Taking Sascha's hand in his, he met her eyes. "Eat first."
Tamsyn put a plate of sandwiches in front of her. She refused to let go of his hand as she picked them up one by one and demolished them. The chocolate cookies went the same way, as did the glass of milk. There was such bliss on her face after each bite that he wondered what she'd do when he lavished real pleasure on her, something he had every intention of doing.
"More?" Tamsyn asked, clearing away the dishes.
"No. Thank you. I... like your food." Coming from a Psy, it was a wild declaration.
"My kitchen is always open."
Sascha looked like she wanted to smile but didn't quite know how to pull it off. "I hacked the PsyNet."
Everyone went silent.
"Tell us what that means, Sascha." His heart was breaking at the pain he could feel coming off her. The waves of sorrow were so deep, he wondered that they didn't kill her.
"I could never talk about it before," she said, reminding him of his earlier attempts to get her to share information. "But now I can. I wonder if that means my mind's deteriorated so much that the blocks no longer hold."
"You just broke into the most secure information network in the world - your mind is fine." He frowned when she didn't seem to hear him.
"The PsyNet is like your Internet, except it's made up of minds, not computers," she said, instead of responding. "Most of it is public but there are hidden nodes of classified information. I obtained access to those restricted parts." It sounded so cool and practical but he knew it had to have been anything but.
"What would've happened if you'd been found?"
She met his eyes. "I would've been executed."
"You didn't tell us that." He was furious with her, so angry that he wanted to haul her to his lair and let the primitive in him take over. A growl threatened at the back of his throat.
"I didn't think it was relevant." She sounded so Psy that no one who hadn't been watching her eyes would've guessed at the depth of fear she must've experienced. "I learned more than we could've hoped for."
"Who is it?" He hadn't forgotten her recklessness.
They'd discuss it privately. And he'd teach his Psy that when it came to Pack, one member's life was very much relevant.
"They don't know the identity of the killer."
Dorian made a sound of anguish. A flare of Psy energy lit up Lucas's senses and when it flared back down, Dorian was calmer but no less frustrated.
"They've set a trap." She tightened her hand. "I could link into the PsyNet and shadow them until they know."
He narrowed his eyes. "How long?"
"Not very - the trap will spring the second he kills."
"That could take days. Can you survive being buried that long?" He was starting to get a glimmer of how the Net worked. "You're exhausted from what you did today and that was what - simply for a few hours?"
She flinched. "I'm strong enough. I'm a cardinal."
There was something broken about her statement but he knew this wasn't the place to pursue it. He'd gentle the truth out of her in private.
"If we don't find her before she dies, the SnowDancers won't accept only the killer's blood in recompense." Dorian was staring at the back of Sascha's head as if he wanted to see through to her mind.
"I know." Sascha nodded. "I have an idea to expedite the process."
Lucas narrowed his eyes. "What?"
"The killer is a predator with very fixed needs - his women are all of a certain type and, according to the Council's research, he's compulsive. I think if we give him a wide-open target, he won't be able to resist going after it. And the trap will spring without Brenna's death."
"How do we set the trap when we don't know where he is?" Nate asked.
Lucas knew the answer. "You're going to be the bait, aren't you? The trap is going to be on the PsyNet."
"I'm not changeling but I'm flawed in a way that might negate that handicap. My mind appears to be able to... understand yours. We can use that to ensure the killer is attracted to me." Her voice remained strong though her hand was trembling. "With your help, I'll teach my mind to mimic changeling thought patterns. Once I'm in the Net, I'll drop my shields enough that he picks up the altered patterns."
"What happens next?"
"Because of his compulsive nature, I'm sure he'll attack me on the psychic plane, try to incapacitate me mentally so as to get a free pass to my physical body. Once I know who it is, I'll tell you."
"Then you'll fight for your life." His jaw was tight, his hand crushing hers.
"That's nonnegotiable," she whispered. "It's becoming almost impossible for me to hide myself in any case - you saw what the pressure did to me yesterday. I'd rather let the shields down in a controlled situation than chance having them collapse without warning."
"How are you going to make sure it's the killer who finds you first and not one of the others?" Tamsyn asked when Lucas remained silent. He knew the healer understood exactly what this was doing to him.
"I'll need a distraction big enough to draw the attention of most of the PsyNet. I haven't quite figured out how to do that yet but I'll think of something, even if it means setting off a psychic bomb of sorts." She took a deep breath and looked up.
"As well as giving me access to thought patterns I can mimic - ideally those of a female who fits the victim profile - one of you will have to allow me far enough into your mind that I can cloak myself in your... psychic scent. That person will also have to permit a psychic link during the entire plan's execution.