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

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

Awakenings

THE SILENCE PROTOCOL fell with a crash heard around the world.

For the first time in over a hundred years, the Psy were free to feel.

Free to love, free to hate, free to laugh, free to hurt.

Free.

Telepaths and telekinetics, foreseers and psychometrics, the weak and the strong, all were free to step out of their emotionless cages and into the sunshine of a life lived without boundaries.

The empaths, their abilities linked inextricably to emotion, gained far more than freedom. No longer considered defective. No longer hidden away, their abilities deliberately and cruelly suppressed. No longer failures. Now, in the heart of winter’s cold kiss in the year 2083, empaths are the glue that hold their shocked and shaken people together, millions of lives balanced on their fragile shoulders.

But empaths weren’t the only ones who woke with the fall of Silence.

So did a power that should’ve lain dormant forever.

And that dark power . . . it screams.

Extract from The Mysterious E Designation: Empathic Gifts & Shadows by Alice Eldridge (circa 1972)

The E designation has no official subdesignations. That, however, does not mean those subdesignations do not exist.

Unofficially, a large percentage of Es tend to put themselves in various subgroups. E-med Psy, for example, work well with the ill and the physically wounded, while E-com Psy are more geared toward commerce.

Regardless, argument continues to rage in the empathic community about whether such inclinations are powerful enough to be considered subdesignations. A small but vocal percentage of empaths believe it is all a matter of differing personalities leading to differing paths, that E is a designation devoid of subdesignations.

I do not have enough data to formulate an answer to this question.*

Chapter 1

The Psy hid their evil in the snow. Watch. Be vigilant. Do not allow such heartbreak to happen again.

—Letter from Aren Snow, opened in the aftermath of her death in 2059

GRIEF HIT HIM with the force of a backhanded punch.

Alexei stumbled, came to a halt under the driving rain—and immediately realized the soul-shredding pain wasn’t his. His eyes burned and his throat threatened to clog, but both the man who ran under the rain and the wolf inside him understood that this grief came from the outside.

Alexei’s own grief remained locked up tight in an airless box where it stayed except for bleak midnight hours about once a month when he could no longer hold it inside. Those nights, he ran in wolf form, howling up at the cold moon in pure fury and ignoring the wolf song that responded to his.

His grief was primal, angry and aggressive and stubbornly determined to be a private thing. His packmates didn’t know the meaning of private most of the time, but in this, everyone except the toughest, most stubborn wolves held back. Likely because Alexei would growl them right back inside the den. His grief had claws.

The grief he could sense today . . . it was raw, without shields, naked and defenseless. It was a wounded animal with its paw caught in a cruel trap. A broken creature in a place without light, alone and afraid. A sentient being who had lost all hope.

Both parts of him strained at the leash to find the grieving one, attempt to assuage their grief. He was a dominant predatory changeling, a deep protectiveness toward weaker packmates built into his blood. This person wasn’t pack, wasn’t wolf, but his instincts didn’t make the distinction when so close to such terrible anguish.

Alexei had to force himself to pause, think. Such an overwhelming emotional storm, the roar of it thunder in his blood, it could come from only one type of being. An empath. And not just any empath. A powerful empath who was broadcasting on all bands with no thought to who their pain might hit.

Alexei had only ever met two empaths. The one he knew best had laughed during their meeting and he’d felt the ripple of her happiness in the air, but it had been akin to catching a distant scent on the wind. This was a deluge, but there was no attempt to confuse his own senses.

The E was broadcasting so loudly that he couldn’t help but feel their crushing grief, his already battered and bruised heart aching, but he knew the grief wasn’t his own. The E wasn’t targeting him or making any attempt to hack his mind. The waves of emotion were too uncontrolled and chaotic for that. As a wolf might react at the loss of his mate, throwing back his head and howling his rage and grief up at the sky, uncaring of who else might hear.

This was no Psy trick or trap.

Alexei ran in the direction of the torrent of pain.

Only moments earlier and regardless of his wolf’s edgy need to run, he’d been considering turning back. The sudden rise in the strength of the wind worried him, and the rain had become a pitiless silver sheet that threatened to turn into shards of ice. Though heavy snow yet shrouded the higher elevations, including thick patches in his current location, it had been cloudy but otherwise fine when he left his pack’s central den in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

Now, turning back was not an option.

