The word pierced through him. Silver saw in Amber’s expression the expectation for a reaction, for the fury to ripple through his veins—for another indication that he was hopelessly in the girl’s thrall. Amber would never admit to it, but a part of her thrilled in drama, the romanticism of fate and bad decisions. Perhaps she even thought the bond between him and Lilith endearing.
As for Manda . . . She had stood up, was fastening her shirt buttons. He would show her how much importance he placed on dreams.
Silver leant back against the headboard, fighting back the anger, keeping his breathing even. “What do you mean, gone?” Just the right amount of sarcasm. Good.
Amber hesitated on the threshold, eyes flicking towards Manda. “She said she needed some air and stepped outside. I gave her five minutes—maybe ten—but she didn’t come back. When I went outside, she was gone.”
“It’s a small town,” Manda said. “She won’t get far.”
But Amber was shaking her head. “I lost the trail.” A pause. “It ended at the lake.”
Now he straightened, placing his feet against the floor. The ewtes. Nothing happened in the lake without their permission. If they’d taken her to the island . . .
Then it hit him: nitum grew on the island.
Had she planned this? Lilith had known they’d wanted to use her to negotiate with the ewtes. What if she had contacted them, made her own arrangements? He’d thought the girl too self-absorbed but perhaps she was capable of some small kindness—even if it was only to ensure her safe return home.
After all, he had saved her life, and after the shower incident she’d seemed more amenable. She’d even suggested working together, and had, for the first time, acknowledged the bond. Could she—?
No. The thought was too dangerous to entertain. If she was acting in his interests, more fool her. The bond would be broken soon, in one way or another.
“Get Fang,” he instructed. “Jake too. Circle the lake. Find her.”
“You can tell them yourself,” Manda said, standing at the windowsill. “They’re here.”
Silver stood, joined her side just as Fang entered the tavern. Jake remained outside with Howl, lighting up a cigarette as the boy drew shapes in the dirt. “So much for a quiet night,” he muttered.
Amber backed out of the room. “I’ll go get them,” she said—meaning she’d stall them to give him a few moments alone with Manda.
“There’s no need,” Manda said. “I was just leaving.” The smile she gave Silver was catlike. “We can have a quiet night another time.”
He nodded as the scent of pack drifted down the hallway. He’d made a mistake: he should have slept with Manda, erased Lilith from his mind if only for a moment. It had worked to dull the pain Kara had left in him—the bond couldn’t be much different.
Then Fang appeared in the doorway. It was too late now to ask Manda what she’d been about to say when he’d cut her off. There are . . . what? Other ways to break the bond?
“See you later,” Manda said softly, touching the back of her hand to his. Her skirt swayed as she slipped through the doorway, sliding the door closed behind her.
Fang waited until she was out of earshot. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead and his usual smile was strained. “Vera is getting worse,” he said finally. “We’re bringing her here and will need to isolate her from most of the pack.” His lips thinned. “Especially Al. He’s too unstable and could trigger a change.”
Amber wrinkled her nose. “I can’t imagine Al being too happy about that.”
“He wasn’t, at first, but—” a self-deprecating shrug “—logic prevailed. Most of the pack is camping on the outskirts of Rivton for the night.” Then he looked at Silver. “I contacted the Guild. They’re willing to pay for Lilith, enough to buy nitum. Al has decided to make the exchange tomorrow.”
“Good,” Silver made himself say. “I’ll have to find her first. Amber lost her.”
“I didn’t—” Amber sputtered, but Fang spoke over her.
“The others can hunt her down. You need to stay here.” Fang squinted out the window at the sky outside. The moon was a pale curve on the horizon. “Vera should be here soon. We need to watch over her.”
“I’ll stay,” Amber volunteered.
“No,” Fang said. “It has to be only Silver and me. Al’s orders.” He noticed Amber’s expression, shrugged apologetically. “You can take over her care once the nitum stabilises her.”
Fang had the best self-control in the pack; it made sense for him to babysit Vera. But Silver? His self-control was better than most, but Silver sensed that it was merely a convenient excuse to get him out of the way. Al wouldn’t want him interfering while they sold Lilith off to the Guild. After everything, Al still didn’t trust Silver to put the pack first. It stung more than he cared to admit.
“Okay,” Amber said, her flat tone indicating it was anything but. Her footsteps were heavy as she walked to the door. “I’ll get the search party started.” She closed the door behind her with more force than necessary.
Silver rolled his eyes. “You do it on purpose.”
Fang smiled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
They watched Amber, Jake and Howl make their way down the street, heels kicking up dust as they headed for the lake. Silver wondered whether they’d find Lilith, whether he’d get to see her one more time before the exchange. Then he scowled, turned away from the window. It didn’t matter.
“They’re here,” Fang said.
Within minutes there was a knock on the door. Silver slid the door open. On the other side was the incubus, Vera in his arms.
“You hired him?” he snapped.
Fang nodded. “His powers have little effect on werekin, and what little influence he does have will serve to soothe Vera rather than agitate her.”
Silver scowled. “Let’s get this over with.” He stepped aside to let the incubus pass, fighting back a sneer when he detected Lilith’s scent. The incubus lay Vera down on the bed more gently than Silver would have thought possible. When he left the room, Silver stepped closer to the bed. Vera was pale, cheeks gaunt, the bulge of her stomach unnatural against her sickness.
“We can’t lose her,” Fang said, voice soft as he checked her vitals. “Not now.”
Silver didn’t reply. Without Vera, Al was nothing. Without Al, the pack would collapse . . . and if even a fraction of the rumours about the WPL were true, they would need every able-bodied wolf to keep the witches at bay.
If Vera died, everything would fall apart.