For a second the mists fell from her eyes and he saw the real woman. "I wish I'd been born in another time, another place. Then maybe I could've escaped fate... maybe I could've been your darling."
She was gone before he could speak. He watched her walk down the street and turn the corner. She never looked back.
Enrique hadn't left Sascha a message the night before. He hadn't needed to. Once again he was waiting for her in her mother's office.
"Sascha," Nikita said from behind her desk, a certain hardness in her eyes. "I hope the amount of time you're spending on this project will prove justified."
It was an odd thing to say, especially since Nikita had been the one who'd first suggested that Sascha oversee every detail. "It's going along very smoothly, Mother. I believe changelings appreciate the personal touch."
"Very true." Enrique turned from the window to face her. "You appear to have a good handle on how they think."
Careful, Sascha told herself. She couldn't let them get suspicious about just what she knew and wasn't telling. "I'm not sure the praise is warranted, Councilor. I'm merely using well-known Psy techniques for dealing with their species. As I said, they're extremely wary about sharing any information with me."
"Are you saying you still haven't penetrated their defenses?" It was almost a taunt and it came from Nikita.
Sascha's suspicions about Nikita and Enrique being a team grew stronger. "It's difficult. The leopards use emotions as their social glue." They could hardly fault her for being what they'd made her.
Enrique stared at her, cardinal eyes unblinking. "Unfortunately that's true." He looked at Nikita. "Perhaps we're putting undue importance on Sascha's ability to gather information."
So they were in it together, whatever it was. Instead of defending her skills, she let them make up their minds without interruption, as if the sly insult mattered nothing. Of course the insult was only in her mind. To Enrique it had probably been nothing more than a summation of her ability.
"Thank you, Sascha," Nikita said. "It appears this venture won't allow us to collect as much factual data as we'd hoped."
Sascha said her good-byes and left the office, a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Throughout everything, she'd been trying to ignore the fact that her mother might be assisting a killer escape justice, inventing fairy tales where Nikita somehow remained free from the rest of the Council. Seeing her with Enrique had slapped her awake. The Council was divided in some matters but when it came to the outside world, they were a solid wall.
If one knew, they all knew.
It was equally obvious that Sascha had been meant to be a mole from the start. Nikita had been the one to pursue a deal other Psy avoided and she'd been the one who'd suggested Sascha's ongoing involvement. Her earlier acquiescence to Sascha's reporting to her, rather than to Enrique, had likely been nothing more than a power play. What Sascha didn't know was what they'd hoped to learn.
She tried not to let her turbulent emotions filter through to the surface as she waited for the elevator. Nikita was her mother, the only mother she had. Her heart didn't want to accept that she was involved in something as dirty as covering a murderer's tracks.
A whisper of sound reached her ears the second before a heavy hand fell on her shoulder. If she hadn't been warned, she might've jumped and given away the game. Sliding smoothly out from under that hand like any normal Psy, she turned to face Enrique. "Was there something further, sir?"
"I find you to be an... unusual young woman." The Councilor's gaze didn't leave hers for a second.
At the word "unusual," Sascha's heart jumped into her throat. "I'm extremely ordinary, sir. As you know, my cardinal powers never developed." She confessed the truth she hated because it might be the one thing that would get him uninterested in her.
"Perhaps I can help you develop them." He smiled that cold, meaningless smile. "I'm sure Nikita would permit it."
Sascha felt a hole opening up beneath her feet. "I've been tested many times."
The elevator doors parted in a smooth swish at her back. Enrique glanced over her shoulder and took a small step back, his smile fading. "Latham."
"Councilor." The older Psy walked out and around Sascha. "I was told you'd be here."
"If there's nothing else, sir...?" Sascha stepped backward into the elevator.
"We'll continue this later." Enrique's expression was bland but there was something piercing about the quality of his gaze.
She fought the urge to collapse as the doors closed, paranoid that every public space was monitored. The Councilor had detected something about her, something that had set him on her trail. He'd be relentless until he'd discovered exactly what it was that had set off his senses and then he'd show her no mercy. She'd seen his star on the PsyNet. There was no emotion there, no feeling, no flaw. Nothing but the coldest intelligence she'd ever glimpsed. He was the most perfect product of Silence.
Lucas didn't head back to the safe house after dropping off Sascha. He had to give the appearance of normality. No one could suspect that the changelings were quietly preparing for possible war.
Leaving his car in the parking lot outside the DarkRiver building, he headed inside to see Zara. She had some things she wanted to talk to him about and he spent a good hour with her. Since she wasn't leopard, she'd been kept out of the loop. They'd protect her if it came to that, but there was no reason to pull her into the mess. Not yet.
Because of that, she was continuing on with her designs, unaware the buildings might never be erected. On the other hand, if they averted disaster by finding Brenna alive, this deal could become vitally important.