Mad, she thought, face flushing, I’m truly going mad.
Shivers after the heat, a rush of tears burning the backs of her eyes, a staccato heartbeat that was in her mouth, in her ears, a roaring rush. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The world began to crumble at the edges under the rage of sound, the walls liquefying into pools of gleaming white, the floor a dazzling kaleidoscope.
Stumbling out of the chair, her balance lost in the trembling mirage that was the world, she banged into the counter in her attempt to get to the door, to escape the insanity eating away at her senses. “I need to breathe.” Her throat was strangling, the air too thick to draw into her lungs.
The door shifted just as she reached it, breaking into pieces splattered with sticky red. And suddenly, her mind was filled with the scent of iron, hot and rich, a thin feminine scream echoing in her ears as a man with cardinal eyes sliced a blade into her flesh, the blood welling over the sides of the wound to run down her bruised and torn skin in a river of warmth that made him laugh.
STOP! YOU’RE HURTING me! Stop!
The scared, pain-drenched words crashed into Kaleb’s mind in what had to be an unconscious telepathic cry. Cutting off his audio-only discussion with brutal abruptness, his mental state too unsteady for a teleport, he ran into the kitchen to see Sahara clawing at the door, her hair hanging around her down-bent face and her fingers bloody, her fingernails broken and torn.
“Sahara.” Gripping her shoulders, he turned her around to face him, the contact initiating the same dangerous response it had earlier; his Tk shoved at his skin, wanting to punch out, to break and shatter and savage. As he had then, he choked it into vicious submission. “Look at me.”
She flinched at the cold command, her eyes wild, skittering. Those of a trapped creature. His breathing accelerated, his blood boiling under his skin as his mind clouded in a way that could be lethal. Shifting his grip to her right wrist, he pulled her now-rigid form to the alarm panel beside the door.
While she stood mute and barely breathing beside him, he input the voice code, then lifted her hand to place her palm on the scanner. “Sahara Kyriakus, full and unrestricted authorization.”
A query popped up on the small screen below the palm plate. Authorization to include Krychek properties outside current location?
“Yes.” Never again would she be locked in a cage.
The computronics hummed, a green glow lighting up the panel as Sahara’s palm was scanned.
Authorization successful, scrolled the message a second later.
Dropping her hand, he pushed open the door. She remained where he’d left her, that panicked, trapped expression slowly replaced by one he recognized as fear. Scanning the area for a threat, he saw only empty fields that sprawled to a dramatic blue horizon. He kept them that way to ensure his enemies had no place to hide, should they manage to skirt the perimeter security, but to her it likely seemed an endless blue-green sea.
Not leaving her side but staying silent to give her time to become used to the vista free of walls and fences, he wet a towel using his Tk and used it to wipe off the blood from her hands to reveal she hadn’t done as much damage as he’d first believed. Still, he coated the torn and bruised sections with a salve before shifting into her line of sight until she could no longer avoid his presence.
“I saw things,” she whispered, the dark, dark blue of her eyes drowning in confusion, “and now I can’t remember.” Haunting vulnerability, her skin translucent in the light. “Am I going mad, Kaleb?”
He could guess the memories she’d glimpsed, and from her response, it was clear her mind was in no way ready to handle the ugly truth. Thrusting his hands into her hair to hold her head, the contact arcing through his nerves, he said, “No,” his tone coolly matter-of-fact because she needed him to be sane at this instant. “According to Psy-Med reports, flashbacks and blackouts are common occurrences in patients suffering from PTSD.” For some it never ended, the scars too deep, but he had no intention of sharing that fact with Sahara.
Taking a shuddering breath, another, she shifted her gaze to the wide-open doorway. “No locks?”
“None.” He’d made a near-fatal error in not disengaging them the instant she came to full consciousness. “You’re an intelligent woman. You know you put yourself at risk if you leave the secured perimeter. However, that perimeter extends a mile in every direction.” He’d bought out all remaining properties within that circumference six months ago, soon after discovering Sahara was alive. “You’re safe inside that zone.”
Throat moving as she swallowed, Sahara reached out to fist her hand in the fine cotton of the shirt he’d put on after leaving the kitchen. “Who are you?”
“A caretaker,” he said, and it was a truth, if not everything.
Frown lines on her brow, her fingers flexing and clenching against his chest in a way that challenged his already unsteady control. “Of this house?”
“Yes.” It was an anchor, a physical symbol of his search, of her.
“Who owns it?”
“You do.” He’d had it built according to specifications she’d outlined at fifteen, watched over it all the years of her captivity, using lethal force to repel anyone who meant it harm. “Welcome home.”
PSYNET BEACON: BREAKING NEWS *Copenhagen situation contained. One hundred and five confirmed dead, with number expected to rise once site is cleared for excavation by forensic teams.
Councilor Kaleb Krychek, and a team of unnamed operatives rumored to be from the Arrow Squad, responsible for ninety-five percent of rescues. None accessible for comment.