Home > Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(10)

Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(10)
Author: Nalini Singh

Alexei, in contrast, stayed awake for some time, his eyes locked on the ceiling but his mind on that bunker. He didn’t have to be a psychologist to know that Memory was far better socialized than she should be if she’d spent years as a captive. She not only interacted with him, she reacted in appropriate ways—anger included. She’d definitely been ready to stab him with her fork when he’d poked at her about her bird-sized portions. A bit of deliberate provocation on his part to get her to eat—if only to shut him up.

Even a woman of her petite size needed more fuel than she’d been taking in.

So yes, Memory’s reactions had been about what he might’ve expected—in a woman who hadn’t been caged for a long period. On the flip side, the too-small clothes he’d spotted in the wardrobe hadn’t lied. He’d seen no signs of a second captive, so those clothes had been Memory’s at some point in time.

The two facts didn’t mesh.

A woman held captive since childhood shouldn’t be as functional as Memory.

The mystery followed him into sleep, his rest the shallow one of a soldier on watch.

* * *

• • •

A scream pierced his mind. He reacted to the terror in the sound before he was awake enough to think conscious thoughts. Moving with predator speed, he jumped off the bunk to land in a crouch on the floor, his shirtless back to Memory’s bunk and his attention on the door.

That door was open, as he’d left it because Memory didn’t respond well to small, enclosed spaces. Nothing moved beyond . . . but there was an unknown scent in the air. A dark and coldly metallic scent that made his wolf’s fur stand up and its upper lip curl—he knew that scent, had tasted it in the bunker.

It was so potent right now that it was as if Memory’s intruder sat on her bed, but when he glanced back, he found her alone; she lay tightly curled up under the blanket, her eyes scrunched shut and her hands over her ears.

Baring his teeth, Alexei prowled out to hunt down the intruder who’d so badly abused her. But the farther he got from Memory, the more the scent dissipated. Outside the bedroom, he found only quiet. The security system showed no incursions, and he swept the entire area without finding so much as an insect.

He stepped into the bedroom . . . and the ugly scent slapped him in the face.

Memory was sitting on the edge of her bunk now, her head down and her hands still over her ears. She was whispering something under her breath that he couldn’t understand. Not until he was only a foot away from her.

“Get out, get out, get out, get out, get out.”

An endless, repetitive loop steeped in acidic fear underneath the cold and metallic scent that made him want to kill. The only problem was that the scent was coming from Memory.

Crouching down in front of her, he said, “Memory.” When that didn’t seem to penetrate, he reached out to grip her wrists. “Wake up, little lioness.” Her skin was hot, her muscles rigid. He pulled gently but firmly. She resisted.

He growled loud enough to fill the space.

Her head lifted . . . and her eyes, they were obsidian.

The tiny hairs on his nape prickling, Alexei nonetheless didn’t break the physical contact. “Wake up,” he ordered again, dead certain she wasn’t truly conscious of him.

Eyes of obsidian gleamed unseeing at him. He felt an eerie sense of looking into an endless, vast darkness. An abyss without end.

“Memory.” He shook her with care not to hurt, only to awaken.

Cool curls hit his hands, her hair not yet fully dry. Those haunting eyes shimmered with color, an oil slick under the sun, and he suddenly remembered a throwaway comment his fellow lieutenant Judd, a telekinetic, had once made—that empaths were “happy rainbows” who swept everyone along in their wake.

Did Memory’s psychic presence have color? Did this mean she was coming back to reality?

He stroked his thumbs over the inner surface of her wrists, the skin there soft and delicate. “Your eyes are beautiful.” Deep pools of mystery that fascinated his wolf.

He didn’t mention her scent, which was vacillating wildly between the ugly metallic one that made him want to snarl, and the inherent warmth of what he’d picked up from her before this waking. It was almost as if Memory were two people.

“Channel the woman who wanted to stab me with a fork,” he told her. “Fight your way out.”

Her breath hitching, her eyes seeming to focus on Alexei. “He’s hunting me.” A plea and an angry fury at once.

Alexei’s vision changed, his wolf rising to the surface. “PsyNet?” He knew that, at its core, the sprawling psychic network was a lifenet. Psy minds needed a connection to a stable psychic network in order to survive. But the PsyNet also flowed with data and could be used for mental communication—or an attack.

“Yes.” The single word was gritted out through clenched teeth. “Renault.”

