Home > Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(16)

Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(16)
Author: Nalini Singh

His E with a lion’s heart was tough down to the bone. To see her brought so low that she’d lost her voice, it shook him. He put his arms around her. She continued to shove at his chest, a furious wild creature who wasn’t ready to listen, who might not even hear him. Still, he spoke. “You’re out of the cage.” Harsh, rough words shaped by his anger at himself for doing this to her. “The battles to come are nothing to what you’ve already survived.”

Twisting out of his hold, she put several feet of distance between them. A single moment of piercing eye contact. Her gaze was brown again and it shimmered, rain on a stormy horizon. The sight was a punch to the gut. Then she swallowed hard, fisted her hands, and turned her back to him, her spine stiff as a rod though her chest heaved.

Alexei went to step toward her when Hawke put a hand on his shoulder. “Give her time to calm down,” his alpha murmured, the pale ice-blue of his gaze on Alexei’s E. “When Sienna gets that mad, I risk having my head torn off if I push.”

Alexei forced himself to angle his body toward Hawke. “If she’s lying,” he gritted out, “I’ll cut off my own arm.” There had been nothing controlled or manipulative in Memory’s reaction. It had been the primal lashing out of a living being pushed to the end of its endurance.

“Tough little thing, isn’t she?” Hawke’s voice held a faint edge of respect—and coming from an alpha wolf so deadly even the most powerful Psy in the world didn’t encroach on his territory, that was a big fucking deal.

“You have to trust my gut on this, Hawke.” Shoving a hand through his hair, Alexei willed his claws back in before he scalped himself.

“You’re my lieutenant,” Hawke said, as if that was an answer.

It was.

Alexei exhaled, his shoulders relaxing. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I know Memory was in that hole.” His eyes shifted to the wolf’s vision, his blood like fire. “I found clothes that she’d grown out of—and her cat was ancient. There were signs it had been there for a long time.” One sofa arm all but bare of fabric where a feline had used it as a scratching post, the cracked and faded nature of the food and water bowls, the scratches on the kitchen counter that had been weathered and worn down with time.

Alexei didn’t think it had been a different cat, not with how broken his E had been by its loss. “Memory had stopped eating when I found her. I just got her started again and now I’ve fucked it all up.” His gut churned. He was a protector; to know he’d caused her such distress? Fuck.

Hawke held up his rescued phone. “Your E trusts you enough to get angry with you.” His alpha raised an eyebrow. “You think she’d have come at you like that if she didn’t know deep down that you wouldn’t hurt her? You’re a fucking dominant wolf, Lexie, and you were furious with her—but she attacked you.”

Alexei thought of how difficult it had been to even take her hand at the beginning, how stiff she’d been, how she’d watched him with eyes that said she was tracking a predator. “Maybe.” He glanced over, saw she still had her back to them. “But right now, I’m sure she wants to throw me in a pit of biting insects.”

“I can’t understand why, with your charming personality.”

Alexei narrowed his eyes at his amused alpha. He knew full well he’d been in a growly mood for well over a year, but it was the only way he could function, the only way he could remain a senior member of the pack on whom others could rely. Allowing the anger to fade? It’d leave him wide open to the searing agony of having lost his big brother, sister-in-law, and his chance at mating at the same time.

Never again would a Harte/Vasiliev be born. Alexei would never look into another face and see his own history reflected back.

This was it, the end of the fucking line.

Hawke’s phone vibrated. Alexei caught Aden’s name on the screen. The call had Hawke frowning—likely because all Trinity contact was generally through DarkRiver alpha Lucas Hunter. “He’s probably looking for me.” Alexei’s phone had vibrated a minute earlier, while he’d been in no mood to talk to anyone who wasn’t in this clearing.

“Aden,” Hawke said, then nodded. “Hold on, he’s with me.” He put the call on speaker, listened in silence to what Aden had to tell them.

“On the PsyNet,” the leader of the Arrows said, “this empath’s mind is unlike any other we’ve come across. She has the erratic bursts of multicolored energy, but it’s like light hitting a vivid dark liquid. Colors in the black.”

“Is she a risk to my pack?” Hawke asked.

“Given her catastrophically thin PsyNet shields, she doesn’t appear to have any martial training. Her emotions have leaked into the Net multiple times. Unless we discover anything to the contrary, we will treat her as a variant E—of an unidentified sub-designation.” A short pause. “Arrows protect empaths.”