The fallen pine needles and snowy leaf litter were fleeting touches under his booted feet, the water that ran over him frigid. Tall green firs thickly dusted with white speared into the granite-colored sky at the start of his run toward the E, but five minutes of loping over the landscape with wolfish speed and the forest giants began to feather out in favor of smaller trees.

Those, too, disappeared not long afterward.

It could get bitingly cold at this elevation even in the summer months, the mountains less than hospitable to large foliage. But they’d had an unseasonal warm snap over the past two weeks. Grass had begun to poke its sharp blades through the snow, and in between the huge shattered rocks that thrust out of the mountain, he spotted tiny rain-bedraggled wildflowers that would raise their hopeful faces to the sun after the storm was past.

The wind slapped at his skin and the icy rain ran down his back, but he didn’t slow, driven to find the empath suffering so terribly that she was threatening to crush his heart.

She.

Yes, the “taste” of the presence he could sense was categorically female. It was as if she were broadcasting part of herself with her pain. As if the slamming waves of emotion held a scent his wolf could catch.

His heart thundered, his lungs expanding and collapsing in a harsh rhythm. Inside him ran the wolf that was his other half—a half without which he could never be whole. Alexei and his wolf, they were one . . . even when it came to the curse that haunted his family and had taken his brother. Primal wolf and changeling heart, Alexei accepted who he was—and the price it demanded.

He ran on, the hunt in his blood.

His packmates didn’t often wander this way—the power substation he’d promised to look in on during this run was a half hour to the west and could be approached from multiple other directions. It was possible no one had spent time up here for months, maybe longer.

In any other part of the pack’s territory, such a gap would be highly unusual. SnowDancer as a pack didn’t take territorial security lightly—but things got complicated in this particular section of their land. When Alexei had mentioned his intended route to his alpha, the other man had narrowed his ice-blue eyes. “I haven’t been through there in too long.” A tension in Hawke’s muscles, his jaw working. “My wolf’s fur always stands up the wrong way there.”

Alexei’s claws had pricked the insides of his fingers at the unspoken reference to the nightmarish past. Hawke had been a child of twelve, Alexei barely four when the Psy attempted to savage the pack with cowardice and stealth. A fringe group of scientists had abducted wolf after wolf, then broken their minds and souls beyond repair, the scientists’ aim to poison the pack from within.

Hawke’s parents hadn’t survived.

His strong, highly trained father had gone missing up here during a routine patrol. Tristan had been found a week later, badly wounded from an apparent fall. No one knew the Psy had twisted his mind until it was far too late and he lay bleeding out on the snow.

Hawke’s gifted artist mother, Aren, had tried to hold on after Tristan’s death, but her heart had been broken into so many pieces that she couldn’t put it back together again; she’d simply gone to sleep one day and never woken up.

It was hardly surprising that Hawke preferred not to roam here.

Odd, however, that other packmates avoided it, too. Even pragmatic Elias had shuddered when he ran into Alexei as Alexei was about to leave that afternoon. “Area gives me the creeps,” the senior soldier had muttered. “Can a mountain be haunted? ’Cause I’m pretty sure that particular section is.”

The E’s grief was a crushing vise around his heart by this point, nails that threatened to puncture his lungs. Gritting his teeth, he continued on, uncaring of the sharpness of the rain, the danger of the uneven and rocky terrain. He was a wolf. He was a lieutenant. He was a SnowDancer. And this was wolf land.

The grief reached a screaming crescendo . . . only to begin to fade as he ran on.

Halting, he backed up until the pitch grated and scraped and told him he was right beside her.

Only there was no one within sight or scent. Rain or not, his vision was acute enough that he could see a hell of a long way at this treeless elevation. The only things in his line of sight were patches of snow, exposed juts of rock, the odd area of grass-speckled earth revealed by the recent warm spell, and, over in the distance, a falcon riding the powerful wind.

A changeling bird. It was too big to be a natural falcon.

But the falcon was no concern. The WindHaven falcons had an agreement with SnowDancer that permitted them flight paths over SnowDancer land. Plus, the falcon was far distant and heading in the opposite direction, nearly a dot by now, yet the pain, the pain, it continued to rise and rise and rise.

Her heart, it was breaking.

His wolf clawed at the inside of his skin. The primal urge rippling through his blood, Alexei’s human hands sprouted claws as he began to hunt among the nearby rocks, on the impossible chance that she was curled up hiding behind one. Impossible because there weren’t many rocks large enough. And because how could she be here? This area was so deep in SnowDancer territory that you’d have to be a teleporter to get in without being spotted.

   
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