Making incoherent sounds of frustration, she nonetheless admitted this was one battle she had well and truly lost. Kaleb was never going to be a man she could control, and she couldn’t expect to win every argument—but there was one point on which she had no intention of budging. “Promise me you won’t return to the warehouse and execute the bounty hunter.”
“Since you can’t take control of him without causing permanent damage to your memories, your line of reasoning about him being more useful alive is no longer valid.”
That was why she had to get a promise. “Forget about that. I don’t want his death on my conscience.”
A small pause. “I won’t go back and kill him unless he proves a renewed threat.”
“That, I can accept.” Her breath caught as he changed position slightly, his shoulders brushing the sensitive skin of her inner thighs—just as his cell phone rang.
Answering it, he listened then said, “Time?” A slight pause. “I’ll be there.” He slid away the phone without further words.
“A meeting?” she asked, using her hands to massage the heavy muscle of his shoulders again, having sensed his pleasure in the act before they’d begun to argue. “It must be an important deal for an in-person discussion.”
“It’s not business,” Kaleb replied, angling his neck to the side so Sahara could reach a tight spot.
No one else would he allow this close to his jugular. But Sahara? “Harder,” he said, undoing two more buttons on his shirt so she could slide her hands inside the open collar.
“Like this?” It was an intimate question as she exerted just the right pressure.
“Hmm.” Stroking his thumb over the curve of her anklebone, he let his eyelashes close, his body languid. It was a state he only ever found with Sahara, and in all previous instances, it had been after sex.
“There’s a small bottle of oil on the bathroom counter in the aerie,” Sahara said softly, continuing to touch him with a sensual possessiveness that made even the part that lived in the void, dark and violent, turn lazily quiescent. “It was part of the pack of toiletries set out for me. Can you get it?”
Catching the detailed telepathic image she sent to him, of the bottle and exactly where it was in relation to the rest of the bathroom, he retrieved it without effort. An instant later, a scent he identified as vanilla drifted onto the air, Sahara’s hands no longer on his skin. “Take off your shirt so I don’t get oil on it.”
Kaleb had no desire to move, but he did as she asked. The feel of her warm hands on him, the oil making it easier for her to glide over his skin, dig deeper into his muscles, was his reward. Tactile sensation, he thought, had certain addictive qualities. But only when it was Sahara whose thighs bracketed his shoulders, Sahara whose voice was a murmur in the dark as she told him of the pleasure she found in touching him.
“In your reading on current events,” he said several minutes later, before his increasing arousal could blur his senses, “did you come across references to an insurgent named the Ghost?”
“You want to talk politics now, when I’m doing my best to seduce you?”
The husky, laughing question had him tugging at her arm until she got the message and came around to straddle him. “You have no need to seduce me.” He was hers. Always. “The process, however, is enjoyable.” True physical intimacy, he thought, had far more nuances than he’d previously understood, having conflated it automatically with sex.
Sahara’s lips curved. “I’ll just keep going, then.” A slow kiss as proprietary as the hands she returned to his shoulders when she drew back. “As for your question . . . according to several Beacon back issues,” she said, a thoughtful cast to her expression, “prior to the Council’s dissolution, the Ghost was responsible for a number of information leaks that put the Councilors into the position of having to explain themselves.
“He was also,” she said, running her thumbs down the tendons in Kaleb’s neck, “rumored to be involved in the explosion of a lab that was allegedly working on a bioneural chip to force people to be Silent.” Sahara shivered, clearly horrified by the idea. “My impression is that he’s responsible for fomenting dissent in the Net against the entire Council superstructure, fracturing their power base from the inside out—and that his goal is the fall of Silence.”
“Yes.” Kaleb was unsurprised she’d already managed to gather so much data—Sahara Kyriakus had been born with a mind both thirsty for knowledge and able to process it at high speeds. “The Ghost is a dangerous individual to anyone in power.”
Sahara’s hands went motionless, the deep blue of her eyes troubled. “Kaleb, you can’t hurt this person. So many of your goals align with the Ghost’s—this rebel is fighting against the rot at the core of our race, and so are you. You can work together.”
“There can’t be two powers in the Net, Sahara.” It would only fracture and divide the populace.
“The Ghost has a stay of execution for the present, but his time is coming to an end.”
SAHARA SHOOK HER head, her voice grim. “If you harm the Ghost, you risk inciting another wave of rebellion, this time directly against you.”
Again, she displayed how well she knew him, using logic rather than any emotional plea for the safety and well-being of their race, a plea she knew would fall on deaf ears. “It won’t come to that.”
The death of the rebel would cause an acute and violent disturbance in the fabric of the PsyNet, and that, Kaleb would not permit. Not when the Net would soon belong to him. “The Ghost will simply fade from the limelight at a certain nonnegotiable point.”