Home > Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(9)

Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)(9)
Author: Nalini Singh

Memory very carefully opened her fingers and flexed them. The bottle was losing water from the crack she’d caused, so she got up, found a glass, and poured the liquid into it before retaking her seat. Her movements were nothing as graceful as his, but she was in control of them. No one would ever again turn her into a marionette.

“Give me a name.” Eyes gone even more amber held hers, the quiet words a promise of retribution.

Memory parted her lips, but Renault’s name stuck in her throat, a jagged hardness that cut. Chest heaving, she gulped down half a glass of water. Her fingers clenched on her fork again afterward, the metal cold and hard in her grip. Her skin heated, her hair seeming to prickle with electricity under the towel she’d wrapped around the wet strands.

“Hate” was a hard word, a hard emotion. But Memory hated Renault with every fiber of her being. Even the idea of saying his name made her gorge rise. Yet that very hate was why she was alive. She’d survived while holding on to her own sense of self to spite him.

“Eat first,” the wolf said, his not-human eyes watchful. “The talk can wait until you’re not in danger of disappearing.” The growl had returned. “I think a bird could take you on right now and win.” A pause, then, “Not a predatory bird. A sparrow.”

Memory scooped up a big bite while staring at him.

Eyes shifting to pure amber, he leaned across the table and whispered, “Stop taunting the big, bad wolf, little E.”

That was another thing—why did he keep calling her an E? She knew about the newly rediscovered designation, had watched the comm reports with fascination, but she wasn’t one of them. The Es were healers of the mind, and Memory was no healer. She was a monster.

The bite she’d taken threatened to get stuck in her throat, but she made herself swallow. She had to become strong so she could tear Renault to pieces. Her one vulnerability was gone. She’d buried her affectionate Jitterbug under the open sky as she’d promised. Renault had nothing to hold over her anymore, no living creature he could threaten to harm when she got too intransigent.

“Renault,” she managed to get out past her ugly distaste. “His name is Erasmus David Renault and he is a murderer who likes to slowly strangle his victims to the edge of death, then bring them back, only to do it over and over again. When their brains finally shut down, their hearts dead, he hacks off a piece of their hair as a souvenir.”

The golden wolf had gone motionless at her first words. “How do you know?”

“He told me,” Memory lied, because while shut up in her cage for months at a time between Renault’s “outings,” she’d grown and educated herself. At first, she’d done so by using the teaching programs Renault had given her. He’d needed her functional and unremarkable when they were in the world, with the expected knowledge for a girl—then woman—of her age and apparent status.

It had grated on Memory that she was falling in line with his plans, but even as a child, she’d understood that education was a weapon she might one day be able to turn against her captor. Her mother had always said, “Study hard, Memory. The more you know, the more control you have over your future.”

So she’d knuckled down and gone through program after program. She’d also watched everything she could find on the comm about the outside world, read every book she could download. Renault had cut off her ability to contact anyone outside, but he hadn’t monitored her reading or entertainment-comm accounts—which he’d set up because he was clever enough to know she’d go insane if left with no outlet for her mind.

Her murderous captor had needed her sane.

As a result of her compulsive drive to prepare for a freedom she’d never given up on attaining, Memory knew how normal people behaved. She also knew one thing for an unqualified truth: Alexei the golden SnowDancer wolf had helped her because he thought she was a victim.

She couldn’t reveal that she was a nightmare.

Chapter 7

Breach detected. Alert in progress.

—Security Log, SNM: Owner EDR

E. DAVID RENAULT, known to his associates as Renault, had been in a meeting he couldn’t leave without causing uncomfortable questions when the alert hit his wrist unit. The sleek unit didn’t light up or broadcast a disruptive ping; it simply buzzed against his skin in a highly specific pattern.

The bunker had been breached.

Memory’s mind slipped from his grasp at nearly the same instant.

Renault had forced himself not to move, not to stiffen, though his own mind raced. He’d had no way to wire the bunker to alert him to a rogue teleporter—Memory’s presence and that of her geriatric cat would’ve constantly set off the system. Given that he was ninety-nine percent certain he was the only Psy alive who knew the location of the bunker and had visual coordinates for it, he’d decided to focus on the only other possible threat.

