Few assassins hunt with impunity in a world dominated by alpha mutants, but I do. My thoughts are protected from telepaths, my intentions invisible to precognitives, my body invulnerable to telekinetics, my emotions inaccessible to empaths. I pass through the world, a living, breathing human person who can be physically touched by other people, but I leave no psychic trace of my passing.
In a world increasingly dependent on psychic abilities, I am invisible—a psychic ghost.
I am the perfect assassin, which makes me the only person for this task: to kill an alpha empath…and not just any alpha empath. Danyael Sabre is watched over by the Three Fates—mercenaries recruited from among the elite warriors of special forces teams. Their leader, Zara Itani, is in her own right, an assassin truly deserving of her ruthless reputation.
They will not get in my way. They will not be allowed to protect a man who has shed far more blood than they.
Danyael unleashes death on an unprecedented scale. More than five hundred people died on Theodore Roosevelt Island on July 4th.
He killed them. His darkest emotions, fueled by his empathic powers, drove them to suicide.
He ripped their souls apart.
No man should be allowed that much power over others. No man should command another’s soul.
That is the only truth to which I hold.
The night is late, minutes to midnight, and the bright lights of nearby Washington, D.C., purge the stars of their radiance. Here, in Anacostia, the streets are dimly lit. Store windows and doors are protected by bars, but not the free clinic.
On a street wrecked by vandalism and reeking of trash and urine, the free clinic is untouched by the gangs that rule Anacostia. The lights are still on; everything within is clearly visible through the glass door. A pregnant woman walks through the open door. Her arms cradle her stomach. The worried frown on her face has given way to a hopeful smile. The man accompanying her does not support her ungainly weight. His hands are in his jacket, his fingers wrapped around the hilt of his handguns. His alert gaze sweeps the street for threats.
He loves her.
The only possible threat is a lean, solitary man standing across the street from the clinic, but that man does not move from his watchful pose. He’s not interested in the clinic’s patients, nor in the nurse who scurries toward the metro station.
He’s here for Danyael Sabre.
The doctor is the last to leave. He turns off the lights in the clinic and briefly vanishes into darkness before emerging from the building to stand beneath the dim glow of a streetlamp. He locks the door then turns for home—a fifth-floor walk-up apartment two streets away.
His shoulders are slumped, and he leans heavily on his one crutch, the limp in his left leg more obvious than usual. He does not look around. He does not need to. He fears nothing in this neighborhood.
He does not even fear death.
But he should…
I lean in to my sniper rifle and rest my cheek against its frame. Danyael is perfectly visible through the scope. I inhale deeply, hold my breath, and pull the trigger.
The night was no colder than was usual for April in Washington, D.C., but Danyael braced against the stinging bite of the wind. He had lost his tolerance of the cold, and the last winter had been especially difficult. Despite the onset of spring, he could not get warm enough, his fingertips numb beneath his frayed woolen gloves.
He shoved his right hand into the pocket of his leather jacket. His left hand curled more tightly around the crutch. Home, and rest, is just two blocks away. He mentally skirted around the issue of the five flights of stairs leading up to his small apartment. Breaking down big problems into small, manageable tasks and tackling them one at a time was the only way he got through each day.
Danyael locked the free clinic door and slid the key into the pocket of his denim jeans. Something shifted in his peripheral vision, but he did not turn.
It was just Jackson, probably grateful that he could stop loitering in front of the clinic. The alpha telepath and precognitive trailed Danyael, careful to keep his distance.
No doubt Zara had warned Jackson, as she had all the others, to give Danyael the illusion of privacy.
Danyael chuckled under his breath. Sometimes, it seemed that illusions were all he had left.
The tightness locked in his shoulders made each step harder than it had to be. The muscles of his body stretched and contracted in unnatural ways to compensate for a left leg that weakened with each passing day. At some point, he would have to make a decision to amputate it.
Some nights, after long, weary days like the one he had just endured, he almost relished the promise of starting over, without the constant pain.
