"The killer is attracted to changelings and, unlike the rest of the Psy, he'll recognize the presence of the scent before anyone else, especially if they're distracted by something else."
"Like waving fresh blood at a shark," Mercy commented from her position by the back door.
"Yes. There's something else." Sascha's eyes bled to darkness as Lucas watched and the panther knew she was hurting. It threatened to break him that he couldn't take away her pain. "Ever since Silence was instituted, the Psy have been proud of their lack of violence."
"Silence?" Tamsyn asked.
"A program to decondition young Psy to emotion. If we feel no rage, no jealousy, no love, then we won't kill. At least that was the rationale."
"Oh, my God," Tamsyn said. "They purposefully crippled their children."
"And they didn't solve the problem. According to what I learned today, there are fifty known serial killers circulating among the Psy population. It seems the Council has a policy of quietly taking care of them."
"Death?" Nate asked.
"Rehabilitation. It's death of the mind, completely wiping out the individual and most of the higher mental functions." Her eyes pleaded with Lucas to remember the promise he'd made to her. "But they're not caging all of them. Some of the serials are considered integral to the functioning of the PsyNet."
"I don't think I want to know," Tamsyn whispered.
"They provide victims for the indispensable ones, hide their trails, and ensure their kills don't make waves either in the PsyNet or the human-changeling world."
Lucas could see her fighting the urge to throw up. His beast wanted to pick her up and take her to safe harbor but her eyes said she hadn't finished. He was astounded by her strength - how could that fragile body hold so much courage, so much heart?
Dorian spit out a curse. "When they gave up their emotions, they gave up their humanity."
Sascha looked at the angry leopard. "I agree. I'm sorry your sister was stolen from you. If I could reverse your pain, I would. But I can't. All I can do is try to save another life."
Dorian's response surprised everyone in the room. "You're different, Sascha. I'm not so angry that I can't see the truth. You feel."
Sascha's laugh was so bittersweet, it ruffled Lucas's fur the wrong way. "My entire life, I've been terrified of those words. I always believed it would be one of the Council who discovered me. I never thought of it as a good thing... until I met you." She was looking at Lucas with eyes of ebony night, not a star in sight.
"Since I don't know when they'll realize my flaw and attempt to take me in, I'll need to get the information to you as soon as I get it. That's why I need a constant link to one of you. What I know, you'll know. You'll be cut free the second I drop out of the Net."
He knew she expected to be killed by the Council. "You're under our protection." The panther was so close to the surface his voice had dropped several octaves.
Nate, Dorian, Mercy, and Tamsyn voiced their agreement. Sascha had just earned the respect of some of the toughest leopards in DarkRiver. Once she was Pack, the others would follow their lead. And Lucas had no doubt that Sascha was going to become part of his pack.
Her face looked incredibly sad for a second. "No one escapes from the PsyNet." She glanced at the leopards around the room. "Thank you for showing me more life in a few days than I ever expected to experience. I won't go down easy - I want to live."
Lucas refused to let her say good-bye. "Who says no one ever escapes from the PsyNet? Has anybody ever tried?"
Her eyes widened. "No."
He shook his head. "Not as far as you know. If they're keeping quiet about serial killers, don't you think they'd bury the loss of any Psy out of the Net?"
"That won't work with me. I'm too visible. I couldn't disappear even if there was a way out. I'd have to change my identity and I can't." She pointed to her eyes. "No contact lenses made can hide these."
"I won't let them erase you. In any way." No one took one of Lucas's people without consequences. Kylie's death had never been forgotten and until vengeance was taken, it would remain a burning pain in his soul.
And his woman? If anyone so much as bruised her, he'd destroy them. He reached out to rub at the dark circles under her eyes. "You're exhausted. Even if we let you run this insane plan, you can't do it now."
"I'm afraid you're right. We still have a few days. This is the third night since he took Brenna." Her tone held the knowledge of the horror the SnowDancer had to be going through. "I wish I could recover quicker, but shadowing Henry drained me."
"Tamsyn?" He glanced at the healer.
"I've got her. Come on, honey." She touched Sascha's shoulder. "I'll make you up a room and find you something comfortable to sleep in."
Sascha stood and he felt the sharp rush of her disappointment. The vain cat in him preened, but the protective, possessive panther silently promised he'd make it up to her.
"Thank you. I should be fine by morning. Then we'll hunt." She didn't even seem to realize she'd used the words of a changeling... of a leopard.
He smiled. Sascha Duncan was no longer Psy, even if she refused to see that. Poor baby. He was going to enjoy educating her about living life as his mate.
Tamsyn closed the bedroom door before giving Sascha the cup of hot chocolate she'd whipped up. There was such an intense look on the woman's face that even without her strange ability to sense emotion, Sascha knew that whatever the healer had to tell her, it wouldn't be easy.