Piercing intelligence again. “Does sharing your shell mean I can see your secrets?”
“No. You don’t want to see inside my mind.” It was a warning. “The rumor in the Net is that I can drive people insane.”
No terror, no fear, just unwavering attention that said she heard far more than he said. “Can you?”
“Yes.” He wanted to ask her what she saw when she looked at him, whether the nightmare was apparent to those midnight eyes. “Until they see phantoms and hear terrible voices, until they can no longer exist in the rational world and become broken facsimiles of who they once were.”
“Because I can.”
SHE HEARD HIS answer, this man as unreadable as a cobra about to strike, his voice raising every tiny hair on her body, but she knew he wasn’t telling her all of it. The reason for her certainty, and for the inexplicable violence of emotion that drove her to strip away his icy facade, was not anything she could articulate. One fact, however, was suddenly crystalline in its clarity in this instant when she could think, could reason—she needed her abilities against the cold strength of him.
There was no other way she’d survive.
Unlike those who had kept her in a cage while they attempted to break her, the cardinal across from her wouldn’t be forced to a halt by the labyrinth. He’d dig, go deeper, drag her out of hiding with vicious determination. He would be ruthless in his pursuit, brutal in his purpose. Nothing and no one would stop him—least of all a Psy who had hobbled her greatest strength.
Drinking the rich, sweet liquid he’d given her in a gesture of care she knew had to be calculated to earn her trust, she— The labyrinth twisted.
However, this time, she twisted with it, unwilling to lose her train of thought. The food in her belly, the warmth of the chocolate in her throat, the fresh bite of scent that was Kaleb’s newly showered body . . . different from the clean, masculine sweat she’d smelled the previous night as his skin gleamed in the moonlight . . . it all served to convince her that this wasn’t a hallucination.
Kaleb could never be a hallucination—he gave off a sense of power that was a near-gravitational force, a silent reminder of the strength that lived in his veins, a strength that had taken her from her prison to this house that might be another prison, in the blink of an eye. No, she couldn’t survive him in her current condition, her psyche in pieces, her ability barricaded behind a tangled maze so intricate, none of her captors had ever come close to navigating it.
“I created a key to unlock the labyrinth,” she murmured.
He went utterly, absolutely still, a sculpture carved in clean lines. “Where?”
“Inside my mind.” She spoke more to herself than to him as the labyrinth continued to alter shape, but in a way that no longer shredded her thoughts . . . as it hadn’t truly done since she woke from the first true hours of sleep she’d had for an eon. Her thoughts had been lucid for over an hour, her sense of self, of memory, becoming ever more coherent.
And she understood what she’d done.
There was no manual way to unlock her mind and reverse the creation of the labyrinth. Not even she could undo the intricate tapestry of the psychic trap on command. Torture, bribes, mental force— they had only served to strengthen the twisted forest that protected her. Her captors could’ve beaten her to death, could’ve burned her alive, and it would’ve gained them nothing.
The only way to reverse the ruinous effects of her own creation was for her to be put into an environment her subconscious recognized as “safe.”
It was impossible that this situation fit those parameters—the male with hair of jet-black who smelled of ice and pine in a way that made her want to rub her face against his skin, and whose eyes never moved off her, was clearly not safe in any way, shape, or form. He was a predator: he’d told her of his ability to cause madness, displaying his utter lack of remorse in committing such a heinous act. More, his motives in appropriating her from her former prison were worse than opaque.
Yet the labyrinth continued to unstitch itself, her mind brushing off cobweb after cobweb as she came out of her long hibernation, splintered memories merging into a moth-eaten stream. So when Kaleb’s eyes went pitch-black without warning, she had the knowledge to understand he had to be using a great deal of power . . . and since he was a power, that meant something very, very bad was about to happen or had already done so. “Kaleb.”
* * *
THE psychic surge impacted Kaleb’s mind with the force of a slamming blow.
The velocity of the wave made it deadly clear the damage that had produced it was catastrophic.
Locking down the house with a single telekinetic command, he shot out into the PsyNet to see hundreds of thousands of minds flickering in a way that denoted stunned shock at the sudden insult.
It was the one vulnerability of the Psy, their need for the biofeedback provided by the psychic network that connected their race. That connection meant Psy could go anywhere in the world on the psychic plane, could share data with an ease the other races couldn’t imagine. It also meant they couldn’t escape the devastating aftershocks of a fatal event that had happened on another continent— in a city called Perth, Australia.
A city he’d now reached.
The black fabric of the PsyNet, the minds within it flashing red in panic as their conditioning shattered with the onset of agonizing pain, was crumpling inward here, in a pattern he’d witnessed only once before. Hundreds had died then—men, women, children—but Cape Dorset’s population was minuscule in comparison to Perth’s.