He had said as much yesterday, and the day before. He had been saying “maybe tomorrow” for months. Always pushing out the decision. Always trying to find another solution. Always holding out for hope.
The illusion of hope.
He checked himself, shaking his head sharply as he consciously rejected cynicism. Didn’t think I’d become a bitter old man at the age of thirty.
The thought nudged him into a smile. Overachiever.
Something flickered at the edge of his consciousness. Danyael stopped walking. His head snapped up.
Unfamiliar sensations—not quite emotions—flittered, wisp-like, toward him. He glanced over his shoulder. His dark eyes met Jackson’s, and the other man straightened, his stance alert, even alarmed.
That almost-intangible presence flashed again—hazy, tinged with crimson-streaked darkness.
Instinct twisted Danyael toward the darkness of a nearby alley. Pain tore through his right shoulder. He staggered, reeled—
Jackson sprinted toward Danyael, shielding him with his body and hustling him into the narrow safety of the alley. “Concealed shooter. Danyael’s down!” Jackson shouted into the microphone he wore on the collar of his trench coat. “All units converge on me.” He winced against the excited babble of conversation in his earpiece. “At least one bullet. Right shoulder.”
“I’ll be all right.” Danyael breathed though the shock and the pain.
“He’s conscious. Talking. How far is the APC?” Jackson gripped Danyael’s other shoulder. “Two minutes. Hang in there. We’ll get you to the hospital.” He grimaced. “Shit. Zara’s going to kill me.”
The Mutant Affairs Council headquarters in Alexandria was, at all hours of the day and night, packed with alpha mutants. Yet, most of them were conspicuously absent when Zara Itani strode into the building at 1 a.m.
Alex Saunders, the director of the council, took the precaution of meeting her in the lobby. And just as well, he noted. The Lebanese-Venezuelan assassin’s violet eyes were narrow slits, and her voice was a husky purr—frequently the precursor to extreme violence. “Where is Danyael?”
“Just coming out of surgery. You can see him in a few minutes once they get him settled in recovery. He took a bullet in the right shoulder.”
Her upper lip lifted in a snarl. “He shouldn’t have taken a bullet anywhere. Where the hell is Jackson?”
“Here.” Jackson skulked out of an adjoining corridor. Once again, Alex was struck by the incongruity of Jackson, the six-foot-two ex-Delta, double alpha, cautiously watching his words and his step around a human woman.
A woman who could kick his ass, have a great time doing so, and then kill him without suffering a single moment of guilt.
“There was nothing out there, I swear.” Jackson held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I scanned every mind in the vicinity. There was no lurking killer. No psychically shielded mutants. Everyone was an open book.”
“And yet Danyael was shot.”
“He sensed something—I don’t know what—but he stopped and looked around. I knew something was wrong then, but I still couldn’t find it.” Frustration seeped into Jackson’s voice. “Whatever Danyael sensed, it was beyond me. He twisted away, as if he knew something was coming. If he hadn’t, that bullet would have gone into his heart.” Jackson swallowed, his Adam’s apple visibly bulging. “Danyael saved his own life.”
“Luckily for you,” Zara purred.
“I’m sure the shot came from the building across the street—third floor window—but there was nothing in the room. Not even a shell. No psychic remnants of a presence.”
She stared at Jackson. “Oh?”
Only Zara could make that simple question sound like a threat. Alex intervened before the crisis could escalate. “Come this way, Zara. Let’s talk.” He led the way down the carpeted corridor toward the elevators.
Zara strode alongside Alex with the unhurried, predatory grace of a stalking tiger. “I want to see Danyael.”
“He’s in no danger.”
“He wasn’t supposed to be in any danger back at the clinic.”
Alex grimaced as he entered the waiting elevator and turned to face Zara. “I wasn’t completely forthcoming when I asked if you could have some of your agents keep an eye on Danyael.”
“You said you were worried that Seth Copper’s friends might still be out there with an axe to grind.”
