Kaleb knew he’d made a major tactical error. But he’d promised Sahara he’d never lie to her, so he said, “Yes,” and waited.
“I’m not ready yet.” Her hand fell to his shoulder. “Not strong enough yet. But I will be soon.”
He had no doubts about that. “Do you want to go to your father now?” he asked, wanting her mind off the one subject that held the potential to destroy the bond between them.
If she ran, he hoped she would do as he’d asked and make sure she didn’t leave him alive. Because without Sahara, the world would learn what a child became when his trainer wove nightmares into his mind—of knives slicing into flesh, of women begging for their lives—then put the blade into his hand.
“This is my legacy. You will continue what I have begun.”
“Kaleb.” Sahara’s fingers in his hair, her eyes seeing too deep. “Don’t leave me again. Don’t go away.”
She’d said those words to him before. And his answer, it was the same. “I won’t. I’ll always be here. For you.” Only for her.
Her eyes mysterious with thoughts unvoiced, she stepped into his arms when he rose, her hold fierce. It was the greatest of ironies that the only person who had ever held him as if he mattered was the one person who did not need to hold him at all. If Sahara called, he would come.
“Let me take you to your father.” Using Leon Kyriakus as the lock, he completed the transfer.
They came in beside the bed where Sahara’s father lay surrounded by complex machines that regulated his body while he healed. Face crumpling, Sahara left Kaleb’s arms to take the older man’s hand, sinking into a chair placed beside the bed. “Father.”
Eye on the small window that allowed the NightStar guard on watch outside to look in on occasion, Kaleb shifted out of view, positioning himself against the wall beside the old-fashioned inward- opening door. If the female—whom he identified from the back as a high-level telepath skilled in mental combat, her petite size distinctive among Anthony’s most trusted security people—had spotted him during the ’port, Kaleb would’ve dealt with it. Since she hadn’t, there was no cause to add further stress to the situation.
The guard proved herself by opening the door thirty seconds later, the ebony of her skin dulled by the pane of glass that lay between her and Kaleb. Clearly recognizing Sahara, the armed woman didn’t dispute her right to be there, but asked, “The teleporter who brought you?”
“I have direct telepathic access to him. He’ll take me back when it’s time.”
Satisfied with the soft-voiced answer, the guard closed the door behind herself and took up her sentinel position once more. Kaleb stayed in the shadows, thinking about the complexity of the lie Sahara had told—which wasn’t a lie at all, simply a statement that invited the guard to draw the conclusion that the teleporter had departed the premises.
Sahara, with her intellect and her talent for shaping language to serve her needs, was much further along in her recovery than she realized. Today she’d shied from the bloodiest of the memories that connected them, but the clock was ticking down at rapid speed. Body and spirit, mind and heart, it was unlikely to be long before she faced the past with the same stubborn will that she had survived it.
He had known it would come down to this, to a day of final reckoning.
What he didn’t know was if they would survive it.
* * *
SAHARA spent the majority of the next two days at her father’s bedside, Vasic ’porting her in and out. The Arrow did the task with quick efficiency, but he made Sahara uncomfortable, his Silence a cold gray frost. Kaleb, however, threatened to cause too much friction with her family, and right now, she wanted the focus on her father; he’d woken up at last, was able to speak.
As well, Kaleb had a critical item on his agenda—hunting Pure Psy.
Sahara hugged her arms around herself as she stood on the landing outside her aerie, looking out into the falling dark of night at the end of the second day. She should’ve long since asked the question that continued to haunt her: Just how far would Kaleb go to seize control of the Net?
It made her sick to even consider that he’d work with Pure Psy, but if she looked at the situation through the filter of cold, hard logic, the partnership made perfect sense.
“Some things need to be broken to become stronger.”
The fanatical group had proved itself skilled at destruction, and as evidenced by the single star on her bracelet, Kaleb had no loyalty to the PsyNet.
She couldn’t blame him for it—how could anyone expect a child to have faith in a system that had left him at the mercy of a monster? Now that tormented child was a deadly man, and though Sahara loved him in ways that tore at her soul, the aching resonance of old emotion tangling with the stark beauty of the fragile new trust that had grown between them, she also understood his choices might be untenable.
Yet when he came to her that night, she couldn’t bear to ask the question. If she was wrong, it would wound him—and the wound would be all the worse because he’d encase it in black ice and refuse to acknowledge the damage. If she was right, it would force her to act in a way she never wanted to act. To erase Kaleb from the world . . . No, she didn’t have the strength to face that choice.
A little more time, she bargained with herself. Only a few more days. Pure Psy will need to regroup after a major operation like the university strike. I have time yet to love him.
“I’ve drained the bounty account,” he told her from his position leaning against the outer wall of the aerie, his tie off and his white shirt unbuttoned at the collar. “The information will have already begun to leak. You’re safe.”