“Because I’ve handled it. He’s more useful to us alive.” Once she’d touched a mind, Sahara could slip back in and take total control regardless of distance or time, turning the individual into a flesh- and-blood puppet who had not even a suspicion that his decisions weren’t his own.
The idea of doing such a thing revolted her, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Resulting from an unknown genetic mutation that meant it had no official classification, her ability was one that would be the bogeyman of her race should they know about her. No mind was safe from Sahara’s, no shield impenetrable, no offensive ability capable of stopping her if she got close enough just once.
She left behind no trace of her interference, the memories she implanted as real as true memories.
And she was undetectable when she worked. Should she desire, she could make a Councilor dance to her tune, a CEO sign over his properties, a man slit his own throat while smiling. And while she’d never had cause to test how many minds she could control at one time, the trusted NightStar telepath who’d worked with her to understand her ability when it first came to light, had posited it to be in the triple digits.
It was the ugliest of abilities to have for a woman whose own mind had been torn apart, but she had come to terms with it during the periods of lucidity built into the labyrinth. The decisions she’d made and the rules she’d laid down for herself all revolved around a central question: If she ever had a child, could she look into that child’s eyes without feeling ashamed at what she had done?
Nothing about her actions today breached that test.
“Who hired him?” Kaleb asked, his gaze on the kidnapper, the stars eclipsed by lethal black.
“I’ve handled it,” she repeated rather than responding to the question and, when he didn’t shift his gaze, decided to play hardball. “If you don’t respect my wishes, I simply won’t call you next time.”
The line of his jaw remained a blade, but he turned his attention off the bounty hunter. “Who?”
“According to his memories, Tatiana.”
“Impossible. She’s exactly where I put her.”
“Then someone in her organization smart enough to work out what I can do, and cocky enough to deceive and undercut his boss.” If the rumors about the other woman’s rise to power were correct, it truly was a case of what the humans called karma.
Not wasting any further time or energy thinking about Tatiana, she looked into the face of the cardinal telekinetic who she knew was having to exercise harsh self-control not to send the man at their feet to an early grave. “Let’s go home, Kaleb,” she said, brushing her fingers over his jaw in a silent reminder of who he was to her.
THE FIRST THING she did once they were on the starlit terrace in Moscow was put down the laptop, borrow Kaleb’s phone, having forgotten her own at the aerie, and call Faith. “I’m safe,” she assured her cousin. “You? Mercy? Her babies?”
“We’re fine. Mercy ate the paramedics alive when I made her get a checkup,” Faith said with an affectionate laugh. “Then Riley turned up and she decided to cooperate because he was crazy with worry—but she was right. There wasn’t a scratch on her and, in her expert former hellion-child opinion, the pupcubs enjoyed the excitement.”
Relieved, Sahara cut Faith off before her cousin could ask for her exact whereabouts, and promised to be home by the time night fell in San Francisco.
“You need to eat,” Kaleb ordered when she returned the phone, pointing out the high-density nutrition bars that had appeared on the small table beside the lounger. “You’re not healthy enough yet to afford to miss meals.”
“I’m starving,” she admitted and took a seat on the edge of the lounger. Kicking off her shoes and removing the ankle holster, she picked up one of the nutrition bars. “My ability might feel effortless, but it burns psychic energy.” So did ’pathing to Kaleb, but she’d already worked that into her calorie requirements.
Leaning his back against the railing, Kaleb didn’t speak until she’d finished the bar and washed it down with water. “You’ve become more confident about your power.” His expression was shadowed, his voice icy with approval. “I never agreed with your distaste for it.”
“I was young.” She grinned when a second nutrition bar floated pointedly in front of her face. “And you’ve always been overprotective.” Taking the bar, she tore it open.
“You matter to me.”
So simple. So honest. So powerful.
Rubbing a hand over her heart, she shared her secrets with the one person who would never betray or use her. That he was the same man who planned to create an empire that spanned the globe was no contradiction. “My ability has matured.” It had been erratic at sixteen, one of the reasons Tatiana had been able to imprison her mind. And once imprisoned, Sahara had been unable to break out—it turned out she could get through any shield except one created around her own mind.
It was her greatest weakness, a natural balance to the power she wielded.
No one could so easily entomb her now, but seven years ago, she’d been a scared girl and Tatiana a powerful adult telepath trained in psychic aggression. Enrique, too, must’ve played a role in her mental imprisonment—the nausea that roiled in her stomach at the mere thought of him was proof enough of that.
“Once I was trapped inside the shields Tatiana created,” Sahara told Kaleb, “she suffocated my ability, too, except for short periods of ‘freedom’ when she wanted me to use it.” The other woman’s aim had been to break Sahara down until she was Tatiana’s pet and could be trusted not to use her abilities against the other woman.