Her plan could work. Unfortunately, she needed the changelings to cooperate for it to do so. But Lucas wasn't budging. Without his agreement, she knew no one would help her. Even the wolves would stand back, though it was their packmate's life on the line.
She fought her panther with every ounce of will she had.
And she failed.
Well before dawn the next morning, Hawke rang to say the SnowDancers could provide the needed distraction.
"How?" Lucas asked, not really caring. As long as Sascha had to die for the plan to succeed, it wasn't going ahead. Right now he couldn't think about what else she'd revealed - My shields are about to collapse. He'd allow nothing to speed up the process, not until they'd worked out a way to protect her from the Council.
A small pause. "I think you'd better come over. Bring your Psy with you."
Lucas knew exactly where Hawke's den was. Just as he knew it was guarded around the clock by wolves who wouldn't hesitate to go for his throat. "Free passage," he reminded Hawke.
"Don't insult me, cat. I don't break my vows. Be here as soon as you can - the pack is getting restless. If we aren't going to move on the PsyNet, I'm going to give the order to take down all the high-ranking Psy we can.
"We've already got people in place near the residences of every one of the Councilors, no matter where they happen to live. Somebody will talk if you make enough of them bleed." He hung up.
"What did Hawke have to say?" a sleepy voice asked.
Lucas turned to find Sascha sitting up in bed behind him. He wanted to lie, to protect, but they'd gone beyond that. "He says he can provide a diversion."
Sascha frowned. "That's the weakest part of the plan," she muttered. "With a physical distraction, there's always the chance that it might not take away enough Psy minds to give the killer a head start. I wonder what Hawke's going to suggest."
He wanted to shake her. The weakest part of the plan was the one her life hinged on. "Get dressed. We're going to Hawke's place."
Fifteen minutes later, they gathered downstairs. He told Nate and Mercy to remain behind to guard the safe house.
Tamsyn frowned. "It's only me left here now. Why don't you let me come along and then you don't have to leave two sentinels behind."
"You're our healer." Lucas touched her cheek. He'd been harsh with her the night before. "We need you safe so you can patch us up if anything goes wrong."
Her jaw set but she didn't argue, hugging him tight instead. "Be safe."
Hawke's den was located deep in the Sierra Nevada, almost at sub-alpine level. Lucas drove up the nearly invisible track in his four-wheel drive, cursing as branches scraped along the sides.
"If it was only you and your pack, you could've run with them," Sascha said, her eyes staring out at the gray early-morning light. Darkness had fled in the time it had taken them to drive this far.
"If it was only me and my pack, we'd never have had a chance to save the girl at all."
Her organizer chimed unexpectedly into the small silence. She checked the message. "It's Mother. I'll ignore it. If she asks, I'll tell her I forgot to take it with me."
"I have a feeling he's too busy with keeping track of the NetMind's search for the killer." She leaned forward and squinted. "I can't see them."
"Of course not. That's their job." Vaughn and Clay were racing beside them as they drove into Hawke's territory, having left their vehicle a couple of miles back. They were fully capable of infiltrating the SnowDancer den and had done it before with Lucas by their side. Dorian had driven in ahead of them, dumped his vehicle, and taken to the trees. He'd already called in on a secure line to tell them he was situated above the den.
"Is that the house?" Sascha pointed to the barely visible walls of a large lodge, half-hidden by the trunks of the firs that lined the slope leading up to the clearing.
"No." He grinned at the wolves' cunning. "But it's sure fooled a lot of would-be attackers."
"It's a front? It looks so real."
"It is real. It's just not their hideout." Circling around the house, he stopped the car. "Stay inside until I'm beside you."
For once, she didn't argue. "This is your world, Lucas. I'm a novice."
He cupped her cheek in a fleeting caress before exiting the car and walking around to her door. No wolf would take him in the back. In the same way, Dorian would never shoot at an unarmed wolf from his position in the canopy. They were animals but both packs had a kind of honor most of the Psy would never understand. If it came to a fight, it would be face-to-face, hands against hands, claws against claws, not a sniper's bullet.
Still, he wasn't going to take chances with his mate's life. He scented the air to ensure Vaughn and Clay were with him. As he'd expected, their scents had been joined by those of several wolves. None were venturing too close. Good. He pulled open Sascha's door and she stepped out.
He shut the door. "Stay behind me." Already, he was placing his body in front of hers.
"I can feel five emotional signatures I don't know," she whispered, real soft.
His brows raised. "I didn't know you could do that."
"I've been practicing." She sounded almost proud of herself, as though she was getting past the fear that she was "flawed." "Vaughn and Clay are circling us, one in front, one behind."
"Let's go." He started to walk into the forest, which appeared to go on endlessly, the dark green firs so close together they blotted out the sun. They walked for five minutes before he found the rutted path half-hidden by carefully strewn forest debris.