She fisted her hands, squeezing so tight her bones ground together in pain. "If I drop my shields and you don't come in, allowing me to close them around your entry point, my mind will be wide open to anyone with psychic ability."
"You think that matters to me?" So hard, so angry.
"Yes, it matters," she forced out through a throat raw with emotion. "Because you've taken responsibility for me. You might have to kill me, but until then, you'll protect me."
"Nice and manipulative of you."
It took everything she had to keep her tone level. "A woman's got to do what a woman's got to do."
"Even if it destroys the other party?" A soft question that cut through her defenses with razor sharpness.
Bleeding, she looked up. "Will it truly be that bad for you?"
A harsh bark of laughter. "Haven't you been able to access the files you have on me?"
"I don't have those memories." She held his gaze, suddenly dead certain that if she forced him to do this, it would kill the last fragments of that indefinable "something" between them. There would be no coming back from it. It wouldn't have mattered to a true Psy, to a person who saw everything as part of a cost-benefit ratio.
But it mattered to her, mattered beyond bearing.
"Okay," she said, dropping her head even as the pragmatic side of her screamed in rebellion. "Okay."
Dev felt Katya's acquiescence like a blow. "Why?"
"Because sometimes the price is too high."
He caught her hand when she would have turned away, tugging her to his chest and taking her mouth in a furious kind of possession before she could do more than gasp. She'd backed away because it would hurt him.
It shattered him - he had always been the protector, the one who looked after others. Never had he expected that the enemy would try to protect his heart.
Echoes of sensation, too-soft whispers in his head.
He bit at her lower lip. "Shh. Tag will hear."
Her lips curved into a startled "Oh."
Taking advantage, he swept into her mouth, stroking his tongue against hers, drawing the intoxicating taste of her into his lungs. The whispers ceased, and he was unaccountably annoyed. "I'll have to learn," he said, kissing his way across her jaw, "how to shield your projecting from other telepaths." Because that was an intimacy he'd allow no one to invade.
Katya's hand clenched in his hair as he nipped at the slender line of her throat, only just restraining the savage need to bite hard enough to mark. "That assumes," she said, her voice breathy, "you'll have a lot of chances to practice."
"And your point is?"
Her gaze was dark with arousal when she blinked them open. "Dev."
He waited for her to tell him they shouldn't keep doing this, damn sure he wasn't capable of letting her go. Instead, she stood on tiptoe, put her hands on his shoulders, and stole a kiss that was as delicate as it was passionate, as feminine as it was powerful. It just about broke him, driving him to the edge of surrender. All he wanted to do was tumble her into bed and strip her inch by slow inch.
But she had the reins . . . and she took her own sweet time. When she finally stepped back, his entire body was vibrating with pure, undiluted hunger.
"I don't understand," she murmured, lifting her fingertips to touch kiss-swollen lips, "how my race could've ever given up such exquisite sensation."
His c**k pushed against the zipper of his pants, the metal threatening to turn him into a eunuch. "Katya."
As a warning, it had no effect. Dropping her hand from her lips, she clenched it over her navel, as if soothing some inward ache. "I feel so . . . hungry, so hot, as if my skin is about to burst."
He shuddered, voice lost.
"Is it always like this?" she asked, stroking her hand over her abdomen and back down. Over and over. Until he strode across and replaced her hand with his. She sucked in a breath. "Dev - you're making it worse." But she pressed closer to him, sliding her own hand into the collar of his shirt, seeking skin.
"The things I want to do to you," he said, barely resisting the urge to pull up her top and slip his hand underneath . . . dip below. He already knew she'd be soft and wet for him, a silken fist he could almost feel.
Her lips trailed up his neck. "You didn't answer my question."
It took him several seconds to remember what she was talking about. "No, it's not always like this."
"So if I kiss another man - "
"I'll kill him." It came out with ice-cold precision, though his body was burning from the inside out. Tangling his hand in her hair once more, he pulled back her head. "We clear on that?"
A slow blink. "If my anthropological knowledge is correct, it's only changelings who're meant to be so possessive." Scientific words, husky voice, a sweet feminine body cradling the painful jut of his arousal.
"Come on then," he said, shifting his hand to cup her bottom. "Push me and see what happens." Changing position slightly, he tilted her up . . . and settled the heat between her thighs right where he wanted it. She gasped and gripped his shoulders. He smiled.
Her stutter was adorable, he decided. Sexy as hell, too. That mouth, those lips, he could look at them for hours, imagine exactly what he wanted to do. "Give me a second," he said, and broke the delicious contact long enough to walk her backward - distracting her with nibbling little kisses that had her nails digging into his shoulders.
She made a startled sound when her back met the wall.
Stroking his hands down to her hips, he ran his fingers to the button at the top of her jeans. Her eyes went huge, but she didn't stop him. Thanking the gods, he undid the closure and tugged down her zipper.