"Give it to me." Sliding the brush out of her hand, he nudged her back toward the bed.
The slight touch jolted her, made her move unresisting. But she headed away from the bed and to the chair instead. "There's no sunshine here." Sunshine. The word ricocheted around her head, echoes upon echoes. Sunshine. A painful thudding in her heart, a sense that she'd forgotten something important. "Sunshine," she whispered again, but the echo was already fading, lost in the fog of her mind.
"It's snowing up above," Dev said. "But the sun's out - we're just too far down." He waited until she was seated before beginning to brush her hair. She didn't know what she'd expected, but the patience with which he untangled the knots wasn't it.
Some small part of her knew that he was fully capable of using those same gentle hands to end her life. And yet she continued to sit, her body vulnerable, the tender skin of her neck tingling where his fingers grazed it. More, she wanted to say, please. Instead of betraying the depth of her need, instead of begging, she gripped the sides of the chair, the metal growing warm under her palms. But no matter the touch of heat, it wasn't real, wasn't human.
"I know things," she blurted out.
He didn't pause. "What things?"
She found herself leaning back toward him, so hungry for contact that her skin felt as if it was parched, dying of thirst. "I know about the world. I know I'm Psy. I know I shouldn't be able to feel emotions." But she did. Need, fear, confusion, so many things that twisted and tore at her, demanding attention, wanting to surface.
And beneath it all was terror. Endless. Wordless. Always.
Dev's fingers touched her nape, vivid warmth and silent demand. "How much do you know about the world? Politics?"
"Enough. Pieces." She breathed deep, found that the scent of him, rich and dark below the crispness of the aftershave, was in her lungs. It made her heart race, her palms go damp. "When people speak, when I watch the news channel, I understand. And I know other things. . .I know who - what - you are. I know what Shine is. It's only me I don't know. Nothing comes."
"That's not true." Firm strokes, little tugs on her scalp. "You dream."
A pulse of dread, bile in her throat. "I don't want to."
"It's a way for your brain to process things."
Her arms hurt, and she realized she was holding herself so stiffly, her muscles were beginning to burn. Forcing herself to let go of the chair, she focused on the repetitive strokes through her hair, the feel of the bristles, the aggressive male heat of the man behind her. "I'm a threat."
That he hadn't lied almost made her feel better. "What will you do with me?"
"For now? Keep you close."
"Don't." It came out without thought. "There's something wrong with me." That wrongness was an alien silhouette in the back of her skull, a wave of whispers she couldn't quite hear.
"I know." He didn't sound too worried, but then, she thought, he was a man who'd likely never known fear. She knew it too well, until the acid of it stained her very cells. But she still had her mind, fractured though it might be.
"You want something from me." Why else would he keep her alive, keep her close?
"Do you remember the research you were doing with Ashaya?"
Pale blue-gray eyes, dark hair in wildfire curls, coffee-colored skin. Ashaya. "She was here?" Her skin stretched as lines formed on her brow. "She was here."
"Yes." Long, easy strokes through hair that no longer needed to be smoothed out. "She wants you to go stay with her."
Katya was shaking her head before he finished speaking. "No." Fear closed around her throat, brutal hands that choked her until she couldn't breathe. Pinpricks of light in front of her eyes, agony in her chest.
The tugs on her scalp ceased and a split second later, Dev was crouching in front of her, his hands over hers. "Breathe." A ruthless order, given in the voice of a man who would not countenance disobedience.
Staring into those not-brown eyes, she tried to find some sense of balance, of self. "Breathe," she repeated in a thin whisper that was barely sound. "Breathe." Air whistled into her lungs, heady with the exotic taste of a man who'd never see her as anything but an enemy.
At that moment, she didn't care.
All she wanted was to drown in the scent of him, until the fear inside her was nothing but a vague memory, a forgotten dream. She drew in another deep breath, luxuriating in the wild sweep of her senses, in the unforgiving male beauty of Devraj Santos. He smelled of power and an unexpected stroke of wildness, rich cinnamon and Orient winds - things she somehow knew, words her mind supplied. Almost without deciding to do it, she raised her hand to the thick silk of his hair. It was soft, softer than should've been possible on this man. "Will you promise me something?"
For the first time in years, Dev found himself facing an opponent so opaque, he couldn't get a handle on her. He'd come down here in order to make up his mind about whether or not she was nothing more than a truly clever actress. Instead, he'd found his Achilles' heel given human form - a woman who appeared utterly without barriers, without protections.
Then she'd touched him, and he hadn't pushed her away . . . though he was a man who'd never been easy with touch, with the casual intimacies so many took for granted. Dev preferred to keep his distance. Except her hand was still in his hair, her skin soft under his rougher grip.
Even now, he had to fight the primitive need to protect, to shelter, to save. What some called his stone-cold heart apparently had some warmth left in it. But that warmth wasn't enough to blind him to the cynical truth - she might be the best move the Psy Council had ever made, a weapon tailor-made to provoke instincts so basic, Dev had little to no control over them. "What do you want me to promise?" he asked, hardening himself against a plea for mercy.