Tammy tucked a soft blanket around their charge, hands gentle. "Talin wanted to take him since her and Clay's place is harder to find, but Sascha said no."
"Sascha said that?" The Psy renegade who had mated with DarkRiver's alpha, Lucas, adored children.
"We don't know what the boy can do," Tammy reminded him, "and Talin's got Jon and Noor living with her. Jon would probably be okay, but we're not sure how well Noor can safeguard herself. Keenan could influence her telepathically without even meaning to."
Dorian nodded, his leopard retreating. Keenan was now his to protect, but so was little Noor. "Right." Changelings had rock-solid mental shields; but Noor wasn't changeling, and though she carried some Psy DNA, most of her was vulnerably human. "What about your boys?"
"I'm sending them to stay with their grandparents for a bit." She brushed Keenan's hair off his forehead. "Poor baby's so small - how could anyone have hurt him?" Her tone was on the dangerous side of feral.
He walked over to take her into his arms. "Shh, we've got him now."
"I'll gut anyone who tries to bruise this boy again." She tucked her head under his chin, letting him soothe her. "I don't know who Ashaya Aleine is, but she did something good in getting him out."
Dorian's heart kicked.
I saved two innocent lives. You won't kill me.
"Is Sascha on her way?" he asked, ignoring the flicker of memory. It was far harder to erase the image burned into his brain - of an icy stranger silhouetted against the night sky.
"She should be arr - " They both heard it at the same time. The sound of a car coming down the drive. "That'll be her."
"Hope she can help the kid cope." It wasn't a vain wish. While Tammy was a healer attuned to changeling leopards, Sascha was an E-Psy, an empath, born with the ability to sense and heal emotional wounds.
Tammy drew back, kissing him on the cheek in thanks. "Sascha said he's connected to you. How?"
Dorian had been thinking about that. He raised his hand and showed Tammy the cut on his palm - it was already close to healed. "Blood oaths are powerful things and I promised him he'd be okay. Maybe because of that, when my blood mixed with his, it gave him a choice as to where he wanted to go." And he'd chosen to trust Dorian. It was a trust both leopard and man intended to honor.
Sascha came in at that instant, tall and with worry in her cardinal eyes - white stars on black velvet. "That's as good a guess as any," she said, walking over to stroke her hand gently over Keenan's brow. "He's in the Web, but only through you. You're his lifeline."
Dorian's protectiveness toward the boy intensified. If he had a weakness, it was for the vulnerable, for those who couldn't fight the monsters on their own. "He'll be scared when he wakes." He could still feel those fragile bones trembling as the boy tried to hide his excruciating fear.
"He'll sleep awhile yet." Sascha sent Dorian a worried glance as Tammy excused herself in order to pack for her cubs' stay with their grandparents. "Why don't you go for a run? It's been a hard day." There was a question in her eyes that he read loud and clear.
"No need to worry, Sascha darling." He smiled at her chiding look, knowing full well she had a soft spot for him. "I'm not going to lose any sleep over taking those shots today - they were holding a child hostage." His leopard growled inwardly at the memory of the blood on Keenan's wrists.
Sascha seemed satisfied with that, her attention shifting back to Keenan. "He'll be safe now." Her voice caught and he wondered what emotions she'd sensed around the boy. "Protected."
"Thanks to his mother." Dorian's thoughts turned to Ashaya Aleine, a woman he'd seen as a shadow in the darkness two months ago... and hadn't been able to forget since. "You think she can get out?"
"I have my doubts." Sascha closed her hand around one of Keenan's. "From what Judd shared, the Council needs her. And it has a way of getting what it wants."
"I think you're underestimating her." Dorian recalled the freezing tones of Ashaya's voice, recalled, too, how hard and low that voice had hit him. Fucking two-fisted punch to the gut. If -
The trapped leopard inside of him snapped its teeth when he bit off that thought, but the human half was in no mood to listen. "So far, she's managed to get three children out of potentially fatal situations - Jon, Noor, and now, Keenan." The woman might be cold enough to give him freezer burn, but she was also smart as hell.
Sascha nodded. "The trouble is, we have no clue as to her motivation. I want to believe that she did it out of love for her son... but we both know mothers don't always protect their own in the Net."
Dorian couldn't argue with that. Ashaya was Psy. Psy didn't feel. So why had the Council been able to use Keenan as leverage to ensure his mother's good behavior? It made her a mystery. Dorian had always liked mysteries. What he didn't like were Psy in the Net, Psy who worshipped the cold, unfeeling God of Silence.
Psy like Ashaya Aleine.
His blood thundered with a tidal wave of black rage. It was a familiar feeling - one of the Silent, a cardinal telekinetic named Santano Enrique, had butchered Dorian's sister, using her as a canvas on which to carve his sick fantasies. Dorian had torn the killer apart with his bare hands, but that hadn't quieted the rage in his animal heart, the torment in his human soul.
Kylie's body had still been warm when he reached her.
"Dorian." Sascha's voice cut through the miasma of pain and rage. "Don't."
Don't punish yourself for a monster's crime; don't let him kill you, too. It was what she'd said to him in the months after Enrique's execution, and Dorian had tried to listen. For a while, he'd thought he'd conquered the anger, but it had only been in hiding. Now, it came to pulsing life, triggered by the remembered sight of the blood on Keenan's wrists... triggered, too, by the memory of Ashaya Aleine's blue ice of a voice.