Because it had been constant, a second heartbeat.

“Sascha.” Lucas’s voice, pitched for her ears alone as he lifted their clasped hands to his mouth to brush a kiss over her knuckles. “Whatever happens, we won’t abandon the other Es.”

Adoring him beyond reason for understanding the forces tearing her apart, she leaned her head against his shoulder. “I want them to have this life,” she whispered. “I want them to know what it is to live without being suffocated every minute of every day. I want them to know freedom.”

Chapter 5

Loyalty is not a trait limited to the E designation, but over the course of this study, it has become clear that once an empath chooses to give his or her loyalty, the bond is not one the E will ever easily sever—even when that bond threatens to cause the E in question mortal harm.

Excerpted from The Mysterious E Designation: Empathic Gifts & Shadows by Alice Eldridge

IVY TURNED TO head back to her cabin as soon as Vasic left, the teleport so fast she had the breath-stealing realization that he wasn’t an ordinary telekinetic, but a Tk-V. A Traveler, someone for whom teleporting was as easy as breathing, and who could go from one end of the world to the other in a heartbeat.

That wasn’t the scary part.

It was that there were no distinctive structures or natural formations in the part of the orchard to which he’d teleported. Which meant he’d done so by using her face as a lock . . . but he’d come in a little distance from her. So either he could ’port to within a certain radius of the target, or there was something in the orchard he’d been able to use as a focus. How then would he have obtained the image of the specific area in the first place?

She rubbed her forehead. Not that it mattered. If an Arrow wanted to find her, she’d be found. The fact Vasic was most probably a teleporter who could lock onto people only hammered home that inescapable truth.


Almost to the cabin, she saw her mother running toward her. Having thrown on a jacket over the simple khaki cargo pants and old sweatshirt that was her usual work wear when she wasn’t handling her honeybees, Gwen Jane had longer legs than her daughter and made it to her side in seconds.

“I’m fine,” Ivy said at once, kicking herself for not having telepathed that the instant it became clear Vasic didn’t intend to do her harm. Her only excuse was stunned shock. “He only came to deliver a message.” Her fingers pressed into the thick paper of the envelope he’d given her before he left.

“The settlement went into lockdown the instant we received your telepathic alarm.” Gwen’s chest rose and fell as she caught her breath, her pale skin flushed. “I couldn’t stop your father from heading out to cover you with a weapon, however.”

“I know.” She’d felt her father’s telepathic touch. And while she couldn’t prove it, her gut told her Vasic, too, had been aware of her father the entire time.

Gwen’s eyes shifted over Ivy’s left shoulder just as Rabbit “woofed” and ran to greet Ivy’s father. Turning her attention back to Ivy, her mother said, “I assume we need to talk?”

Ivy wasn’t the least disconcerted by her mother’s lack of an emotive response. Gwen wasn’t maternal in any obvious way, but that said nothing; Ivy’s mother had changed her entire life so that her child could heal, and she’d done it without ever making that child feel at fault.

As had her father.

Where Gwen was taller than many men, her hair the soft black she’d bequeathed Ivy, Carter Hirsch was a stocky man of medium height, his eyes a clear copper ringed with gold. Ivy had always loved the fact she was so clearly an amalgam of the two most important people in her life. Though the genetics had worked out to leave her the shortest in the family, she had not only Gwen’s hair, but the fineness of her mother’s bones, while her golden skin tone echoed her father’s part-Algerian heritage.

Right this instant, Carter held his weapon at his side, his elbows and the front of his clothing wet, dirty. He must’ve been flat on the ground with a bead on Vasic the entire time, this man who had always been there for her, though she’d been meant to be nothing more than the completion of a simple fertilization contract.

The love and respect she felt for her parents was a hugeness in her heart she could never properly explain. “The settlement can come out of lockdown,” she said, voice husky, and led them toward the cabin that had become her own the day she took responsibility for the fruit orchard that supplied the families who lived here, the majority of their crops far more prosaic grains.

Rabbit padded along in front, and it was such a familiar sight that the knots in her stomach began to unravel a fraction. “The Arrow—Vasic—came specifically for me.”

“They don’t send Arrows after fractured Psy,” her father said, always the more phlegmatic of her parents, despite the fact her mother appeared the more practical at first glance. “Especially Gradient 3.2 telepaths.”

“No.” Ivy pushed through the door to her home. “I’ll get you a blanket, Father. You really shouldn’t stay in those wet clothes.”

“I’m fine.” He took off his jacket to reveal that his heavy work shirt was dry.

Seeing that he’d made up his mind, but aware his pants remained wet, she turned up the heat, then handed him the letter wrinkled from her grip. “According to Vasic”—she tugged off her gloves to put them on the counter, shrugged off her jacket—“I’m not a telepath. Or rather, that’s not my main designation.” Copyright 2016 - 2024