Hope struggled to life inside her. “Tatiana is . . . out of the picture”—tightening her stomach muscles to contain the roiling in her abdomen—“and there is no reason to believe anyone in my family was ever sympathetic to her. NightStar is a very tight-knit clan.” They’d had to be. Foresight was not a gift that allowed for the survival of the individual without the support of the group. “Even if they did sell out Faith”—it hurt to think that—“it shows a profit motive. There is no possible economic advantage in giving up my ability to another.”
No response from the deadly Tk who considered her his possession.
“I want to go home, Kaleb,” she said again, and watched the waves turn murderous.
SAHARA THOUGHT THE sight magnificent, the crashing thunder of the water a dark music. There was no fear in her blood because, foolish though it might be, she believed him when he said he wouldn’t hurt her, this fascinating and lethal male her subconscious saw as safe, and who held the power to enslave her body. There was a haunting hardness to his beauty, as if he had been carved of pure iron, but that only made the temptation worse—because he burned for her, as he burned for no other.
“I want to sit in my father’s kitchen,” she whispered, tasting the salt of the spray thrown up by the waves, “and I want to sleep in the bed that was mine.” She was no longer the teenager who had once shared the small, neat house with her father, but that teenage self was the only template she had for who she might’ve been. It was her starting point.
Kaleb’s response was scalpel sharp and as cold. “Your shields are paper-thin.”
“Yes.” Wanting desperately to hold him, to scream at the injustice of what had been done to them both, she tightened her grip on her own wrists until her hands threatened to go numb. “I’ll need help to hide my broken Silence, as well as my vulnerabilities.”
“Are you asking me to help you?”
It was a ridiculous request of this man who had confessed to having been an apprentice to a serial murderer, and who had kept her prisoner in a home far from civilization, and yet she said, “Yes.”
Heart thudding at the risk she took, but no longer able to fight the hunger for contact, she touched her fingers to his forearm, directly above the mark that was less a scar and more a brand, the fine and slightly damp cotton of his shirt not thick enough to conceal the raised ridges she traced with her fingertips.
She wanted to ask him about that mark until it hurt, but every time she went to open her mouth on the question, her heart began to pound loud enough to drown out all other sound, her throat lined with grit so hard and rough, it threatened to cut. It was a key to the past, that terrible brand, but it was a key her mind wasn’t yet ready to turn.
“You can reach me, take me, at any time.” It was a simple fact, his power vast, and one she could not ignore, even as she fought for her freedom.
Her own power was as vast . . . but irrational though her decision might be, it was one she would not use on Kaleb. “All I’m asking,” she said as that silent repudiation sang in her blood, “is that you give me time to become who I’m meant to be.” Instead of this fractured facsimile. “It hurts to be so broken.”
* * *
KALEB had spent seven years searching for her with ruthless focus, and now she asked him to set her free. Once again, the void, the part of him that he knew was perilously unbalanced, held in check only through the power of his will, responded with a primal negative.
Mine. She is mine.
No one else had any right to her.
That unbalanced part, however, was also insanely protective where Sahara was concerned, and it had already accepted that to hold her would be to break her. He had to let her go. Her gratefulness, the rational, manipulative part of his mind murmured, would serve to strengthen the embryonic new bond between them. Already, she’d asked for his help—if he played this right, she would always turn first to him.
As for her safety, NightStar was safe enough. The PsyClan might lock up its mad, but it did so in serene surroundings meant to offer the fragmented foreseers some quality of life, complete with a rotation of caretakers that meant they were never lost in isolation and never at risk of harming themselves. Anthony Kyriakus, the head of the clan, understood loyalty—no NightStar, even their most famous defector, had ever been publicly hung out to dry. As such, Sahara’s broken Silence would be noted in-house and kept scrupulously out of public view.
“I’ll continue to shield you.” His own power was enormous, but as Tatiana had discovered, he also had the resources of the NetMind and DarkMind at his disposal. “No one will be able to enter your mind.”
Sahara nodded, her profile delicate against the background of the windswept dunes. Alone, desolate. In a way that he hadn’t considered, and one that might be causing her excruciating pain.
“Are you having trouble with the continued separation from the PsyNet?” he asked, conscious that to release her from his shields while her own were paper-thin would be to paint a target on her back.
Pure Psy would term her an abomination in her broken Silence, and then there were the other predators. If, however, the separation was starving her mind as Tatiana’s cage had done, he’d quite simply eliminate anyone who posed a threat. Soon enough, people would come to understand that to attempt to harm Sahara was to sign their death warrant.
“No,” she said, playing the shimmering black sand through her fingers with the concentration of someone for whom such sensation had been out of reach for an eon. “It’s safer and healthier for me to remain inside your shields until my own are at full strength.” A smile directed at him, one that held an open and deep tenderness. “And I’m not alone—you’re there, but you never intrude, never take what isn’t yours to take.”