Home > Storm Echo (Psy-Changeling Trinity #6)

Storm Echo (Psy-Changeling Trinity #6)
Author: Nalini Singh


Chapter 1

The child has severe attachment issues. It is not Silence. He is simply psychologically damaged to the extent that he may never be able to form an attachment to another on any level. As such, his loyalty to the family cannot be guaranteed. He is a risk.

—Private PsyMed report on Ivan Mercant, age 8 (20 June 2059)



3 May 2083

IN TERMS OF age, Ivan fell in the older cadre of Ena’s grandchildren. Younger than Canto, older than Silver and Arwen. He’d also always been the one who gave the family the least trouble—no trouble at all really. Canto was as stubborn as a bull and Silver had a steely spine, and neither ever bent for Ena unless they wished to do so.

As for Arwen, gentle, empathic Arwen could be obstinate in his own way. Like water running over stone. Slow and persistent until the edges of the rock were no longer so sharp and the water had carved a new channel without the rock ever being aware of the change.

Ivan, in contrast, was more wont to say yes than no. Ask any of the other three and they’d never use the words “obstinate” or “stubborn” in relation to Ivan. One of the teenage members of the family had used the term “chill” to describe Ivan, and when Ena had looked up what that term meant when used in that context, she’d had to agree.

Ivan flowed through life, willing to bend, never opposing Ena … and still doing exactly what he wanted and nothing else. It had taken a long time for Ena to realize that the least openly stubborn of her grandchildren was also the most relentless in his quiet will. It was Ivan, after all, who’d never studied at the tertiary level, despite Ena’s strong desire that he do so; and it was Ivan who’d chosen to walk a path she’d initially forbidden him from pursuing.

Ivan did as he pleased … but he did have one vulnerability.

“Ivan?” she said now, as she watched him pack the final items for his journey to San Francisco. She rarely intruded in the suite he kept at the family compound, but with him leaving today, it was well past time to have this conversation. “Is all well?”

“Of course, Grandmother.” He unzipped a side pocket of his holdall, then reached for a small and flat black bag that could contain either his toothbrush and soap—or a weapon.

There was no way to know when it came to Ivan.

“Are you certain?” She remained in the doorway, for she would not push into the private area of his bedroom—though she knew Ivan wouldn’t rebuff her. That was the problem, and why she asked so little from him. Because Ivan would give it to her. He went his own way when it came to his life and the choices he made, but should Ena ever request he do a task, he’d do so without hesitation.

Whether it was to put a bullet in someone’s head or to allow her in his space.

That was Ivan’s only vulnerability.

“I’m fine,” he said, zipping up that pocket. “Why do you ask?”

“You’ve been different since you returned from that training course in Texas.” Close to a year and a half ago. She hadn’t been sure at first, and Ivan had somehow slid out of any conversations where she tried to bring it up, and then he’d vanished from her sight for various duties. “Did something happen?”

The most minute pause in his efficient movements. So small that likely not even Canto, Arwen, or Silver would’ve noticed, and they were the closest to Ivan aside from Ena. But Ena had always looked at Ivan with more careful eyes than she had his cousins. They’d all needed her in one way or another, but Ivan … he was the one least likely to verbalize or openly show that need.

He’d learned too young that asking for help was useless. No one would ever come. She’d tried to overwrite that ugly lesson, but it had been too long embedded by the time Ena came into his life. All she’d been able to do was make sure she responded to his unspoken needs—and hope that one day, he’d learn that she would always respond if he asked her for anything.

Now he closed the final tab on his holdall and turned to face her, those eyes of pale blue shot with darker shards striking against his black hair and the cool white of his skin. “Just the cut I received on my calf,” he said, “and that’s long since healed.” Slipping the strap of the holdall over his shoulder, he walked to join her in the doorway.

“Are you certain, Ivan?” Ena didn’t budge; she hadn’t held this family together through the cold reign of Silence by being weak of will, and she wasn’t about to let Ivan obfuscate this. Because the thing was, Ivan never lied to her. He just somehow managed to give her only as much information as he wanted.

Canto had been known to mutter that Ivan was more like Ena than any of them: a Mercant who kept his own counsel and who shared information only when he decided it was time.

Ena respected that. But how he’d been of late … as if the light inside him had dimmed … that disturbed her on a level beyond flesh and bone. Because Ivan’s light had almost been snuffed out once. She’d had to cup her hands around it for years, protecting it from the winds of pain and the storms of scars, until the light was strong enough to survive on its own.

He held her gaze, so much quiet power in him that it hummed in the air, then glanced away. “I can’t talk to you about this, Grandmother.” His eyes returned to her. “It’s not a thing about which I can speak.”

There it was, that inviolable core he’d always kept separate from everyone, even Ena. She’d never been able to work out whether it was conscious or a result of wounds inflicted long before he was this powerful man who could hold his own against the world.

There was no point pushing him. Not when he’d given her an unusually forthright response. That alone told her that whatever had happened, it’d had a profound impact on him.

She stepped back so he could exit the bedroom. As she fell in beside him on his walk to leave the suite, she said, “You know I’ll always be here if you change your mind.”

Opening the door, he paused, met her eyes again. “I know, Grandmother.”

Then he walked out, her grandson tall and strong and deadly. She hadn’t wanted the latter for him, had wanted him to have a life of calm and peace. But Ivan would not have it. He would not allow her to choose for him a life in the light … because he believed he’d been born to walk in the dark.






Chapter 2

The child’s attachment to the family unit—and associated loyalty—is absolute. His ability to form bonds with those outside this small circle remains an unknown, but it is my view that when he does form any such bond, it will be one without boundaries—he does not appear to have the capacity to limit his loyalty once given.

—Private PsyMed report on Ivan Mercant, age 14 (9 November 2065)

IVAN BRACED HIS hand against the tree trunk, the forest hushed around him, then looked down at the cut on his calf. He’d tied a tourniquet above the cut, but the bleeding showed no signs of stopping. If he hadn’t known better, he’d have said the fall onto the sharp edge of rock had severed a major artery.

But he did know better—he’d done enough first-aid courses, had enough knowledge of anatomy and of his own body, to judge this wound as disabling but not dangerous. It should, however, have stopped bleeding by now. If it kept up like this, he’d have to call for assistance and drop out of the training course for the day.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)
» Credence