Kaleb knew she was referring to the anchors. The PsyNet needed them, but unfortunately, they had a tendency to fall victim to one of the lesser - known side effects of Silence - homicidal insanity.
"Yes," Ming agreed. "I've recently come into possession of facts that suggest non-anchors, too, are now beginning to feel the effects of the disturbances in the Net. It's feeding into weak minds, disrupting their conditioning."
"It's imperative we stop the Ghost before he does more damage. How did he get the bomb into Marshall's home in the first place?" Tatiana asked.
"Unknown." Shoshanna's cool mental tone. "We're tracing all visitors but no one sends up a red flag. Ming may be correct - the Ghost may be the moniker for a group, rather than an individual. Regardless, the Ghost is too good at this."
"But," Kaleb said, having kept his silence to that point, "he is not Council. He doesn't have our resources. We need to start hunting in earnest."
"Agreed." Five voices in unison. "The Ghost must be eliminated."
Kaleb wondered if any of the five realized they had just responded to him as if he were their leader.
Talin had known something was up the entire day. Clay had gone ever more silent as the hours passed, his eyes so darkly possessive she'd felt their touch to the core of her soul. God, the man made her shiver with need, all with a single hot look.
"Are you going tell me what you've been brooding about?" she asked the second they reached home that night.
Sometimes, the bond they'd formed in childhood was a problem. They had none of the walls that other couples did, had been friends far too long before becoming lovers. It was a brilliant, powerful feeling she'd never give up, but honestly - "You drive me crazy sometimes!"
He took off his jacket and leaned down to kiss her. She tried to dodge it, but Clay was in the mood to show off. He held her easily in place as he melted her bones from the inside out. When she could breathe again, she scowled. "I mean it. Tell me what's up."
"What did you say to get Jon and Noor to stay on at Tammy's?"
She bit her lip. "That we needed to make some additions to this place so that there would be enough room. Are you mad? I mean, I just assumed - "
He put a finger against her lips. "Jon can plug his ears when we make out. Noor's a baby. What the hell's she going to do - eat your chocolate?"
She wanted to be mad at him, but he made it so hard. "Jon's not exactly...good."
He laughed, a jaw-cracking laugh full of true humor. "Baby, I have bad covered. Leave the kid to me." He kissed her again. "This place is a bit far out. We might have to consider moving closer to the other families."
"Maybe later," she said. "Right now, they need the security of knowing no one can get to them and it's not going to get much more secure than the middle of DarkRiver land. They can study at home for a while. We'll get a computer tutor set up."
"Whatever you want." He pulled her hair out of its ponytail and thrust a hand through it. "Soon as we decide what we want where, construction can begin. Two, three days and we'll have new rooms."
"DarkRiver's in construction and I'm the boss as far as building goes." He grinned. "They'll haul ass. Dorian's already drawing up some plans."
"Is he really an architect?"
He tapped her lightly on the bottom. "Yes, and don't sass him. He's threatening to throw you into the nearest body of ice-cold water."
She stood on tiptoe, arms around his neck. "Nah. You wouldn't let him."
His smile turned violent in its tenderness. "No. You're mine to protect."
"Tell me," she whispered, her own smile dying. "Tell me what it is you're going to do."
"Why do you think I'm going to do anything?"
"Because," she swallowed, "you had that same look in your eyes the day you killed Orrin."
Green filled her vision as those magnificent eyes grew flame-hot. "And does it terrify you now, too?"
"Yes," she admitted. "It terrifies me to know I could lose you again because you care too much for me." A tear streaked down her face. "I'm not worth your life."
Clay hated seeing Tally cry, hated it. It wasn't the usual male thing with female emotion. It was this deep, eviscerating pain. Reaching up, he wiped away the tears with rough strokes of his thumb. "You are worth everything!" He was angry at her for thinking so little of herself. "Baby, you need to let me do this."
"Keep you safe."
"I am safe. With you."
He shook his head. "The Psy need to understand that you're protected. Anybody who comes after you takes their life into their hands."
"There's more than one," she pleaded with him. "If you go after them, they'll - "
"I'm not alone either." He nuzzled at her, wanting to reassure her, to soothe her, but unable to accept her plea to let it be. He couldn't claw out the disease inside her but he could get rid of this threat. "You're part of a pack now. Accept what they need to give you." What he needed to give her.
"I adore you," she whispered. "If you die, I'm not going to make it." The words were stark, her heart laid open on her sleeve.
"Then don't ask me to sit on my hands while you stand in harm's way," he demanded. "I need to protect you."
"I'm already si - "
He kissed her before she could say anything. She wasn't sick, wasn't dying. He refused to let her go. "We'll talk about that later," he told her. "Tonight, just...tell me you'll be here when I return." Ready to touch him no matter that he came to her with violence painted across his body.