“A miscalculation on their part. It only affected my long-range sending abilities.”
And Gareth had been standing right next to her. “He was the only one. Marsha’s blood loyal and Tulane’s clean—I’d keep an eye on the intern, but my gut says he’s more apt to give you his devotion than anything else.”
“I don’t have time to keep an eye on everyone,” Nikita said, redoing the single button on her jacket with an efficiency that told Max the dead man on the floor had already been dismissed from her thoughts. “However, you would be very good at it.”
Max blinked. “Are you offering me a job?”
“I need a security chief. Think about it.”
He didn’t have to. “I’m a cop.”
“You can remain one—Enforcement people have been known to be seconded onto a Councilor’s private team. I’m willing to be flexible if you wish to continue to keep track of your old cases.” Her gaze switched to Sophia. “Ms. Russo—the Corps has requested I release you as soon as possible so that you can be returned to the active roster.”
With that detached reminder that Sophia was once again a functioning J, expected to walk into the abyss again and again and again, Nikita headed to the door. “A cleanup crew will arrive shortly. You may want to move into your apartment for the time being. And ensure that large black feline doesn’t taste Quentin’s blood—my viruses have never transmitted through organic matter, but I can’t guarantee that.”
With those chill words, she was gone. Helping Sophia to her feet, Max walked them out of the apartment and into his own. Morpheus had too much class to lick at Gareth’s blood. Turning up his nose at the lifeless Psy, he padded into the neighboring apartment behind Max and Sophia.
Max was just taking a sip of his coffee the next morning before attempting to get in touch with Kaleb Krychek when security dropped off his mail. Checking it, he saw that his super in Manhattan had forwarded what felt like a couple of letters in a bigger envelope.
“What’s that?” Sophia asked as he took a seat beside her on the sofa. She’d had a good night’s sleep, shaken off the final side effects of the drugs.
Max reached out to run his hand through her hair, unable to stop touching her. “Probably bills,” he said with a shrug that tried to be careless.
He knew he’d failed when Sophia touched his shoulder. “Max?”
“I’ve been trying to track down my father,” he told her, admitting his final secret. “I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll know when I find him.”
“Do you think the information is in that envelope?”
“No way to know—but each time I open a ‘mystery’ envelope,” he said, looking down at the plain brown paper, “I hope.”
Sophia shifted to snuggle by his side. It was automatic to put his arm around her, pull her tight against him. She fit perfectly. “There’s something else.” A soft statement from the Psy who owned his heart. “Your expression . . .”
He stole a kiss, needing her. “You’re starting to read me like a book. By the time we’re sitting in rockers watching our grandchildren play, you’ll know my secrets before I do.”
She smiled, and it hit him right in the heart, how f**king much she meant to him. He wasn’t letting her go, wasn’t letting the Corps drag her back down into the nightmare world of an active J—even if he had to fight Silence itself. “I know your secrets, too, Sophie,” he said. “Who were you telepathing earlier?”
“Another J.” A pause. “My shields, Max, I need to explain them, to assess if there’s a chance they’ll fail again.”
His soul repudiated the idea, but he knew she was right. “What did your friend say?”
“That Sascha Duncan is supposed to be an excellent shield technician—he recommended I talk to her, see if she can figure out what’s behind the regeneration of my shields.” Lifting herself up a little, she pressed her lips to the tiny scar on his cheek, the one she seemed to love.
It made his heart smile each time she did that. Even today, now, he felt loved, adored.
“But we can discuss all that later,” Sophia murmured. “Open the envelope.”
Removing his arm from around her, he drew in the vanilla and lavender scent of her and slit open the paper.
He’d opened so many envelopes since he began this search, become so used to disappointment that it took him almost a minute to realize what he held in his hand. Letting the other pieces of mail fall to the carpet, he ran his hand over the crisp white paper of the single piece he still held. “See that?” he said, rubbing his thumb over the emblem on the top left-hand corner.
Sophia bent her head. “It’s from the Department of Justice.”
“Bart,” he clarified. “I asked him for a favor.” It could’ve gotten the other man fired, but the prosecutor had asked only the questions he needed to get the answer.
Sophia took a long breath, let it out. “You asked him to run your DNA against the central Justice criminal database.”
He wasn’t the least surprised that she’d guessed. “It was a logical step, given our socioeconomic circumstances, the history of the other men in the area at the time.” He took a deep breath. “And it’s a step I avoided for a hell of a long time.”
“That’s understandable,” Sophia said, shifting to a kneeling position beside him on the sofa, her fingers stroking through his hair. “You’re a cop. You’ve dedicated your life to upholding the law—discovering that your father was a criminal who broke those same laws will be a blow.” Her words were calm, practical. “But Max”—her tone changed, gentled, her eyes shining—“it will alter nothing about the man you are, the man you’ve made yourself.”