Theo’s chest hurt, the pain sharp and hard. She’d tried to make herself stone long ago, and she’d succeeded with everyone but her twin. The far better half of their pair. Any lines he’d crossed couldn’t compare to her crimes.
Not willing to look head-on at a loss that would signal the end of her own life, too—for there was no reason for her darkness to exist if Pax was gone—she exited the plane, then slid her phone out of the pocket of her calf-length skirt. She paused on the way out of the passenger area to send a message to Yakov Stepyrev.
Her phone rang in her hand mere moments later, the same name on the screen. “Theodora Marshall speaking.”
“I figured you’d want to check out the site,” said a masculine voice in accented English that held an undertone of warmth. “I’m your ride. Look out for a big furry brown creature as you exit.”
Theo blinked, took the phone away to stare at it, then said, “I have your ID photo. Unfortunately, it only features your human face.”
A pause from the other end, before he said, “In which case, look for my ugly mug when you leave the secure area,” in a voice that held a thread of something she couldn’t quite pinpoint.
Shaking her head at the odd interaction, she slipped her phone back into her pocket. She’d undertaken basic research on bear changelings during her flight—most of it via the digital archive of a magazine called Wild Woman. She’d learned that while bears were intensely territorial, they were also considered one of the most good-natured of the changelings—as long as you didn’t attempt to harm them or theirs.
The various columnists had often referred to the bear sense of humor, but she hadn’t expected to run headlong into it the instant she set foot in Moscow. Of course, an article by “Aunt Rita” had stated that while bears found great amusement in acting like “lumbering trunks of fur with a limited number of brain cells,” they were ruthlessly intelligent.
“Only a fool underestimates a bear” had been Aunt Rita’s final words on the subject.
Theo hadn’t needed the columnist’s advice on that point; she’d figured it out on her own. No pack or clan would’ve survived existing in—much less holding territory in—the same region as Kaleb Krychek if they were anything less than dangerous and smart.
Aunt Rita had also stated that “bears appreciate spine” and weren’t easy to offend—unless a verbal opponent targeted the vulnerable under their care. Theo had found herself compelled by the latter, unable to imagine a people so good-natured and even-tempered.
Psy might have aimed for peaceful minds with the emotionless regime of Silence, but all they’d achieved was a frigid control that wore on the psyche until people began to snap.
Murder rates hadn’t gone down under Silence. The crimes had just been concealed better.
She knew that because her grandfather had never bothered to hide information around her; he’d thought it was fear of him that kept her mouth shut. Theo had allowed him to believe that. Far better that than he realize she did it for Pax.
Marshall Hyde had never understood her profound allegiance to Pax—and her brother’s equally visceral loyalty to her—which was why he’d never realized that he could use one twin to manipulate the other. A small mercy.
Today, she’d be interacting with a man as different from her grandfather as night from day.
She’d survived a Councilor. How hard could it be to deal with a bear?
Armed with her research, she had her guard up and her senses on alert when she exited through the doors that spilled her out into the public area. She’d ended up on the tail end of a group from a commercial flight and expected to spot Yakov Stepyrev well before he spotted her; Theo was hardly a woman who stood out. Her grandfather had taught her to never stand out for reasons of his own, and she’d taken those lessons into adulthood because it suited her.
Except the instant she walked through the automatic doors, she got a prickle on the back of her neck that told her she was being watched. She looked up . . . and met eyes of a stunning aqua green across a good ten meters of space.
He lounged against the white of the far wall, one booted foot kicked up against it and his arms folded. Faded blue jeans. Black T-shirt. His biceps were defined but not in the overt fashion of a man who’d made it a point to get those muscles—these were the muscles of a changeling used to the physical. His hair was thick and silky and the color of polished mahogany, his skin a shade closer to dark honey, his face put together in a way that had multiple women sending him smiles as they passed by.
Right now, however, Yakov Stepyrev, StoneWater bear and Theo’s partner for the duration of this task, was focused absolutely and totally on Theo.
Copyright © 2023 by Nalini Singh
For the Complete Chronological Reading Order, click here.
1. Slave to Sensation
1.5a “The Cannibal Princess” – free short story
1.5b “The Shower” – deleted scene
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed By Ice
3.5 “Miss Leozandra’s” – deleted scene
4. Mine to Possess
4.5 “A Conversation” – free short story
5. Hostage to Pleasure
5.5a “A Gift for Kit” ~ free short story
5.5b “Movie Night” – free short story
6. Branded By Fire
7. Blaze of Memory
7.5. “Christmas in the Kitchen” – free short story
8. Bonds of Justice
9. Play of Passion
9.5a “Wolf School” – deleted scene
9.5b “Clean and Dirty” – free short story
10. Kiss of Snow
10.5 “Stalking Hawke” – free short story
11. Tangle of Need
12. Heart of Obsidian
13. Shield of Winter
14. Shards of Hope
15. Allegiance of Honor
16. The Psy/Changeling Trinity series (2017)
1. “Beat of Temptation” in An Enchanted Season
2. “Stroke of Enticement” in The Magical Christmas Cat
3. “Whisper of Sin” in Burning Up
4. Wild Invitation (featuring Beat of Temptation, Stroke of Enticement, Declaration of Courtship, and Texture of Intimacy)
5. “Secrets At Midnight” in Night Shift
6. Wild Embrace
Book 7: the Psy/Changeling Trinity series
Where are the broken? A propulsive question that unleashes a world of secrets in New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s Resonance Surge . . .
StoneWater bears Pavel and Yakov Stepyrev have been a unit since birth, but now Pavel’s life is veering in a new direction, his heart held in the hands of Arwen Mercant, a Psy empath—and the only man who has ever brought Pavel to his knees.
This is it. A point of irrevocable change. For Pavel . . . for Arwen . . . for Yakov . . . and for another pair of twins whose bond has a far darker history.
A low-gradient Psy, Theodora Marshall is considered worthless by everyone but her violently powerful twin, Pax. She is the sole person he trusts in their venomous family to investigate a hidden and terrible part of their family history—an unregistered rehabilitation center established by their grandfather.
Places of unimaginable pain designed to psychically wipe minds, leaving the victims shells of their former selves, the Centers are an ugly vestige of the Psy race’s Silent past. But this Center was worse. Far, far worse. And now Theo must uncover the awful truth—in the company of a scowling bear named Yakov who isn’t about to take a Marshall at face value . . . especially a Marshall who has turned his dreams into chilling nightmares.
Because Yakov is the great-grandson of a foreseer . . . and he has seen Theo die in an unstoppable surge of blood. Night after night after night . . .