Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling 6) - Page 75

"I managed to get it restarted." Trembling fingers pressed to her lips. "Amara couldn't use her abilities for five minutes, but she crashed at the thirty-minute mark. Depending on the dosage, the drug could stop a Psy heart in any time range."

Mercy brushed aside the information for the moment. "I'm going to call Dorian for you."

"He's almost here." Ashaya lifted her hand in silent thanks, even as anger filled her expression. "They likely developed this drug to block Psy powers, but now they're using it to weaken and kill."

"Do you think they know?" Riley asked.

"It has to have been tested. They must've decided the risk was worth it."

"Why?" Riley persisted. "What's the point if the target dies?"

"Given the dosage we found in the darts, if they'd shot me during the kidnapping attempt, they would've had at least a ten-minute window either to give me some kind of an antidote - one that would've neutralized the fatal element - or be ready with equipment to restart the heart." She took a deep breath. "They're being extremely confident about its use, which makes me believe there is an antidote. There was medical equipment in one of the vehicles they drove to the ambush site."

"But no possible trace of an antidote." Mercy shook her head. "I'm more inclined to think they're playing Russian roulette. Hearts don't always restart."

Ashaya nodded. "Either way, the Human Alliance is a real threat." With that, she clicked off.

Riley rose to his full height. "If this drug didn't have lethal side effects, would the ethics worry you?"

She took time to think about it. "It would devastate me if I couldn't shift, but if the hit was temporary, I'd live. Right now, we don't allow any Psy aggressors to live." Because Psy could kill with a single violent mental blow.

"Still, to have a limb or a sense cut off, that's brutal stuff." His words were solemn, his presence intrinsically dominant.

"This is war." A quiet one. A stealthy one - until the Human Alliance had started to take it public. But a war nonetheless. "And a drug like this could act as a very strong deterrent, keep the Psy from picking fights." Looking at him, she suddenly knew why she'd reacted so strongly to Lucas's admission, and then to Riley himself. It was a vicious kick to the gut. Oh, Jesus. "I have to get back to work. Bye."

"Mercy."

"Go away, wolf." She stood, and strode over to unlock and pull open the door. "Don't push me." An angry truth churned in her, violent and distrustful. Had he known? But she wouldn't ask him that right this moment, when the leopard was riding her with brutal ferocity.

He came to stand toe to toe with her. When he angled his head for a kiss, she showed him teeth. So he nipped her on the neck instead. Angered at the wildfire that streaked through her at the fleeting caress, she shoved at his chest and sent him out the door. "And don't come back tonight, either. I've got better things to do - "

A hand flat against her door, holding it open. "You're not the kind to blow hot and cold. So what the f**k is this?"

She was so emotionally ravaged by the realization she'd just had that she clawed at him, the words coming out in an unthinking rush. "This is me being real. I'm busy - I don't want to play tonsil hockey. Look, you're okay in the sack, and we work well together, but I need my space. I don't particularly want a man full-time in my life."

His hand fell away. "I guess that's going to make this mating hell for both of us."

Chapter 42

The Ghost watched as word spread of the offer of voluntary mild rehabilitation - a process that would strengthen the basis of the conditioning that was Silence. For the first time, going to the Center didn't mean death, but life . . . and people were beginning to seriously consider it. Predictably, the idea appealed most strongly to those with the most dangerous abilities.

The Ghost understood. His own ability could be incredibly destructive. But never would he submit to the M-Psy at the Center. Perhaps Silence was a cage that kept the monsters inside, but it was a cage nonetheless. He knew what it was to grow up inside a cage - a cage so tight, so restrictive that he'd almost forgotten how to breathe.

To willingly embrace the silver bars of another prison was not something he'd ever countenance. But he found himself hesitant to step in the path of those who were making the opposite choice. Did he have the right to turn them away from that which might save them? So many were cracking, breaking, shattering. Murders had increased in the past few months, a slow creep that tainted the Net with darkness. Even at that very moment, violence flickered on the edges of his vision.

That violence had always been a part of the Net, but now it was starting to rise to the surface, to grab control. But there was no symmetry to it, no sense of the scales being balanced. These bursts were like mini eruptions, destroying all in their path. Could he blame those who chose the cage of Silence if chaos was the only alternative?

He realized he didn't have the tools to answer that question.

For the first time, the Ghost, a being of Silence, found he needed answers from someone who understood emotion.

Chapter 43

Mercy didn't like feeling like a bitch. And she didn't think of herself as one. But she'd been a bitch to Riley today. Pushing him away like that. Telling him the one thing she'd known would make him back off. Predatory male changelings were proud.

And it wasn't as if he'd done anything to provoke her. He'd been acting exactly who he was, and she'd savaged him for it. "Damn it!" She clenched her hands on the steering wheel, feeling worse with every passing second.

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