Home > Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #5)(4)

Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #5)(4)
Author: Nalini Singh

She’d been the strongest of them all. And the people in charge had hurt her for it.

Not expecting a quick response from Silver, he was turning his attention to one of his multiple screens when his phone chimed. He glanced at it to see: Zdravstvuyte, Canto. Silver’s talking to the brains. She was dazzling, wasn’t she? My magnificent Starlight who takes no prisoners.

Temperamentally, Valentin was at the opposite end of the spectrum from Canto. “You now hold permanent grump status,” Arwen had declared of Canto a month ago. “Silence falls, no more threat of psychic rehabilitation hanging over us for daring to feel, and instead of choosing sunshine, you decide to ramp up the surly. Repent now or I’ll never visit again.”

Canto had scowled. Arwen had groaned. And continued to drop by with ferocious regularity. Empaths. Once they decided you were one of their people, it was like trying to shake off a tick.

Arwen had grinned when Canto muttered that, then returned to opening up the box of new shirts he’d bought as a gift: “Because your definition of acceptable clothing offends my eyes, Canto. That shirt isn’t frayed—it’s a sorry bunch of threads held together by nothing but fear of your bad mood.”

Yet Canto and Valentin got along fine. More than fine. Strange as it was, they were becoming friends. Yes, he replied to the bear. It’s good you’re with her. There are problematic ripples in the PsyNet. Eyes looking her way.

Silver wasn’t the only target of those eyes, either, and he’d received the vague impression that she and the others being watched were in the way of some larger goal. But it was all foggy and without edges, much like the fortunes peddled by weak F-Psy who set themselves up as high-Gradients in order to scam the gullible.

That was the trouble with having so much of the PsyNet running through his mind; he didn’t always catch anything but the merest wisp of information. Even then, he had to fight hard to hold on to it, the rush of the Net a massive waterfall that pounded at the back of his brain every instant of every day.

He dreamed of thunder in his sleep and woke to an avalanche.

We have her protected on all sides, Valentin reassured him. Physical and psychic. Now I have to go and remind two idiots that she is mated and they should stop making cow eyes at her. We will talk again soon.

Had Valentin not known Canto so well, that last line might as well have been a threat—the bear version of “talk again soon” was “we’re throwing a party and you’re invited!” Canto had survived one bear party so far—the one the StoneWater clan had thrown to celebrate their alpha’s mating to Silver. It had been … an experience.

At one point, he’d ended up with a drunk bear changeling in human form on his lap. Dressed in sequined shorts and an equally dazzling top, she’d regaled him with stories of how she’d “slapped the smug” out of two bear males who’d thought they could beat her in a fight. She’d then fallen asleep with her head against his shoulder.

Canto had taken her to one of Valentin’s sisters.

Stasya had laughed and thrown her snoring packmate over her shoulder. “Sorry, Canto. You’re cute, no? Many of my packmates want to take you to bed, and they think they’re being subtle and flirtatious.”

A subtle bear?

Canto snorted.

Not that he minded the bear tendency toward openness. For a man whose work was to trawl the darkest shadows, it was refreshing to interact with people who wore their hearts on their sleeves and made no bones about showing anger or fury, either.

As for the rest—well, his hair was currently in a brutally neat cut, but given that he only shaved when his scruff got itchy, and his face was all hard angles, he’d never before been described as “cute.” But he accepted that there was a lot he’d never understand about bears and left it at that.

When it came to the bed part of Stasya’s comment, Canto already had the PsyNet rushing through his mind each and every second of the day. He barely tolerated even the people he liked. He didn’t have the desire or the capacity to have anyone else that close to him for any appreciable length of time.

Anchors were loners for a reason.

Now he had to make them into a working unit. Or they would die. All of them.




Preamble: The aim of this advice letter is to set out the main points of the proposed contract between Binh Fernandez and Magdalene Mercant for the procreation of a child for each party from their shared genetic material.

Our firm has also been asked to do further research and provide a concluding opinion, which is appended to the end of this draft framework.

Fertilization: Sperm will be provided by Binh Fernandez within three months of the final agreement, at a mutually agreed-upon medical facility, under the supervision of Fernandez-and-Mercant-approved medics.

Eggs will be extracted from Magdalene Mercant one week prior to the date above.

Once both parties have provided their genetic material, one viable embryo will be created and implanted in Magdalene Mercant’s womb within a medically suitable time period. Given the current success rates of implantation, failure is unlikely, but should that occur, two more attempts will be made.

Should all three fail, this genetic match will be deemed unsuitable, and all remaining genetic material destroyed. The fertilization and conception contract will then be voided on a no-fault basis except for Binh Fernandez’s financial obligations as follows.

Financial Agreement: As this is a dual fertilization/conception agreement, neither party will pay the other a fee. Magdalene Mercant will carry each child to term. In recompense for that physical risk and task, Binh Fernandez will pay any and all associated medical expenses. This includes pre- and post-natal care, as well as the costs involved in egg extraction and implantation attempts. Failure of implantation will not discharge Binh Fernandez from such financial obligations.

Issue: Binh Fernandez will have full custodial and parental rights to the first child carried successfully to term. Magdalene Mercant will have full custodial and parental rights to the second child carried successfully to term.

Dissolution: The proposed contract will end:

after the birth of the second child, at which point, Binh Fernandez will no longer have any financial obligations to Magdalene Mercant excepting any post-natal care prescribed by her physician up to six months post-birth; or

after the failure to achieve a second pregnancy after three attempts*; or

after the birth of the first child, if that first child displays physical or mental abnormalities—or if the child is stillborn. At that point, the genetic match will be deemed deficient, and both parties will be absolved of any further obligation under the contract excepting any post-natal care prescribed by Magdalene Mercant’s physician up to six months post-birth. Should the child be born alive, it will become part of Binh Fernandez’s family.

In case of significant injury or death to Magdalene Mercant as a result of any part of the pregnancy or pregnancies, the compensation terms of Addendum 1 will come into effect.

*Should this match only produce a single viable child, a “familial disadvantage” fee will be negotiated per the rates in Addendum 2.

Coda: Per the Mercant Family Group’s practice, a coda will be added to the contract stating that while the first child will be part of the Fernandez Family Group, Magdalene Mercant will be consulted should there come a time when a terminal—or apt to be terminal—decision has to be made in relation to the child.

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