HAVING RESTED FOR a few hours after a night that had begun with an exhilarating climb, was shattered by an enemy intruder, and ended in Kaleb’s arms, Sahara woke just after two in the afternoon. The first thing she did was call Anthony for an update on her father, to be told he remained in isolation but that the doctors were increasingly confident of his recovery. Kaleb confirmed that status when she touched his mind . . . and it struck her that though Anthony was her blood, it was her dangerous lover she trusted not to lie to her.
Thank you, she said, almost able to see him in the Moscow office where he said he was finalizing a project in spite of the late hour there, a beautiful man in a handmade suit who might as well be a knife blade; a man so complex, she knew she understood only the barest pieces; a man who had survived hell as a child and come out of it a shadowy enigma.
He belonged to her in a way she couldn’t articulate, the bond between them unbreakable, but Sahara had no illusions about Kaleb. The scars of a lifetime tied to a monster could never be erased —and no one, not even she, could predict the decisions those scars would lead him to make. You need to rest, she said, a painful tenderness inside her. Because no matter what else he was, he was hers first.
Black ice in her mind, but that no longer scared her. His icy control was as much a part of Kaleb as the dark possession of his kiss, and Sahara understood the need for it.
The external damage? she asked, pulse racing at the memory of her shock when she’d looked absently out the kitchen window after they’d shared their bodies—to see huge gashes in the landscape as far as the eye could see, as if the earth had been cracked like an egg.
Limited to a five-hundred-meter radius around the house. I fixed the cracks after ’porting you to DarkRiver territory.
Sahara knew she should be worried about the fact that she’d been in bed with a man who’d caused that kind of damage with a momentary and, according to him, minor loss of telekinetic control during intimacy, but she felt her lips kick up at the corners. So we literally made the earth move?
A slight pause, before Kaleb said, I suggest we don’t engage in sex in populated areas.
The cool comment made her burst into laughter.
Centered by the short interplay, she ate a small, healthy meal, mindful she couldn’t become complacent about her physical health, then climbed down the rope ladder to walk through her new surroundings. Her intent, however, was not to explore, but to utilize the sun-dappled peace to mend the tears in her psyche. As a result, she was soon lost in the vault of tangled memories that held the broken pieces of her.
“You look like you need a cupcake.”
Sahara jumped, having heard no footsteps, not even a whisper that someone was in the vicinity.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you,” said the tall woman with hair of a red more golden than Faith’s, the strands pulled back in a tight French braid. Dressed in jeans, boots, and a T-shirt, she did in fact have a pink-frosted cupcake in her hand. “I was going to eat this one, too,” the woman confided, “but I’ve already had three and my h*ps are starting to groan in protest.”
Sahara saw nothing but supple muscle on those hips. “Thank you,” she said, taking the unexpected gift. “Are you one of the guards?” The woman’s walk identified her as a feline changeling.
“Name’s Mercy. DarkRiver sentinel—it’s my job to make sure your perimeter remains secure at all times.” She put a hand on the slight curve of her abdomen in an absent move, her watchful eyes on the forest around them.
“You’re carrying a child,” Sahara blurted out, realizing too late it was rude to raise so personal a topic.
“According to your cousin,” Mercy said dryly, and with no indication of having taken offense, “I might be carrying half a dozen. Faith refuses to tell me if she saw triplets or quads, and I’m not asking beyond that—not sure either my or my mate’s sanity can take it.” A grin. “The pupcubs will no doubt kick the knowledge into me when they’re ready.”
The other woman laughed. “That’s a long story involving a very sexy brown-eyed wolf and far too much hard liquor.”
Hesitant but hopeful, Sahara smiled. “I have time.” She liked Mercy, and unlike when she’d been a girl, she didn’t have to keep her distance from someone she wanted as a friend.
Over the next hour, as they walked through the wild green of the trees, Mercy spoke of her passionate courtship with the wolf she clearly adored and who was the father of the “pupcubs” in her womb. Again and again, Sahara’s eye fell on the charms Kaleb had given her . . . and she began to dig deeper into the vault for the fragmented story of her own courtship.
* * *
IT was fifteen minutes past two in the morning in Moscow when Kaleb lay down to rest. He’d only been asleep twenty minutes when he was woken by a piece of raw data that set off his subconscious alarms. He felt no sense of surprise at opening his eyes to discover that Pure Psy had attacked a university heavily attended by Psy, due to its location in the center of the busy city that was Denver.
The world-class campus was famous for its progressive students and faculty. Discussion about current events had to have been rife. And with that many bright minds in one place, no doubt sides had been taken. If Kaleb had to guess, he’d say the majority had decided against Pure Psy—but a minority had disagreed and one or more had no doubt reported the “disloyalty” to the fanatical group.
Pulling on cargo pants, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and combat boots, he teleported into the chaos, identified the individual in charge of evacuating the collapsed buildings, and made himself—and the Arrows who had ’ported in at his request—known as ready to assist. For reasons yet unidentified, Pure Psy hadn’t used firebombs this time, leaving a much higher chance of survivors.