“I want to know why you had the item in such a secure lockup in the first place.” No privacy, no air, blinding light. “Backsight isn’t, after all, a particularly useful ability.”
“Backsight? You’ve lost me.”
Clever, so clever, not to fall for his trap. “Exactly.” As if making a decision, he rose, doing up the buttons on his jacket as he did so. “It appears I was mistaken. The item isn’t yours—there is only one individual left to whom it could belong.”
Tatiana continued to maintain her relaxed pose, but he saw the fine lines form at the corners of her eyes. “Who?”
“Anthony, of course,” he said, well aware Tatiana utilized NightStar’s forecasting services on a regular basis to increase the financial status of her empire. She could not afford to be blacklisted. Not only would it put her at a severe disadvantage in the Psy financial world, but her current investments would dive in value once the news leaked. And NightStar—Anthony—would make certain it did. The F-Psy clan understood loyalty, too, in a way Tatiana never would.
The tapping paused, the tendons in Tatiana’s hand standing out against her skin. “No.”
Eyes connecting with his, chips of agate, she nodded at the chair. “Perhaps we can do business after all.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” He sat down, waited.
Tatiana took her time in replying. “I acquired the item intending to use it as a hostage should NightStar ever attempt to blacklist me, but it was never needed.”
A lie, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the confirmation.
Tatiana gasped as she was shoved backward, her chair crashing to the floor as invisible manacles pinned her to the wall, her feet at least a half meter off the ground. One sleek black pump landed on the carpet with a dull thud, while the other drummed against the wall as she struggled to break free.
He hadn’t expected such useless panic from Tatiana.
Put immediately on alert by her uncharacteristic lack of control, he looked into his mind—and saw the insidious tendril that had already penetrated the first three layers of his shields. Slamming outward with violent force, he sealed up the surgical holes she’d created as a drop of blood, dark and viscous, dripped out of her nose.
“Very smart.” He’d made a near-fatal error in the grip of the black rage that lived below the shell of his Silence. Another half a minute and she’d have been inside his mind.
“What do you want?” she said when her ruse failed to distract him, her body now motionless and her voice frigid.
“I want to know why you took her,” he repeated, relaxing into the chair without ever taking one eye off his shields.
“She’s malfunctioning, of no use to you.”
Kaleb sighed. “That’s not the question I asked.”
“You can’t kill me,” Tatiana said in that same icily composed tone. “Regardless of the rumors of the Council’s demise, the psychic shock wave caused by the death of another Councilor will cause the Net to destabilize to a dangerous extent, especially given the current violence.”
“Yes, that’s true.” And Kaleb hadn’t yet decided if he wanted the Net to fracture on that level. “But there are worse things than death.” With that, he used his telekinesis to dislocate her left knee the same way Sahara’s had once been dislocated, according to the information caught by the scanner when he’d inspected her for tracking devices.
“I apologize,” he said after Tatiana stopped screaming. “Where were we? I believe you were about to answer my question.”
“She was given to me,” Tatiana gasped, her left knee beginning to swell up.
“And who was your generous benefactor?”
He didn’t bother to warn her this time, simply dislocated her left shoulder exactly as Sahara’s had been three years ago. That piece of information he’d gained when he pulverized the mind of the pathetic excuse for a male he’d executed in the kitchen. His lack of restraint had cost him a large amount of useful data; the guard’s mind had broken split seconds after Kaleb smashed through his shields, leaving Kaleb a very short window in which to sweep up information, but he found he felt no remorse.
As he didn’t now, watching Tatiana’s head loll forward. She’d blacked out. “Weak,” he said, having stayed conscious through far worse as a seven-year-old. He gave her a minute, and when she didn’t awaken, picked up the glass of water on her desk without moving from his position in the chair and threw the contents into her face.
She came to with a whimpering jerk, wet strands of hair sticking to her skin and a glint of fear in her eye. Her Silence might have been pristine until this moment, her will ruthless, but for all her deadly cunning and strength, Tatiana Rika-Smythe hadn’t been trained as Kaleb had been. She didn’t know how to hold on to the conditioning—or a convincing reproduction of it—in the face of excruciating pain, with no end in sight.
Shivering from the onset of shock, she rasped out, “Santano Enrique gave her to me.”
Her answer was no surprise, but Kaleb had needed to hear it from her mouth. “Why?”
“We were . . . partners of a kind. He respected my ambition, and I respected the fact he’d cut my throat if I ever turned that ambition in his direction. We trusted each other.”
It was the ugliest definition of trust he’d ever heard. “Did you know she was mine when you took her?”