I understand. I won't take your thoughts again.
But since I already did - how come you want to leave?
I have something I need to do. Something that pulled at her until it felt as if her tendons would tear from her bones, a pounding, secretive need. But how could she have any secrets? Ming had taken everything.
A tendril of mischief had brushed her mind and it had had a sense of newness to it, as if the boy had never played. I can help you.
No. I don't want you in trouble.
My mom used to say that boys are meant for trouble.
The utter sadness in that sentence had broken her heart. She'd heard wonderful things about Sascha Duncan - she hoped all those rumors were true. Perhaps the cardinal Psy could mend this boy telepath's own shattered heart. That sounds about right.
I have a plan. A hesitant whisper.
Charmed despite herself, she'd asked, Okay, I give. What is it?
And when he'd told her, she'd realized the stupid simplicity of it might just work better than every other thing she'd come up with. However, it all depended on whether the child could keep himself awake till the right moment.
So she waited, ready.
But when the scream came, she jumped sky-high. Moving to the door as she heard footsteps running toward the front of the house, she twisted the knob and stepped out into the corridor, heading toward that very area. Her breath stuck in her throat as she passed the open doorway of a room from where she could hear a number of voices. The front door was locked and alarmed in spite of the unexpected interruption.
She moved to the windows. Alarmed and locked, all of them.
Aware her time was about to run out, she told herself to think. She could break a window, but knew she wouldn't get five feet before Dev, Tag, or Tiara ran her down.
You're a scientist.
Heart thudding, she crept back down the hallway, made a quick stop in her bedroom, then headed to the kitchen, hoping against hope that her young co-conspirator would be able to keep them occupied for a few more minutes.
As she'd expected, a fresh pot of coffee sat on the counter. One of the three would likely not drink it, being off shift, but it would dramatically change the odds. Sliding out the medications she'd lifted from the apartment in New York, she dissolved a highly specific combination into the liquid.
A quick stir and she was done.
The drugs wouldn't hurt the others, just make them lethargic, and if she was lucky, sleepy. She could've used more but she hesitated - the Forgotten did have Psy genes . . . Unwilling to do serious harm, she retreated, the rest of the drugs still in her possession.
She was back in her room pretending to read when her door opened a fraction. "What was that noise?" she asked Tiara.
"A nightmare." The other woman didn't explain whose. "Wanted to tell you not to worry."
And then Katya waited.
There was some movement for the next hour, people murmuring, steps to the kitchen, back to the living room. Sometime after nine thirty, a door closed with a quiet snick - one of the three going to bed. Waiting another twenty minutes to give that person time to slip into sleep, she pushed off the blankets and got up.
Heart in her throat, she cracked open the door, knowing her coat and boots would give away her intent if she was caught. And she had no intention of being imprisoned again. Creeping down the hallway, she glanced into the open doorway of a bedroom.
He lay with his head on a small writing table, his hair mussed. Knowing she should just walk on, she nonetheless went to him. His pulse beat strong under her fingers. Relief was a cool rain against her cheeks.
Pressing a kiss to his jaw, the roughness of stubble enticing her to linger, she went to leave the room. That was when she saw the stunner tucked in the small of his back. She hesitated. She had no desire to hurt anyone, but if either Tag or Tiara woke, she'd need something with which to warn them off. "Don't hate me," she whispered, and took the weapon before making her way to the entrance of the house.
Tag sat in front of the entertainment screen, a science fiction show playing in the background. His eyes were closed, his head tipped back against the sofa.
A near-empty mug of coffee sat in front of him.
Scared at his stillness, she went to put her fingers on his throat.
He groaned, shifted.
Freezing, she waited for him to wake and raise the alarm. But after a fraught few moments he slipped back into sleep. Relieved, she spread out her senses, searching to make sure the child was okay. Tag's shields were holding - the man was a very strong telepath. Unsure if they'd continue to hold as he dropped further into unconsciousness, she wrapped her own shields over his. Then, with a thousand silent apologies, she ransacked Tag's wallet, taking all the cash he had on him.
The alarm was the next hurdle.
"Help me," she whispered, not knowing who she was pleading with.
A door opened down the hall.
"Tag?" Tiara's voice came closer, husky with sleep. "I thought I felt - " The other woman froze when she saw the stunner pointed at her. Beautiful brown eyes streaked with a hundred shades of gold and amber flicked to the big man on the couch, worry crawling their depths.
"He's fine," Katya said. "I don't want to hurt anyone - I just want out."
"I can't let you do that," Tiara murmured, her hands loose at her sides.
Katya didn't relax her guard. The woman had a weapon on her somewhere. And she was a telepath. Katya held back the powerful psychic assault with her own abilities, creating an effective deadlock. "Do you know something, Tiara?"
"I know that if I change the direction of this stunner," Katya whispered, "that if I press it to Tag's head, you'll do anything and everything I want."