To his surprise, the leopard male who saw him signaled for him to stop. Sides heaving from the run though he could go for miles yet without pausing, Hawke walked to stand a couple of feet from the man. The wolf recognized this male’s scent, identified it as that of Sentinel Clay Bennett.
“I tried to call you earlier,” Clay said in lieu of a greeting. “The Rats found something.”
Hawke cocked his head.
“Weapons components in the city’s storm water system, so no way to know their exact origin. But,” he added, “Rats were able to use a map of the system to figure out that the pieces must’ve come from somewhere around SoMa. Maybe one of the old converted warehouses that have been shut up for maintenance.”
Hawke’s wolf considered that, permitting the human part of him to come to the forefront. Unlike other changelings who’d let the wolf have control for extended periods, Hawke had never been in danger of losing his humanity. His wolf had taken charge when he’d needed it to as a youth, helping him make decisions the boy had been too young to make, but it had withdrawn as soon as Hawke found his feet.
The animal had a very black-and-white view of life, didn’t understand the games played in the human world. It understood face-to-face combat, understood killing to survive, to defend. It did not understand killing for political gain. The human, however, had lived through a massacre, comprehended the darkest of motivations all too well.
“I’ve got the Rats doing some more sneaking tonight,” Clay continued.
“No one ever notices them. Tomorrow, I figured we’d meet up, work out a plan for the rest. I’m thinking we should utilize the youngsters—the novices who look like teenagers.”
Clever, Hawke thought. Teens were universally ignored, they were such a ubiquitous sight in their noisy groups. Giving a crisp nod, he stepped back, leaving the sentinel to his post and allowing his wolf to rise to the surface once more. He saw several more leopards as he went deeper into DarkRiver land. A couple of the youths even ran with him, trying to outpace an alpha. The wolf laughed husky and deep as it let them play before continuing on his way, leaving them winded and tired.
He covered miles and miles and miles.
But not for one instant did he forget that Sienna was on the most lethal of playing fields.
SIENNA tripped. No, no, no!
Twisting her body with an awkwardness that went against Indigo’s teachings, she fell hard. Something snapped, and she was pretty certain it was a rib. The pain was a stabbing shock, but she’d evaded the searchlight sweeping over the area.
Sucking in a quiet, pained breath, she rose and did a quick physical check to confirm she hadn’t injured anything vital. Everything was functional—except that breathing had become difficult. Taking an extra minute and reworking her mental countdown to compensate for it, she divorced the pain from her conscious mind.
It was a military trick and could prove dangerous if utilized with a severe injury, as the mind would ignore the cues sent by the body—however, it was the perfect solution to a broken rib. That done, she inspected the explosive components in her pack to verify their undamaged state, then continued on her way, silent as a wolf in the forest. She was two steps from the edge of a building that should’ve been empty according to their recon, when everything went wrong.
The door swung open.
She froze behind it, unable to see through the metal to the individual on the other side. But she could hear him . . . them.
“How many tonight?”
“It’s happening slower than I’d like.”
“We can’t move too fast or they’ll detect us.”
“Yes.” A pause. “It’s reached this point because of the weak ones on the Council.”
“We won’t have to worry about them much longer.”
One of the speakers—a tall, black woman—stepped out and began to close the door. Sienna held her breath, so motionless as to be a statue as the door was pulled shut from the inside. The woman checked something on a small organizer, began to turn.
Another second and she’d see Sienna.
Throat dry, she flexed her telepathic fingers in anticipation of a strike.
HAWKE looked over Brenna’s shoulder the next morning. “Talk to me, sweetheart.” He’d kept his distance after returning from the run, busying himself drafting a list of novices who could work the warehouse district, and briefing them on the task, but it was way past time for Judd and Sienna to have checked in.
Walker had already confirmed a lack of telepathic communication. “They’re alive,” he’d said ten minutes ago, fine lines flaring at the corners of his eyes. “I can sense them on the LaurenNet.”
“Can you chance contacting them through your network?” He didn’t want either Judd or Sienna distracted, but he needed to know if something had gone wrong so the pack could mount a rescue.
Walker had shaken his head. “The LaurenNet has limitations because of its size. It can compensate for one of the adults being in a distant location, but with two of them gone, the network is stretched. It’ll hold, but I can’t risk a loss of focus.”
A breach, Hawke knew, would have catastrophic consequences. “Take care of Toby and Marlee.” That had to be the priority. Neither Sienna nor Judd would want it any different.
“I’ll let you know the instant I hear anything. And Hawke?” Pale green eyes holding his. “We need to talk after they return.”
Now, in the communications hub of the den, Brenna shook her head in response to his words. “I gave them both untraceable cells, but they might’ve decided not to chance a call anyway.”