Her pigtails bounced as Marlee nodded. "I'm a Tk. Only a little bit, though. I can't do it so good, not like Uncle Judd."
The reminder of Judd and what he'd kept from her was another punch to the chest. He'd had no right to do that. Lying was not what should be between them. And for that certainty, too, she had no concrete reason. "Yeah." She forced her fingers to uncurl. "A bad man who could do the same thing, a very strong telekinetic, he hurt me once. A lot. That's why sometimes, I get scared by other Tks."
"That's silly. Some of the wolves aren't nice to me, but I still like the others."
"Who's not nice to you?" She frowned, hackles rising. Wolf pups could get rough in play, but bullying wasn't tolerated under any circumstances.
"Some stupids." Marlee shrugged. "Uncle Hawke said since I'm little, I can hurt them if they try to hurt me."
Brenna knew that Judd, Walker, and Sienna had been banned from using their powers on SnowDancers. "Have you?"
"I used Tk to push Kiki down when she tried to bite me," Marlee volunteered, face mischievous. "She cried and tattled, but the teacher said it served her right."
Since wolf teeth could do considerable damage to weaker Psy physiology, Brenna had to agree. "I think so, too."
"I won't push you." Marlee dropped her ball and came to stand right in front of Brenna. "Don't be scared of me."
She nodded, tears thick in her throat. "Okay."
Smiling, Marlee leaned in and wrapped her arms tight around Brenna's neck. Shaking, Brenna held that small body to her own and let the tears roll down her face.
"It's okay, the bad man won't get you." Small pats on her back. "My daddy and Uncle Judd and even Sienna can scare him away."
It only made her cry harder. How could she have been afraid of this sweet, tenderhearted child for even a second? How? Was she that twisted, that badly damaged?
She jerked up her head to discover Walker Lauren standing a few feet away. Unlike his daughter, Walker was quintessentially Psy, impassive, unemotional, cold. Yet there was a fierce protectiveness to him when he looked at Marlee.
Breaking the eye contact, Brenna hugged Marlee for several more seconds, soaking up her generous childish empathy. "Thank you," she said after they parted.
Small fingers began to wipe away her tears. "Want to play ball with me?"
Brenna looked at Walker. "If it's okay with your dad."
"Ten minutes," Walker said. "It's way past your bedtime."
Marlee heaved out a sigh so put-upon that Brenna found herself smiling. "Tell you what - I'll come by to play with you again sometime."
That satisfied Marlee and ten minutes later to the second, Brenna said good-bye and went to find Hawke. She ran into Riley instead. Her brother was happy to confirm that Judd hadn't returned to the den. "You shouldn't be sniffing around after him in the first place."
"Don't start. And I'm not sniffing at him." She was still mad over the way he'd abandoned her. Now he'd rubbed salt into the wound by not bothering to come back so she could flay the skin off his bones. That was how you fought. Disappearing was a sign of aggression and disinterest.
Fine. If that was how he wanted it, there were plenty more male fish in the sea.
She went prowling. It was time to get back in the game.
Judd woke to the smell of flowers and the sound of a soprano choir. He lay in bed and listened for several minutes as he checked his senses. All the mental and psychic channels were open and running at full strength. Satisfied, he swung his legs over the side and stood to begin going through a stretch routine designed to test every one of his muscle groups. The verdict was clear - he was fully functional.
Stripping off his briefs, he ducked into the tiny shower cubicle to his left. Once clean, he pulled on the pants and sweater he'd shucked before crashing yesterday. His jacket was in the car where he'd left it. When he opened the door and walked out into the hallway at the back of the church, he was struck by the crystal clarity of the choir.
The Psy had lost the ability to produce such tones after Silence, their voices too flat, too dead. But as his race didn't listen to music, that was considered no loss. Today, Judd knew that to be a lie - it was a loss, a great one. The fact he could understand both that truth and the beauty of what he heard was another warning sign, one he chose to ignore.
Father Perez emerged from another room down the hall. "Ah, you're awake." His expression was pensive. "You okay? Looked beat when you came in."
Judd had managed to make it behind the locked door of the spare room by the slimmest of margins. "I'm fine. Thank you for the bed." And for asking no questions.
"What are friends for?" Perez smiled. "How about a bite to eat? You've been out for" - he glanced at his watch - "close to twenty hours."
"I'll get - " He was about to say something else when a sense of urgency suddenly exploded to life in his brain. He had to get back - to Brenna. Before it was too late. "I have to go." With that, he ran past the priest and out.
The car was waiting in the attached indoor garage, fuel cells having recharged during his recovery. It was tempting to get in and take off without delay, but he spent ten careful minutes checking the car for tracking equipment. The SnowDancers were fanatical about keeping their den a secret - their tech arm had even perfected satellite-deflecting technology before the first spy satellite ever achieved stable orbit.
Judd agreed with their stance. Enemies couldn't target what they couldn't see. He'd do nothing to jeopardize the wolves' safety because that would jeopardize Brenna's safety. And that was unacceptable.