Alexei’s wolf bristled: he’d found Memory. The Arrows had no claim to her.

“This E is in my territory,” Hawke responded, his voice unbending. “If she’s not a threat, we won’t harm her. If she’s mixed up in something that could hurt SnowDancer, she loses that protection. Are you willing to go to war with us over her?”

“No. You’re an ally we trust to make the right call.” Given the way the Arrow Squad had silently, dangerously backed empaths, it was a powerful indicator of trust.

Hawke acknowledged it as such before he ended the call a short while later. “So, your E has a unique mind.”

“A mirage on obsidian,” Alexei murmured, thinking of the way Memory’s eyes had changed last night, the depth and the darkness and the surreal beauty of them.

“You’re point on this.” Ice-blue eyes locked on Memory’s distant form. “An E who isn’t an E. A prison built on SnowDancer land. A captive who was out in the world. None of it lines up. Find the answers.”

Alexei gave a short nod, his urge to go to her and offer comfort nearly overwhelming. “I don’t ever want to hurt her again, Hawke.” His gut still churned from the memory of her wet eyes, her despair.

Hawke sighed. “I don’t like kicking kittens, either, Lexie, but if that’s just a front, if she’s a Trojan horse sent to weaken us, then we have no choice.” His jaw grew hard, his voice grittier. “We lost pups as well as adults in the stealth assault when we were both kids. My father bled out on the snow fighting the impulses the Psy planted inside him. We can’t afford to trust her until she proves herself.”

Muscles so tense it was almost painful, Alexei stared at Memory’s back, willing her to turn. His alpha was right. Alexei had to be rational and cold-eyed about this, no matter how much his wolf was coming to respect his lioness of an E.

Chapter 14

Further photographs of the E with Renault just discovered by the tech team. Attached. My contact in the Net has also unearthed her original adoption papers—stamped by a telepath in the former Council superstructure. The Tp held too much rank to be involved in something this mundane unless he was doing it as a favor. We can’t ask him about it though; he suffered an unfortunate accident two months after the adoption went through.

—Message from Judd Lauren to Hawke Snow

MEMORY KNEW THEY were talking about her. She couldn’t hear them, but she knew. The wolf with the pale, pale blue eyes and hair of silver gold, his presence a pulse of power, could be deadly to Memory. She knew Alexei would follow the dictates of his alpha, even though—as the growling, infuriating wolf himself had pointed out—he’d saved her.

The alpha wolf, however . . . She shivered. He didn’t know her except as images on a screen, except as words on a piece of paper. How could she possibly explain to him what it was to be a prisoner who walked the world and yet couldn’t cry out for help, could never scream?

Today, she threw back her head and screamed up at the sky.

Startled birds flew out of the trees and she knew the two men—as well as the others who waited in the trees—must think she was insane. She didn’t care. She was a little insane. And she missed Jitterbug. And everything hurt.

It didn’t hurt when Alexei held you.

She paused, blinked, her breath uneven. She hurt all the time, as if tiny knives stabbed constantly at her skin. But the stabs had stopped when Alexei wrapped her up in his arms. Not just today, but in the night, when he’d tucked her against the hot silk of his bare chest. She was so used to the pain that the idea of a growling wolf banishing it had her shaking her head in mute disagreement.

One of the others she’d sensed in the trees walked out at that instant, a small rucksack on her back. She was of medium height and average build, her blonde hair in a ponytail that brushed her nape; her emotions were calm, without jagged edges, though a familiar wildness prowled under her skin.

Memory turned to watch her come closer.

The woman smiled at the alpha wolf and Alexei, but headed directly to Memory. “I’m Lucy.” A cheerful smile. “Nurse from SnowDancer. I’m meant to do a physical, make sure you’re healthy and don’t have any deficiencies or injuries—but it’s your call. Except in emergencies, healers don’t go where we’re not invited.”

Memory’s entire body, which had stiffened when Lucy first spoke, now began to relax. She didn’t like the idea of a stranger touching her, but she had questions about her health. She’d seen the way Alexei moved, the way Lucy had walked across the snowy field, the way the deadly alpha flowed with predatory grace.

Memory’s body didn’t function the same, hadn’t done so for the past year. She was uncoordinated and imprecise at times, her limbs not obeying the dictates of her mind. She hated the idea that Renault’s psychic assaults had permanently damaged her, but she had to know.

“Can we go inside?” The words came out husky, her throat rough from the scream.

“Of course.”

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