The lieutenant scowled at seeing Brenna in the room but answered, "It's not a fresh kill. He was dumped here."
"Out-of-the-way room." One of the soldiers, a lanky male named Dieter, spoke up. "Easy to get to without being spotted if you know what you're doing - whoever did this was smart, probably chose the location beforehand."
Brenna sucked in a breath but didn't speak.
Indigo's scowl grew. "Get her the hell out of here."
Judd didn't follow orders well, but he agreed with this one. "Let's go," he said to the woman standing with her back to him.
"I saw this." A faint whisper.
Indigo stood, an odd look on her face. "What?"
Brenna began to tremble. "I saw this." The same reedy whisper. "I saw this." Louder. "I saw this!" A scream.
Judd had spent enough time with her to know that she would hate having lost control in front of everyone. She was a very proud wolf. So he did the only thing he could to slice through her hysteria. He moved to block her view of the body and then he used her emotions against her. It was a weapon the Psy had honed to perfection. "You're making a fool of yourself."
The icy cold words hit Brenna like a slap. "Excuse me?" She dropped the hand she'd raised to push him aside.
"Look behind you."
She remained stubbornly still. Hell would freeze over before she obeyed an order from him.
"Half the den is sniffing around," he told her. Pitiless. Psy. "Listening to you break down."
"I am not breaking down." She flushed at the realization of so many eyes on her. "Get out of my way." She didn't want to look at the body anymore - a body that had been mutilated with the same eerie precision Enrique had used on his victims - but pride wouldn't let her back down.
"You're being irrational." Judd didn't move. "This place is obviously having a negative impact on your emotional stability. Step back out." It was a definite command, his tone so close to alpha it set her teeth on edge.
"And if I don't?" She gladly embraced the anger he'd awakened - it gave her a new focus, a way to escape the nightmare memories triggered by this room.
Cool Psy eyes met hers, the male arrogance in them breathtaking. "Then I'll pick you up and move you myself."
At the response, exhilaration burst to life in her bloodstream, chasing away the last acrid tang of fear. Months of frustration - of watching her independence being buried under a wall of protection, of being told what was best for her, of having her rationality questioned at every turn, all that and more snowballed into this single instant. "Try it." A dare.
He stepped forward and her fingertips tingled, claws threatening to release. Oh yeah, she was definitely ready to tangle with Judd Lauren, Man of Ice, and the most beautiful male creature she had ever seen.
"Brenna, what are you doing here?" The sharp question was bitten out in a familiar voice. Lara didn't wait for an answer. "Move aside, you're blocking the doorway."
Startled, Brenna did as ordered. The SnowDancer healer and one of her assistants slid past, portable medical kits in hand.
Judd moved when she did, continuing to obstruct her view of the body. "This room is getting crowded. Lara needs space to work."
"He's dead." Brenna knew she was being unreasonable, but she was sick of being pushed around. "She can hardly help him now."
"And what do you intend to achieve by remaining here?" A simple question that highlighted her ridiculous behavior with cool Psy precision.
Hands curling against the urge to strike out at this male who always seemed to catch her at her weakest, she turned and walked out. Packmates glanced at her curiously as she passed. More than one wore a look of judgment - poor Brenna had finally snapped. It was tempting to walk past without meeting their gazes, but she forced herself to do the opposite. She'd had her self-respect stolen from her once. She would not relinquish it ever again.
Several pairs of eyes shifted away at being caught staring, while others continued to watch her, unblinking. Had the circumstances been different, she would've taken their intransigence as a challenge, but today, she just wanted to get away from the overwhelming dead scent of the body. However, that urgency didn't blind her to the fact that even the boldest of them dropped their stares after looking past her shoulder.
"I don't need you to fight my battles," she said, after they cleared the crowd.
Judd moved to walk beside her, no longer a shadow at her back. "I wasn't aware I was doing so."
She had to concede he was probably telling the truth - most people in the den were simply too scared of Judd Lauren to want to draw his attention under any circumstances. "You saw the cuts." She could still smell the odor of death mingled with the metallic edge of blood. "They were just like his." The sharp gleam of a scalpel flickered in her mind. An image of spurting blood. Screams ringing against the walls of a cage.
"They weren't identical."
His cool response pulled her out of the nightmare chaos of memory. "Why do you sound so certain?"
"I'm Psy. I understand patterns."
Dressed in black and with those emotionless eyes, there was no doubt he was Psy. As for the rest..."Don't try to convince me that all Psy would've been able to process the details so quickly. You're different."
He didn't bother to confirm or deny. "That doesn't change the facts. The cuts on this victim - "
"Timothy," she interrupted, a rock in her throat. "His name was Timothy." She had known the fallen SnowDancer only in passing, but couldn't bear to have him being reduced to nothing more than a nameless victim. He'd had a life. A name.