No, Ivy didn’t mind. She wanted to have Arrows dropping by for decades to come, wanted Vasic to build extra rooms onto the cabin so their guests could stay overnight, wanted to tease him into trying real food. “I want him safe, Rabbit,” she said, angry at the entire universe. “I don’t want to be in a world where he doesn’t get to survive. How is that in any way fair?”
Vasic froze right then, and for an instant, she thought he’d heard her and that she’d ruined the day. Then came a deeper, more violent fear.
She stood and ran toward him as, turning, he jogged back to the cabin. Sweat stuck his black T-shirt to his chest, the thin black of his martial arts pants outlining his thighs as the wind pressed the fabric against him. Ivy still had trouble letting him out into the snow dressed like that, even though he assured her that as a Tk, he was never in any danger of freezing.
Today, it wasn’t the cold that was the risk.
“What is it?” Her eyes and her hands went immediately to the gauntlet. “Is it—”
Vasic cupped her face in hands so gentle, she knew he could sense the vicious control she had on her fear and her anger. “Samuel Rain has demanded our presence.”
Her heart kicked. “What are you doing here? Let’s go!”
“Give me two minutes to shower.”
“I may need to be clean.” He kissed her hard as the import of that statement punched her in the solar plexus.
Watching him head inside to shower, she turned to Aden, terror knotting her guts. “If I lose him, I’ll break.”
His mind touched hers. You can’t break, Ivy. You’re the only home my Arrows know—no matter what, that home must survive.
She met his eyes, shook her head. But he was adamant. You’re strong. That’s why you’re Vasic’s. You’ll honor him . . . but that is a conversation we may never need to have.
Ivy took a deep breath, straightened. Yes, she said. We won’t. Because he’s going to be all right.
Going to Rabbit, she petted him in gentle reassurance. “Mother and Father are on their way to pick you up,” she said, having just telepathed them. “Be good and stay with Aden until then, okay?”
She rose as Vasic stepped out of the cabin in jeans and a leather-synth jacket paired with a light blue T-shirt she’d talked him into because it made his silver eyes even more striking. Walking over, she slipped her hand into his.
“Rabbit?” he asked, looking to where their pet stood solemnly with Aden and the third Arrow.
Ivy swallowed past the emotions choking her up, told him she’d made arrangements. “He won’t be alone.”
Then they went to talk to Samuel Rain.
Clara met them in the foyer of the sprawling house that was the core of Haven, having requested Vasic not teleport directly to Samuel as the staff remained unsure of his mental state. “This way,” the manager said at once. “He hasn’t permitted anyone inside yet.”
No more words necessary, the three of them headed upstairs to Samuel’s quarters. There was a massive skylight in this section. It drenched the corridor in light, likely the rooms, too. Stopping at one on the farthest end, Clara knocked. “We gave Samuel the corner suite because it gets the most light and he’s always demanded natural light in his workshops.”
“Who is it?” Samuel Rain yelled suspiciously from the other side of the door.
“Ivy and Vasic to see you.”
The door opened to reveal a man with wild, matted, and overgrown hair, his blue checked shirt buttoned crooked, and what looked like over a month’s worth of beard growth on his face. “Come.” Eyes blazing with either intelligence or madness behind his spectacles, he stepped back to give them their first glimpse of what lay beyond.
He’d turned the central chamber—lit by two glass walls and part of the main skylight—into a laboratory. That wasn’t what made her gasp. It was the fact that sitting in the middle of the workbench was a gauntlet identical to Vasic’s, except without the carapace. Linked to a computer that simulated the Psy brain, brain stem, and spinal column, the gauntlet had been split open to display its intricate internal workings. The faux bone and tendon and muscle within it were scarily realistic.
Samuel Rain, Ivy realized with a trembling awareness of the true depth of his genius, had built a working copy of one of the most complex pieces of technology in the world from scratch in the space of just over six weeks.
“It’s useless,” he said now, and her heart dropped, until he added, “Too many issues to be grafted. But I can get it out with the help of a halfway competent surgeon.”
The world stopped, Ivy’s hand bloodless around Vasic’s.
There is only one choice, Ivy. Vasic cupped her cheek, touching his forehead to hers in a way that had become part of their emotional lexicon. I would have eternity with you.
Stomach churning, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Don’t leave me. Please.
I won’t. I’ll always be here. Winter frost holding her in thrall. Even if my body goes, my soul will remain. It’s a mess, but it’s yours. It’ll always be yours.
I love you, Vasic. I love you. It was so hard for her to release him, to watch him turn to Samuel Rain. “My unit has almost completely destabilized. Can you operate now?”
“Yes,” the engineer said without hesitation. “I need a sterile operating chamber with these monitors.” He scribbled a list on a scrap of paper. “I also need a nurse and a surgeon. Make sure it’s someone who can follow instructions and doesn’t have a God complex.”