A red haze of anger, powerful enough that she had to fight to keep her claws sheathed.
Wrenching away using the skill and strength that made her one of SnowDancer’s most senior lieutenants, she swept off the bed, fury pulsing in every inch of her. The kiss she would have forgiven. Even the pushiness—she understood what he was, wouldn’t have penalized him for it. But the hand around her neck, the way he’d tried to use his body to pin hers to the wall, and most of all the arrogance with which he’d taken it as a given that her touch-hunger made her his for the taking? No.
“I,” she said, in a tone so calm it took all of her control to maintain it, “haven’t given you the right to touch me as you please.” There was play . . . and then there were lines you didn’t cross. “Next time you try to touch me like that”—in possession, in ownership—“be prepared to get that pretty face shredded.”
So infuriated she couldn’t hear anything but the surge of her own blood, she turned on her heel and left. The worst of it was that she’d trusted Drew, thought he was a friend who accepted and appreciated her for the dominant female she was—but clearly, he was just another cocky young male who thought the lieutenant could be brought to heel by sex. And where she might’ve easily forgiven everything else, she could not forgive that betrayal.
Enclosed within the privacy of a secure London apartment, Councilor Henry Scott looked across the desk at his “wife,” Councilor Shoshanna Scott, and considered the pros and cons of their relationship. They were Psy—unlike with the other races, emotion didn’t come into the mix when undertaking that evaluation. Their marriage had been—was—a piece of political strategy, a way to placate the human and changeling media by giving them an easily relatable image.
However, of late that plus was being canceled out by the questions people were asking about the exact nature of their relationship—there had been too many leaks and the emotional races now had information they should have never had. It had led to several probing inquiries at the most recent press conference, inquiries that wouldn’t have been made even two years ago.
But, though problematic, that issue could wait.
“It is still possible to close the Net to outside influences,” he said, focusing on the more important concern. “Nikita is incorrect to say that things have reached a critical mass, that Silence is close to falling.” Councilor Duncan had been tainted by her constant and prolonged contact with the changelings in her territory and, as such, was a threat to the purity of Silence, the Protocol that erased their race’s madnesses as it erased their emotions.
Henry intended to reinitiate that purity at all costs, and he had a significant amount of support. Membership in Pure Psy, the group formed to ensure Silence didn’t fall, was rising day by day. “Our race neither wants nor needs any change in the Protocol.”
Swiveling in her chair, Shoshanna picked up a remote and switched on a screen to her right. “These are the key players we need to eliminate in order to initiate a full closure of the Net.”
The first image on the left was that of Sascha Duncan, Nikita’s flawed daughter. It was followed by those of Faith NightStar and Ashaya Aleine. “All high-level defectors from the Net,” he murmured, watching as Shoshanna brought up more images.
“The males they’ve bonded with in the DarkRiver leopard pack will also need to be executed,” Shoshanna added. “Changelings are proprietary about their women.”
“They’re also relentless,” Henry said, staring at the row of images. “We need to eliminate the entire pack, or at least the strongest part of it, if we’re to ensure success.”
“Correct.” She flicked up another image, that of a man with ice blue eyes and hair of an unusual silver-gold. “The alpha of the SnowDancer pack needs to go, along with his lieutenants.” Nine new images appeared on-screen. “The wolves are too tightly allied with the leopards to risk leaving them untouched.”
“I thought our data stated that SnowDancer had ten lieutenants.”
“It appears they’ve lost one, or we had the wrong information in the first place.”
That, Henry knew, was quite possible. Their spy in the SnowDancer ranks had been executed over a year ago. Since then, any information they had was sketchy at best. “Any assassination attempt on a changeling stands a high chance of failure. Their natural shields give them enough of a warning that they have an opportunity to retaliate.” And while he considered the animal races far less intelligent than his own, he respected their physical strength against weaker Psy bodies.
“Agreed, but we can finalize the logistics later. However,” she continued, “in light of the close alliance between SnowDancer and DarkRiver, it may be a good strategic move to remove the wolf alpha from the equation before we target the leopards. Their emotional natures will mean they’ll be weakened by the damaging psychological impact of such a loss.”
Since Shoshanna had proven skilled in predicting such responses in humans and changelings, Henry had no argument with that. “Focusing our resources on the San Francisco area first,” he said, “makes sense. The majority of the problems have been spawned by a relatively small group.”
Two more images appeared on the screen—Nikita’s human security chief and the fractured Justice Psy who was likely in a relationship with the man. The J-Psy’s shields were inexplicable and impenetrable, but the fact that she was still in the Net in spite of her broken Silence was so unacceptable that it needed no discussion.