Sahara drew a design on his shoulder blade with her fingertip before smoothing her hand down his back in a caress that sent rocks tumbling into the gorge. “You breached Silence.”
He disciplined his Tk at once but didn’t release her wrist. “Yes.” The cost of his breach had been a slow river of hot red that had soaked the cheap hotel sheets, the smell of scorched flesh scenting the air. It was a memory embedded into every cell of his body, of an event that, when she remembered it, would make Sahara realize exactly who he was beneath the suits and the veneer of civilization.
When the time came, a better man would let her go. But Kaleb wasn’t a better man. He’d bring her back again and again. No matter her terror. Until her ability rose to the surface in a raw psychic surge.
“You must be hungry.” He released her wrist, the cold, hard truth causing the part of him that lived in the darkness to go as adamantine as the shield he’d placed over her. “Are you ready to eat something else?”
“Can I have more of the mango nectar?” Sahara continued to caress his back, and he knew it was an illusionary trust, born of a shattered mind.
Turning slightly after teleporting in the drink she’d requested, he unscrewed the lid and poured the thick liquid into a new glass. “You need solids, too.”
Sahara didn’t argue when he brought in food, then sat with her while she ate as much as she could stomach. It was a birdlike portion, but aware she’d do better with small meals scattered throughout the day, he didn’t make any comment. When she passed him an apple and a knife, he cut it for her, and he ate the piece she gave him.
It was a quiet, unexpected interlude, part of a calm that lasted for the seven days that followed—a week in which Sahara slept often and deeply; ate nutritional, designed-to-be-appetizing meals that Kaleb made sure were always available; gently exercised her body in stretches he knew she’d learned as a dancer even if she didn’t; and talked to him without fear.
He made sure he was home almost the entirety of the time when she was awake, taking care of other business, including meetings with the Arrows, while she slept. It had become clear that the individual behind the Perth leak had had expert help in hiding his trail, but Kaleb had no doubts the Arrows would locate him—or her.
Kaleb had other priorities.
Now and then, Sahara would find him on the terrace and lean her body against his as they spoke.
Aware this was a transitory instant that would soon be erased by a past scored in agonizing screams, he made no effort to avoid her. When she didn’t press him for more information about herself or the situation, he understood that her subconscious continued to insulate her from reality in order to give her time to heal.
Everything changed on the eighth day.
* * *
SAHARA went to bed with the remembered feel of Kaleb’s muscled body against her own, as they stood talking under the stars, and woke with a scream stuck in her throat, her heart beating hard enough that it threatened to punch through her sternum. Frightened on the deepest level, she searched frantically for a light, desperate to know what was being done to her.
Her scrabbling fingers somehow hit the touch sensor on the lamp on the bedside table, and soft warmth spilled into the room. A beautiful silk carpet, walls painted a gentle cream, a mirrorless dresser with a hairbrush on the surface, and a large bed covered with a comforter patterned with tiny roses. Not a cell, but she knew in her bones it was still a prison. Even if her captor let her wander the halls as she pleased.
“You belong to me.”
A warm wall of muscle under her palm.
Swallowing at the waterfall of memory, she pushed off the sheets and stumbled to the bathroom.
Her fingers shook as she threw water on her face and wiped it dry, and she had to grip the edge of the sink for several long minutes to stabilize herself enough that she could think. The calm haze in which she’d existed since Kaleb brought her here had well and truly torn apart, shreds of it fluttering in the nauseating wave of her fear.
How could she have been so serene? Touching Kaleb Krychek as if he were simply a man? He wasn’t. Even in her incarceration, she hadn’t been totally cut off from news of the outside world—the guards had talked to each other, if not to her, and her mind had catalogued that overheard information in the brief, secret periods of lucidity she’d built into the labyrinth.
Kaleb Krychek, Councilor Kaleb Krychek, was a telekinetic so powerful, it was rumored he could sink cities, possibly crack the crust of the planet itself. A male with a mind he’d confirmed could cause true madness in hers if he so chose, one who was whispered to kill with the same ease and lack of concern as another man might draw breath.
On the sink, her bones pushed white against skin that had barely begun to be gilded by the sun after so many years in the dark.
“I heard he was Santano’s protégé.”
According to the long-term memories she could access at this instant, Santano Enrique was a Councilor, but she knew nothing about him beyond that. Yet the tone of the voices she recalled told her this was an important fact about Kaleb.
Drinking some water, she took a deep breath and tried to figure out her next move.
At least there’s hope.
The thought was a glow in her heart. For so long, there hadn’t been even a possibility of hope, her mind ripped open with such brutal ugliness that she’d had to curl up within herself to survive. The stripping had been in retaliation for her creation of the labyrinth, but Sahara wasn’t sorry. Without the labyrinth, she’d be worse than one of the so-called rehabilitated, her personality erased, her mind that of an automaton who did exactly as her jailers ordered.