Twenty minutes later, Max parked his car a block away from where Andre Tulane disappeared at regular intervals, and strolled down the cheerfully painted suburban street. The houses wore shades of bubblegum blue, candy pink, and meringue yellow, almost all with white trim. Human. Very human. The sole reason a Psy might wind up living amongst such brightness would be if there was some city ordinance that stipulated the colors in order to retain the area’s historical character.
Psy understood the value of architectural tourism.
Seeing an old lady tending her winter-quiet garden a couple of houses over, he wandered across. “A pretty face doesn’t do it for me,” she said without pausing in her task. “Never has—not since Bobby Jones broke my heart in junior high.”
Max didn’t much feel like smiling—time was slipping by so f**king fast—but he made his lips curve. “I don’t suppose you know who lives in number nine?”
“She’s never done anything to hurt anyone”—a suspicious glance—“so you leave her alone.”
Max frowned. “Human?”
Her snort was inelegant, her words acerbic. “You think a Psy would live on this street?”
Max made a decision. If it was the wrong one, it could tip off their quarry—but Max had just remembered something else he’d read in Tulane’s recent history and realized the answer to this mystery might be both logical . . . and utterly inexplicable. “Thanks for your help.” Turning away, he walked to the door of number nine and knocked.
The petite woman who opened the door had arms covered by computronic black carapaces and scars on her face that still bore a hard pink shine—vivid against the naturally mocha color of her skin. “Yes?”
Gut tight with the knowledge that he was right about Tulane’s motivation for visiting this house, Max showed her his electronic ID. “Ms. Amberleigh Bouvier?” It wasn’t a guess, not given her physical condition.
“Yes. What’s this about?”
“Could we talk inside?” He could feel the gardener glaring at him.
A hesitation before she nodded and led him down the corridor and into the kitchen.
“Is this about Andre?”she asked, taking a seat at the table set by the window. When he raised a surprised eyebrow, she continued, “I figured someone would come sooner or later, but I thought it’d be another Psy.”
Max leaned one shoulder against the doorjamb. “I need to know the reason for Andre Tulane’s visits.”
“Penance,” Amberleigh said in stark response. “His car blew a fuse and he lost control of it on a rainy night six months ago. Unfortunately, I happened to be on the curb when he drove over it.” Amberleigh shook her head, her cropped hair blue-black in the sunlight. “I don’t understand it myself, so I can’t expect you to. Everyone—even I—agreed it was an accident, but he said he was responsible, so he paid all my medical bills, made sure I got the best treatment.”
“They’ll be back to full strength in another couple of months.” She touched her face. “And these scars are going to be all but gone after they heal enough to begin laser treatments.”
Those treatments, Max thought, hadn’t been around when Sophia had been a child. He might’ve asked why she hadn’t taken advantage of them as an adult, but he knew the answer—it was a quiet, powerful rebellion. Sophia wanted to remember the past, remember the three children who’d been lost. He was f**king proud of her for finding a way to speak even in Silence. “Why does Andre still come to see you?”
“To do any work around the house or yard that needs to be done.” Amberleigh sounded bewildered, her eyes huge in that small face. “He doesn’t speak more than three words to me, but by the time he’s done, the lawn is mowed, anything broken is fixed, and my car’s running smooth as Irish whiskey.”
Max didn’t need to hear any more. Whatever the demons that drove the quiet black man, Andre Tulane was deeply entangled with a human—in direct violation of Pure Psy’s aim of absolute racial Purity.
In the Pure Psy world, Max thought as he stepped out into the crisp afternoon air, a human cop would never meet, never love . . . and never lose a violet-eyed J.
There’s always a price when you begin to ask questions. Sometimes, the answers aren’t what you hope to find. And sometimes, there are no answers.
—From the private case notes of Detective Max Shannon
on the file labeled “River”
Clay, having driven straight from lunch to take up a watch position around his alpha pair’s home, looked at Sascha as they walked outside her and Lucas’s cabin. He wasn’t as close to her as some of the other sentinels, but he deeply respected the woman his alpha had chosen. She was strong, and she made their pack strong.
“I didn’t say anything to Max,” he said, continuing a conversation they’d had on the phone on his way over, “didn’t want to get his hopes up. But can Noor help Sophia?” His adopted daughter—the owner of a great big chunk of his heart—was part human, part Psy. She’d also formed a soul-deep friendship with another gifted child, Keenan. And that amalgamation of factors had created something amazing.
Sascha put a hand on his arm to steady herself as they stepped over a fallen log, easy with claiming the skin privileges that were a packmate’s right—but that she’d never presumed on until Clay had told her it was okay. “I asked Faith to see if her father could get us Sophia’s medical scans after you called.”