"I didn't see you. Your brothers refused to let anyone near." But he'd gone into the room afterward. He'd seen where she'd been held, seen the restraints she'd bloodied in her attempts to get out, the instruments of torture Enrique had preferred over his Psy abilities.
Her tears had lessened, but she didn't stop crying altogether until several minutes later. If he never heard those broken cries again, it would be too soon. Her ensuing silence cut parts of him no one should have been able to reach. He wanted to force her to speak.
The blue flare around her eyes seemed to glow when she finally raised her head. "I made Drew and Sascha tell me the details of the rescue. They didn't mention you, aside from saying you'd provided a psychic distraction at a certain point in the trap."
"Sascha never knew about my involvement," he told her. "I was a last-minute addition when Hawke realized who they were dealing with. He figured it wouldn't hurt to have a Psy on board, especially a trained soldier. My job was to deal with any psychic offensive."
"Hawke trusted you?"
"No." Judd had no illusions about that. "But he knew I wouldn't do anything, not with the kids still back in the den." When she didn't respond, he continued. "I'm guessing Andrew didn't mention it because his memories of that day are confused at best. He was driven by pure anger. He might not even have seen me. I went in with the team to execute Enrique, while he and Riley peeled off to rescue you."
She'd been held in a large soundproofed room in Enrique's apartment, only meters from where her abductor slept. "Enrique was tired from the PsyNet battle with Sascha" - the other Psy had managed to weaken the former Councilor as well as confirm his identity as Brenna's abductor - "but he wasn't wiped out."
Judd had blocked Enrique's volley of objects as the wolves and cats swarmed in, unable to use his Tk-Cell abilities to stop Enrique's heart because his opponent had been too good at deflecting back Tk power. But then, so was Judd. While Enrique was focusing his efforts on Judd, erroneously judging him the biggest threat, the DarkRiver leopards and SnowDancer wolves had surrounded him.
The second they were in position, Judd had thrown everything he had at the other Tk, punching a hole in Enrique's physical shields. It was all the changelings needed. They'd torn him to pieces in a matter of minutes. Blood had sprayed the walls in a spurt of arterial red, a fitting coda to a killer's life. In the melee, no one had realized exactly what it was they had seen Judd do, leaving the secret of his Tk abilities intact.
Brenna's hand opened against his shirt. "You didn't see me."
"No." At least he could tell her that truth.
She nodded, as if accepting his explanation. "I'm glad."
He kissed the shell of her ear. "No more tears. Ever."
"Sorry, honeypie, but I'm wolf. We're temperamental - get used to it."
"Not that one. I'll accept darling and even baby," he said, feeling something unclench in his chest at hearing her sound like herself again, "but never honeypie."
"Babycakes?" She rubbed her face against his chest.
He took a page from Andrew's book. "Now you're just being mean."
She laughed and it was the best sound he'd heard in eternity.
He was late to the meeting with Indigo - further delayed by a call to let Riley know Brenna was alone - but he truly didn't give a damn. The only thing he cared about was that the captured hyena had once posed a danger to Brenna - his death warrant was already signed.
Indigo was waiting outside the undamaged section of the cabin, her breath frosting the past-midnight air. "Thought you'd never get here."
"Where is he?"
"Inside. Male from the PineWood pack - they control a tiny slice of Arizona." The high tail of her black hair swung as she jerked her head to indicate the door. "He's not talking. That's why I called you. Hyenas usually crack under pressure. They're scavengers, not predators."
Scavengers - those who preyed on the weak and helpless. If Brenna had fallen, the hyenas would have savaged her. His eyes flicked to the windows of the wooden structure behind Indigo, his senses searching for and finding the unfamiliar mental scent of the captive. The urge to crush his skull was overpowering, bad enough for the dissonance to warn him to pull back. He listened because the captive couldn't die. Not yet. "If they're cowards, what's given this one a spine?"
"He's more scared of someone else." Indigo's voice was not pleased. "And people usually start praying when they see me."
"You think it's the Council." They were the nightmare, the thing under the bed, the deepest darkness. And they knew how to wait. Much as a spider knows how to wait.
"Yeah - it can't be another pack." She rubbed her gloveless hands together. "If it were, he'd have sung like a canary by now."
"Is he blindfolded?" If, for no reason that he could foresee right now, Judd let the man live, he could not be allowed to become a threat to the family. Of course, given that Judd knew he wasn't rational where Brenna was concerned, the hyena's chances of walking out alive were close to nil.
Indigo nodded. "I put it on when I heard your vehicle."
"I'll make him talk."
Another nod and then Indigo led him into the cabin. The hyena sat on a chair in the center of the room, fear a damp sheen over his face. Seeing it, Judd glanced at Indigo. "You're right." No one that petrified would have held out for long otherwise, not with four wolves in the room - Indigo, D'Arn, Elias, and the knife thrower, Sing-Liu.
The hyena was thin with sallow skin. Black hair. A pathetic goatee in the same shade. The latter was a straggling attempt to hide a chin so weak, it was a wonder he hadn't wet himself. His eyes were covered by a strip of dark brown fabric but Judd didn't need to see them to know the panic skittering through the captive's bones.