Having no experience of parental loyalty, it had taken Kaleb years to accept that Leon would never give up on his child—and he would certainly never hand her over to Kaleb, should it be Leon who located her first. Not without a bloody fight. Such fidelity was something Kaleb respected, and he’d had every intention of permitting Leon to see his daughter— after she had bonded to Kaleb in a way that could not be severed by any power on this Earth.
The one thing he hadn’t factored into his strategy was that Sahara was the greatest, deepest fracture in his psyche. He would do things for her he’d do for no one else, but while he’d empty the sky for her so she could spread her wings, fly, he would not set her free. She belonged to him, would always belong to him. “Your father,” he added, “leaves an electronic key for you in the small hollow below the last step.”
Wet in the deep blue eyes he’d waited seven long years to see again, Sahara took a step toward the house, halted. “You won’t leave me yet?”
He stepped forward in silent answer.
* * *
AS Sahara raised her hand to knock on the door, however, Kaleb’s palm broke contact with her own.
She felt stunningly moorless, her heart aching with a sense of loss beyond all proportion to the act, but she knew he’d made the right choice. Her father was about to find his kidnapped daughter on his doorstep. Any further source of stress would be untenable.
A sound from inside that sent her heart into her throat. Kaleb.
Call and I’ll come. Always.
The door opened to spill golden light onto her feet, on the heels of a promise that felt etched in stone, the man on the other side as tall and as wide as in her memory—her father had never had the body of the stereotypical Psy. He looked more akin to the old-fashioned lumberjacks she’d seen on the comm once, his face square, and his hair a deep auburn . . . though it now bore more than a few strands of silver.
New, too, were the deep grooves that marked the sides of his mouth and spread out from the corners of his eyes. Those eyes were identical to her own, a genetic accident that made their familial connection unmistakable. As she looked into them, her throat thick, she expected to glimpse confusion. It had been seven years, after all, and she no longer appeared the girl she’d been at sixteen.
“Sahara.” Blinding recognition before he dragged her into his arms, holding on so tight she couldn’t breathe. Her heart splintered with love. No, she wouldn’t be disowned, not by this man who held her as if she were a treasure, the scent of him a mingling of the clinic where he treated the children of the clan and the smuggled coffee he drank in secret.
It was the scent of home.
“It’s you.” Voice hoarse, he relaxed his hold enough that he could look into her face. “It’s you.”
“Hello, Father.” She let the tears fall, the knot choking up her throat making her voice near soundless. “I’m not the same as I was.”
“You’re home. That’s what matters. And your father,” he murmured, a sheen in his own eyes, “is not the same as he was, either. Losing a child alters a man in ways that can never be undone.”
Tears turning into sobs, she clung to him, as she couldn’t cling to the years forever lost. She didn’t know how long they stood there, but when he pulled her into the house, Sahara turned to say good-bye to Kaleb . . . except the night stood desolate and alone, the deadly telekinetic who’d brought her home gone as if he’d never existed.
ADEN WAS IN Venice, having completed a discussion with the leader of the rebel Arrow cell in the city, when his cell phone rang with an incoming call from Kaleb Krychek.
“What progress have you made in discovering the identity of the individual behind the leak in Perth?” Kaleb asked, and it was a question Aden had expected earlier. However, and but for his recent rescue efforts, Kaleb had been uncharacteristically quiet over the past two months.
“Considerable,” Aden replied, thinking of all the Arrow tails the cardinal Tk had eluded in those months as he slipped in and out of distant parts of the PsyNet. “His name is Allan Dawes and thirty- six hours ago, just as we were closing in, he disappeared both from his physical life and from the PsyNet. It’s certain he’s being hidden by telepaths with more advanced training within Pure Psy.” It wouldn’t save the middle-aged male, simply delay the inevitable.
Kaleb’s response made it clear he had the same expectation. “I’m changing my earlier order. Bring him to me. I want to have a personal discussion with Mr. Dawes.”
“I’ll arrange the transfer once he’s in the custody of the squad.” Hanging up, Aden relayed the request to his partner.
“You think Kaleb may be working with Pure Psy,” Vasic said, his eyes on the canal not far in front of them, the water a broken mirror as a result of the early morning rain that fell in hard sheets.
Protected from the downpour by the overhang of the building where they stood, Aden slid away his cell phone. “Krychek is driven by power,” he said, having never had any illusions about the other male’s motivations. “If Pure Psy succeeds in totally destabilizing the current power structure, it’ll leave a vacuum only Krychek will be strong enough to fill.”
Vasic was silent for a long time, the sound of the rain hitting the canal water muted thunder.
“Krychek,” he said at last, “has the strength to wrench control of the Net on his own.”
“But then,” Aden pointed out, “he’d have to fight to hold on to it. Far better to come to leadership as a savior, a hero.”