Laughter bubbled out of her but she wasn't happy. Neither was she sad. She was both and she was more. She was angry. Insane. Satisfied. Hungry. Hurt. Glad. Amused. Aroused. Her entire body started to shake, her heartbeat a jackhammer against her ribs.
"Lucas," she whispered, not even aware that she was speaking. His image flared against her darkening sight but was immediately swallowed by the riot of emotion that crashed into her mind at the speed of light, destroying her ability to think. Pain short-circuited her nerve endings.
Her body arched as she screamed within the insulated confines of the car. Her screams were still reverberating in the vehicle when she lost consciousness, the car skimming smoothly along the streets.
The safe house was tense. Only the cubs were sleeping. All the maternal females were hyperaware, the soldiers and sentinels pumped with adrenaline. Lucas hadn't heard from Sascha since she'd left that afternoon and he was worried. His beast was prowling the corners of his mind, urging him to track her down. Something had to have gone wrong in her second attempt to surf the PsyNet.
He was standing outside the back door considering how to reach Sascha without tipping anyone off, when a huge white wolf prowled out from the woods behind the isolated property. Beside him, Rina's entire body went tight. "Friend or foe?" she whispered.
He met the wolf's icy blue gaze. "Go inside."
"Inside." It was an alpha command.
Rina went but he felt both her frustration and her fear for him. After making sure she was safe, he trailed the wolf into the woods. It streaked off ahead of him and he let it go, following more slowly until the house was hidden from view. A few seconds later, a man dressed in a pair of faded jeans walked back toward him.
Hawke was muscular and he was lethal. A predator to the core. His eyes were the same icy blue whether he was in wolf or human form, his hair a thick silver-gold that had nothing to do with age. It echoed his pelt. Of all the changelings Lucas knew, it was Hawke who resembled his beast the most in humanity.
"What is it?" It had to be something pretty spectacular for the SnowDancer alpha to have left his people when they were so jumpy. Not only that, he'd come into the heart of DarkRiver territory, to a safe house, crossing an unspoken boundary.
"We found something on our land." His voice was low. "Our first instinct was to kill but since your scent is all over her, I thought you might be interested."
"Sascha." Lucas stared at Hawke. "A cardinal Psy?"
"Where is she?" A cold sweat threatened to break out over his entire body. He hadn't felt such terror since he'd been a boy watching his parents die. In their current mood, the wolves were likely to gut her while he spoke with Hawke.
"Not far." Hawke wasn't moving. "Who is she?"
Hawke didn't need to know that Sascha had been the possible leak Lucas had warned him about. "The one who might get us into the PsyNet." His beast was shoving at the walls of his mind, desperate to get to her.
Hawke's eyes watched Lucas without blinking. "If I find out you've lied to me, cat, all bets are off."
Lucas allowed a growl to roll up from his throat. "Don't threaten me on my own lands, wolf." He knew Hawke was dangerous but so was he and the other alpha couldn't be allowed to forget that. "Where is she?"
"Follow me." Hawke loped off. After several minutes of solid running that would've winded even other changelings, they stopped by a car parked at the end of a hidden lane.
Even from this far away Lucas could smell her. "You left her alone?"
"Would you rather I left her with my pack?" Hawke opened the back passenger-side door. "She's damn lucky it was Indigo who spotted her - the others would've executed her on sight."
Lucas saw Sascha's slumped form on the seat and felt fury arc through him. "What did you do to her?" Reaching inside, he lifted her in his arms. Her body was limp but she was breathing. Relief almost broke him and it was then that the last pieces of understanding shoved through to his conscious mind. Of course Sascha smelled of him - she was his.
"Nothing. She was found like this in her car." Hawke closed the door. "We hacked open the onboard computer - it was programmed to head into your forests until the engine ran out of power. She must've miscalculated. It crossed the border from your lands into mine before stopping."
"Don't thank me. I'll kill her same as any other Psy if Brenna dies." Hawke's eyes held a cold promise.
Lucas stepped back with Sascha in his arms, admitting to himself that his loyalty now belonged to her. "She's never betrayed us. We'll fight to keep her safe." It was a declaration of intent. Touch Sascha and DarkRiver would rise against the SnowDancers, destroying the peace they'd worked so hard to achieve.
Hawke went still. "Mated to a Psy, panther?"
Lucas had only now realized the truth - he wasn't about to share it with a wolf. "Don't move against the Psy without talking to us."
Hawke stared at him for a long, icy moment. "Don't let me down. Brenna's been gone over thirty-six hours already. The single reason I'm letting you run this is because you have a head start. If DarkRiver fails, we take over."
"DarkRiver doesn't have a habit of failing."
The second he walked into the house with Sascha in his arms, things went to hell in a handbasket. Rina hissed and her claws popped out. Nate moved protectively to cover Tamsyn, who clearly didn't want to be protected. Even a recently returned Kit jumped to his feet.
Strangely enough, it was Dorian who came forward.