Only this time, it wasn’t limited to their bodies. Their minds collided on the psychic plane, their thoughts crashing together in a splintering of astonishing color that made her cry tears that became rain as she saw all the pieces of him. “I love you, Kaleb.”
* * *
KALEB’S hand was tangled up in the wet heaviness of Sahara’s hair as she lay half on, half off his chest, their legs intertwined and every inch of skin slick with rain. Neither one of them wanted to go inside, in spite of the continuing downpour, but he’d put a heavy telekinetic shield over them to protect Sahara from what was in fact icy cold water.
Inside the shield, the temperature was considerably higher, Kaleb’s ability to create and manipulate kinetic energy being used in a way most trainers would consider wasteful. It wasn’t. Not if it kept Sahara warm.
“What was that?” she asked, chest rising and falling as her lungs struggled to drag in air. “At the end?”
“Our minds connected.” It was an experience he’d never forget, Sahara’s love and spirit an intensity of light deep inside him, a candle flame that lit up the void. Damaged and twisted and scarred beyond all hope of repair, the part of him that was the void touched the candle flame in wonder, astonished that it was for him.
For him. For Kaleb.
This was purity, this painfully beautiful thing Sahara felt for him, and it was a truth Pure Psy would never comprehend. But—“I’m sorry for what you must’ve seen.”
“I saw wild, dangerous beauty. I saw devotion. I saw you.” Lifting her head off his chest, she fisted one hand against her heart. “I can feel you deep inside, a midnight star so impossibly strong and loving and mine. ” Her voice trembled. “I’m so glad you’re mine. I won’t ever let you go.”
This time, it was Kaleb who said, “I know,” devastated at being so wanted. “You are just a little possessive.”
Sahara laughed, her eyes wet as, inside him, the candle flame continued to burn, the light a warm, enduring gold. But there was more. On the psychic plane outside their minds, a fine thread of midnight, distinguishable from the black of the Net only by the glittering obsidian facets of it, had woven intimately with one of golden light, the tie going from his mind to Sahara’s. “We’ve bonded.”
Sahara’s eyes turned inward, her smile luminous. “Kaleb.” Laughing in open delight, she pressed kisses along his jaw, halting only when the fingers of one of her hands brushed the scar on his forearm. “Are you determined to erase this?”
“I won’t risk you.” He telepathed her the reasons why as the rain turned slowly to a misty haze, the connection between their minds so clear it was beyond even his telepathic strength. “And whatever you see in it, I’ll never see the same.” For him, it would always be a reminder of the day he’d lost her.
“All right.” Shimmering droplets on her eyelashes, stars caught in transition. “But will you replace it with something for me?”
“Anything.” His body was hers.
Brushing her fingers over his lips, she said, “You gave me an eagle. I want to give you one, too.” A tender kiss pressed to the scar. “I want us to fly together.”
“You saw me, all of me,” he said, dragging her up to his mouth. “You know I’m never going to be good.” After seizing control of the Net, he’d do whatever it took to maintain it. No one and nothing was ever again going to imprison either one of them.
“A good man,” she said, her lips against his, “wouldn’t have survived what you did, wouldn’t have been able to find me. To fight evil, you have to understand the dark. We both do.”
“You’ll have to be my conscience.” He knew his flaws, and he knew the parts of him that were irrevocably broken. “Mine isn’t going to grow back.”
Pushing off wet strands of hair from his forehead, Sahara held his gaze. “Have I ever let anything slide? That won’t change.” A slow smile. “I intend to have a thousand fights with you.”
He thought of a lifetime of having Sahara’s stubborn will in his life and knew that she was his reward for surviving.
“Kaleb?” When he met her gaze, she touched one of the fine silvery scars on her own body, and his anger ignited anew, rage swirling in his veins. “No,” she whispered with a shake of her head. “You don’t think of him when you see these. You think of me. A fighter, a survivor, your lover.” It was an order . . . and one he realized he would have no hesitation in following, the marks her badges of honor.
Leaning up, he kissed one on her shoulder as she’d kissed the scar on his arm. “Only you,” he said, the vow a final one. “My fierce, intelligent, lovely Sahara who spit in a monster’s eye.”
They were lost in one another in the minutes that followed, touching and caressing and simply being together.
“Our bond,” he said afterward, “it’ll be visible in the Net if I drop the shield I placed over it.” It had been an instinctive act from his mind, the feral response to protect something indescribably precious. “Twenty-four hours—that’s how long I plan to keep the shield in place.”
Worry shadowed Sahara’s smile and he knew she understood what he intended to do. “Are the people ready?”
“Some will never be ready, but it’s time.” The disease rotting the fabric of the Net was growing stronger, more virulent with every passing hour. “The only other option is a slow death.”