Like the majority of telepaths born with the J facility, this female has a minor ability in the F spectrum, limited to the potential for backsight. Her ability measures at 1.5 on the Gradient and may never activate.
—PsyMed report on Sophia Russo, minor, age 8
Max wasn’t pissed when Lucas called him. He was beyond pissed. “Damn it, Luc. You should’ve told me this when we met.”
“It’s evidence you wouldn’t otherwise have,” the DarkRiver alpha said as Sophia got up and closed the door to the interview room, ensuring privacy. “And for the record, I didn’t know. I’ve already snarled at the two culprits for you.”
Recognizing the peace offering for what it was, Max blew out his breath. “Can you send the segment through to my phone? I’ll pick up the original later.”
“I’ll get Dorian to do it. And, Cop”—his voice dropped—“you need us, we’re there. Don’t hesitate.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Closing the phone, Max told Sophia what the DarkRiver alpha had shared.
Sophia tucked her hair behind her ear, baring the marks on her face, marks that were becoming intimately familiar to Max. “They take the protection of their mates seriously.”
“Do you think it’s only changelings who do that?” Max raised a hand, waited until she leaned a wary fraction toward him. Then, his eyes on the sweet curve of her lips, he danced his fingers over her temple, the edge of her cheek, and along her jaw.
Sophia’s heart was a stampede in her chest, her skin prickling with a near-painful heat, but she didn’t move away. And when Max stepped even closer, until her br**sts brushed his chest with every breath, she found her free hand rising to press against the warm resilience of his pectorals.
“I want skin,” she dared confess, though she wasn’t certain she’d survive the sensual impact.
“Yeah?” Max bent his head, his breath hot against her cheek as he stroked his lips over her skin in a slow, sweet glide, his hand closing over her hip in a grip so proprietary, it felt akin to a brand.
“Max.” Her legs trembled with the effort to stay in place, to soak in the feel of him—hard and strong, an erotic temptation.
“Enough.” Max stepped back. “Next time, I get your mouth.”
Gripping the back of a chair, she swallowed, tried to find her voice. It was gone, lost in the rush of thunder that was her bloodstream. Her eyes met Max’s again, and she saw the glitter in his gaze, saw, too, the skin pulled tight over his jaw. “It can’t affect you like it does me,” she finally managed to say, her throat raw. “You must be used to it.”
“So another man would work just as well for you?”
The answer spilled out of her. “Only you.” A dangerous confession, but Sophia didn’t have time to play games. Bitterness threatened to rise in a sharp, acidic burst, but she crushed it, determined not to give in to useless anger. “Only ever you.”
Max sucked in a breath, swearing low in his throat. “Good—because I sure as hell am not the sharing kind.” With that harsh statement of claim—and she understood that that was exactly what it was—he turned to the door. “I’ll be back in a second.”
Max leaned against the wall outside the meeting room, his breath coming in jagged gulps. The cool air did little to clear the scent of Sophia from his lungs. She was nothing he’d ever expected, everything he wanted.
And she was Psy.
Just now, when he’d touched her, when she’d touched him, her eyes had drowned in black. No iris, no pupil, no whites, nothing but an endless spread of black. It had shaken him, not because he was afraid—but because it was a reminder of the gulf between them. He’d seen the PsyNet in her eyes, a vast emptiness that he could never enter, and she could never leave.
Sascha Duncan did, his mind whispered.
The elevator doors opened on the heels of that thought, disgorging Quentin Gareth, one of the two men Max and Sophia hadn’t been able to initially identify on the security footage.
“Detective Shannon.” The male’s prematurely silver hair glinted under the overhead lights. “I was told you had questions for me.”
“Thanks for coming.” Pushing off the wall, he opened the door to find Sophia sitting in a chair on the other side of the table.
The distance did nothing to eliminate the thrumming tension between them, so thick and hotly sexual that Max wondered how Gareth could miss it.
“Detective,” the man said as soon as they were seated, “if this could be as fast as possible, I’d appreciate it. I’m scheduled to catch an airjet to Dubai.”
Max was aware of Gareth’s travel plans, but unlike with human criminals, Psy—especially Psy this high up in the power structure—were far less of a flight risk. Nikita could track Quentin Gareth across the PsyNet if it came down to it. “How about you just run us through your meeting with the victim,” he said in a tone he kept casual. Maybe Psy didn’t feel, but from what he’d seen, they were very, very good at reading and manipulating those who did.
“Our meeting was prearranged, but Edward reconfirmed once he returned from Cairo. The meeting covered a number of general ideas for expansion—we wanted to talk before I got caught up with the Dubai negotiations and he with his own projects.”
Responding to Max’s questions, Gareth told them he knew of no reason why anyone would’ve targeted Edward Chan. Max ended the interview on that point. “We need deep background checks on all four possibles,” he said to Sophia after Gareth left. “My gut says Marsha is clean, but she could have a skeleton in her closet that leaves her open to blackmail.”