"Which you never again will be." Lucas's tone was flint hard.
Sascha shot her mate a scowl. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted" - another scowl, which Lucas responded to with a grin - "if I was uplinked to the Net, I could run a specific search, but now that I'm out, my data is based on what I knew before I dropped out."
"What about the library stuff?" Lucas asked.
Sascha nodded. "I've been doing research in human libraries," she explained to Talin. "Lucas is right, I might know some names from there..." Her voice trailed off, her eyes on a particular chart.
Lucas tipped his chair to the ground. "What is it?"
"Nothing," she murmured, but her tone said otherwise.
Getting up, Lucas walked around the table to lean over Sascha's other side, even as Clay did the same with Talin. It would've been very easy to be overwhelmed by the size and presence of the two men. Both were big. Both were undeniably dangerous. But Talin felt incredibly safe. Because these were men who cared for their women.
The revelation shocked her. So simple and yet so powerful, disproving as it did the conclusion that violence in one situation inevitably led to violence in another. Talin felt one of her strongest barriers fall - there was no longer any worry in her that Clay would one day lose his control and hurt her. Even now, he was doing that thing he seemed to like doing with her ponytail.
A possessive act. But also an act of deep tenderness.
Emotions a wet knot in her throat, she tried to focus on Sascha. "What do you see?"
The cardinal's night-sky eyes clashed with Talin's and for the first time, Talin saw not peace but confusion. "Can you show me the other family trees first?"
"Here's the one they had for Mickey." She forced herself to say his name. He deserved to be remembered, to be mourned. "Jon's was one of the most intricate, but they're all pretty in-depth."
"You're right," Lucas murmured, fingering one of the printouts. "How the hell did they manage to trace this many relatives and descendants?"
"Easiest explanation is that someone was keeping records from the start," Clay said. "Like changelings do."
"You do?" Talin and Sascha asked at the same time.
Clay released her ponytail, only to stroke it again from the top. Her heart hitched. "Sure," he said, his voice quiet, full of power. "The pack historian always does it."
"It's the best way we had in the past of tracking genetics, including any possible inherited diseases," Lucas added.
"Like isolated farming communities," Talin said, her mind flying back through the years. "The Larkspurs had their genealogy written down in the front of the family Bible."
Lucas picked up the file Sascha had been staring at earlier. "Sascha?"
"What are the odds?"
Talin looked up at Clay. "Do you know what they're muttering about?"
He shook his head. "They're mated."
Oddly enough, Talin understood. Different rules applied to couples, especially couples as profoundly in sync as Lucas and Sascha. Their connection was a near visible line of pure emotion, one that made her hurt with envy.
"Tally." Clay tugged at her ponytail.
She glanced up, knowing that unlike the alpha pair, she and Clay remained divided. In her mind, she saw them on opposite ends of a glass bridge. Able to see the abyss that awaited if they didn't make it to each other, but unable to take the steps that would close the gap forever. "Sit down," she said, angry at him for being so possessive, at herself for being too scared to trust in his promise to never leave her again. "You're giving me a crick in my neck."
He raised an eyebrow at her sharpness but grabbed a seat, angling it so he could keep an eye on the door. Even in this safe place, Clay was on guard. She wasn't surprised - he was too protective to be any other way. And her flash of frustrated anger aside, she adored him exactly as he was. She didn't want to change Clay. God, no. She just wanted to reach the secret heart of him, the part he kept hidden...because she had once torn it right out of him.
"Talin." Sascha's tone was solemn enough to have them both paying complete attention. "If we can trust these records, then you're correct, there appears to be a Psy link. It's not the names - though a few of them set off alarm bells - it's something you might not have realized the significance of." Her hand clenched on the sheets she held. "All these trees start between a hundred to a hundred and five years ago."
"God damn," Clay whispered, dropping his foot from the rung of her chair and shifting to sit with his arm around the back. He explained before Talin could ask. "That was around the time that Psy began to condition their kids not to feel."
"You think some of them got out?" she asked, then noticed Sascha fingering the edge of one particular tree. "Sascha?"
"I really can't be sure about this." Her voice was hesitant. "Please understand that."
"I do. We're just throwing out ideas here." But she could feel the answers so close.
Nodding, the cardinal pointed to one particular name. "Mika Kumamoto was the name of my great-great-grandmother. Her daughter Ai was six years old when Silence went into effect. She became one of the transitional children." Her voice held a wealth of pain.
Talin put her hand over Sascha's in silent comfort. The other woman curled her fingers around Talin's and continued to speak. "I stole my family history before I left the Net. The file on Mika stops eighteen years after Ai's birth. I thought that that meant she had died, and for some reason, the death hadn't been noted. That time was chaotic," she told them. "It was more than a decade after the implementation of Silence, but there were still problems, because of the elderly who couldn't be fully conditioned."