“Unknown.” Kaleb turned at last, his gaze crashing with her own.
The power that burned in the black depths was staggering, a near-physical force.
“I grew up with a cardinal,” she whispered, suddenly conscious of how tightly he usually shielded himself. “You’re more.” It should’ve been impossible: to be a cardinal was to be off the scale, but she’d never felt such power.
The force of it was terrifying. Even more so was the fact that her need for him had in no way been diminished by the darkness that encased him. It made her consider exactly how much she’d accept, how much she’d forgive, how far she’d walk into the abyss for this deadly Tk who had a claim on her so deep, reason had nothing to do with it.
“I was there for every second of their torture and deaths.”
Chest a painful tightness, she broke the agonizing intimacy of the eye contact and took what felt like her first clear breath in hours. When she glanced back at him, he was looking out through the window once more, his aloneness an opaque shield. And she knew that if she chose to walk away and ignore this, he wouldn’t stop her. Kaleb was used to answering to no one, but the flip side of that was that he had no one who cared if he ever came home.
“Tell me,” she whispered, heart twisting with the tumult of her emotions, because the idea of a world without Kaleb in it ignited a panic that obliterated her fear of what he was, to replace it with nerve-shredding horror. “What you did.”
His eyes, black as a moonless night, remained on the empty grasslands. “Why?”
No denial. It struck her that he was far too intelligent for that to have been a mistake. “Because you said you’d never lie to me.” The words came from that girl, the one who had gritted her teeth and clawed her way to the surface of Sahara’s mind, and who held within her the secrets of the past that linked Sahara to Kaleb.
His head snapped toward her. “I also told you not to trust me.”
Sahara leaned her shoulder against the window, her body turned toward his. “If not you, then who?” A sense of déjà vu, as if she’d said the words before, as if they’d already had this conversation. “You promised.” With those whispered words, she gave in to the madness and brushed back the silken black strands that had fallen across his forehead, the fleeting contact breaking her heart.
This time, he didn’t push her away. But the black ice, it remained as he spoke. “I went to have a discussion with the woman who held you captive.”
It was the last thing she’d expected him to say. “Who?” A rasped-out question, her gut roiling at the memory of her hours with the stranger who had urged her to “cooperate” in a gentle tone that was an ugly counterpoint to the torture being inflicted on her flesh.
The name meant very little to Sahara except for what she’d read in recent news articles. She’d been a teen at the time of her abduction, had had little interest in the Council and the politicking of those aspiring for it. “It makes sense,” she said, feeling not rage, but a nauseating sense of revulsion.
“As much as anyone else hungry for power.”
Kaleb reached out to touch a tiny scar on her left cheekbone, the impact lightning in her veins. “You didn’t have this when you were sixteen.”
“What?” Raising her hand, she closed her fingers around the strong bones of his wrist. “No. I must’ve been around eighteen when . . . you know what happened.”
“Yes.” A flat statement, his hand cupping her jaw. “They hurt you.”
Sahara’s skull echoed with the sound of bones breaking as Kaleb flung her former guard against the kitchen wall, a potent reminder of the deadly possessiveness that drove Kaleb’s actions where she was concerned. “What,” she asked again, “did you do to Tatiana?” It wouldn’t, she knew, have been the relatively quick death he’d meted out to the guard.
Kaleb stroked the forgotten scar with his thumb once more before dropping his hand, his wrist sliding out of her grasp. “She’s in a hole,” he said. “I’ll make sure she spends a lifetime in that hole.
It seems a fitting punishment.”
Sahara wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing at her flesh in a vain effort to warm it up. “Have you cut her off from the PsyNet?”
“What use would the punishment be otherwise?” No hesitation, no give, no change in his tone or expression.
Sahara wanted to smash her fisted hands against the invisible black ice, even knowing that it was too hard to shatter, that the effort would only bloody her hands and leave him untouched. “She’ll go mad.” Under all the rhetoric and the lies, one truth remained—that the Psy were not the least, but the most social of all three races. As a changeling wolf needed his pack, those of her race needed the connection and stimulation of a psychic network peopled by other minds. “We aren’t built for such isolation.”
“You survived.” Anger so cold, it masqueraded as pure Silence.
“I wasn’t completely cut off, not to that extreme.” She had no loyalty to Tatiana, didn’t care if the other woman lived or died, but this was costing Kaleb a piece of his soul, and he couldn’t afford to give away any more. “I could always hear the guards talking to one another, if not to me. It was enough to remind me the world existed.”
The darkness prowled in Kaleb’s eyes, a living entity. “I’ll make sure to visit her every three or four months. That should even out the field.”