That was when Enrique glanced back at her . . . and the radiator stopped glowing, Kaleb’s arm hanging limply at his side. “Since you’ve rejected my offer,” the monster said, “I’ll have the pleasure of ending your Sahara’s life—and the time, it appears, must be now. She’s growing weaker and it would be such a waste if she didn’t feel her death.” He picked up the knife. “A pity our little party could not continue for longer.”
“Stop,” Kaleb said, coughing up more blood to draw in a hard-won breath. “I’ll give you anything you want if you set her free. Complete obedience, no defiance.”
He was bargaining his soul for her life. Sahara wanted to tell him no, that she would never accept that bargain, but she was having trouble forming words.
“Everything?” Santano asked. “Would you crawl? Become my compliant pet?”
Kaleb answered without hesitation. “Yes.”
The monster’s laugh was a harsh sound that scratched her mind. “How touching.” Wrenching back Kaleb’s head with a telekinetic hand, he said, “But this time, I’ll decline. I told you—it’s time you remembered that I own you.” Shifting on his heel, Enrique faced the bed. “I’ll cut her up piece by piece while you watch.” A look back at Kaleb. “It’ll be much more satisfying to break you to the choke than to have you submit.”
So weak now that the world threatened to fade in front of her eyes, Sahara bit down on her tongue to keep herself from unconsciousness. That might equal an easier death, but she would not leave Kaleb like this, would fight to the last beat of her heart, the last gasp of air in her lungs.
Eyes stinging from the pain of the self-inflicted hurt, she brought the world back into sharp focus to see Kaleb staring at Enrique as the other Tk walked to the bed. The tendons in Kaleb’s neck stood out in stark relief, the bones in his face pushing white against skin, the bloody tears that dropped from the corners of his eyes thicker now, more viscous as he breathed in shallow gasps through broken ribs.
Reaching her, Enrique got onto the bed, careful not to touch her skin. “I think,” he murmured, “I’ll cut off your lips fir—”
The older cardinal was suddenly thrown across the room to smash up against the door. A bone snapped with an audible crack, and she thought it might’ve been his ulna coming into contact with the doorknob. As he struggled up, he was slammed back again, his head thudding against the wood, the sound hard and wet at the same time.
Her telekinetic bindings came free.
So weak she couldn’t feel her legs, she tried to crawl off the bed, the bracelet Kaleb had given her coated in shades of bloody rust where it lay warm against her skin. If she could touch any part of the monster’s body with her own . . .
But Enrique, his shoulder hanging in a way that told her it had been dislocated or broken, shoved out his good hand and suddenly her body was being bent backward in half, her muscles and bones wrenched to the breaking point. Her knee popped, tendons tore, and darkness beckoned on the horizon, her scream a silent agony.
No, she wanted to say to Kaleb, don’t let him distract you! But it was too late. Sucking in breaths of jagged glass as Enrique released her back onto the bed, she watched in horror as Kaleb was slammed up into the ceiling, then back down, both his legs shattering on impact and blood pouring out of his mouth. He convulsed for a hellish five seconds and when he stopped, she knew the monster had won the bloody psychic battle, caged her strong, smart, beautiful Kaleb again.
She tried to go to him, but only her fingers twitched, her heartbeat so sluggish, she knew she was dying.
“Don’t!” Kaleb yelled, crawling to her in spite of his broken legs and shattered ribs, in spite of the fact that his eyes were a sea of red as he fought the evil thing the monster had done to his mind and his ability to come to her, his every movement a testament to his will. “Don’t you give up!”
Her fingers inched toward his on a last, stubborn surge of strength. “I won’t,” she promised in silence as her vision began to fade. Anything else would hurt him and she would never hurt her Kaleb. “I won’t.” The very tips of his fingers brushed her own as he gripped the edge of the bed, his blood sliding against her own.
Then she was being lifted up and away from him with brute telekinetic strength, and the monster was saying, “I’ve changed my mind,” through harsh, whistling breaths. “I think I’ll make her into my pet in your stead.”
“Sahara!” A rage of sound. “I’ll come for you! Survive! Survive for me!”
They were the last words she heard before her mind went black.
“DID YOU SEE?” she asked. “He was having trouble breathing, Kaleb. You broke something inside him and the only reason he was able to grab control was that you tried to protect me.”
Kaleb didn’t reject her memories, but said, “I can hear you scream, feel the knife against my palm, the blood smeared on my fingertips, see Santano picking you up and teleporting away. There’s nothing in between.”
“You told me he had back doors into your mind,” Sahara said, fighting for him to believe the truth.
“He was clearly able to do something to make you forget the most important part of that night.”
Continuing to hold his face between her palms, she said, “You scared him.” She vividly remembered the tone in Enrique’s voice that night, the shock that anyone had the power to cause him harm. “That is the only reason he decided to let me live.” With those words, she understood the terrible, painful truth. “He used me as an extra leash to make sure you stayed in line, didn’t he? As long as you didn’t fight the compulsion, as long as you remained his audience, he wouldn’t arrange for my death.”