The other sentinel simply folded his arms. "Exactly like the Councilors then."
Dorian grinned despite himself. "Yeah. Where's my Psy consult?"
"About ten minutes behind us. Jamie's here, too." Clay jerked his head toward the man who'd just walked out from around the side of the house, having apparently done a security sweep. The skilled soldier had a habit of dyeing his hair in incomprehensible combinations of color - today it was a deep indigo streaked with either black or green. He gave a short wave in response to Dorian's nod, but didn't walk over to join them, his eyes scanning the area with predatory watchfulness.
"That's pretty sedate for Jamie," Dorian commented.
"He said it's his camouflage look." Clay shook his head. "Getting back to Sascha - what the hell do you expect her to do?"
Dorian's gaze drifted out to the wolf-eyed woman who stood so alone against those trees. "I need to know if Amara Aleine can be allowed to live."
Leaving Clay, he walked out after his mate. Ashaya had moved deeper into the shadows but he could track her through anything. Reaching her, he put his hand on the back of her head, and urged her gently toward his chest. She came after a short hesitation, but there was nothing broken in her. Instead, she seemed to vibrate with a vivid rage he could feel in his gut. The leopard gave a growl of respect deep within him. This woman's anger was not something to be ignored.
"Ready to go?" It wasn't what he wanted to say, wasn't the question he wanted to ask, but she'd been pushed incredibly far today. And it would get worse still.
In his arms, she gave a short nod. "Let's get it over with."
As they parted and began to walk back to the car, he could almost see her changing, almost see her wrapping the layers of emotionless control around herself. By the time they drove out, she sat straight-backed and alien next to him. It infuriated the leopard.
Ashaya Aleine is a threat to the Net. Given that the other Councilors seem more worried about their political positions than maintaining the purity of Silence, it appears I shall have to be the one to punish Aleine for her treasonous actions. And there has only ever been one sentence for such a crime: death.
- From the encrypted personal files of Councilor Henry Scott
Sascha arrived minutes after Dorian and Ashaya left. "I don't want to go inside." She hesitated in front of the greenery-cloaked door.
Lucas's arm came around her waist in a familiar embrace. "Talk to me."
"The badness coming off her... it's painful." She rubbed at her chest, trying to soothe the ache. "And yet at the same time, there's such need in it."
"Missing her twin?"
"Maybe." She bit her lip. "Since defecting from the Net, I've learned that not everything is black and white. There are shades of gray. But, Lucas, I don't know if I can accept this much gray." Her breath grew short, tight in her chest.
"Come on." He turned her toward the trees. "We'll go for a walk. Clay and Jamie have her covered." His hand slid down to tangle with hers as they walked a ways into the muted light of the forest. "This'll do." He moved to stand in front of her as she leaned back against the solid support of a tree trunk, his hands palms down on the trunk on either side of her head.
"Kitten," he said, his lashes sinfully rich against the deep green of his eyes. "Sascha, I can tell when you're not paying attention."
It made her smile despite her unease. "I was thinking you have pretty eyelashes."
"And I think you're trying to avoid the problem." The tough words of an alpha, but his lips had curved upward.
Sighing, she reached out to hook her fingers in the waistband of his jeans "I've felt evil - Santano Enrique was the most horrible thing I've ever touched. I've felt badness, too - what happened with the SnowDancer traitor. He wasn't evil, just rotten to the core." She felt her forehead wrinkle as she tried to find a way to explain. "And growing up with Nikita for a mother, I'm used to the peculiar coldness of Psy who are Silenced, but aren't sociopathic."
"Amara Aleine is different?" He braced his forearms alongside her head, enclosing her in a protective cocoon.
Sascha soaked it in, knowing it had been an instinctive act. Lucas was protective to his innermost core and she knew she'd always have to fight that part of him to exercise her freedom, but at times like this, it felt so perfect, she would give him anything. "Yes," she said, moving her fingers up under the fine linen of his shirt. "I'm messing up your shirt."
"Are you?" A kiss, a teasing flick of tongue along the seam of her lips. "Do it some more so I can be sure."
She laughed. "Cat." But he was her cat. "Amara," she said, taking strength from the incredible beauty of the mating bond that tied them together, "is oddly empty.
"Everyone has a... a taste, an emotional flavor," she explained. "Even newborns straight after birth - remember, I was with Anu when she delivered?" The memory made her heart swell with wonder. She'd been terrified at being requested to attend, but the joy had been incandescent. "But Amara, she's... a clean slate, but not. How do I explain?"
Then Lucas put into words what she couldn't. "There's no badness in her, no evil, but there's no goodness or hope of goodness either."
Sometimes, she thought, her panther understood her better than she did. "Yes, that's it. Now, I have to go in there and see whether we can guide her toward a more acceptable path." For Dorian. And for Ashaya. Not only because she was Dorian's, or because she'd helped save three innocent children, but because she'd renewed Sascha's faith in mothers in the Net - Ashaya loved her son, would never repudiate him as Nikita had repudiated Sascha. That knowledge healed a little of the scar Nikita had left in Sascha's heart. "If the DarkMind has Amara," she told Lucas, "change might not be possible. Even if it is, she won't ever be anything... good."