“Do it now,” she ordered, the water crashing around her in a roar of pain and anger and revulsion.
“I want them out now!” Her voice broke. “Get them out! Get th—”
Kaleb squeezed her nape. “I’ll have them out in the next five minutes.”
His assurance was enough for her to hold on to the shreds of her sanity . . . because Kaleb never broke his promises.
“Sahara! I’ll come for you! Survive! Survive for me!”
Of course it was Kaleb who had spoken those words to her, made that vow. She was that important to no one else. Why that was true, and when he’d made the promise, those were questions she couldn’t answer, but at this instant it mattered nothing. Not when, having led her into his bedroom, he placed his hand on her hair and said, “Lie down on your stomach and dampen your pain receptors while I ’port in a sterile medical kit.”
Climbing onto the bed, she did as directed.
“I’m using a laser scalpel,” he said, pushing up her shirt again to make a fine cut in her flesh. His hand was warm and strong against her skin where he braced himself, his knees on either side of her body as he straddled her. “You may feel the tweezers going in.”
A cold push that burned, then nothing.
“Is it out?” she asked, skin continuing to crawl at the idea of what she’d had inside her all this time.
“Yes.” Pressing a small thin-skin bandage over the wound, he asked her to flip over, then moved on to the next one. Placed just under her right hip, it really hurt when he used the tweezers, the whimper escaping her lips. It was strange. She remembered never, ever crying when they’d hurt her so much during her captivity, but here with Kaleb, her lower lip trembled, her eyes burned. As if all her defenses had fallen.
Kaleb paused, head jerking up. “Sahara”—a whip in his voice—“why haven’t you done as I asked and dampened your pain receptors?”
“I don’t remember how,” she admitted, fingers flexing and clenching on the sheets. “I’m used to retreating into the labyrinth to escape pain. Please get it out. Please, Kaleb.”
“I have it.” Pulling the second tracker loose to her muffled sob, he telepathed a set of step-by-step instructions about how to temporarily numb her pain receptors. “Try—I can’t give you any pain medication without it impacting your psychic state.”
It was hard to concentrate, but she made a fumbling attempt, managed to lower the pain a fraction.
“I’m not destroying the tracking devices,” Kaleb said, head bent as he concentrated on marking the exact location of the third bug, which had been inserted under her right armpit—a location she would’ve never thought to check.
“Why?” It made her skin crawl to think they might remain in the house.
“I’m teleporting each to a different hard-to-reach location around the world.”
Her horror abated under the cold reasoning apparent in his voice. “That’s smart,” she said as he pulled out the tiny piece of technology. “It’ll confuse them.” Focusing her eyes on his chest so as not to see what he held in his hand, she made a conscious attempt to keep her breathing even.
The fourth bug was implanted between two of her toes. But the fifth . . . “I’ll do it,” she said, gorge rising at the knowledge that she’d been so thoroughly violated. That it must’ve been done by a medical team made it no less repugnant.
“You can’t. It’s too deep inside you.” Putting down the medical tools, Kaleb retrieved the scanner he’d originally used to detect the bugs. “If I can see it in enough detail, I may be able to get it out.”
Sahara bit down hard on her lower lip as he focused the scanner on her navel . . . lower. It was such an ugly thing they’d done to her that she couldn’t quite bring herself to think about it. Instead, she kept her attention on her lethal, enigmatic captor, his silky black hair sliding over his forehead as he said, “Hold the scanner in this position.”
She reached down without looking to do so.
“I have it.” Kaleb’s eyes locked with her own, the connection painfully intimate. “I’ll have to tear it out through your flesh, but the damage will be minor as it’s embedded relatively close to the surface of the skin. It’ll hurt.”
“It’s okay,” she said, tightening her grip on the scanner. “I’m ready.”
Kaleb’s jaw clenched at the gasp that escaped her. “It’s out and buried inside a mountain deep in the heart of SnowDancer wolf territory, where only the very stupid would attempt to trespass.”
Her skin felt suddenly clammy. “Thank you.”
“The wound should heal on its own within the next two days,” he said, tugging the scanner from her bone white grip to place it on the bedside table, “but if you feel something is wrong, I can have you in front of an M-Psy in seconds.”
“It doesn’t really hurt anymore.” Shivers wracking her frame, she curled into herself. “Others will come eventually,” she managed to say through her chattering teeth. “When they cross-check their readings with the Tk’s report, they’ll realize the trackers were all in one place here.”
KALEB LAY DOWN in front of her, tugging her close.
She resisted, though her skin ached for contact. “This hurts you.”
“No.” His hand closed over her throat in a dark possessiveness that was paradoxically calming. “I can turn off the dissonance.”