The animal in Vaughn wanted to eliminate the threat and take care of them once and for all - Psy with crushed skulls couldn't harm his mate - but the man knew it wasn't so simple. Currently the Council had six heads, but it was a multi-limbed monster. Taking out one head would cause two or three more to sprout in its place. The only way it could ever be totally destroyed was for it to be torn out by its very roots. And the only people who could invoke a change that deep were the Psy themselves.
Faith rested her body against his side. "There may be something that will stay their hand."
The beast calmed at the gentle heat of her. "You have an idea?"
"Less an idea than a knowing." Her voice was suddenly heavy with grief. "It's always bothered me why Marine was murdered. He has this sick excitement leading up to the kill he's planning to make tomorrow, but there was nothing like that with Marine. He didn't stalk her. The buildup was in how clearly I saw the end result - loss of breath eventually metamorphosing into total suffocation."
Her strength impressed him to animal pride. Shifting his hold, he leaned against the railing and pulled her into the cradle formed by his spread legs. She came without complaint, putting her own hands over the ones he'd draped around her hips.
"Could she have been a chance kill, taken because the opportunity was there?" Judd Lauren's voice made the jaguar want to snarl - the cat didn't understand the fine distinction between enemy and uncertain ally.
"No, there was no sense of him being rushed or unprepared."
Vaughn hated to hear the pain in her voice, but knew time alone would heal those wounds. Though they'd never disappear, they'd turn into scars and that was okay, because those scars made them stronger.
Sascha tapped her foot. "What did your sister do?"
"She was a cardinal telepath. A communications specialist for the PsyClan."
"While I was in the Net, I heard rumors that your PsyClan did a considerable amount of sub-rosa work for the Council."
Faith's fingernails dug into his skin. "And if she was 'pathing for them, then she knew everything that was being sent and received, knew every secret, every detail of every plan."
"A liability if she decided not to play the game." After all, Marine NightStar had been his mate's sister and Faith was too intelligent, too independent, too human, to have ever made a good Council cipher.
Faith suddenly gave a violent shake of her head. "This isn't getting us anywhere. A knowing doesn't usually give me details - we'll have to wait and see if we can scan the killer's mind. Even if the Council comes after me, it won't be before we incapacitate him."
Clay crossed his arms across his chest. "How do you know?"
"I know.'' Her voice was haunted and very, very certain. "We have that much time. The answer will come to us tomorrow."
"And if it doesn't?" Sascha asked quietly.
"Then at least Marine will have been avenged." The bone-deep fury in her found an echo in the heart of the jaguar. "I want him to pay for what he did."
The males looked to each other and understanding passed in a current. Three predatory changelings and a Psy who might be a trained assassin, they found nothing wrong with Faith's rage. It was real, it was true, and it would be satisfied.
"He will." Vaughn spoke for all of them. "Even if I have to crush his skull myself."
"Vaughn." Faith stood beside her mate as he worked on a sculpture. Dressed in nothing but a pair of faded blue jeans, he was pure muscle and heat, amber-gold hair tied carelessly into a queue.
"What is it, Red?" He put down his tools to run his knuckles over her skin. The touch was tender, the look in his eyes anything but.
"Why are you doing this now?" She smoothed her hand over one marble curve. "Come to bed. We both need to mentally prepare for tomorrow."
"I'm not Psy, baby." His voice dropped. "I don't need to calm my mind."
She suddenly understood. "I'm ready."
"Go to sleep." He picked up what looked like a chisel. "I'll be there soon."
She took it from him and put it back on the workbench. "You're afraid of hurting me." Such a thing was wrong between mates, she knew that without having to be taught. "You're scared I'll cascade like I did yesterday."
"What we did yesterday was perfection, but you're not ready for another round. And I don't have gentleness in me right now." Rough, harsh, blunt.
She put her hand on the golden skin of his chest. "You're never going to be truly gentle."
"I didn't mean it like that. I like your wildness, your passion, your demands." She swallowed at the molten heat in his eyes. "You make me feel alive."
"I can sense the way you hurt when your mind breaks."
"But I get stronger with every loving." Something she was now starting to understand. "If you try to contain yourself, you'll shortchange both of us. I need to satisfy you in the same way you need to touch me."
"I won't be tied down this time, and what I demand from you, you might not be ready to give. I'm in no mood to play."
Because, she realized, he was in the grip of a possessive protectiveness that left no room for half measures. She could feel the dark red of his hunger through the mating bond, feel his passion, his wildness. "Show me," she whispered, pushing aside her own fears. If the Council did come for her tomorrow, she wanted to look at them with the confidence of a woman who'd broken every rule of Silence and done so in the most unquestionable way. "I won't cascade." A vow. To both of them.