“Fade?” Sahara’s fingers dug into his muscles as she continued to caress him regardless of their discord. “Kaleb, everything I’ve read tells me this rebel has survived years of being hunted. He’s not the type to quietly disappear, even if it’s you giving the order.”
“He’ll listen to reason. The Ghost’s actions,” he said over Sahara’s inarticulate sound of disbelief, “show him to be an eminently rational individual.”
“Really?” It was a comment rife with disagreement. “Putting that aside, how do you even propose to find him? He’s a shadow.”
“I already know his identity, and have since he made his first move.”
Hands fisting on his shoulders, Sahara shook her head. “I don’t think he’ll fall in with your plans.
This Ghost seems to be just as relentless and driven as—” A sudden pause, her eyes narrowing.
“You,” she whispered. “It’s you!”
“Of course it’s me,” Kaleb said and took the mock punch Sahara aimed at his jaw, her skin soft against his. “No one else has access to the depth of data at the Ghost’s fingers, and the ability to be anywhere in the world in a split second.”
Sahara attempted to look stern, but she was too delighted by the fact Kaleb had just played a game with her—with cool eyes and an icy tone that had blinded her to what he was telling her. He was right: the Ghost could be no one but the cardinal Tk who held her. Else, Kaleb would’ve eliminated him long before the rebel became such a dangerous adversary in the Net. It was a truth as inexorable as the staggering power at his command.
The one question that remained and that she would not ask was why.
She knew the answer, knew it was written in blood and born of the sadistic pain survived by a gifted, scared child who’d had no one to whom he could turn. “Is that what the call was about?” she asked instead, leashing her anger because this night, it was theirs. She would permit no echo of evil to taint it. “You have fellow rebels?”
“Yes,” he said, tugging her forward for a kiss.
Opening her mouth for him, Sahara decided further discussion could wait. Right now, she wanted only to drown in the taste of Kaleb. No other male could ever match the visceral passion he aroused in her, and she’d met her share during her time with DarkRiver. Sensual and strong, affectionate and tactile, the leopard males laughed easily and considered play a normal part of life. The soldiers who patrolled her area were friendly, and a number had flirted openly with her, would’ve gone further had she offered any encouragement.
Sahara hadn’t—because it was only Kaleb she wanted. “I was very smart at sixteen,” she murmured, leaning down to kiss his throat, the scent of vanilla warmed against his skin and intertwined with his own natural scent making her breath catch. “I claimed the sexiest man in the world as my own.” Perhaps he was irrevocably damaged, scarred to the point that she’d have to destroy them both in order to save their very race . . . but she would not take that step until all hope was lost, her Kaleb fatally fractured at the vicious hands of a long-dead madman.
“I want to feel your skin against mine,” he said, his body still languorous in a way rare for Kaleb as he tugged off her pullover and got rid of her bra.
Then, as the stars glittered overhead and the world spun another hour closer to what might be a catastrophic global war, Sahara kissed her lover. Pressed against the ridged muscle of him, his hands strong against her back, she threw back her head as he went for her throat. Pleasure rippled through her in a sultry wave, the shooting star that passed across her vision a shimmer she grabbed onto with both hands.
We’ve earned this, earned our future! A fierce cry in silence. Just give us our time.
It was the simplest of wishes, but as Kaleb took her mouth with the relentless demand of his own, one of his hands rising to cup the back of her head, she knew it might also be one of the most impossible.
* * *
AN hour after he’d taken her under starlight, her body a flow of feminine curves, Kaleb didn’t fight Sahara’s decision to return to the aerie. Faith was no doubt waiting for her, and Kaleb had plans for the night of which Sahara would not approve.
Tatiana was huddled feverish and dirty in the hole where he’d left her, her hands bandaged using the rudimentary medical supplies. Blood on the walls made it appear she’d attempted to climb her way out, or perhaps she’d lost her sense of reason and pounded at the concrete until it shredded her flesh and tore off her nails.
Keeping a vigilant eye on his shields, he leaned against the wall across from her. “I thought you could use some company.”
Eyes flat and vicious as a snake’s looked at him, Tatiana’s Silence beginning to flake away at the edges. That disintegration didn’t impact her mind. “You need something. What’s the bargain?”
“There is no bargain.” Never would be. “You’ll tell me what I want to know, or I’ll break a bone in your body.” This didn’t count as torture to Kaleb’s mind—that would be if he was hurting her for no reason but to watch her scream. “I’m sure the infection won’t take long to set in, in your current damp accommodations.”
Fear crawled over her skin. Oh, she hid it well, but the one thing he’d always known about Tatiana was that she was a bully. And bullies never did well when they no longer had the upper hand. Santano had apparently begged for his life when the changelings came for him. One day, Kaleb would gain access to the recorded footage the packs had of the execution, then he’d sit back and watch until every instant of Santano’s torment was burned into his memory banks.