“We’ve arrested all of Seth’s allies. It’s not Seth.” Alex expelled his breath. “Danyael’s not the first empath to have been attacked. He’s the first, however, to have survived the attack.”
Zara’s eyes registered shock, swiftly concealed beneath ruthless practicality. “Who’s responsible?”
“No one has stepped forward to claim credit for the kills.”
“You must have suspicions.”
“Some, but we’ve no evidence. No one’s been caught, and like in this instance, there’s no psychic trace, no trail to follow.”
“How many have died?”
Alex ground his teeth, his cheek muscles twitching from the strain of containing the truth and tempering the anger that he knew would follow. He stepped out of the elevator as it opened onto the third floor and led the way to his office overlooking the Potomac. He closed the door behind Zara; only then did he speak. “Over the past two months, eleven empaths—all of them powerful, bordering on alpha-level capabilities.”
“What?” Zara’s jaw dropped. “And you’re only now telling me? The other two alphas—”
“They’re both dead. Cortez was killed in Barcelona seven weeks ago, and Faraji last week in Harare.”
“The assassin gets around,” Zara murmured. “Was Danyael warned?”
“Yes, the moment we suspected a killing spree, shortly after Cortez died.” Alex did not sit at his desk, neither did he offer Zara a seat. “I gather Danyael told you nothing.”
“We don’t talk.”
Alex detected more than a hint of anger and bitterness in Zara’s voice, but knew better than to ask. Some things were never up for discussion; Danyael and Zara’s dysfunctional non-relationship were chief among them. Instead, he said, “Danyael didn’t want us to tell you. He said he would bring it up with you when the time was right.”
“Which would be when exactly?” Zara demanded. “After he was killed? Does he have a death wish?”
Her question cracked the air like a whiplash, and lingered, unanswered, because no one knew the answer. Danyael’s will to live had to be tenuous at best. He had suffered too much to be enthusiastic about living.
Yet, he had turned away from an assassin’s bullet and saved his own life.
Alex did not know what to do with the guilt and near-panic that lodged in his chest the moment he heard Danyael had been shot. “The best we could do was to protect him, hence my request to you, for bodyguards.”
Zara’s eyes glittered, her voice a dangerous purr. “You downplayed the risk. If you had told me there was an assassin on him, I would have personally handled his security.”
“I don’t doubt your ability to protect him, but we would have had to put two or more alpha telepaths on him too. Just in case.”
“Why…” Zara frowned. “The eighty-seven deaths in Barcelona seven weeks ago—it wasn’t a gas leak.”
“The Spanish government hushed it up, but you’re right. It wasn’t a gas leak. It was the final release of Cortez’s empathic power.” Alex shook his head. “It’s no surprise to you, I’m sure, to learn that Cortez and Faraji were both emotional train wrecks.”
“Alpha empaths usually are,” Zara agreed, no irony in her voice.
“They are rare, and their unchecked powers tend to get them killed as infants or young children. Few make it to adulthood, and those who do are inevitably scarred mentally and emotionally. In Danyael’s case, physically too. Their painful past fuels their empathic powers, and when they die, it…” Alex clasped his fingers together and then yanked them apart sharply. “It explodes out of them—escalating, amplifying, driving people to suicidal madness.”
Alex sighed. “Cortez’s death and the subsequent emotional meltdown weren’t contained quickly enough. It was a little better with Faraji. By then, we knew someone was targeting empaths, and two alpha telepaths always accompanied him, just in case.”
“And it came to pass.”
“They were able, for the most part, to telepathically contain Faraji’s empathic meltdown until his powers faded away. Only thirteen lives were lost that day. But if Danyael…” Alex’s grimace set up a resonating ache in his chest.
“If Danyael dies?”
“It all depends on where. Like Cortez and Faraji, Danyael’s a defense-class alpha. His powers can’t penetrate walls or physical structures. If he died in a fully enclosed room with no one present, it would be all right, but if he died out in the open in a crowded city like Washington, D.C., his empathic release would drive anyone with an unshielded mind or anyone not safe within an enclosed structure to suicide.”
