Sascha had found herself blushing. "Sorry. I know that. Your love for Brenna... it's so beautiful, I wish you could see it as I do."
"I do see it." His eyes had lit from within. "But I can only go so far with someone outside my circle. You want my professional opinion - Amara Aleine needs to die. It's blind luck she was born with a passive ability. If she'd been a powerful telepath or telekinetic, she'd be another Enrique." A pause. "Knowing that's got to be hell on Dorian."
Which was the reason why Sascha sat here, facing this woman who repelled her with her emptiness. "What's your plan?" she asked. "What do you intend to do if you succeed in killing Dorian?"
"I'll go back to my experiments and Ashaya will return to hers."
Sascha glimpsed the flickers of intelligence and knew Amara was seeing the flaws in her own answer. Good. "That's an impossible goal. Ashaya can't return to her previous life now that she's defied the Council so openly."
"Not if she retracts her statements."
"Do you really believe that?" A sense of quiet menace crawled over Sascha's skin as she spoke, and she wondered why she was so afraid. This woman hadn't yet killed anyone, nor was she violent in general. Perhaps, she thought, it was a simple case of her gift reacting negatively to someone who was so much the antithesis of everything she was.
"We both know," she said when Amara remained mute, "that she's made herself too public a figure. The Council would rehabilitate her in a heartbeat. Otherwise, she'd become a magnet for rebel activity."
"Then we'll go rogue." A shrug. "We can still do our work."
"True," she agreed. "Do you think that will be enough for Ashaya? Is she a creature of solitude?"
Amara's eyes stared into Sascha's, as if she was searching for something. "You're like me."
"I'm nothing like you." Sascha couldn't withhold her shock.
"You steal other people's emotions like some vulture or vampire, and then you use them up. It's what makes you so good at pretending. Inside, you're like me."
Sascha had faced down a Psy butcher who'd killed without remorse, but she couldn't continue speaking to Amara Aleine, couldn't stand to listen to her sly whispers. Getting up, she walked out. Lucas came after her as she strode toward the woods. "I am not an emotional vampire!"
Her mate didn't miss a beat. "No, you're not. And she's a sociopath who you really shouldn't be listening to."
"I don't pretend!" She turned, pushed at his chest. "I love you so goddamn much it tears me to pieces. Why the hell would I feel that if I was pretending?"
"Again," Lucas said, holding her to him with his arms around her waist, "consider the source."
She muttered and yelled some more, releasing the anger, before collapsing against his chest. "She got to me."
"It happens to the best of us."
"Yeah? Who gets to you?" He was so strong that sometimes she worried. Everyone needed to bend a little, even a panther responsible for the lives of his entire pack.
"That damn wolf. He sent you a present last week."
Sascha smiled at the thought of Hawke's flirting. The SnowDancer alpha did it only to jerk Lucas's chain. "I never saw any present. What was it?"
"How the hell should I know? I stomped on it and threw it into the deepest crevice I could find." He smirked. "Then I called him to ask how Sienna was doing."
She burst out laughing. "Wicked, wicked man." Everyone knew Sienna Lauren was the short fuse on Hawke's temper. The Psy teenager appeared to have made it her mission in life to get on his last nerve. "What did he say?"
"That she's planning a party for her eighteenth birthday." The laughter in Lucas's tone told her exactly what Hawke had sounded like as he shared that tidbit.
"But doesn't she still have half a year to go?" She figured out her mistake before Lucas could answer. "Of course. She was sixteen when they defected, but that was months before we first met her." Her eyes went wide. "That means we've been mated close to a year and a half."
"Yeah." He stroked her back slow and sure, the caress of a panther being gentle with his mate. "And I've almost killed Hawke a hundred times since then. I swear to God, he calls you 'darling' one more time, I'm going to put him on his wolf ass."
She laughed, but he'd proven his point. Everyone had their tipping point. Hers happened to be Amara Aleine. But she wasn't the important one here. "I need to do something - this is bad, really bad, for Dorian. He was just starting to come back to us. When I saw how he was with Tally, I thought things could only get better." The sentinel seemed to adore Clay's mate, flirted with her on a regular basis. "Now this."
"Do I need to get rid of Amara?" The hard edge of an alpha in his tone.
Sascha had been part of DarkRiver long enough to understand the ties of loyalty, of Pack. But the harshness of it still startled sometimes. "You'd spill blood for him?"
"That's not even a question, kitten."
No, she thought, it wasn't. "It's too complicated, Lucas. Even in the PsyNet, twins tend to stick together. Most die within days of each other."
"Ashaya is Dorian's mate. I can feel it." Lucas's face was a study in shadow and light, pure strength and protectiveness combined. "She'll survive no matter what happens - he won't let her go."
"But she might be permanently damaged by such a traumatic loss." She shook her head. "We have to figure another way out."