He used a thumb to wipe the tear off her face. "I don't even know why I told you." He sounded bemused. "You're dangerous."
She choked out a laugh. "No. I just have the bad habit of caring for men who can't seem to care for themselves."
"Speaking of the damn Psy, where is he? I need him to sit in on a meeting."
"He's somewhere close," she said, knowing her dark angel was watching over her. "Can I ask what the meeting's about?"
"The cats think they have something on the Psy who hit DawnSky. The hyena leader knew nothing about it - it was a fully Psy raid." His voice had dropped, become lethal in its quietness. "Goddamn bastards killed children."
"I hope you rip out their guts while they're still breathing."
Hawke's grin was feral. "That's why I like you, Bren. You're more wolf than girl."
He shouldn't have used the code. He'd been overconfident. Now Riley was questioning all his top men. Sooner or later, they were going to figure out that he hadn't been where he was supposed to have been the day Andrew got shot.
It didn't matter. As long as Brenna wasn't around to point the finger, they'd never be able to prove that he'd done anything more than break watch without authorization.
No more f**king around. Today, he finished it.
Judd took his position against the wall in the meeting room, impatient to get this over with so he could return to Brenna. Of course he wouldn't approach her, but he could keep an eye on her from a distance. His well-honed instincts were screaming at him by now, telling him that danger was only a heartbeat away.
If he could, he'd lock her in for safety. But that would kill her as surely as murder.
I'm never going to be put in a box again...
No, he couldn't do that to her.
"We're live," Indigo said as the huge comm screen at one end of the room came on. Lucas appeared on-screen, flanked by Dorian and Mercy, much as Indigo and Judd flanked Hawke.
The leopard alpha met Judd's eyes, raised an eyebrow, then turned to Hawke. "So you finally did something about him. About bloody time."
Judd shifted to bring Lucas's attention back to him. "I'd say we came to a mutual understanding."
It wasn't Lucas who spoke next but Dorian. "So how does a Psy lieutenant hunt?"
He met the leopard's bright blue gaze. "Very quietly."
"So do snipers." Dorian's expression was calculating. "We should talk."
"I might need a sparring partner." If he succeeded in breaking Silence, physical contact in another arena might serve to blunt the truly dark aspect of his abilities around Brenna. Because no matter what happened, he was what he was. Killing was built into his genes.
"Karate?" Those completely human-seeming eyes brightened in interest.
"Hot damn. Let's do it."
Lucas coughed. "If you two have stopped flirting, we have business to discuss."
Indigo grinned but stayed silent. Mercy wasn't so reticent. "So that's what it takes to get into Dorian's pants. I'll let the sentinel-chasers know." Her packmate's growl only widened her smirk.
Hawke nodded at Lucas. "You got something?"
"We think we've tracked down the assassins who hit DawnSky."
All amusement faded from the air. Judd looked at Lucas. "Are you certain? I told you that uniform is worn by every member of the Psy force under Ming LeBon's command."
"That's the problem," Lucas conceded. "We've narrowed it down to a specific squad, but there are fifty of them. Six Psy were spotted during the attack."
Dorian shrugged, no mercy in his face. "You know my opinion - gut them all."
"We do that, it's a declaration of war." Lucas's tone said he wouldn't mind going head-to-head with the Psy. "But that's what they want - it'll give them an excuse to come down hard on all changeling groups in the area. A pinpoint hit will deliver our message far more accurately."
Judd knew Lucas was right. "I may be able to get you the data."
Everyone looked at him.
"I have contacts in the Net." He let that sink in, let them judge his loyalties. "Not everyone is happy with how the Council is running things."
Hawke glanced at him, then gave a small nod. A concession of trust. "Backup plan," the alpha said to Lucas, "we take out the exact number of Psy who attacked the deer."
"That'll make the point with a little less finesse, but yeah, it could work." Lucas tapped his finger on the dark wood of the table he sat at. "I've been thinking about their tactics - trying to turn the packs against each other."
"So have I," Hawke said. "They have to have used it before, and successfully, to try the game on us."
Lucas's facial markings went white against his skin. "Doesn't say much about our intelligence if we can be worked so easily."
"We weren't. But weaker packs would be."
"You're too divided," Judd broke in. "It's the first lesson Psy soldiers learn. Don't try to take out changelings - get them to take out each other."
Someone growled and Judd wasn't sure that that primal sound hadn't come from one of the feminine throats. He remembered how Brenna growled at him when he got her mad. Her wolf side fascinated him - he liked seeing her claws.
"Let me guess," Hawke said, "before, the Council kept their interference minimal in this region because SnowDancer and DarkRiver kept each other in check."
Judd nodded. "Yes. And if the computer attack doesn't succeed in warning them off, they'll keep picking away at you and your nonpredatory allies - until your power base is eroded to the point of nonexistence. Then they'll launch a quiet offensive to install Council-friendly packs in place of your former allies."