"Next." He was still so angry he could barely bring himself to think of the woman who'd slipped under his defenses . . . then knifed him in the heart.
Even as Dev hung up on Lucas and turned his mind to other matters, something inexplicable was taking place in the DarkRiver alpha's territory.
Judd Lauren, Psy rebel, former assassin, and f**king dangerous son of a bitch according to all who knew him, looked mystified at the little girl who was staring up at him, all huge eyes in a heart-shaped face. "Yes?" Crouching down to the forest floor, he tried to appear nonthreatening. "Did you want something?"
She shook her head, glossy black curls bouncing on her shoulders.
Judd had become better with kids since leaving the PsyNet, but right that second, he felt utterly clueless. Normally when he came down to train with Dorian, it was only Keenan he encountered. And Dorian's son was more interested in copying their moves than chatting. "Noor," he tried again. "Are you looking for Keenan?" He knew the two were fast friends.
Another shake of her head.
He glanced behind her, hoping Dorian would come out and rescue him. No such luck. "Do you want to play?" It was generally what Ben, one of the SnowDancer pups, wanted when he trailed after Judd.
But Noor shook her head again.
Desperation took hold. "Ah . . ." He had nothing.
Then she smiled, pure trust in the sparkle of her eyes. "I have a present for you." She lifted a little fist.
"Oh?" Startled, he held up his hand, palm up. "Why?"
"Because we're the same."
Judd closed his hand over the river-smoothed stone she put in his hand, knowing he was nothing like this bright innocent. His ability had made him an assassin, then a healer, but it would still be so easy for him to kill - only his love for Brenna, for his family and friends, his pack, kept him from crossing that brutal line. "Yeah? How do you figure that?"
A beatific smile. "I just know." Then she leaned forward to wrap her arms around his neck.
Hugging her back with all the gentleness he had in him, he rose to his feet, taking her with him. And as he walked back to Dorian's, he wondered what similarities a little girl whose name meant "Light," saw between them.
Once, he would've brushed it off, distanced himself. Now, he kissed her cheek and accepted the gift of her trust.
Katya ate everything sent to her over the next three days. She didn't try to escape - though she did secrete away the over-the-counter pain and flu medication she found in the bathroom, not that it would do her much good - and she didn't try to use telepathy. Instead, she concentrated on strengthening herself using exercise routines she downloaded off the computer console on the wall. That computer only allowed her to access the most basic of sites, but that was fine. She had what she needed.
Pushing all the furniture in the living room to the walls, she made a space where she could stretch out and begin to put her body back into shape. She even cleared away the glass and porcelain shards, loath to let Dev see how deeply he'd hurt her. Her focus was on getting strong enough that she could take the opportunity to escape when the chance came.
And then . . . she had a nightmare to face.
On the fourth day after she'd been knocked unconscious, Dev finally returned. She ignored him as she began to go through her stretching routine. He came to a stop at the edge of the cleared space. "Pack your stuff. We're moving."
Excitement uncurled in her gut, but she kept her face expressionless. "Where?"
"You'll be near Ashaya."
She was already shaking her head. "We discussed this. I can't be trusted around her."
"That's why you'll voluntarily take a mild sedative."
Her stomach dropped. "No." It would disorientate her, leave her helpless. And she was through with being helpless.
Dev folded his arms across that chest she'd slept so peacefully on mere days ago. "Fine. Be ready by ten."
She could feel her fingernails biting into her palms. "Who's going to punch me to put me to sleep?" she asked, furious enough to draw blood. "You?"
He walked out without answering, shattering her new-found calm.
Tag was waiting outside Katya's room when Dev walked out. "Didn't go well?"
"She won't take a sedative."
"Did you really think she would?"
"No." He wouldn't have either. "But since both you and Tiara are going, she needs to come with us when we go see Sascha. And no way can I take her in when she might be a threat. Lucas'll slit my throat."
"There is another option," Tag pointed out. "Glen could put her into a medically induced coma while we're gone."
Dev felt his entire body hum with violence. "We do that, it's torture." It'd break her, put her back in that room where she hadn't been able to see, hear, touch.
"Yeah." Tag blew out a breath. "You have a little bit of telepathy - can you tell when she's using her abilities?"
"Now that I know to watch for it - if I'm close, yeah."
Tag straightened his big body away from the wall. "Then stay close. Close enough to physically incapacitate her if necessary."
Dev's stomach roiled.
"I'll do it." It was a quiet offer from a man who knew Dev better than most.
"No." He stared at the door he'd only just stopped himself from slamming minutes ago. "She's mine."
"Your responsibility, you mean." It was a very deliberate reminder.
"Don't worry - I'm not being led around by anything other than the brain in my skull." Not anymore.