"Was Tag in the room when she said that?"
He glimpsed the faintest shadow of a smile. "You think she was teasing him."
"I know she was teasing him. It's amazing how much the eyes can say."
"You must've learned to read expressions very early in the Net," he said, trying to ignore the fact that her fingers were tracing the top edge of his jeans in a maddening caress. "No one can control every minute movement."
"It's much more difficult with the Silent," she murmured, tucking her fingers at his hip, a single aching centimeter under his waistband. "Everything's in very small increments."
"Yeah?" Reaching down, he tugged at her hand - no man was that good.
She resisted. "You feel interesting here." The brush of her thumb over his hip bone.
Dear God in heaven. "Katya," he all but groaned, "unless you want to be stripped na**d in about two seconds flat, you can't keep your hand there." He was already hard beneath her. One more touch and he'd snap.
He saw her swallow, but she didn't remove her hand. "The sensations would be incredible," she murmured. "If we were naked."
"Jesus." Pulling off her hand before he gave in to temptation, he closed his own around it. "You're mad at me, remember?"
"Yes. But according to Tiara, sexual contact doesn't necessarily have to involve an emotional tie."
Dev wondered exactly how much time Ti and Katya had been spending together. "She was probably trying to jerk Tag's chain."
A frown. "Even so, it's true, isn't it? People can have sex without liking each other."
"Yes." It was an answer gritted out through clenched teeth.
Her eyes focused on him. "Have you ever had it with someone you disliked?"
"No." He didn't have to think about it. "I tend to take sex seriously."
A pause. "Yet you're aroused by me." Those eyes locked with his again, and his gut clenched against a bruiser of a sucker punch. Because Katya wasn't scared anymore. She was pissed.
"And I," she continued, "am very much someone you dislike."
Leaning forward, he tugged back her head. "I didn't realize you were so good at seduction."
A little flush across her cheekbones. "There's a lot you don't know about me."
"So it wasn't planned," he murmured, feeling his body all but purr. "That means you can't resist the enemy either."
"I'll get over it." A snapped statement. "Now go."
He let her scramble off his lap . . . only because he knew that one second longer and he'd have followed through on his threat of ripping off her clothes, feasting on the exquisite nakedness of her skin. But he couldn't resist taking her lips. It was a short, wild contact filled with anger on both sides. But there was something beneath the anger, a savage kind of need that shocked the hell out of him and left her staring in confusion.
PETROKOV FAMILY ARCHIVES
Letter dated October 1, 1977
Emily was sick today. She's got an ear infection, the little darling. It breaks my heart to see tears in her eyes - though of course those didn't last long, not once I got her to an M-Psy, but it was far too long for a mother to bear. You didn't like it either. You were trying to give her your toys so she'd feel better. And you know what? For you, she hiccupped and played for a little while.
As I watched the two of you sitting there, you looking after her, I realized something. I've been so focused on how Silence would affect us that I haven't given a thought to the future, to the unborn. If Silence succeeds, then there will come a time when children are born who'll never be kissed by their mothers, mothers who'll never hold their precious babes and breathe in that sweet, sweet scent as a tiny hand lies over their heart.
It seems such a simple choice, but. . .
Greg called tonight. He rarely does anymore, so your father tried to keep the conversation away from politics. They always fight when it strays in that direction. But while your father was out getting something for Greg, I made that point to your uncle - about the lack of love between mother and child.
Do you know what he said?
That so many women are falling prey to violence, we've already got a generation that doesn't know what it is to sleep in a mother's arms.
The worst of it is, he's right.
To Katya's surprise, DarkRiver agreed to allow her to see Jon. A dark-skinned man with intense green eyes drove the boy over. As Katya spoke to him by a tree in the yard, the tawny haired woman who'd accompanied Jon reached into the backseat and came out with an armful of giggling little girl.
Her heart clenched to see such open joy on the child's face. Wanting to touch the girl, make sure she really was alright, Katya nonetheless made herself fight her cowardice and look at Jon.
"You've grown taller," she said, wondering why she was surprised. Teenage boys rarely stayed the same from month to month. "Your hair, you cut it."
He shrugged, sending the short strands of brilliant white-gold shifting in the sunlight.
"Thank you for seeing me."
"Tally asked." There was something in his tone that told Katya he'd do anything for the woman who'd asked. "Plus, you never hurt me."
"Didn't I?" She sat down beside him when he took a seat on the ground, long legs stretched out in front of him. "I didn't stop it either, though, did I?"
He gave her a narrow-eyed glance out of those brilliant blue eyes that had made him so easy to identify. Not many people looked like Jonquil Alexi Duchslaya. "What're you talking about?" he now asked.