“How far would his powers spread? A city block?”
“Ten miles, at least.”
“Ten miles? But that’s practically the whole of Washington, D.C.”
“And that’s the minimum expected range for Danyael. It could be a great deal farther. It would be a disaster beyond anything we’ve seen. Danyael is fully capable of it. You know what he did on July 4th.”
“They were terrorists. He single-handedly killed the Sakti terrorists who were attacking the city.”
“Yes, the key words being killed and single-handedly. Danyael is more powerful than both Cortez and Faraji, and in many ways, far more damaged. When he dies, the empathic backlash will be horrific. Our only chance at mitigating the damage is to contain his powers until they fade away. That’s why aid came so quickly when he was shot. In addition to the people you had protecting him, we assigned nine alpha telepaths to Danyael. They stalk him in overlapping eight-hour shifts. He is never truly alone.”
“And they never sensed the assassin either?”
Alex shook his head. “Nothing.”
“But Danyael did.”
She turned away. Her gaze appeared fixed on the far wall, yet Alex, himself an alpha telepath, sensed her mental turmoil. Her voice, however, betrayed nothing. “Is Danyael in recovery yet?”
“Yes, he should be settled by now. I’ll take you up to his room.”
The well-equipped surgery and recovery rooms, located in a quiet and secured section of the Mutant Affairs Council building, had played host to Danyael Sabre far too many times. Zara was surprised Danyael’s name wasn’t permanently displayed on the door of the recovery room assigned to him.
No windows. A door that automatically slid shut within moments of opening. A room perfectly designed to contain an alpha empath’s power—should he die.
The lights in the room had been darkened but for a dim glow over the bed. The machines monitoring Danyael’s heart rate and blood pressure registered steady readings. Zara trailed her fingers along the steel bed frame—the seemingly languid motion belied the anxious swirl in the pit of her stomach—before reaching for the electronic tablet containing Danyael’s medical report.
She frowned as she studied the photograph of the extracted bullet. .338 Lapua Magnum. If that bullet had struck Danyael’s chest, it would have killed him. As it was, it shattered his right shoulder into bone splinters.
Many sniper rifles could fire that particular caliber, but she would bet on a H-S Precision Pro Series 2000 HTR, or possibly an IDF Barak. But why would the U.S. military or the Israeli military want to kill Danyael, or all empaths, for that matter? Killing mutants openly wasn’t on any government’s agenda. Governments had better ways to control alpha mutants and make use of them.
Why kill empaths?
Zara set the tablet aside and walked up to Danyael’s bed. She braced herself, but even so, it wasn’t enough to ward off the swarm of conflicted emotions. Anger. Guilt. Confusion. They spun like a compass set on a magnet, never pointing true north.
It didn’t matter, she supposed. There was lots of anger, guilt, and confusion to spread around.
Danyael stirred as if he had sensed her fluctuating emotions, but his eyes did not open. The machines beeped a warning at his accelerating heart rate and rising blood pressure. Zara shook her head as she swallowed the rueful laughter. I’m not good for you, Danyael, but we both already know that.
His face turned toward her, and his eyelashes fluttered open. His eyes narrowed, struggling to focus through the haze of painkillers. “Zara…”
She did not touch him. “What was out there?”
“I don’t know.”
“You sensed something.”
He nodded. “Not a psychic shield. Different.” The words dragged out of Danyael between slow, labored breaths. The bruised shadows under his dark eyes—the inevitable effect of exhaustion and sleep-deprivation—made him seem even more vulnerable than his most recent injuries warranted. His pale blond hair, cropped close to his skull, accentuated his symmetrical features and the slash of his cheekbones, sharpened by weight loss.
Danyael was in better shape than he had been at ADX Florence, the supermax prison in Colorado, but not by much. What little weight he had regained during his interlude with Elysium and then with the Mutant Assault Group, he was steadily losing.
Zara knew what he needed.