The bunker was in SnowDancer territory. That it hadn’t been found for decades didn’t mean the possibility was negligible. The wolves were highly territorial—no pack rose to be as powerful as SnowDancer without aggressively protecting what they owned. He couldn’t discount the idea of a patrol stumbling on the bunker.

He’d wired the bottom of the trapdoor.

The device was tiny and difficult to spot in dim light, and had a battery-powered transmitter. The latter had been a calculated risk, but as it was designed to only send a signal in the event of a breach, the risk was minor. Secrecy no longer mattered if a wolf was already inside the bunker.

As the endless meeting carried on, Renault’s hand curled over the end of his chair arm, the brown of his skin stretched tight over his knuckles.

He was a Gradient 8.7 telekinetic with teleportation capabilities. He’d also based his head office as close to the bunker as possible while remaining under the radar—it meant he was in no danger of burning out his psychic strength even if he had to make back-to-back trips to the bunker within a single day. He’d been confident of his ability to teleport in on the heels of an alert, grab Memory, and teleport out before anyone actually got through the bunker door.

The one thing he hadn’t planned for was that the breach would occur during a critical meeting with already nervous investors who would not forgive any disruption.

The discussion finally ended after night had fallen.

He teleported out the instant he was behind the closed door of his personal office.

Given the delay, he’d considered not responding to the alert. He had no desire to face off against a SnowDancer. The wolves had a well-earned reputation for being vicious—their motto was rumored to be shoot first and ask questions of the corpses. But he had to know. Memory was his most critical asset. He’d never found anyone else who could replicate what she did for him, and he didn’t plan to lose access to her.

He chose the safest lock image he had, one that would give him visibility but obscure his body enough to guarantee he wasn’t a sitting target.

A fraction of a second of disorientation and he stood beside Memory’s wardrobe. No Memory. No cat. He took extreme care as he stepped out into the hallway . . . and found himself staring at a door that had been ripped off its hinges. He snapped his head right, then left, but sensed no movement. He kept his guard up regardless as he walked into the living area—wolves were premier hunters and could stand motionless in wait for prey.

As for Memory, she knew how to be quiet. He’d trained her to be quiet.

The feline, he didn’t worry about. It had to be dead or very close to it by now. One kick and Renault would collapse its rib cage. Memory was lucky he hadn’t done that after her pet had scratched him soon after she’d adopted the mangy thing. Overall, it had been a good decision—the creature came in useful as a leash to control her.

The living area was empty.

It didn’t take long to sweep the rest of the bunker and walk out in the direction of the trapdoor. He used the light from his phone to navigate and saw that the hatch was closed. A chair sat fallen to its side on the ground, the dirt disturbed. If it had been a wolf that had entered, that hatch was probably weighed down or locked.

Not that Renault was stupid enough to crawl out into wolf territory.

Turning on his heel, he did another sweep, but he didn’t find anything new. The door torn off its hinges told the whole story. As a high-Gradient Tk, he could’ve wrenched the door off its hinges, but he didn’t believe another one of his kind had been down here. Logic stated it must’ve been a wolf.

Renault’s mind worked with cold precision. Given her lack of compliance and continued rebelliousness no matter what he did to her, he’d considered that Memory might one day escape and had laid the necessary foundations to recover her. All he had to do was wait, and she’d be returned to him. Except . . .

He’d always worked on the premise that she would escape while outside with him.

A SnowDancer wolf, however, that altered things.

Chapter 8

Empaths are now the most critical Psy in the world. We all fall if the Honeycomb falls.

—Editorial, PsyNet Beacon

ALEXEI WAS CONSCIOUS of the E staying motionless in the lower bunk, could all but feel her wary attention burning through the bottom of his bunk. He’d assigned her the lower berth because her movements, while better than when he’d first found her, remained uncoordinated, and he was afraid she’d wake disoriented and tumble out of the upper one.

His own reflexes were fast enough that he could be on the floor a heartbeat after hearing or scenting any sign of a threat. But he didn’t say that aloud—not when he could taste the acrid scent of her fear in the air. The idea of being helpless with a predator in the room was crushing even her lion’s heart.

Claws slicing out to dig into the mattress, Alexei focused on ensuring his breathing was deep and even, of a man who had fallen into slumber. The rustle below was a long time coming. He guessed she was curling up onto her side. Her breath fell into the rhythms of sleep not long afterward, her will to stay awake no match for her exhaustion.

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