“Can we get to them?”
“Yes, but we may jeopardize our primary operative.” Too late, Vasquez realized that he shouldn’t have given ground on the Cape Dorset strike. “We should change the focus of our next planned hit from San Francisco to another major center with the potential for high impact.”
“We aren’t mindless anarchists,” came the rasped-out response. “The populace must see we do this for a reason. To cleanse the Net of those who have failed to maintain their Silence.”
“The risk is high. Nikita and Anthony have changeling support.”
“Which only displays their weakness.” His judgment was one Vasquez shared. “It’s time we demonstrated that. San Francisco remains the target.”
Every part of his training told him the move was a foolish one, but he also knew Henry was right. Violence alone was not the answer. The message must be heard. “I’ll begin the preparations.” It would take extensive reconnaissance and extreme patience, but Vasquez had never yet failed in his task.
ADRIA HAD BEEN coping. She hadn’t interrogated Riaz about his meeting with Lisette the previous day, hadn’t picked and prodded at the unspoken truth that hovered between them, conscious that doing so would only create a wound that would fester. Instead, she’d made the decision to cherish the tender and passionate tie that had grown between them, to bask in the wild affection of his wolf, and not obsess over the primal bond they’d never have. So she didn’t know how this had happened, how she’d ended up alone with the woman who made it impossible to think about anything else.
“Thank you so much for this,” Lisette said, strapping on her safety belt. “I truly wasn’t hinting at a ride when I ran into you.”
“It’s not a problem.” Having dropped off some papers at DarkRiver HQ for Hawke, Adria had been walking back through Chinatown to her car when she’d run into Lisette coming out of a souvenir shop. “Buy anything interesting?”
The woman laughed, and it was a sweet, gentle sound. In spite of her perfect makeup and hair, her pristine tangerine-colored dress that looked both professional and summery beneath a neutral-toned trench coat, Lisette gave off a warmth that was genuine. Now, she rustled in her bag and came out with a small jade statuette. “The storekeeper said it would bring me good luck—I’m going to ask DarkRiver and SnowDancer for permission to set up an apartment in the city.”
Adria’s heart stuttered. “You’d continue to be the liaison?”
“Yes. It might actually work better if the packs have me here on the ground.”
The other woman’s words made too much sense, speaking as they did to the changeling preference for situations where they could judge the other party’s mood, his or her scent. “Have you and your husband decided which part of the city you’d want to live in if you get the okay?” The question was a reminder to herself that Lisette was happily married, had no desire to press a claim on the lone wolf who was Adria’s.
A long silence from the passenger seat, so long that the hairs stood up on the back of Adria’s neck, her mind working a hundred miles an hour. “Your husband’s not moving,” she guessed, knowing she shouldn’t pry but unable to let it go.
“No.” It was a whisper. “We’ve separated.”
Adria’s wolf felt as if it had been kicked with steel-toed boots, was broken and bleeding as her world crashed down around her, but her voice sounded oddly calm. “I’m sorry.” She understood the hurt that came with the collapse of a long-term relationship, couldn’t not feel compassion, even toward a woman who threatened to steal everything from her. “It’s final?”
Lisette turned her head toward the window, her hair a pale gold in the sunlight. “The last words he spoke to me were about a divorce.” A bleak confession. “I never knew how easy it was to dissolve a marriage.”
The other woman’s despair was a black wave, and Adria knew Lisette’s love for her husband hadn’t died, just been badly bruised. Riaz deserved more, deserved a woman who’d give him everything … but Lisette was his mate. And she was now free.
Adria wasn’t sure how she managed to function the rest of the drive to Lisette’s hotel. Her good-bye was curt enough that the Alliance liaison gave her a concerned look, but Adria was barely keeping it together—she didn’t have enough goodness in her to be gentle with the other woman’s pain. Leaving before Lisette could ask her what was wrong, she drove with single-minded focus to SnowDancer land, parked the vehicle in a heavily wooded section, braced her hands on the steering wheel and screamed … until her sobs robbed her of breath, shattering her to pieces from the inside out, the pain in her chest nothing to the one in her heart.
No matter if Lisette remained in love with her husband, she was Riaz’s mate. Adria would’ve fought for her black wolf with everything in her against any other opponent, but that single fact couldn’t be altered, couldn’t be wished away. It wasn’t coincidence that Lisette found herself wanting to settle in California, her actions colored by a connection she didn’t consciously understand or realize. Riaz had to feel it, too, feel that primal draw that was the greatest gift of a changeling’s life.
But he’d made a promise to Adria, and he wasn’t a man who reneged on his promises.
So she’d have to be the one who broke her own heart.
JUDD walked into the infirmary just after twelve, aware Walker had taken Lara off to lunch. It was easy to skirt Lucy’s attention—the nurse was involved with a young girl who’d come in with broken ribs after tumbling out of a tree, her tearstained face red, though she was making a valiant effort to fight back the sobs. Still, she was only seven.