“Can you hold him off?” Alexei reached for the phone he’d kept in the pocket of his sweatpants.

Memory grabbed at his wrist. “I need . . .” Harsh breaths. “The contact, it helps.”

To a wolf, touch was life. It made perfect sense to Alexei that, cut off from her own pack, Memory would reach for him. “Put your hand on my shoulder,” he told her. “It’ll give you skin contact while I make a call to get you help.”

Her skin was cold where it met his, her hand icy. “I screamed on the PsyNet when he came at me, and he retreated, but this region doesn’t have many minds. He’s coming back.” Rapid-fire words, jolting breaths. “I’m not strong enough yet.”

“Scream again,” Alexei said. “As many times as it takes. Keep him distracted.” It infuriated him that he couldn’t take out her attacker, but sometimes, a battle was won with clear thinking and strategic use of available options. “Just hold him off for half a minute more.”

Her nails dug into his shoulder, but the small irritation was nothing to his wolf. He still held her other wrist, continued to stroke the pad of his thumb over the soft skin on the inside curve while he made the call. “Aden,” he said when it was answered on the other end. “I need PsyNet help.”

Aden Kai, leader of the deadliest squad of assassins and shadow operatives in the world, and a man who had a seat on the Psy Ruling Coalition, didn’t question why a wolf lieutenant needed psychic assistance enough to use this emergency call code known to a strictly limited number of people. “Details,” the Arrow leader said, echoes of Silence yet in his voice.

Memory began to shiver, the tremors shaking her frame.

Releasing her wrist, Alexei pulled her into his lap so she was against the naked skin of his chest. Her arms went around him, her cheek pressed to his heart. He slid his own hand under her hair, curling it over her nape. “An E is under attack on the PsyNet.” He knew the psychic network was a vast place, a single mind impossible to locate without markers, but in this case, he could give Aden very specific directions. “We’re in den territory, not far from the empathic training ground.”

That training ground had been chosen because this area of the PsyNet was quiet. It gave trainee empaths room to learn control and run their psychic exercises without interference from—or to—other minds. And though the compound was on the border between DarkRiver and SnowDancer territory, it was the Arrow Squad that guarded the trainees.

The wolf watching over the lamb.

“I’m receiving multiple alerts from my people at the compound of a disturbance nearby,” Aden said almost before Alexei finished speaking. “Team en route.”

* * *

• • •

MEMORY screamed and screamed on the psychic plane, using her terror and turning it into a disruption that rolled through the PsyNet. Renault might still have the ability to smash through to her mind, but he’d never again bleed her dry—he needed physical contact to make the initial connection for the transfer. Once made, that connection only lasted a finite period, and he’d left her alone in the bunker for far too long.

She’d shaken off the murderous parasite.

That knowledge gave her the strength to keep on fighting, her body encircled by the primal heat of Alexei’s. The physical contact made her stronger—but Renault had all the advantages on the psychic level. He’d shredded her shields a lifetime ago. She had no defenses, a turtle without its shell.

The only reason Renault wasn’t already inside her mind was that she’d had a small and zealously guarded store of psychic energy that she’d released in panicked desperation when she first jerked awake. He’d been so close by then that she’d felt his breath on her neck, a fetid heat. The energy had created a shock wave. A pitifully weak one, but he hadn’t expected it, and it had buffeted his mind a short distance from her own.

“Show me where you are!” he screamed at her on the PsyNet as he came closer and closer. “Give me a visual! You know you can’t win! You belong to me!”

Memory had no more energy left.

But surrender was not an option. Never would it be an option.

She would fight to the death.

Blood cold at the emptiness around her, the overwhelming aloneness that would’ve crushed her but for the wolf who held her, Memory screamed again into the psychic space, disrupting the limited data flows around her. Then, in a final act of defiant resolve, she tore at the golden threads around her, hoping her actions would trigger an automatic alert that would send out a security team.

She hadn’t been on the PsyNet in a long time. Not for years. Renault had closed his mind around hers, creating a psychic prison that had failed at the same time as the other, darker link between them. As if the latter had bolstered the former. The failure had happened seconds before Alexei tore off the bunker door.

Grief-stricken and shocked as she’d been, she hadn’t immediately realized the implications of that second failure. Because from the moment Renault had caged her, her basic biofeedback connection had been her only direct link to the psychic space. A lifeline only, with no access to the Net itself.

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