The words made no sense, and then they did, her stomach dropping. If he could switch the pain controls on and off at will, there was no restraint on his telekinetic strength. It made him beyond lethal. “Impossible,” she whispered, her eyes searching his expression for some sign that she’d misunderstood. “You wouldn’t have survived to adulthood without the dissonance.” It was what kept powerful offensive Psy from inadvertently causing harm to themselves or others.
“A child can learn many things.” He gave her no chance to respond to that flat statement, before saying, “No one will come for you. Before his brain collapsed inward, I learned the Tk hadn’t shared data because he wanted to use your recovery to increase his status.”
The cold ruthlessness of him continued to shock her, and yet she allowed him at her throat, her pulse beginning to beat in time to his. “The trackers?”
“The devices only broadcast within a radius equal to that of a large city. No one else came toward this part of Russia.”
So she was safe. As safe as she could be with a cardinal who had taken a life without remorse and with a calculated cruelty designed to prolong suffering. That she hadn’t run screaming in horror, but into his arms, made her consider if her captivity had caused far more damage than she realized. This compulsive, brutal attraction that had her opening the top buttons of his shirt to splay her fingers on his skin had to be a creation of her no doubt powerful survival instinct. What better way to survive than to make her captor believe her in his thrall?
The abhorrent thoughts slammed up hard against the raw emotions that had torn her apart in the kitchen as they’d had a conversation that had been missing so many parts, the words unspoken far more painful than those they’d said aloud. Nothing so deep, so painfully passionate, so old, could be the work of a mind bent on survival alone.
Yet, regardless of the mysterious emotional tie that bound her to a cardinal Tk who could be a sculpture in Silence one minute and driven by blackest rage the next, the fact was, he appeared in not a single one of her returning memories. Either she had never before met him and she was going mad, or their previous meeting had been so horrific, her mind protected her from it even now . . . kept her from realizing that she was at the mercy of a man groomed to adulthood by a psychopathic murderer.
“Did you help Enrique murder his victims?” she asked, the words torn out of her.
Kaleb’s eyes swirled with a blackness that seemed deeper than ebony as he shifted position so that he was looking down at her, his hand still at her throat. “I,” he said, brushing his thumb over the flutter of her pulse, “was there for every second of their torture and deaths.”
* * *
HOURS after she’d finally run from Kaleb, her stomach convulsing as she fought the urge to retch, Sahara lay in a fetal position in her own bed, beneath three blankets that did nothing to negate the frigid cold in her chest, in her bones. She should’ve been long asleep, but she couldn’t get Kaleb’s voice out of her head.
I was there for every second of their torture and deaths.
The way he’d said it, it was simple, absolute fact. No room for negotiation or subtlety. Even if he hadn’t actively helped—and she knew that was a vain hope, no matter how much she wanted it to be true—he’d known what Enrique was doing long before it had come to the attention of the changelings who had eventually executed the Councilor. She’d never blame the innocent child Kaleb had once been, but he’d kept this silence even after he became an adult with full access to his telekinetic strength; he’d protected his mentor, his teacher.
“Loyalty is everything.”
A fury of backsight spun into her mind on the heels of that distorted vocal echo, and as always when her mind saw the past, she was an uninvolved bystander . . . except this time, the subject of her vision was a younger version of herself. Her just-above-the-knee-length tunic a sedate gray over a neat white shirt, black ballet flats on her feet, she walked down a leafy avenue shaded with cherry blossom trees in full bloom, the light tinged a soft pink by the delicate flowers.
Sahara recognized the uniform as that of her junior high school. From the way she’d done her hair —a single neat braid that reached the middle of her shoulders—as well as the type of satchel she wore over her shoulder and the bruise on her arm, she knew she was fifteen and on her way home after a vigorous game of baseball in her last-period physical health class.
One of her schoolmates had thrown for the plate, caught her on the arm instead as she slid home.
He’d been very apologetic, but Sahara had been truthful when she assured him she was fine. Simply because, as a Psy, she had slightly weaker physiology than humans or changelings, didn’t mean she was easily breakable, or that she couldn’t take the normal wear and tear of life. As it was the body that supported the mind, physical exercise was a routine part of every Psy student’s life.
It was the official reason why Sahara took dance classes three times a week.
“Memory,” Sahara whispered in a bed far from the school where she’d once played baseball, understanding the fragment of backsight had segued into a hereto hidden memory.
As she walked on that far-off day, she took in everything around her, from the falling petals of soft pink to the occasional hover-capable car on the road. She’d always liked the dappled shade created by the heavily blooming trees, though to admit that would have been to sentence herself to corrective conditioning, so she’d hidden the fracture in her already unsound Silence and continued to take pleasure in the myriad hues of spring.