He needed to sleep, and he needed to eat, and he need time to do both without the nagging burden of laboring at the free clinic at less-than-minimum wage to pay his rent, loans, and bills.
He needed someone to take care of him.
And you think that someone is an assassin? Her mind mocked her.
Zara bit back the exasperated growl.
Danyael flinched, almost as if she’d struck him.
In a way, she had, and she knew it.
She had no psychic shields, and possessed neither the talent nor patience for emotional discretion. He was an alpha empath. It was the worst possible combination for any two people in close proximity.
Danyael’s jaw tensed. The muscles in his cheek twitched, and he looked away. His left hand curled into a fist, clenching tightly before slowly relaxing as he worked through the backlash of her uncensored emotions.
She waited until some of the tightness around his eyes eased. “What did you feel?”
“The psychic imprint was like a ghost. Flickering in and out…not quite there. It was so fleeting, so insubstantial, I wondered if I hadn’t imagined it.”
“And it was not a psychic shield.”
“Definitely not,” Danyael confirmed. “I know the difference.”
“Maybe one day you’ll explain it to me. And how do you feel?” She shifted her attention to his right shoulder, swathed in bandages.
“Luckily, it wasn’t my left shoulder, or I wouldn’t be able to walk.”
“So you intend to go around with a crutch for your left leg, and your right shoulder in a cast?” The mental picture was so ludicrous, she almost laughed.
“I intend to get out of here as soon as I can. I can’t afford charity from the Mutant Affairs Council. The price is always higher than I can pay.”
And here she thought she had cornered the market on cynicism. “How are you going to take care of yourself?”
He met her eyes, and to her surprise, smiled without rancor. “I can manage. I’ll be all right.”
She did not doubt it. “Help me” simply did not exist in his vocabulary—not because he did not know how to ask, but because he had been trained not to expect an answer. Nevertheless, he kept going, fought on. She had never met anyone as stubborn on life as Danyael Sabre.
Always bet on Danyael.
“I doubt they’ll discharge you before noon,” she told him. “Your clinic will just have to get by without you for half a day. You’re safe here. Get some sleep.”
She knew his gaze followed her as she strode out of the hospital room.
Was he wondering why she was even here?
There was nothing simple about loving an alpha empath, especially not one she had betrayed multiple times and who had every reason to hate her. She could have asked him how he felt about her, but—not yet. Besides, whatever his reply, it wasn’t going to change her decision about him.
Zara drove to Anacostia. The predawn darkness in a crime-ridden neighborhood did not unnerve her any more than it scared Danyael. Not only could she shoot faster and straighter than anyone in Anacostia, she was also far more likely to shoot without provocation. Those who knew Danyael avoided her, and everyone in Anacostia knew Danyael.
The person who had shot Danyael was, without doubt, a stranger.
She stood at the street corner where Danyael had been shot. The blood he had spilled was invisible in the darkness, but she could smell it. No special senses or psychic powers required—just a hunter’s instinct for wounded prey. Zara turned, her gaze traveling over the facade of the building across the street and specifically, an open third-floor window. Jackson, like all the men she hired for Three Fates, were munitions experts. He could have been wrong about the source of the shot, but by only a yard or two either way.
Less than two hours had passed since Danyael had been shot.
The assassin’s still here.
She knew it for a fact. Hunters recognized the presence of other hunters, especially when they stalked the same prey.
Zara crossed the street to the mixed-used building. The first floor, occupied by a mini-mart and a pawnshop, had separate doors and windows that faced the main road. A locked door between the two stores led into the building. A quick twist of a lock pick secured her entry.
The solitary naked lightbulb did little to punch through deep pockets of shadow in the dingy gray corridor. Zara pulled out her Glock from its concealed holster and pressed close to the wall as she made her way to the stairwell. She paused outside each apartment door on the second floor. Most apartments were quiet. Within one of them, she heard a woman crying, a man shouting, glass breaking.
She continued on her way.
