"Try it and see." Handing her his water bottle, he started the car and got them on their way.
"How would I know?" She put his water in the holder next to the unopened bottle. "And I need a spoon for this."
Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a plastic-wrapped piece of cutlery. "Here."
"You did that on purpose," she accused. "Did you want to see how hard I'd try to suck the mixture up?"
Another smile, this one a bare shadow. "Would I do that?"
It startled her to realize he was teasing her. Devraj Santos, she thought, wasn't supposed to have a sense of humor. That was something she just knew. And, it was wrong.
That meant the shadow-man didn't know everything, that he wasn't omnipotent.
A cascade of bubbles sparkled through her veins, bright and effervescent. "I think you're capable of almost anything." Dipping in the spoon, she brought the decadent mixture to her lips.
The crisp sting of ice, the cream rich and sweet, the fruit a tart burst of sensation. It was impossible not to take a second bite. And a third.
Though he kept his eyes on the road, Dev was acutely conscious of Katya eating up the smoothie. She was concentrating so hard on the treat she appeared to have forgotten all about him. The clawing protectiveness in him relaxed - he'd found something she'd eat. And if he had to feed her those things for the next month, she would put on weight.
She was of enemy blood. It would be in his best interests to keep her weak.
His hands tightened on the steering wheel. That ruthless voice was as much a part of him as the protectiveness, no getting around that - but these days, it dominated more and more. On the flip side, he thought, the Santos family tree was also lucky enough to contain an empath, a woman gifted with the ability to heal emotional wounds - maybe his great-grandmother's blood would save him from becoming a complete and utter bastard. That was what she'd predicted the last time he'd seen her.
"So much iron in your heart, boy," Maya had said. "I touch you and I taste metal."
"It's part of who I am."
"You think it makes you strong."
He hadn't argued.
"This isn't why my parents left the Net," she'd said, a scowl marring her delicate features. "They fought for our right - your right - to feel, to live as you wanted. Instead, you're becoming so cold you might as well be Psy."
His great-grandmother had been a child at the time of the defection, and, as with the others of her generation, it had been the defining moment of her life. What the old ones didn't understand was that the war had never ended, that iron-hard choices were all that kept the Forgotten from extinction.
And Dev wasn't yet bastard enough to shatter the heart of an empath.
Katya sighed, and that quickly, he was wrenched very much into the present. "Good?" he asked.
"I want to eat more but my stomach is protesting."
He let the ice of control go for the moment, the dark heat of his nature filling the empty spaces within. "I'll pull up at a rest stop so you can throw away the cup."
"I don't want to throw it away." She licked the spoon with an innocent relish that hit him as anything but.
His entire body went taut, fixated on the lush softness of her mouth, the pink dart of her tongue. Jesus, Dev, he told himself, this is hardly the time to be thinking of sex.
His body had other ideas. Weak, fragile women had never attracted him. And Katya, she was all of that. But he'd glimpsed the steel frame beneath that translucent skin, those lost eyes - when this woman found herself again, she'd be a force to be reckoned with.
"I'll make you another one at home," he managed to say, his voice raw. "We'll stop at a grocer's on the way and pick up supplies." He couldn't stop looking after her. Another small weakness, another chink in his armor.
"Can I choose the fruit?"
Her excitement was both a balm to his hunger and fuel for the same. "How will you know what to choose?"
"I'll take one of each, then decide what I like." An eminently practical answer. . . and yet the shimmering joy in her voice was nothing practical, nothing remotely Psy.
If she was a weapon, she was a masterstroke.
A little more than two hours later, Katya walked across a wide porch and into a graceful house isolated at the end of a long drive and surrounded by what seemed to be acres of trees. A fine layer of snow had turned the area into a won derland, but it was the house that captured her interest. "You consider this your home?"
Dev gave a short nod. "When I can get to it. Give me a second to put these groceries in the kitchen."
Deeply curious about the man behind the director, she turned slowly, taking in everything. The split-level house was wide and full of light, with furniture that was stylish yet appeared lived in. Blown-up photographs graced a few walls - she found herself moving toward one in mute fascination. It was a shell lying on the beach, its every precise angle illuminated by the lens. But there was warmth in the black-and-white shot, a sense that the photographer had been entranced by the beauty of the simple object. "Art," she whispered, hearing Dev's footsteps, "is not something the Psy appreciate."
"Perhaps that's why the Forgotten held on to it so hard." He leaned a shoulder on the wall beside the photograph, his arms loosely folded. "Almost all Forgotten children are brought up with a strong appreciation for art and music."
Katya considered whether that was a piece of knowledge that could be used to harm Dev and his people should she ever be thrown back in the hole, in the darkness, and decided not. "You prefer art."