"Anything we need to worry about?" The information Teijan had already provided was critical. If the Psy were getting closer to implosion, DarkRiver and SnowDancer both needed to know, to prepare, because like it or not, the psychic race occupied a vital spot in the world's ecosystem. "You get names?"
"They mentioned an Anthony Kyriakus," he threw out. "Never heard of him. Must be one of them."
Clay snapped to attention. "You're sure?" Anthony was Faith's father and the possible leader of a quiet revolution against the Psy Council. Aside from Faith and Vaughn, only the sentinels and DarkRiver's alpha pair knew that deadly secret.
"Yes. But I don't know if he was the target." His eyes flicked to the photo in his hand. "There's something about this boy - he's different. I'll see what I can find out." He was gone in a dark flash.
Retracing his steps, Clay pulled himself out of the manhole before using his cell phone to make a call to Vaughn. "Tell Faith to warn her father."
"I have a feeling even if he is the target, it's Anthony who'll come out alive," Vaughn drawled. "He's a tough son of a bitch."
"If you see him, try and get a feel for the general weather in the PsyNet."
"Last time we spoke, he said the storm winds are building. This other rebel - the Ghost - he's done some serious damage in the past few months." The sound of metal against stone, as if Vaughn was continuing to sculpt as they talked. "So what's this I hear about you?"
"You've shacked up with a woman?"
Clay scowled. "None of your damn business."
"Tell that to Faith - she's got a thing for you." Sheer amusement in the jaguar's tone. "She thinks you need a protector. I told her you need one about as much as a pit bull needs one."
"Thanks." He meant that. Talin, regardless of what she said, was damn possessive where he was concerned. She would not react well to another woman's interference.
Ending the call, Clay made his way to DarkRiver's business HQ, located in a medium-sized office building near Chinatown. Lucas was meant to be there today - he had a meeting with the heads of a human corporation. Clay, as construction supervisor on the project, had originally been scheduled to attend.
Ria, Lucas's executive assistant, was working at her desk when Clay entered the outer part of Lucas's office.
She smiled. "The meeting wrapped up a few minutes ago."
"Thanks." He entered after a quick knock, knowing Lucas would have already caught his scent.
The other man was sitting on one of the black leather-synth sofas he kept for clients. "Grab a seat while I finish this sandwich."
Clay collapsed into the opposing seat but couldn't relax, his mind on Talin and what it would do to her if they didn't find this boy in time.
"Here." Lucas threw him an apple.
Catching it by reflex, he bit into it. "It's like this kid disappeared into thin air." Clay was one of the most patient hunters in the pack, but today, he felt dangerously on edge.
"What have you got so far?" Sandwich finished, Lucas picked up a bottle of water.
Clay laid out the facts, then glanced toward the doorway. "Nate's here."
There was a perfunctory knock before the other sentinel walked in. His eyes lit up at the sight of food. "I'm starving. Couldn't find anything I liked out there."
"That's because you're used to Tammy's cooking." Lucas pushed the plate of sandwiches in his direction.
"I've got something to tell you about the Rats, too." Clay repeated what Teijan had said, polishing off his apple in the process.
"What's your take?" Lucas asked.
"I say he's serious." He grabbed a couple of crackers. "He hinted at this the last time we spoke but I told him we wouldn't agree to anything but a full pact." A pact, not a true alliance, because the Rats weren't equal to DarkRiver in power. That agreement, DarkRiver had only with SnowDancer. A pact was an acknowledgment of the weaker group's submissive status and a promise by the stronger party to provide aid if necessary.
"He has to come to me." Lucas picked up a bottle of water and set it in front of Nate, lobbing another in Clay's direction. "I go Down Below, it's a concession. Send Barker to deliver the message."
"I'll handle that," Nate said around the cracker he'd bitten into. "This works, we get a built-in spy network. And to think I argued with you about the Rats when we first took control of the city."
Lucas shrugged. "Calculated gamble. It could've turned out badly if the Psy had ever figured out they were down there, but they didn't. So now we take advantage. Let's have a meeting tonight, decide this. My place."
"Make it Nate's," Clay said. "I can't leave Talin alone." And she wasn't yet trusted enough to be shown the location of their alpha pair's lair. The only reason he'd taken her to Tammy's house was because it was already well known by a number of parties. That was why it was guarded round the clock by a rotation of soldiers most visitors never saw.
"Fine with me," Nate said. "Kids are heading to see their grandparents tonight anyway."
"Talin can't attend the meeting." Lucas met Clay's eyes. "You okay with that?"
"Yeah," he said, but the leopard flexed its claws in disagreement. The protective animal heart of him wanted her accepted unconditionally by the pack - an impossible task. Now, more than ever, DarkRiver had to be careful who it trusted with its secrets. Because not only were the Psy watching, so were changeling and human spies. "She can stay in one of the upstairs bedrooms while we meet downstairs."