Desiree scowled. "Why don't you ever forget shit?" She turned on her heel without waiting for an answer. "Should've been an elephant instead of a leopard."
Smile widening, Lucas watched her disappear into the trees as he coded in a call to Dorian, very aware of the other woman who'd just moved into his line of sight. Sascha leaned patiently against a slender pine, so gut-wrenchingly beautiful that he was tempted to haul her to him for a long, hungry kiss. But he was an alpha and Dorian was a sentinel who'd bled for him more than once - that loyalty went both ways. "No confirmation that it's Amara," he said when the other man answered, "but at this point, they want her alive enough that they gave us the time when she went in."
"How long before she reaches my cabin?"
"She's not used to the terrain so I'd say it'll be daybreak by then - if she doesn't fall and break her leg, or run into some of the more unfriendly wildlife."
"Could be a ruse."
"Yeah. Dezi's backtracking and I'm going to join her. What I want to know is why they haven't grabbed her on the PsyNet."
Dorian blew out a breath. "One option is that they're using her to get to Ashaya. But... Faith saw the DarkMind around Amara. Maybe it's hiding her."
"Hell." Lucas had deep respect for the DarkMind. He knew exactly how dangerous the entity could be. He also knew there was little chance of Amara Aleine coming out of this alive - neither he nor Dorian would allow the DarkMind's insidious brand of evil to taint the pack. "What happens if we find her?" he asked, since Dorian was the one with the most information on this.
A pause and he heard the edges of a soft-voiced conversation before Dorian came back on the line. "Bring her here. This has to end."
"That's what I thought." Finishing the call, he made the promised check - in with Meena, then coded in Jamie's number. The soldier picked up on the first ring. Lucas gave him the location of Dorian's cabin. "Might be guard duty, might be more." Usually, he would've called one of his remaining sentinels, but since Jamie and Dezi were both being considered for that status in the future, he needed to see what they were made of.
Jamie made a sound of agreement. "I'll probably make it just after daybreak."
"Should be fine." Done, Lucas put away the phone and walked over to satiate his hunger for his mate. The kiss was slow, passionate, perfect. "I'm going tracking."
Sascha nodded. "Want me to wait?"
"Do I want my mate to wait in a deserted forest while a dangerous Psy fugitive remains on the loose? Wait, let me think."
"Sarcasm does not suit you." She kissed him again, laughter in her eyes. "No overt attempts at psychic interference that I could determine."
"Good. Go home and rest." Neither of them had slept much, but he knew it would hit her harder - she was physically weaker than he was. Simple fact. And something his protective instincts wouldn't let him ignore. "If this is Amara, I have a feeling we'll be needing your gift."
Sascha's face grew solemn. "To have a broken twin... That's got to be a powerful bond - even in the PsyNet, twins aren't separated. I can't imagine how this could possibly end happily." Her hand curled around his. "Dorian's emotionally involved."
"If he loses another woman he considers his..." She shook her head. "He'll give in to the darkness. Nobody will be able to stop him."
Lucas didn't argue. He knew full well that if Ashaya died, Dorian would pick up a gun and go hunting. Only death would halt his quest for vengeance this time.
Ashaya met Dorian's eyes. "I want to stay on watch with you."
He scowled. "You have to go on camera again tomorrow - no, today. Catch some z's."
She sat on the edge of the bed, braiding her hair. "Yes," she said. "I have to make sure people understand that the Council murdered Ekaterina and the others."
He heard the anger and the leopard understood. For some crimes, there could be no forgiveness. "There's one other thing you need to take care of - we've had indications that some human group wants to use Omega to hit the Psy."
She blew out a breath. "I can't retract my statement. That'll undo everything we've achieved." A pause. "I'll make it clear the virus knows no racial boundaries."
"I never thought about that aspect of things," she murmured. "I used Omega because it was the biggest Council secret I knew - I wanted something that would cause so many ripples that they'd forget about looking for one small lost boy."
"You used the very thing that could've led to his death, to protect him."
"Ironic, isn't it?"
"Smart," he said, flicking his eyes toward her. She looked so solemn and neat with those tight braids on either side of her head that he had the wicked impulse to mess her up again.
She met his gaze. "You have the cat in your eyes."
In truth, the leopard was stretched out inside him, tense with worry. But it was also... happy. Because she was here. And both man and leopard would do everything and anything to keep her safe. "Whatever happens, you do the broadcast today. We need to make you so hot that your death would cause more problems than it would solve." For one, they'd have a sniper on their trail. It was an icy calm thought.
"The Council wouldn't have cared once," Ashaya said. "They'd have silenced me and any critics. I guess things are changing, but the pace is so slow."
"Silence has had over a century to take root," he reminded her. "It can't be ended overnight."