"Laszlo also told me that if yer tooth isna fixed tonight, it never will be."
"We doona have time to be finding another dentist." Connor motioned to the antique clock on the mantelpiece. "Laszlo will be calling in eighteen minutes."
"I realize that."
"Then why did ye stop us? We were verra close."
"Her mind was about to crack. I was worried that once we broke through, that much psychic power would destroy her mind."
"Ah." Connor rubbed his chin with a forefinger. "And if her brain is damaged, she willna be able to fix yer tooth. I see."
Roman frowned. He hadn't even thought about his damned tooth. His concern had been for Shanna. What was she doing to him? He'd committed too many sins in the past to be acquiring a conscience now. He glanced back. Gregori was taking a seat at the end of the chaise. He lifted Shanna's feet and set them in his lap.
"So what can we do, man?" Connor asked, dragging Roman's attention away from Shanna.
"I have to gain her trust. She needs to let me in of her own free will."
"Humph. Since when does a woman ever cooperate? Ye could spend a hundred years at it, but ye have only eighteen minutes." Connor looked at the clock. "Make that seventeen."
"I guess I'll have to be extra charming." As if he knew how. Roman glanced back. Gregori was slipping the shoes off her feet.
"Aye." Connor nodded. "The ladies like charm."
Roman narrowed his eyes. Gregori was massaging Shanna's feet. Memories zipped through his mind. Gregori playing with VANNA's feet, raking his teeth over her toes. And his eyes had glowed red. Goddammit. "Get your bloody hands off of her!" he shouted loud enough that everyone in the room jumped.
Gregori set Shanna's feet back onto the chaise as he stood. "You told me to make her comfortable."
Shanna yawned and stretched. "And you were doing a great job, Gregori. I was half asleep when Roman started bellowing like a mad cow."
"Mad cow?" Gregori laughed till he caught the look on Roman's face. He cleared his throat and backed away from Shanna.
"Connor, there's some whisky in the cabinet there." Roman gestured toward the wet bar.
The Highlander opened the cabinet. "Talisker from the Isle of Skye. What are ye doing with malt whisky?"
"Angus sent it. He's hoping I'll invent a new drink for him with my Fusion Cuisine."
"Och. That would be grand." Connor held the bottle up to admire it. "I have sorely missed the stuff."
"Pour a glass for Miss Whelan." Roman strode toward the chaise. "Are you feeling better now?"
"Yes." She lifted a hand to her brow. "I had a terrible headache, but it seems to have disappeared. It was so strange. I could have sworn I heard voices in my head." She made a face. "That's gotta sound bad."
"No, not at all." This was good news. She hadn't recognized whose voices she'd heard. And she hadn't connected her headaches to their attempts at mind control.
She rubbed her forehead. "Maybe I'm coming down with a virus." She grimaced. "Or schizophrenia. Sheesh. Next thing, somebody's dog will start telling me what to do."
"I don't think you need to worry about that." He perched on the chaise beside her. "There's a simple explanation for what you're experiencing. Post-traumatic stress."
"Oh yeah, that's probably it." She moved over a little to make room for him. "A shrink from the FBI told me about it. She said I could expect recurring panic attacks for the rest of my life. Doesn't that sound cheerful?"
"The FBI?" Connor asked as he brought the glass of whisky.
Shanna winced. "I'm not supposed to talk about it, but you guys have been great. You deserve to know what's going on."
"Just tell us what you're comfortable with." Roman took the glass from Connor and offered it to Shanna. "This will help warm you up." And loosen your tongue. And lower your defenses.
She raised herself up on an elbow. "I don't usually drink anything stronger than beer."
"You've been through hell tonight." Hell with a full cast of demons. Roman pressed the glass into her hand.
She tossed back a portion, then coughed. "Whoa!" Her eyes watered. "Goddang. That was straight up, wasn't it?"
Roman shrugged one shoulder and set the glass on the floor. "What do you expect when a Highlander pours you a drink?"
She lay back on the chaise, narrowing her eyes. "Jeez, Roman, were you trying to make a joke?"
"Maybe. Did it work?" Charming his way into a woman's mind was a new experience for him. Before this, he'd simply taken what he needed.
She slowly smiled. "I think you were wrong before. There is hope for you."
God's blood. She had such cheerful optimism. Would he have to crush it someday with cruel reality? There was no hope for a murdering demon. But in the meantime, he'd let her fantasy of hope continue. Especially if it helped him get into her mind. "You were telling us about the FBI?"
"Oh, right. I'm in the Witness Protection Program. I have a federal marshal I'm supposed to contact if I get in trouble, but he wasn't there when I called."
"Is Shanna your real name?"
She sighed. "My name is supposed to be Jane Wilson. Shanna Whelan is dead."
He touched her shoulder. "You feel very alive to me."
She squeezed her eyes shut. "I lost my family. I can never see them again."
"Tell me about them." Roman glanced at the clock. Twelve minutes to go.
She opened her eyes and gazed, unfocused, into the distance. "I have a sister and brother, both younger than me. We were very close, growing up, 'cause all we had was each other. My dad works for the State Department, so we grew up in a lot of foreign countries."
"Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus."
Roman exchanged a glance with Connor. "What exactly does your father do?"
"He was some kind of aide, but he never really said what he was doing. He traveled a lot."
Roman tilted his head toward his desk. Connor nodded and moved quietly to the computer. "Your father's name?"
"Sean Dermot Whelan. Anyway, my mom had been a schoolteacher, so she home-schooled us. That is until.." Shanna frowned and tugged the chenille blanket up to her cheek.
"Until what?" Roman heard Connor tapping away on the keyboard. The investigation of Sean Dermot Whelan had begun.
Shanna sighed. "When I was fifteen, my parents sent me to a boarding school in Connecticut. They said it would be better for me to have some formal school records, so I could get into a good university."
"That sounds reasonable."
"I thought so, too, at the time, but.."
She rolled over onto her side, facing him. "They never sent my brother or sister away. Only me."
"I see." She was the one chosen to leave. Roman understood that more than he wanted to admit.
She twisted a chenille fringe around her finger. "I thought I must have done something wrong."
"How could you? You were a child." Memories filled Roman's mind, memories he had thought long dead. "You missed your family."
"Yeah, something terrible at first, but then I met Karen. We became best friends. She's the one who first wanted to be a dentist. I used to tease her about wanting to stick her hands into people's mouths for a living. But when it came time for me to make a decision, I chose to be a dentist, too."
"I wanted to help people and be part of a community, you know, the neighborhood dentist who sponsors the local kids' softball team. I wanted to set down roots and have a normal life. No more moving all over the world. And I wanted to treat children. I've always loved children." Her eyes shimmered with moisture. "I don't dare have children now. Those damned Russians." She leaned over, grabbed the whisky off the floor, and downed another gulp.
Roman took the glass from her hand while she coughed and sputtered. Damn. He wanted her relaxed, not drunk. He glanced at the clock. Laszlo would be calling in eight minutes. "Tell me about the Russians."
She settled back down on the chaise. "Karen and I shared an apartment in Boston. We used to go out every Friday night to this deli. We would scarf down pizza and brownies and curse men because we didn't have a date. Then, one night - " She shuddered. "It was like an old gangster movie."