Home > Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling #3)

Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling #3)
Author: Nalini Singh

Prologue

ARROWS

Mercury was a cult. That was what everyone said at the start. The Psy laughed at Catherine and Arif Adelaja's claims of being able to free their people from insanity and murderous fury.

To be Psy was to court the edges of madness.

It was accepted. It was accepted.

There was no cure.

But then Mercury produced two graduates of their early version of the Silence Protocol - the Adelajas' own twin sons. Tendaji and Naeem Adelaja were as cool as ice, their emotions holding nothing of anger or madness...for a while. The experiment eventually failed. The dark side of emotion rushed back into the Adelaja twins in an avalanche, and, sixteen years after being heralded as the harbingers of a new future, they committed suicide. Tendaji, the strong one, killed Naeem then himself. There was no doubt that it had been a mutual decision.

They left a note.

We are an abomination, a plague that will kill our people from within. Silence must never take root, must never infiltrate the PsyNet. Forgive us.

Their words were never heard, their terror never understood. Found by acolytes of Mercury, they were buried in a hidden grave, their deaths termed an accident. By then, Mercury had begun training a second generation, improving their technique, refining the tools with which to excise unwanted emotion from the heart and madness from the soul. The most important change was the quietest - this time, they had the cautious support of the leaders of their people, the Psy Council.

But they also needed support of another kind, the kind that would catch any other lapses and mistakes before they made it to the public domain...and to the ears of the still-skeptical Council. If the Councilors had found out about the continuing deaths, they would have pulled back. And the Adelajas could not bear the thought of their vision being consigned to the trash heap of history. Because, though shattered by the deaths of their twin sons, Catherine and Arif never lost faith in Silence. Neither did their eldest son - Zaid.

Zaid was a cardinal telepath with a furious ability in mental combat. He, too, had trained under Silence, but as a young adult, not a child. Still, he believed. The Protocol had given him peace from the demons of his mind and he wanted to spread that gift of peace, to quiet the torment of his people. So he began cleaning up the mistakes, wiping away those who broke under the experimental versions of Silence, burying their lives as efficiently as he buried their bodies.

Catherine called him her Martial Arrow.

Soon, Zaid recruited others like him. Others who believed. They were loners, unknown shadows, darker than the darkness, men and women whose sole aim was to eliminate anything that might threaten the successful realization of Catherine and Arif's lifelong dream.

Time passed. Years. Decades. Zaid Adelaja was washed from this Earth, but the torch of the Arrows continued to be handed from one acolyte to the next...until there was no more Mercury and the long-dead Adelajas were being hailed as visionaries.

The Silence Protocol was implemented in the year 1979.

The Psy Council was unanimous in its vote, the masses divided, but the majority in favor. Their people were killing each other and themselves with rage and inhumanity unseen in any of the other races. Silence seemed their only hope, their only solution for a lasting peace. But would they have taken that step had they read Tendaji and Naeem's last words? There is no one left who can answer that question.

As no one can answer why a protocol meant to bring peace also brought with it the coldest, most dangerous kind of violence - rumors of the Arrow Squad spawned on the heels of the implementation process, fed by the fear of minds going under Silence. It was said that those who protested too hard had a habit of simply disappearing.

Now, in the final months of the year 2079, the Arrows are a myth, a legend, their existence or nonexistence debated endlessly in the PsyNet. To the naysayers, the post-Silence Psy Council is a perfect creation, one that would never do anything as underhanded as create a secret squad to take care of its enemies.

But others know differently.

Others have seen the dark streaks of highly martial minds shooting through the Net, felt the cold chill of their psychic blades. But of course, these others cannot speak. Those who come into contact with the Arrow Squad rarely live to tell the tale.

The Arrows themselves do not heed the rumors, do not consider their secret army a death squad. No, they have remained true to their founding father. Their only loyalty is to the Silence Protocol and they are dedicated to its continuance.

Executions are sometimes unavoidable.

Chapter 1

A fist crashed into Judd's cheekbone. Focused on eliminating his opponent from the field, he barely noticed the impact, his own fist already swinging out. Tai tried to evade the blow at the last second but it was too late - the young wolf's jaw slammed together with a thick sound that spoke of damage on the inside.

