Death followed the Forgotten like a scourge. Relentless. Without pity.
They'd sought to find hope when they dropped from the PsyNet, wanting only to build a new life away from the cold choices of their brethren. But the Psy in the Net, their hearts iced over with the emotionless chill of Silence, refused to let the dissidents go in peace - for the Forgotten, with their hopes and dreams of a better life, were a roadblock to the Psy goal of absolute power.
Among their numbers the defectors counted a large contingent of telepaths and medical specialists, men and women gifted in psychometry, foresight, and so much more. These powerful individuals, these rebels, stood as the only real psychic threat to the increasingly omnipotent Psy Council.
So the Council cut them down.
One by one.
Family by family.
Father. Mother. Child.
Again and again and again.
Until the Forgotten had to run, to hide.
In time, memories were lost, truths were concealed, and the Forgotten almost ceased to exist.
But old secrets cannot be kept forever. Now, in the final months of the year 2080, the dust is rising, light is shining through, and the Forgotten stand at a crossroads. To fight is to face death once more, perhaps the total annihilation of their kind. But to run . . . is that not also a kind of annihilation?
She opened her eyes and for a second, it felt as if the world shifted. Those eyes, the ones looking back at her, they were brown, but it was a brown unlike any she'd ever seen. There was gold in there. Flecks of amber. And bronze. So many colors.
That voice, she remembered that voice.
"Shh. I've got you."
She swallowed, tried to find her own voice.
A raw hiss of air. Soundless. Without form.
The man with the brown eyes slipped a hand under her head and tilted it up as he put something to her lips.
She parted her lips, working desperately to melt the ice chips in her mouth. Her throat grew wet but it wasn't enough. She needed water. Again, she attempted to speak. She couldn't even hear herself, but he did.
It was like trying to swim through the most viscous of fluids - her bones were jelly, her muscles useless.
"Hold on." He all but lifted her into a sitting position on the bed. Her heart thudded in her chest, a fluttering trapped bird.
Warm hands on her face, turning her head. His face shimmered into view, then twisted impossibly sideways.
"I don't think the drugs are fully out of her system." His voice was deep, reached deep, right into her beating, fluttering heart. "Have you got - thanks." He raised something.
She gripped his wrist, her fingers almost sliding off the vivid masculine heat of his skin.
He continued to hold the cup out of reach. "Slow. Understood?" It was less a question than an order - in a voice that said he was used to being obeyed.
She nodded and let him bring something to her lips. A straw.
Her hand tightened on him, she was so thirsty.
"Slow," he repeated.
She sipped. Rich. Orange. Sweet. Despite the ruthless edge in her rescuer's voice, she might've disobeyed and gulped, but her mouth wasn't working right. She could barely draw up the thinnest of streams. But it was enough to soothe the raw flesh of her throat, fill the empty ache in her stomach.
She'd been hungry for so long.
A flash of something in the corner of her mind, too fast for her to grasp. And then she was staring into those strangely compelling eyes. But he wasn't just eyes. He was clean, almost harsh lines and golden brown skin. Exotic eyes. Exotic skin.
His mouth moved.
Her eyes lingered on his lips. The lower one was a little fuller than seemed right on that uncompromisingly masculine face. But not soft. Never soft. This man, he was all hardness and command.
Another touch, fingers on her cheek. She blinked, focused on his lips again. Tried to hear.
". . . name?"
She pushed away the juice and swallowed, dropping her hands to the sheets. He wanted to know her name. It was a reasonable question. She wanted to know his name, too. People always exchanged names when they met. It was normal.
Her fingers clenched on the soft cotton sheets.
That fluttering bird was back, trapped in her chest. How cruel.
"What's your name?" His eyes were piercing in their directness, refusing to let her look away.
And she had to answer. "I don't know."
Dev looked into that cloudy hazel gaze and saw only a confused kind of fear. "Glen?"
Dr. Glen Herriford frowned from the other side of the bed. "Could be a side effect of the drugs. She was pretty doped up when she came in. Give it a few more hours."
Nodding, Dev put the juice on the table and returned his attention to the woman. Her lashes were already dropping. Not saying anything, he helped her down into a position flat on her back. She was asleep moments later.
Jerking his head to the door, he walked out with Glen following. "What did you find in her system?"
"That's the funny thing." Glen tapped the electronic chart in his hand. "The chemicals all add up to plain old sleeping pills."
"That's not what it looks like." She was too disoriented, her pupils hugely dilated.
"Unless . . ." Glen raised an eyebrow.
Dev's mouth tightened. "Chance she did it to herself?"
"There's always a chance - but someone dumped her in front of your apartment."
"I went inside at ten p.m., came back out at ten fifteen." He'd left his phone in the car, had been irritated at having to stop work to return to the garage. "She was unconscious when I found her."