He leaned in, until the wildfire vitality of her filled his every breath. "A very rough circle." He studied the diagram. "It's still a massive area. Includes the warehouse Bowen and his group are using."
"I know, but all this" - she waved a hand - "the bomb making, the cloak-and-dagger stuff - seems too coordinated for a small hit like that." She pulled out a laser pen and began making Xs. "If it's revenge they're after, for the squad we took out, they could hit our pack HQ, the central CTX station, a couple of other places, but most of our stuff is spread farther out - toward Yosemite."
"You think it has to do with the Psy. That corpse?"
"Yes, and because then, the centralization makes sense. Plenty of Psy targets in the city." She annotated major Psy institutions, including banks and, nauseatingly, schools.
He knew why - the Alliance had given them no reason to believe it had a conscience.
"But why San Francisco?" he asked, playing devil's advocate. "It's not a logical choice - we know to be on the lookout for them. We've already disrupted their operations to a degree."
Mercy pursed her lips in a way the wolf found fascinating. He'd never seen that expression before, never seen that facet of her. "A particular target?" She shook her head almost at once. "There's nothing unique about these places. They're important and it'll cause chaos on a major scale if they go down, but the Alliance could find the same caliber of target in New York, Los Angeles, a dozen other cities."
The wolf came to attention. "But we do have one thing no other city does." Taking the pen, he put an X on one of San Francisco's most well-known buildings.
"Nikita?" Mercy's mouth dropped open. "No."
"What better way to leave a mark?"
"Flaming idiots!" she yelled, igniting without warning. "Whoever the f**k is driving this operation needs to have their head examined, preferably after it's been ripped off! No way would anyone be this much of an imbecile!"
To Mercy's surprise, Riley chuckled and leaned down to press a kiss against her parted lips. "God, my mom would've loved you."
Her heart almost stopped. "Riley?"
"She was a lieutenant," he told her, his voice husky. "So was my dad. They died defending the pack."
She turned to wrap her arms around him. "They were protectors."
"Yeah." He nuzzled into her neck, as if soaking in her scent. "My dad, he was the strongest man I ever knew, but he used to turn to putty in Mom's hands."
"That sounds like the perfect mating."
He chuckled. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
"Damn straight." Kissing his neck, and smiling at his responsive shiver, she hugged him extra tight. "I think your mom and dad would've been so proud of the man you've become. If I ever have a son," she whispered, "I want him to be like you."
He shuddered. "We'll figure it out, kitty cat. Somehow."
She was about to respond when her cell phone rang.
A tenseness filled his body. It was gone an instant later. "Answer it," he said. "You're a sentinel."
The leopard batted at him with playful humor. "Damn, but you're trying to be good, Kincaid."
"Glad you noticed."
His hands settled around her h*ps as she dug out her phone. "Hello?"
"This is Bo. Lucas told me to call you directly if I found anything."
It was a vote of confidence from her alpha and she appreciated it. "What have you got?" She slapped a hand on Riley's chest when he started to growl, having heard Bowen because of the way they were pasted together.
"I think I know why they're building bombs."
She dug her claws into Riley this time, shooting him a "hush" look. He winced and toned it down; however, she could all but feel his need to tear Bowen's throat out with his bare hands. "How good is your intel?"
"Good but not foolproof. The chairman's been known to shut others out of the loop."
"Who's the target?"
"Not target. Targets." And then he told her the names.
Mercy closed the phone and stared at Riley. "Someone is that much of an imbecile. I don't believe it."
"If he's right and they succeed, it'll plunge the world into wholesale war." Riley was already pulling out his cell. "I'll call Faith."
Mercy nodded and pressed the quickcode for Sascha. "Pick up, Sascha. Pick up."
Sascha closed the cell phone and swallowed. It rang in her hand moments later. "Lucas?"
"Sascha, I can feel you hurting. What is it?"
And that quickly, her terror was buried under a flood of love. "I need to get hold of Nikita." She relayed what Mercy had told her.
"Damn." A pause. "You want me to call?"
"No, I'll do it. I'll call you after." Hanging up, she coded in a number she'd never expected to use again.
Nikita answered on the first ring. "You got my package."
"It's not about that." She kept her tone even with effort - Nikita didn't understand her daughter's emotional nature. She probably never would. But she was still Sascha's mother. "We've had a tip that Councilors have all been targeted for assassination. Check the building for explosives."
It was a reflection of the world she lived in that Nikita didn't argue, just hung up after telling Sascha she'd get back to her. Shaking from the impact of that short conversation, the first nonbusiness one she'd had with Nikita since her mother disowned her, Sascha slid down the aerie wall and to the floor. Tremors shifted over her body from head to foot.