But he wasn't down.

Baring teeth stained red from a cut on his top lip, he rushed at Judd, clearly aiming to use his heavier build as a battering ram to smash his adversary into the hard stone wall. Instead it was Tai who ended up with his back slammed against the stone, his mouth falling open as air punched out of his lungs in an uncontrollable blast.

Judd gripped the other male by the throat. "Killing you would mean nothing to me," he said, tightening his hold until Tai had to be having trouble breathing. "Would you like to die?" His tone was calm, his breathing modulated. It was a state of being that had nothing to do with feeling, because unlike the changeling across from him, Judd Lauren did not feel.

Tai's lips shaped into a curse, but all that materialized was an incomprehensible wheezing sound. To a casual observer it would have seemed that Judd had gained the advantage, but he didn't make the mistake of lowering his guard. So long as Tai hadn't conceded defeat, he remained dangerous. The other male proved that a second later by using the changeling ability to semishift - slicing up hands turned to claws.

Those sharp talons cut through leather-synth and flesh without effort, but Judd didn't give the boy a chance to cause him any real injury. Pressing down on a very specific pressure point in Tai's neck, he slammed his erstwhile opponent into unconsciousness. Only when the changeling was completely out did he release his hold. Tai slumped down into a seated position, head hanging over his chest.

"You're not supposed to use Psy powers," a husky female voice said from the doorway.

He had no need to turn to identify her but did so anyway. Extraordinary brown eyes in a fine-boned face topped by a choppily cut cap of blonde hair. Those eyes had been normal and that hair hadn't been short before Brenna had been abducted. By a killer. By a Psy.

"I don't need to use my abilities to deal with little boys."

Brenna walked to stand beside him, her head just reaching his breastbone. He had never realized how small she was until he'd seen her after the rescue. Lying in that bed, scarcely breathing, her energy had been contracted into a ball so tight, he hadn't been sure she was still alive. But her size meant nothing. Brenna Shane Kincaid, he had learned, had a will of pure, undiluted iron.

"That's the fourth time this week you've been in a fight." Her hand rose and he had to stop himself from jerking away. Touch was a changeling thing - the wolves indulged in it constantly and without thought. For a Psy it was an alien concept, something that could ultimately foster a dangerous loss of control. But Brenna had been broken by an evil spawned of his own race. If she needed touch, so be it.

Faint imprints of heat on his cheek. "You'll have a bruise. Come on, let me put something on it."

"Why aren't you with Sascha?" Another renegade Psy, but a healer not a killer. Judd was the one who had blood on his hands. "I thought you had a session with her at eight p.m." It was now five past the hour.

Those stroking fingers slid to linger on his jaw before dropping off. Her lashes lifted. And revealed the change that had taken hold five days after her rescue. Eyes that had once been dark brown were now a mix he'd never seen on any sentient being - human, changeling, or Psy. Brenna's pupils were pure black, but surrounding those dots of night were bursts of arctic blue, vivid and spiking. They jagged out into the dark brown of the iris, giving her eyes a shattered look.

"It's over," she said.

"What is?" He heard Tai moan but ignored it. The boy was no threat - the only reason Judd had allowed him to land any of his punches was because he understood the way wolf society worked. Being beaten in a fight was bad, but not as bad as being beaten without putting up a solid resistance.

Tai's feelings made no difference to Judd. He had no intention of assimilating into the changeling world. But his niece and nephew, Marlee and Toby, also had to survive in the network of underground tunnels that was the SnowDancer den, and his enemies might become theirs. So he hadn't humiliated the boy by ending the fight before it began.

"Is he going to be alright?" Brenna asked, when Tai moaned a second time.

"Give him a minute or two."

Glancing back at him, she sucked in a breath. "You're bleeding!"

He stepped away before she could touch his shredded forearms. "It's nothing serious." And it wasn't. As a child he had been subjected to the most excruciating pain and then been taught to block it. A good Psy felt nothing. A good Arrow felt even less.

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