a bedside table. "I'll leave you in peace."
"Yes?" She paused with her hand on the doorknob.
"Can you explain something to me?" Sascha couldn't ask Lucas. It would betray too much she wasn't ready to face. However, Tamysn had said she was a healer. Maybe that meant what was said between them would remain in confidence.
"The kiss?" Tamsyn raised a brow.
Sascha thought she hid her surprise well. "Yes."
"It's like when he kissed me the first time we met. He's alpha and each time he touches us, he reinforces the bonds of Pack. With the women, he's generally more affectionate." She rolled her eyes. "They're chauvinistic pigs but we love them. Anyway, as I was saying, that kiss wasn't sexual in any way. It was about... togetherness."
"What about with the men?" Sascha asked, the seeds of understanding blooming in her mind.
"They go for night runs, fight each other to test their skills, and occasionally get together to play poker or watch a game. It works." She gave a mystified shrug.
"So a kiss is nothing special to Lucas?" Her idiocy where this one male was concerned kept surprising her into hurt. He'd said it was an experiment. Perhaps he'd wanted to know what it was like to kiss a "hunk of concrete."
Tamsyn cocked her head to the side and gave Sascha a probing look. "Inside the pack, it's special because it tells us he cares for us, that he'll die for us."
Sascha nodded, feeling worse and worse.
"But outside the pack? The only women I've known Lucas to kiss outside the pack are the ones he wants in his bed." The door shut behind the grinning healer.
Sascha's cheeks flamed. Lucas wanted her in his bed. In spite of her vows to not let him reach her, she was aroused to fever pitch. Concentration went out the window. Dreams intertwined with reality and she remembered his kiss in the forest as she remembered his far more intimate kiss in her dreams.
It was the prosaic sound of an engine getting closer that brought back the world and reminded her what she was meant to be doing. Taking a deep breath, she sat down cross-legged on the floor and started to recite a mental exercise so demanding, it succeeded in driving everything else from her mind. Ready, she took the first step out into the Net.
The world opened.
In front of her was an endless starry sky. Each star was a mind, some strong, some weak. Her star was at the center of this universe because she was the entry point. The PsyNet was spread across the world but if she wanted find a particular mind, all she had to do was think of it and it would appear in her field of vision, something like a link on the human-changeling Internet. However, similarly to a link, she had to have a starting point - knowledge of what the mind felt like, looked like.
There was her mother's blazing star - a cool, pure brilliance. Over there were some of the Psy who worked in the Duncan empire. But she didn't want to speak to anyone today. What she was interested in were the dark spaces between minds, the spaces where information floated, controlled into order by the NetMind.
She allowed her consciousness to flow out, letting data filter through her as if she were doing nothing more than catching up on the news. The NetMind brushed past her and kept going, not alive, not dead, but sentient in a way the world had never known. Still young, it was the librarian of this vast archive.
It would've been easy to become sidetracked by the endless streams of data, but despite her free-floating appearance, she was being very choosy, her senses tuned to a fine point. This was about murder... and the greatest lie that had ever been perpetuated by a race upon its own kind.