Tamsyn wrapped her arms around her mate's neck, her eyes shining with agreement.
Dorian placed his hand on Nate's, in the same position. "For Pack."
Lucas put his over theirs, palm down. As their hands closed over his, his closed over theirs. "For Pack."
Sascha's fingers were trembling. She slipped her left hand unobtrusively into her pocket and met Enrique's gaze across the desk that separated them. He'd been waiting for her. Stalking her. The computers had informed her that her presence was required in Nikita's office the second she'd walked into the Duncan building.
Terrified that someone had picked up on the true purpose of her Net search, she'd entered to find Enrique sitting in her mother's chair, with Nikita standing beside him. It was a testament to the strength of her shields that not an ounce of her fear had leaked through. However, the trembling in her fingers was refusing to abate.
"Nikita tells me you haven't had much progress with getting information on the changelings." It was the most subtle of chastisements. Enrique wasn't used to waiting for anything or anyone.
"Nothing substantial," Sascha answered. She'd asked Lucas this afternoon what she could safely tell the other cardinal. It had betrayed that she'd been meant to be a spy but she'd known he had to have guessed that already. Like she'd told Enrique, changelings weren't stupid. Lucas hadn't berated her, simply given her what she needed.
"I did discover that they have the ability to change forms from childhood." That wasn't a secret - most of the Psy had just never bothered to look.
Enrique leaned forward. "Anything is useful."
"The only other fact you might find of use is that changeling family groups aren't as isolated as we believe." This was also information in the public domain. "When young alphas leave an established pack to start their own, they usually maintain friendly ties with their parent group."
"This is excellent, Sascha. You're the first Psy who's been this close to changelings for over a hundred years. Your cooperation will help us to substantially revise outdated information."
If she didn't know better, she'd have thought Enrique was trying to fashion himself her mentor. At least he was no longer trying to fool her into believing there might be a place for her in the Council ranks.
"If that's all, sir, I have some matters to attend to," she said, frighteningly aware that the trembling in her left hand had been joined by twinges in her right. If she didn't get out of here soon, her physical deterioration would become impossible to hide.
"I may call on you later tonight - in case you recall something new." Enrique stood as she did.
She looked at Nikita. "Of course, sir. Mother." As she headed out, her eye fell on her foot and she saw that in her confusion this morning, she'd put on the boot Julian had chewed. Fear clawed at her.
Turning, she tugged at the lapel of her jacket in an effort to hide the subtle trembling of her right hand. "Yes?"
"Your work will bring credit to the Duncan name." Enrique's shoulder was almost touching Nikita's as they stood side by side.
"You're doing well." Nikita nodded.
Suddenly, Sascha wondered how much of what her mother had told her earlier was true. Was Enrique really an ally who had to be kept pacified, or were the two of them in league for a far darker purpose? "Thank you."
This time they let her leave without interruption. The second she was outside the office, she slid her other hand into a pants pocket too. She wanted to head for her apartment but knew she couldn't - Enrique was unlikely to change his mind about seeking her out later. And if he saw her like this, she was as good as dead.
Her hands were trembling uncontrollably and she could no longer ignore the muscle spasms in her legs. Something had gone very wrong in the time since she'd spoken to Lucas. Barely able to think through the panic riding her, she got on the elevator and somehow found her way to her car without running into anyone. Her vision was beginning to blur by that stage and she could feel her heartbeat stopping and starting in a ragged rhythm that scared her.
She almost stumbled as she tried to open the door to her car. It felt as if her body was shutting down, system by necessary system. Fear bloomed a metallic taste in her throat. Then, in a bizarre twist, the urge to laugh almost overwhelmed her. Bare seconds after she closed the door behind her and pushed the button to tint the windows, sadness crashed into her.
Crying uncontrollably, she knew she was on the verge of a major breakdown. The tears were gone as fast as they'd come and her body was suddenly melting in the throes of sensual pleasure. Then bang! She was hit with a load of guilt, of haunting loss. It gripped her throat and she thought she'd choke. A second later, it passed.
Nothing took its place.
Sascha forced herself to think in that fleeting moment of clarity. First, she reinforced her psychic shields. They'd stay up until she died, hiding her from the PsyNet. From her own people. Sorrow mixed with fear and the combination sparked a connection between the splintered neurons of her brain.
Leaning forward, she programmed a destination into the computer, a destination where no Psy would ever go. Then she left a message for her mother explaining her absence. She couldn't chance anyone instigating a search for her. Who knew what condition they'd find her in?
As she steered the car out of the garage, her vision narrowed to a mere pinprick in each eye. She was almost numb with terror but she managed to get the vehicle out onto the streets, where the automatic navigation systems could take over. The moment they did, she hugged her arms around herself and curled up on the seat.