The air stank of sweat and cheap perfume. Dirt and cigarette ash blended with wads of spit-out chewing gum to layer the cement floor. From another apartment, the sound of husky laughter almost concealed the soft sobs of a child.
Zara moved on.
Still here. But where?
The third floor was as quiet as the second. The oppressive sense of being watched was even more acute. Was the assassin still within the apartment? Unlikely. Her men had checked, hadn’t they?
She paused outside the apartment door and tested the handle. It twisted without protest and the door swung in slowly. She flicked the switch; nothing happened. Moonlight ghosting in through the open window concealed more than it revealed. Close scrutiny betrayed thick layers of dust covering mismatched pieces of furniture, and the blur of footprints on the linoleum floor. Idiot, she mentally cursed Jackson for inadvertently destroying evidence. The problem with working with psychics was that they tended to ignore physical clues like—
She squatted to examine a boot print, scarcely larger than her own.
Zara walked to the open window.
Jackson was right about the source of the shot. The small patches of non-dust showed where the stock of the sniper rifle had rested. The assassin had a clear line of sight to where Danyael had been standing. If Danyael had not twisted away a fraction of a second before the trigger was pulled, the bullet would have drilled through his heart.
The Three Fates mercenaries and the Mutant Affairs Council telepaths skulking around Danyael had acted quickly. They had entered the building, searched the apartment, and found nothing.
Yet the small boot print had been turned to the right, toward the last apartment along that corridor.
The assassin could not be far away.
Zara strode down the corridor. To hell with social niceties. Standing to one side of the door, she fired a bullet into the lock.
In a perfectly timed retort, a flurry of bullets shredded the wooden door and pounded into the apartment across the hallway. Zara dropped into a roll. Prone against the concrete, she squeezed off a shot. A slender, hooded form darted from the shadows toward the window. The assassin leaped toward the window, turning in mid-motion to fire repeatedly at Zara.
The window shattered into a spray of glass. The assassin tumbled out.
Zara rushed to the window. Far below, the woman landed in a crouch and dashed into the darkness lining the road.
Zara launched out of the building, somersaulting in mid-air to land in a battle crouch. Glass fragments crunched beneath her boots. She straightened and sprinted in the direction the assassin had disappeared. Several hundred feet away, the metro station—despite several flickering lamps on its dirt-streaked facade—was a beacon in the darkness, casting light upon a running figure.
Zara raced after the assassin.
The woman leaped over the turnstile and slid down the escalator handrest, toward the deafening sound of the metro rumbling into the station. She cast a glance over her shoulder. Zara was closing the distance.
There was nowhere left to go—but forward.
The assassin sprinted toward the track. The glow of the lights from the incoming metro train framed her slender body as she leaped across the track. Then she was gone, concealed behind the train thundering into the station.
By the time the train passed through the station, the woman had vanished.
Zara strode into Alex’s office without even bothering to wave away the protests of Alex’s assistant. “I found her sniper rifle,” she announced. “IDF Barak.”
“Wait—” Alex rose to his feet. “You said…her?” He dismissed his flustered assistant and turned his full attention to Zara. “Where was she?”
“Hiding out in the apartment next door. Jackson’s losing his bonus for the year. He’s lucky to not lose his job or his life. My team is checking her gun for prints, but I doubt they’ll find anything. She was wearing gloves, and she knew what she was doing. She certainly made fools of the Three Fates and the Mutant Affairs Council.”
“Did you get a good look at her face?”
“No. Masked and hooded. About five-eight. Slim. Athletic. Jumped three floors without hurting herself and perfectly timed a leap across the metro tracks.”
Alex raised an eyebrow. “Possibly telekinetic?”
Zara matched him by arching her eyebrows. “I can do the same, and I’m not telekinetic. I just work out.”
“Why would she hang around the crime scene?”
“Because Danyael is stubborn and stupid enough to return to work—to walk down that same road several hours from now—and she’d have another shot at him.”
“Any clues as to who she is? What does the rifle tell you?”
