Tiara sucked in a breath.
"But I don't want to do that." It was a plea. "I don't want to become a monster."
"You won't get away, you know." Tiara's tone shifted. "Dev will hunt you down."
Katya gave the other woman a shaky smile. "So it shouldn't matter if you let me go now."
"Katya, I know you're not going to shoot me," Tiara said point-blank. "So this standoff is pointless."
"The weapon's set for mild stun," Katya said. "You really want to leave the child vulnerable by making me take you out?"
Tiara swore under her breath. "You're not as helpless as you look."
"Thanks. Now walk over to the alarm panel." She shifted to keep Tiara a good distance from her as the woman moved. "Input the code."
Tiara complied without further questions.
Katya felt her lips quirk. "Did you send out a silent distress signal? It doesn't matter - just as long as the alarms don't shriek when you open the door."
"Why do you care?" Tiara arched one perfect eyebrow. "I'm already awake."
"I don't want to scare the boy."
A huge sigh. "I was on the way to liking you, Katya. Now you go and point a stunner at me."
"Open the door," Katya said, knowing the other woman was stalling.
Tiara did so without argument. No alarms sounded. As the Forgotten female strode out onto the porch and took the steps down to the lawn, Katya followed. Knowing Tiara would go for her weapon now that Tag was no longer under threat, she said, "Sorry," and fired the stunner.
"Fuck!" Tiara collapsed onto her knees, her movements jerky and uncoordinated. "Not sporting." It came out slow, uneven.
Tucking the stunner into her pocket, Katya put an arm under Tiara's shoulders. "I know. You can curse me later." Right now, she had to get the telepath to one of the vehicles.
The other woman resisted, but the stunner had short-circuited her nervous system. However, nothing could be done about the fact that the gorgeous woman was taller and heavier than Katya. As a result, Katya was sweating with a mixture of panic and stress by the time she dragged Tiara to the closest four-wheel drive. Taking the woman's hand, she pressed her thumb to the lock.
The door slid open and back.
Pulling Tiara's upper body into the driver's seat, Katya managed to get the woman's thumb on the ignition switch. The car started with a quiet purr.
"Won't restart," Tiara murmured, eyes starting to sharpen.
"I'll just have to keep it running." Lowering the Shine operative to the ground, she took Tiara's cell phone from her pocket. "I used the lowest possible setting - you'll be up and moving in less than five minutes. I'll make sure the boy's shields are solid until then."
Tiara smiled. "Dev is so going to kick your ass."
Taken aback by that smile, Katya hesitated. "The stunners don't have any strange effects on Forgotten physiology, do they?"
"Hell, no." Tiara's speech was beginning to clear. "I've just decided to find this amusing."
Shaking her head at the telepath's strange sense of humor, Katya got in the vehicle and backed it carefully out and onto the drive. She went a hundred meters down, then pulled over into the night-shadow of a large tree. No one would be able to see her if they came down the road. And if she was right about the silent alarm, they were already on the way.
She continued to hold the shield on the boy until she felt Tiara's energy replace hers, snapping back into her mind before the other woman could attack her on that level. In the nick of time. Two vehicles raced down the private road, heading for the house. Katya waited until they turned the corner, then she threw the cell phone - and its GPS chip - out the window and drove like a bat out of hell.
The car's navigation system got her out of the isolated area and onto a major road still heavy with traffic. She drove for twenty minutes before pulling over into the parking lot of a diner packed with monster rigs. The hover-trucks had their own special automatic navigation lanes on the highways, often traveling at speeds three to four times that of cars.
Parking beside one of the rigs, she took a deep breath and turned off the engine. She was now effectively stranded. But if she knew Dev, this car had some kind of a tracking device embedded in it. She left the stunner under the seat, having no desire to cause any more harm.
Conversation stopped the instant she walked into the diner, but she didn't - couldn't - back out. Tiara was probably already putting the trace in motion. Girding herself, she looked around. Most of the people at the counter were men.
Sweat broke out along her spine. Getting into a vehicle with a stranger was hardly the smartest of moves, but it was the only choice she had. And she was a telepath. No one was ever again going to make her a victim. Giving a small smile, she moved to the counter.
"Buy you a coffee?" The offer came from a twenty-something man to her right.
"I'd prefer an orange juice," she said, judging him "safe." If all she had left were her instincts, then she had to trust them.
He smiled, his eyes wrinkling at the corners. "Juice it is. Hope you don't mind me saying, but you could do with some meat on your bones."
Her mind cascaded with images of Dev making her smoothies, sliding granola bars into her pockets. "I'm working on that. Thanks." She took the orange juice and began to sip. "I don't suppose you're going north?"
The trucker gave her a disappointed look. "Aw, damn. South. Jessie!"
A woman with a long blonde ponytail looked up from the shadowy end of the counter. Her face was all freckles and glowing skin. "What?"