“But the enforced concentration of my power,” she continued, “had the effect of accelerating my growth in a way Tatiana never suspected.” Sahara had hidden the development in the labyrinth, aware Tatiana couldn’t stand the insane chaos. “I no longer have to touch skin for the initial contact—I just have to be close.”
“That eliminates a dangerous vulnerability,” Kaleb said, his tone so arctic, she knew he was thinking about the ugly thing that had happened to her. “Previously, if someone managed to incapacitate your body, it rendered you helpless, so long as he made certain not to accidentally touch your skin.”
Shivering, she hugged herself. “Please sit by me. I can’t stand to see you alone in the dark.”
He came to her, but rather than sitting on the lounger beside her, he sat down in front of her, his back against her legs. Spreading her thighs, she tugged him closer, her fingers weaving through the silk of his hair.
“I am,” he said quietly, “more at home in the dark than the light.”
“I know.” It was a painful wonder, to sit with him under a diamond-studded sky and know that he was hers. For this moment, the civil war, his broken conscience, her suspicions of the indefensible lines he might have crossed, none of it mattered. There was only the velvet night and the primal warmth of him so close. “It’s the aloneness I can’t stand.”
Picking up one of the hands she’d dropped to his shoulders, he brought it to his mouth, pressing a tender kiss to the center of her palm. “I can feel you inside me, always.”
Her eyes burning, she leaned down to wrap her arms around him, her cheek kissing his. “I did discover something else deeply problematic,” she told him. “The telepath who helped me with my training didn’t realize it, and neither did I, possibly because all my tests were on willing subjects.”
Sitting back up, she began to play her fingers through his hair again. “I take no risks when I enter a mind, rifle through memories and rearrange or erase them, or when I insert new ones.”
Kaleb ran his hand along the back of her calf. “That’s not why Tatiana wanted you. She can penetrate shields herself, though compared to your scalpel, she’s working with a hammer and chisel.”
“No, it was the mind control, of course.” Tatiana could do that, too, but for her it meant a twenty- four/seven commitment that drained her psychic and physical energy to the point of leaving her a skeletal shell. And that was to control a single mind. “She planned to use me to rise to greater and greater power.”
Insidious as her ability was, it meant all the more when Kaleb leaned back into her stroking hands.
He had never once flinched from her after she admitted what she could do. All he’d asked, she remembered as her fingernails scraped gently over his scalp, was that she never go inside his mind.
“I don’t want you to see what I’ve done.”
It was a promise so embedded in her psyche, she hadn’t been tempted to break it even when she hadn’t known herself, Kaleb’s trust a precious jewel that could never be replicated.
“What,” he said now, his eyelashes throwing shadows onto his cheeks, he’d relaxed so totally, “did you discover?”
A curling warmth deep inside her, Sahara leaned down to press a soft, sweet kiss to his jaw. “In the early days after my abduction, Tatiana would disguise me, then manipulate a situation to get me close enough to an individual to take an initial imprint. Then sometime later, she’d ask me to slip into that individual’s mind and make them do a small thing, silly even.” She swallowed. “I justified each as being a harmless test in order to buy time.”
Kaleb’s eyes stayed shut, his hand slipping under the hem of her jeans to close around her bare ankle. “You made choices that kept you alive.” It was clear he saw no reason for her to feel guilty.
Rubbing her cheek against his once more, she said, “What it took me too long to realize was that each time I returned to a mind to control it, I lost a piece of me.” And she had no way of controlling the memories that would be erased. “If I’d continued, I would’ve eventually ended up a blank slate, a weapon for Tatiana to direct at will.” Shuddering, she tightened her arms around Kaleb.
His lashes lifted, eyes of stunning obsidian looking into hers. “Are you certain about not torturing Tatiana? I can break her for you, make her beg.”
Sahara knew that to be a deadly serious offer. A tiny part of her was tempted—she wasn’t a saint, and Tatiana had brutalized her to the point where she’d forgotten what it was to be a sentient being— but the temptation was nowhere near the depth of her feelings for Kaleb. He lived in the dark, but she wouldn’t allow him to be swallowed by it, wouldn’t use him as Tatiana had intended to use her.
“No torture.” Sitting up again, she began to massage his shoulders for the sheer pleasure of touching him. “We need to concentrate on discovering the identity of the person who orchestrated the kidnapping attempt.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“I have the right skill set to discover the truth without anyone being the wiser,” she said in response to Kaleb’s flat statement. “I’m certain it must be one of the guards, since no one else was close enough to work out what I can do—and I have no problems with infiltrating their thoughts.” Not given their active participation in Tatiana’s evil.
Sahara argued with rational calm, then in a furious temper, but Kaleb was immovable. “I will not permit you anywhere near someone who might cause you harm.”