“Israel Defense Forces, which in itself doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are enough stray weapons drifting around the world that it shouldn’t be too hard to get hold of a decommissioned rifle. My team will do their best to track it down, but I doubt you’ll be able to tie it to the Israeli government.”
“Perhaps they’re going after Danyael as bait to draw you out. Have you irritated the Israeli government recently?”
“Not recently, but often enough. Using Danyael as bait is one way to draw me out, but why then kill the other empaths?”
Alex frowned. “You’re right. This is about Danyael—but not even him, specifically. It’ll be hard tracking down the assassin. People who act on principled grudges rather than personal ones are more difficult to identify.”
“And they won’t stop, which means that Danyael is in danger until the assassin is found.”
“We can keep him safe.”
“How?” Zara challenged. “By locking him up in the Mutant Affairs Council headquarters? He’s not going to sit and stay just because you’ve asked nicely. He doesn’t trust you.”
“It’s not safe for him out there, wherever he goes.”
Zara turned over Alex’s words in her mind. Her fingernails tapped against his oak desk. “I want you to release him into my custody.”
“He’s a class five threat. We’re not releasing him into your—or anyone else’s—custody.”
“Danyael isn’t going to embark on a killing spree.”
“Not intentionally, no, but you know what can happen if he’s killed. He needs powerful alpha telepaths nearby to contain his powers until they fade away.”
“And how long can you afford to have those alpha telepaths out of commission while they babysit Danyael? It’s far more economical to hunt down the assassin killing those empaths.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
Awareness dawned; Alex’s jaw dropped. He half rose from his seat to glare at Zara. “Are you crazy? No, you can’t use Danyael as bait.”
“He’s the sole surviving alpha empath. That assassin’s job isn’t done until Danyael is dead. He is bait—regardless of whether he stays here or comes with me—and I’m your best chance of tracking down and killing that assassin.”
“Because I’m not psychic. I’m not handicapped by telepathic, telekinetic, precognitive, or empathic powers. I use two eyes, two ears, a nose, and my God-given talents for finding trouble. I’m the only person who can track down that psychic ghost of an assassin.”
Alex remained silent for a long moment, his fingers steepled beneath his chin. “If you’re right, how certain are you that you can keep Danyael alive while using him as bait to hunt down that assassin?”
“I would never let Danyael get hurt.”
“Let?” Alex shook his head. “Danyael will do what he believes is right, regardless of your opinion or mine. Physically, he may not be able to keep up with you, but he won’t be controlled, Zara. You should know that by now.”
“It’s for his own safety.”
“And the last time Danyael paid attention to his own safety was…when, exactly?”
Zara had no answer for that question, because there was no answer for that question. Danyael’s inability to accurately assess risk—especially when it involved his life—absolutely infuriated her. “I will keep him safe.”
“He has to be accompanied by the telepaths.”
“Zara, if he’s killed—”
“I’m trying to set a trap for an assassin. How effective do you think that trap will be if I have to babysit nine alpha telepaths?”
“They don’t need to be babysat.”
“Of course they do. If alpha mutants didn’t have to be nagged on how to do things right, they would have found that assassin skulking in the next apartment, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.”
Alex grimaced, probably because even he had to acknowledge that she was right about alpha mutants. “It’s too dangerous. If something happens to Danyael, you could be looking at hundreds, maybe even thousands of innocent people dying.”
“I’m trying to find an assassin. Small haystacks are easier than large haystacks. We’ll keep away from crowded places.”
A muscle ticked in Alex’s cheek. “One week. No more. If you can’t find and track this assassin down, then I want Danyael back here in D.C. where at least I can have an army of telepaths on top of him.”
“You’re using him as bait, too, Alex.” Zara’s smile was devoid of humor. “But your only workable plan is to keep the collateral damage under control when he’s killed. No wonder he doesn’t trust you.”
“He trusts you even less,” Alex retorted. “You can’t convince him to follow you.”
She smirked. “Watch and learn.”