She hissed at him, dark blue orbs glinting behind the tangled mass of her hair.
He didn’t move, didn’t betray any reaction to the fact that she’d responded in some fashion at last, even if it was nonverbal. “Drink it. I won’t ask again.”
Still she resisted. Unexpected. Her mind might be broken, but it wasn’t—had never been— unintelligent. No, her intellect was so piercing, her teachers had struggled to keep up with her. She had to be aware that refusing him wasn’t an option. The power of a cardinal telekinetic was vast. He could crack every bone in her body with a fleeting thought, crush those bones into dust if he so chose.
Even if she no longer understood that, she’d experienced his strength when he teleported her from her cell and to his home; she had to comprehend her precarious situation.
Her eyes flicked to the glass in his hand, teeth biting down on her badly cracked lower lip. Yet she didn’t reach for the water she so patently needed. Why?
He took a moment to think, consider the circumstances in which he’d found her. “It’s not drugged,” he said, talking to a face that held no recognition, no sign that she remembered their final blood- soaked encounter, an encounter where she’d screamed for so long and in such agony she’d caused damage to her throat that would’ve needed medical attention to repair.
“Infused with the minerals and vitamins that you need,” he continued, “but not drugged. You’re no use to me in a coma.” Holding her gaze when it finally connected with his, he took a healthy swallow of the water, then held out the glass.
It was snatched from him a second later. He’d teleported in another full glass from the kitchen before she finished the first. She emptied them both. Getting rid of the glass with a negligible use of his telekinesis, he rose from his crouched position in front of her. “Do you want to eat first or shower?”
She stared up at him, eyes narrowed.
“Fine, I’ll make the decision for you.” He brought in a plate of fresh, uncut fruit, as well as a thick slice of bread spread with butter and honey. It wasn’t the kind of food he ate—like most Psy, he lived on nutrition bars, for Silence thrived in the absence of sensation, and taste was a powerful one.
His guest’s Silence, however, had been shattered a lifetime ago. Sensation might well be the key to bringing her back from the mental wasteland where she’d retreated, her personality and abilities entombed. Teleporting in a knife, he sliced the bread into four smaller pieces, then, going down on his haunches, held the plate out to her. She stared for over a minute before selecting a piece not in the quick jab he’d expected, but with measured deliberation.
So, her captors hadn’t starved her. She’d chosen not to eat.
It took no effort to reach out with his mind, set the water to boil in the kitchen, prepare a mug of tea just hot enough that she could sip it. He dumped three teaspoons of sugar in the mug before bringing it in for her. This time, she didn’t hesitate, cuddling the mug to her chest.
Realizing she was cold, he adjusted the thermostat to further warm up the already warm room. She didn’t react except to take another quarter of the bread. As she ate with slow neatness, he had the sense he was being evaluated. It would’ve been easy to jump to the conclusion that she wasn’t as broken as she appeared, that this was all a clever act, but the fleeting moments he’d spent in her mind told a far different story.
She’d been splintered from the inside out.
The intelligence that judged him at this instant was more akin to the primal hindbrain that existed within every civilized being, the part that knew how to identify predator from prey, danger from safety. It wasn’t the level of function he needed from her, but it was better than total catatonia or actual physical brain damage.
Her brain was fine. It was her mind that was broken.
Picking up an apple, he went to cut it, but her eyes flicked left to the grapes. He didn’t say a word, simply put down the apple and turned the plate so the grapes were close to her hand. She ate four, took a sip of tea, and stopped.
Half a slice of bread, four grapes, two glasses of water, and a sip of tea.
It was a better result than he might have initially predicted.
“I’ll leave this here for you,” he said, rising to put the plate on the small table on the far side of the bed. “If you want more, or something different, you’ll have to get it from the kitchen yourself.”
That got her attention.
The subtle rocking that had restarted when he rose to his feet stopped, and he knew she was listening. He had read Psy-Med Journal s in preparation for the eventuality that she was broken when he found her, had even sat in remotely on countless lectures on the subject, but where the specialists recommended quiet, calm, gentle interaction, he knew the primitive mind behind those eyes of midnight blue would see right through such an act.
He was the monster that stalked nightmare, and they both knew it.
“You can move around the house as you please,” he told her, calculating how many years it had been since she’d been allowed any kind of freedom. The entire span of her captivity? If so, in this he could understand the impact on her psyche better than any stranger with psycho-medical training.
“The reason this room has no windows,” he said, answering the question she hadn’t asked, but that had to be at the surface of her consciousness, “was to negate the possibility of panic on your part at being removed from a closed environment.”
Her shoulders stiffened. Perhaps, he thought, there was more than an animal mind present within the fragile shell of her body. Perhaps. “If you prefer another room, choose it. For now, the bathroom is through there.” He pointed to the door on the other side of the bed, having deliberately chosen the smallest suite in the house for the same reason he’d given for the lack of windows.