“No.” Even this deep into the mountains, the den was too close. Her friends, her family, her pack was too close. “Hawke, I can’t hold it.” Panic beat in her throat. “If I breach, it’ll consume everyone in the vicinity.” Her power had grown even more vast, even more voracious, would move out for miles in every direction.
Stone, steel, plascrete, nothing would stop its ravenous pulse.
Then she saw the scorching yellow and blazing crimson begin to divide and separate into pristine rivers inside her mind, in preparation for a final catastrophic merge. “I’m about to hit synergy!” Turning her into a human bomb of incalculable destructive power, one that would obliterate any trace of two packs called SnowDancer and DarkRiver, of a city called San Francisco, of a mountain range called the Sierra Nevada . . . and keep going.
If you ever go supernova, Ming’s arctic voice, the continent on which you stand might cease to exist.
Ming had been wrong, she realized in that moment when her power was so pure, so clear. There was no might about it.
A warm male hand gripping her own, ripping her from the horrifying understanding of just what she was. “The lake,” her wolf said.
She ran beside him. “It might blunt the impact.” Part of her knew it wouldn’t be enough, that even the deepest part of the lake couldn’t contain the tidal wave of her power, but she had to believe. Then she felt an unexpected psychic burn inside of her, saw that the cold fire was eating away at her network shields, would soon pour out into the SnowDancer web in a violent storm. It had never before threatened to penetrate a psychic network—but she’d never been this close to synergy.
Fear twisted knives of ice through her heart as they hit the water. “Hawke! The X-fire is spreading on the psychic plane. I can’t cut my mental bonds, but you can—”
Wolf-blue slammed into her eyes. “Don’t you dare ask me to hurt you. Don’t you f**king dare.”
Pain ripped her in two, the world already tinged crimson and gold, and she realized her eyes were drowning in X-fire. A single tear trailed down her cheek as the frigid water reached her thighs. “I’ll burn out your mind.”
He continued to swim farther into the lake, pulling her along. “The others?”
The water hit her br**sts, soaked into her chest, into her bones. “The web”—she kicked her legs in an attempt to help him—“will collapse without you.” He was the center, the key. Had her family been part of it longer, they could’ve built failsafe bonds, but as it was, the web was a wholly changeling construct, created by ties of blood . . . Hawke’s blood. “The changeling members won’t suffer any ill-effects.
“Walker and Judd”—she gasped past the cold that consumed her—“will be able to drag the children into a smaller LaurenNet.” She ’pathed Judd a warning. Her sweet Toby, and smart, funny Marlee remained unconscious, a small blessing.
“When you die—” The words wouldn’t come, and it had nothing to do with the fact that her body was in the coldest, deepest part of the lake. “When you die,” she forced herself to say, “the psychic shock will tear me from the web, regardless of the links to my family.” He’d become her anchor in every way and losing him would destroy her, ending her life and the threat of synergy. “We should dive just in case, but once separated from the web, I won’t be a danger anymore.”
Her wolf cupped her face, nothing but a wild devotion in his touch, in his voice. “Then what’s there to be scared about?”
It broke her heart, that he was hers. “I love you.” I’m sorry.
A caress down the mating bond, an untamed kiss that she knew was her wolf before he said, “Forever,” and dived with her in his arms, the water closing over their heads in a sheet of sparkling blue.
Cold. So, so cold.
It was the last thing she had physical awareness of before the crimson and gold collided to create an inferno that poured over and through her shields with a vicious strength she could never hope to control. Hawke! It was a telepathic cry as the flame seared down the mating bond, turning it into an incandescent ribbon.
His arms clenched around her, shocking her back to the world for a single instant before she was wrenched to the psychic plane once again. She watched in horror as the rapacious tempest of her power surged into Hawke. Instead of burning out his mind, it encased it . . . and continued to spread out on the bonds that tied him to his lieutenants, their mates, the healers.
It wanted all of them.
THE FIRE RACED along the familial bonds, too.
First it hit Judd. Then it hit Walker. And held. She knew both men had risen to consciousness, were shielding to the limit of their strength to save the children as well as Brenna, but she also knew they’d fail. The power continued to pour out of her, surge after surge after lethal surge.
For a blazing instant, the SnowDancer Web was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, a brilliant gold and crimson network lit with pure raw energy. It spoke not of death, but of life. But of course, that was a lie. Even as the minds of Hawke’s lieutenants blazed a terrible red, Walker and Judd finally broke.
WALKER knew the moment before Sienna’s strength overwhelmed him that he was going to break. Reaching out with his telepathy, he knocked both drowsy children back into unconsciousness. They wouldn’t feel any pain, have any awareness of going into the final goodnight.
A single, painful thought before there was no more time. The brutal energy of an X shoved into his mind. For an instant, it was a thing of beauty, such unadulterated power that he was staggered by it. If only there was a way to harness this.