She’s tied her sail to his, Nikita responded. If he falls, so does she.
Tatiana is with them.
Nikita agreed. Ming is ambivalent.
Anthony will stand with us—he has too many business interests tied up with the other races.
Nikita didn’t mention the conversations she’d had with Anthony.
And you, she asked the most dangerous Tk in the Net. What is your true allegiance?
That, you will have to wait and see.
“It seems we are at an impasse.” Anthony’s intelligent voice. “It would be best,” he said to Henry, “if you made it clear to Pure Psy that their ambitions of a coup d’etat would be better to be swiftly surrendered.”
“And inform any members in my city,” Nikita said, “that they have until the end of this meeting to leave. Or I’ll eliminate them myself.” She’d killed. Many times. And she’d do so again. Self-interest, she told herself. It had nothing to do with the fact that Pure Psy had tried to target her daughter, her unborn grandchild.
“One more thing—Henry?” she said, focusing on the other Councilor. She had a thousand strains of viruses in her head. One of them, she thought, would penetrate his shields. And she’d find it, no matter how long it took. “The next time you decide one of my people is flawed and order a rehabilitation without my consent, I might not act in so civilized a fashion. In fact, it might be better for your . . . health if you didn’t set foot in my territory again.”
“What of your pet J?” Tatiana asked, her tone silky smooth. “There is something severely wrong with her. Her shield is nothing ordinary.”
“Is being extraordinary now a crime?” Nikita had survived in the Council far longer than Tatiana. If the younger woman had forgotten that, she’d get a lethal surprise one quiet day, when she thought herself safe. “She is one of my people—just like every other Psy within my territorial borders.” The implication was clear.
“So.” Shoshanna. “You’re protecting the broken ones now. I suppose blood will tell.”
Nikita didn’t engage with the Councilor who’d made the fatal decision to stand by Henry. “I’ve said what I have to say.”
The meeting ended less than a minute later. Nothing seemed to have been resolved, but Nikita knew that was a thinly veiled fantasy.
The Council had split in two.
Kaleb had attended the meeting standing on the deck of his Moscow home. Now, he turned to go back inside, to consider his next move—and to return Max Shannon’s call, the message having come in just as the meeting began.
That was before he saw the package sitting in the center of his desk.
It hadn’t been there when he’d walked out onto the deck.
Only one group of people had the skill to have breached his internal security without setting off the alarms.
Picking up a silver letter opener he’d been given by a human business associate, he slit it open. It held a wooden box. That box contained a pristine patch, such as might go on a uniform. The patch bore the image of two snakes in combat—Councilor Ming LeBon’s personal emblem. But piercing the fabric was a small, perfectly formed black arrow.
The Arrow Squad, it seemed, had decided to terminate their allegiance to Ming.
Kaleb didn’t make the mistake of thinking that allegiance had now shifted to him. No, this was a warning and an invitation in one. Removing the Arrow, he placed it on his desk. Then he put the patch back in the box, and teleported with it to an extremely secure location, ’porting out almost as soon as he arrived.
Two Arrows glanced up at once at the slight sound of something settling on the table to their right, a table that existed deep within the Arrow Squad’s Central Command, and was known only to other Arrows. Neither man said a word, but they began working as one to dismantle the box and destroy the patch.
There would be no evidence for Ming to find, not until it was too late.
Dream of me.
—Handwritten note from Max to Sophia
Sophia sat across from Nikita, conscious of Max’s restless presence on the other side of the door. Three days had passed since he’d found out about his father, since they’d made their plan, and Max had spent most of those seventy-two hours in different parts of the country, talking face-to-face with parents whose lost daughters were now being found, thanks to the coordinates Kaleb Krychek had ripped from Gerard Bonner’s dying mind.
“I’m not leaving you alone,” he’d said after the information came through.
Sophia had shaken her head. “Your friends in DarkRiver will watch over me. Go Max, they hold a piece of your heart, each and every one.” And that was okay with her, more than okay. Max remembered those lost girls, would always remember. “Go and tell their families they’re coming home. It’s important.”
His eyes had filled with an angry protectiveness even as he nodded, and she’d known he’d heard the echo of the eight-year-old girl she’d once been. As a result, she’d spent the past seventy-two hours with a changeling in her living space—Desiree was smart and funny, Clay quiet, and Vaughn still made every hair on her body rise. It was as well that Faith had come with her mate.
Sophia’s own mate, her Max, had returned exhausted an hour ago, with the news that while he’d been getting in often painful personal touch with the parents and relatives of the victims, the forensic teams had located each and every girl. “It’ll take weeks to fully process the scenes, but the remains are in the morgue,” he’d told her. “I’ll go back when the parents have to come in to pick up their girls, but everyone’s holding on to family right now. They don’t need me—you do.”