An Arrow was rumored to be sniffing around that site, and it was a concern, but not enough to make Vasquez authorize a premature “go.” The fact that a large number of Tks had been tired out by the university operation played a weightier role in his deliberations, but in the end, he decided on patience.
If he detonated now, with the final preparations not quite in place, he risked doing a grave injustice to hundreds of hours of painstaking work. His people deserved to witness the glory of what they could achieve—and in the end, it did not matter if every single Tk in the world responded to the next strike: it could not be stopped, could not be minimized.
“We will,” he said to the memory of his lost leader, “arise anew from the ashes of the world.”
THIRTY MINUTES AFTER the head of the rescue team at the university announced no hope of further survivors, Sahara felt the prickle at the back of her neck that was Kaleb’s presence. He’d showered and changed from the clothing she’d seen on the comm and wore camouflage black pants, his T-shirt an olive green.
Nothing on his face betrayed the exhaustion he had to be feeling, but Sahara had stayed up with him through the brutal hours, wasn’t fooled. “You need to be asleep,” she said, grabbing his hand and tugging him to her bed. “I can’t believe you were stupid enough to waste energy ’porting to me.”
When she reached for the bottom of his T-shirt, intending to pull it off so he could sleep more comfortably, strong hands closed over her wrists. “Would you like to sleep with me?”
Sahara went motionless at the cool question. Kaleb Krychek, she knew without asking, trusted no one beside him while he was as vulnerable as he ever became. “Yes,” she whispered. “I’m tired, too.”
To her frustration, he again used energy he should’ve been conserving to ’port them to the night- swathed Moscow house, but she didn’t argue. He wouldn’t be able to lower his guard enough to get real rest anywhere else. Grabbing the T-shirt he stripped off, she removed her own clothing and pulled the soft fabric over her head.
It was still warm from his body, the scent of pine and Kaleb in the weave. Shivering in tactile pleasure, Sahara decided she would always steal his T-shirts. She’d undone her braid and crawled into bed when she spied him leaving the room. “Kaleb?”
“I’ll be back after I check the security system.”
Unsurprised, she drew the sheet over her. Kaleb’s body burned so hot, she’d need nothing else. She was half-asleep when he returned. Coming to the bed, he touched the arch of her cheekbone. “You’re on my side of the bed.” It was a quiet reprimand.
Sahara smiled, sleepy and content, rolling over to surrender the spot that put him between her and the terrace sliders. “All secure?” she asked, dead certain nothing and no one would ever hurt her with Kaleb in the vicinity.
“Yes.” His weight in the bed, but no touch.
The ache for skin-to-skin contact was a dull throb in every cell of her body, but she bit down on her lower lip to stifle the request on the tip of her tongue. Kaleb’s power reserves had to be at minimal by now, which meant his shielding capacity— He curved his body behind her own, one arm sliding under her head, the other around her waist, as his thigh pushed between her own.
“Intact. I’m only physically tired. My psychic reserves are full.”
Impossible, Sahara thought, but sensing his body begin to shut down with the same icy discipline he used in every other aspect of his life bar one, she kept her silence and fell into the soft hush of sleep seconds behind Kaleb.
* * *
KALEB woke first, to discover his hand under Sahara’s T-shirt, his fingers curved over the warm heaviness of one of her br**sts. Leaving it exactly where it was, the erotic weight a deep pleasure, he quickly scanned the information that had filtered into his mind while he slept; he forwarded two items of business for his aide to handle, while taking note of the increasing disquiet in the Net.
Nothing required his urgent attention.
Slamming down the obsidian shields, he got rid of the sheet, then kicked off his sweatpants to press his nakedness against the lace-covered curves of Sahara’s lower body, the T-shirt bunched up at her waist. It made her sigh in her sleep and wiggle closer. Nudging aside the silken black strands at her neck, he pressed his lips to her sensitive throat, abdomen tightening when her thighs squeezed down his.
He had watched videos of people copulating in this position, analyzed the mechanics of it, while seeing no reason to pick it over any other. Now he realized there were two very good reasons—it gave the male free access to the female and near total control of the sexual act.
Kaleb liked control in all things.
“Sahara.” A graze of teeth on her neck that made her shiver. “Wake up.”
She stretched sinuously against him, body pliant, no fear or surprise in her at their intimate entanglement . . . only an increasing dampness in the lace that pressed against his thigh. “How does this work?” It was a sleepy question, her foot lifting to rub over the back of his calf.
Kaleb rifled through his image files to find one that showed her exactly what he wanted. “Like this.”
Sahara whimpered but pulled off the T-shirt in silent acquiescence. Throwing it aside, she brushed her hair off her face, then curled her arm over her shoulder until her fingers brushed his nape, the charms on her bracelet cool against his skin. It left her entire body exposed for him to touch, for him to possess, her br**sts lifted lush and high on her chest for his private viewing. His body rock-hard, he stroked one hand over the sweetly sensitive skin of her thigh before pulling it up and back to hook over his own, his fingers pressing into the delicate flesh.