He turned to meet her eyes. "Why?"
"We're a team, Henry."
"When it suits you, my dear wife." A mockery of an endearment, completely devoid of emotion.
Shoshanna stared at him, belatedly realizing that he hadn't been acting like himself recently. "Your behavior isn't conforming to your known psychological profile."
"Perhaps I'm exercising a previously dormant aspect of my personality."
She listened to the cadence of his voice, measuring the physical distribution of his weight at the same time. "You're favoring your left side." It was such a slight flaw that it would be unnoticeable to anyone who hadn't known him as long as she had.
"Are you saying I'm brain-damaged?"
Her mind clicked. "We had our implants removed before they malfunctioned, but perhaps yours began to degrade while connected to your neural tissues." She made a mental note to get her own brain rescanned for any signs of decay.
"What won't you do to hold on to power." A statement, not a question. "The implant experience merely opened my eyes. I prefer being the puppet master, not the puppet."
"Henry, your brain is clearly malfunct - "
"And even if it is," he said slowly, "what will you do?"
"I can have you committed to the Center."
"On what grounds? Will you tell them that we had our brains implanted with a stolen device, that we were planning to wrench away control of the Council by making the others our slaves?"
Shoshanna had no answer to that because he was right - she wouldn't give up everything she'd achieved just to turn him in. "You need to get medical assistance."
"No, Shoshanna, I don't think so. And don't try an assassination - I know all your tricks. I was connected to your mind, remember?" With that, he walked out of the room.
I was connected to your mind, remember?
Yes, he had been, but she'd been certain she was the controlling entity. Now, it appeared she'd made a gross miscalculation. Henry was a pure telepath - she had no way of knowing what he'd plucked from her brain, or embedded within it. As she had no way of knowing how much damage had been done to Henry's neural tissues... or what he'd do now that he was operating free of any normal constraints.
When you take Aleine, make sure you leave behind evidence that implicates the Council. With their blood riding high after the assassination attempt, the leopards won't stop to question things. Play them.
- Secure e-mail sent from unknown individual in Venice to unknown number of recipients in San Francisco
Dorian had decided to keep being rational - hell, he wasn't going to throw away the miracle of his mate and child - but his cat wouldn't settle, even though it appeared that Ashaya was now untouchable as far as the Council was concerned. In fact, according to Anthony, the Council was actively protecting her, and had even reined in Pure Psy on the matter.
The irony of it might've been rich had Dorian's cat not been so aggravated at having been cheated of a target on which to vent its rage. Dorian had always known he was a little more leopard than other changelings in human form - his cat seeking to get out whatever way it could - but he'd expected the savage nature of his need to lessen after mating.
It had only gotten worse - as if the cat knew it would never be stroked by its mate, never be admired as was its right, never even be seen by the woman who was everything to it. The leopard was dying a little each day and all that distressed anger was now being channeled into a pounding need to blame someone.
His meeting with Anthony Kyriakus didn't help matters. The rebel Councilor was blunt in his choice of words. "Ashaya needs to stay out of the limelight. Anything she does from here on out would just put her in danger, while contributing nothing to the cause."
"Because she feels?" He barely kept his tone civil.
"Yes." Eyes of cool brown met his. "Silence is beginning to crumble at the edges, but the ones who've broken the chains make our imprisoned state far too obvious - people aren't ready to see the truth, to go out into the unfamiliar darkness."
Dorian looked at Anthony, and wondered at the strength it took to play the double-edged game the other man had been playing for longer than any of them knew. "So, they're all safe?"
"Yes. Amara's been written off - she was already unstable and if they get a chance to hit her, they will. But she's not an active target."
"Was only useful as a way to control Ashaya. He's not a uniquely powerful Psy in his own right, and no one seems particularly concerned about what happened to him."
Dorian's hackles lowered. "Thanks for the intel."
Anthony gave a slight nod. "If I ever find out who ordered the hit, I'll tell you."
"Good. I can't wait to tear his heart from his chest." Even if it took years, Dorian would finish this. Patience was simply another side of stubborn, and Dorian had stubborn in spades.
But now, as he stood outside the cabin while Ashaya and Keenan slept inside - Ashaya in his bed, Keenan up above in a hastily but carefully erected addition to his home - his cat was anything but patient. It wanted to make someone pay. For being trapped, for being unable to protect its mate, for being goddamn latent. Claws shoved inside his fingernails, cutting and tearing. But never coming out. It f**king hurt. Until the pain and the anger left him unable to think.
And then the enticing scent of wild honey and woman heat wrapped around him. An instant later, he felt Ashaya's cheek press into his bare back as her arms slid around to lie palms down over his chest. The man leaned back into her hold and even the cat settled a little under the petting. The pain faded.