"The staples will dissolve as the skin knits," Connor told him. "The bandage is waterproof so she can shower with it. No need to change it for three days unless she complains of heat or severe pain in that area - call me if that happens."
"I've got some of those bandages," Dev said when Connor held up a pack.
Nodding, the other man put them back in his kit. "Good night's sleep and she'll be fine." He got up.
Stroking a hand down the back of Katya's head, Dev settled her on the pillow and stood. "I'll be back in a minute."
She didn't say anything, but her eyes followed him as he exited the room. It took everything he had to leave her there, but Connor obviously needed to talk to him. The other man didn't say anything until they reached his car. "You going to tell me what you're doing with a full-blood?"
"No." The fewer people who knew the truth, the better. "You didn't see her."
"See who?" Throwing his medical kit into the passenger seat, Connor slid his lean form into the vehicle. "Let her rest."
Dev stopped in the process of turning around. "That's none of your business."
Connor met his eyes, the lines of his face even more austere in the early evening light. "Never thought I'd have to tell you how to take care of your woman."
Dev felt his fingers curl into a tight fist. "Lot of assumptions in that statement, Connor."
"Just telling it like I see it." He pulled the door shut.
Dev was inside the house before the other man finished reversing down the drive. Closing and locking the door, he strode down to the bedroom. Katya wasn't on the bed.
Dev's eyes zeroed in on the bar of light showing under the bathroom door. He pushed through without knocking.
"Dev!" She pulled a towel in front of her body.
Lust kicked him hard - as if he hadn't all but killed himself with her mere hours ago. Every bit of the anger, the rage he'd felt at seeing her hurt seemed to have transmuted into pure need. Ignoring the savage hunger to teach her exactly how badly he took her hurting herself, he walked over and wrapped the towel more firmly around her damp body. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I wanted to wash off the blood that dripped down my leg," she said. "It only took a minute."
"Then why are you trembling?" He swung her up in his arms without waiting for an answer. "If you've pulled out the stitches, I'm going to redo them, and I'm not as gentle as Connor."
Instead of snapping back at him, Katya nuzzled her face into his neck and said, "I'm sorry."
He knew she wasn't talking about the shower. "It wasn't your fault." Placing her on the bed with all the tenderness he had in him, he lay down beside her. "They messed with your head."
Shimmering green-gold eyes met his as she shook her head. "I'm a walking weapon. I knew this was coming and I stayed. I should've left yesterday!"
He knew she was right. But he also knew it was far too late. "I told you - you're mine. I don't let go of what's mine." Pressing a kiss to her temple, he raised himself up on his arms.
She gripped his biceps. "Don't leave."
"I need to clean up the floor. I'll be back in a few minutes."
But the cleanup took a little longer than he'd expected, and she was asleep by the time he returned to the bed, curled up on her uninjured side. Sliding in beside her, he tugged away the towel with careful hands - he needed to wrap his body around her instead, feel her safe and warm, protected in his arms.
Only then did he allow himself to accept the fear that had gripped him when he'd seen her bleeding on the floor. Trembling, he pressed a kiss to her shoulder, drawing the clean, warm scent of her into his lungs. For the second time in his life, he was watching a woman who was everything to him slip from his fingers, and he could do nothing to stop it.
The agony of it ripped through him, until he half expected to see his own blood stain the sheets.
"No," he said, and it was a vow. He'd find a way to get Ming to undo or permanently block the compulsions, because no way was he ever again watching Katya cry because her mind had been violated, her limbs turned into a marionette's. And if Ming refused to cooperate - "I'll kill the bastard." He had to believe that once the Councilor was dead, Katya would be able to live a life free of fear.
She shifted in his arms, and he realized she'd woken. "It won't help, Dev - the shield will hold. And being trapped inside it . . . it's killing me cell by cell."
He refused to accept that, to give in. "Can he stop it, release the pressure?" He felt her body tense. "Don't you dare lie to me."
Another pause and he knew she wasn't going to give him the truth. "Don't do this to me, baby." He hugged her tight. "Don't make me helpless." Never again, he thought, never again would he be helpless while a woman he loved died in front of him.
Her body shuddered. "How can you ask me to lead you into death?"
"For me, Katya. Please." He wasn't a man used to begging, but he'd do anything it took to protect her.
"He may be able to," she said at last "He said I'd make the perfect sleeper assassin. I'd have to be alive for that, but I don't know what kind of a life it'd be."
Dev's anguish shifted to grim determination. "It'll be life. We can work out the rest later."
"He's a cardinal, Dev. His power . . . I can't describe it - it's endless, vast. He could turn your mind to putty with a single thought."
Dev had some abilities of his own, not all of them psychic. The director of Shine didn't need to be a powerful psychic - he needed to be ruthless enough to slit enemy throats if necessary. "You let me worry about that." Stroking his hand over her hair, he promised himself that Ming would pay for every second of pain, every injury, every drop of blood.