“Hmm.” Ivy tapped her lower lip. “Mechanical?”

“Problematic. My wiring was rerouted in strange ways.” The entire surgical team had been surprised at some of what they’d discovered. “I could get a cosmetic arm, but it wouldn’t be functional.”

Hand curving on his thigh, Ivy made a face. “That would just annoy you.”

Yes, he thought, it would. He’d suggested it to make things easier for her . . . but Ivy didn’t seem to care that he was missing a part, her only concern how he felt about it. She still touched him, kissed him, loved him just the same. Always would, he understood in wonder, even should he lose every limb he possessed.

“My telekinesis balances out the loss, so I won’t lose any functionality.” But he would miss embracing Ivy with both arms, having her sleep on one while he wrapped the other around her.

Expression pensive, Ivy tilted her head, studied his face. “You’re sad.”

He told her what he’d been thinking, saw her eyes grow wet. “You hold me every second of every day.” She spread her fingers over her heart. “I should be so mad at you for making us wait that long for our bond.”

Running his hand down her arm, he shifted position to lean his back against the doorjamb, one booted leg on the ground he’d cleared of snow, the other bent at the knee, foot flat on the wood of the cabin floor. “Come here.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m trying to have an argument with you.”

“Ivy,” he said, dropping his voice in that way he knew made her melt. “Come here.”

Breath catching, she pretended to bite at his jaw before tucking herself against his chest, his legs on either side of her. He wrapped his arm around her again and felt his heart smile because embracing her this way felt just as good. They sat listening to the breeze and to the happy chirping of a cricket who didn’t seem to realize this was the tail end of a North Dakota winter.

It was some time later that Ivy sat up on her knees and with her arms around his neck, leaned into him. Their kisses were slow, deep, playful. Stroking the roughness of his jaw, she said, “Can I shave you?”

“Is it too rough?” he murmured. “I can—”

“No, I want to do it.”

Vasic took in the flush on her cheekbones, the sinful anticipation in her eyes. “You’ve been reading more manuals,” he accused.

“Actually, it was a historical romance novel.” Another kiss as she pushed his raised knee down so she could straddle him. “This one scene just . . .” She shivered, her arms compressing her br**sts from either side as she hugged herself. “So, can I?”

Vasic was many things. The one thing he was not was stupid. He said yes and didn’t flinch when she produced an old-fashioned shaving kit, complete with a straight razor and a brush to lather up his jaw. Then she unbuttoned her shirt.

An hour later, Vasic finished shaving the rest of his face himself while a na**d Ivy sat on the counter trying to catch her breath. “I need to read these novels,” he said, bending down to kiss her thigh once he’d completed the task.

She pushed at him with her foot, but it held no force. “I’m password protecting them.” Breasts rising and falling in a visual that he appreciated, she spread her thighs and drew him back against her. “You don’t need any more ideas.”

Vasic hauled her even closer, one arm around her back, the other— But he only had one arm now. So he adapted and used his Tk. That gave him an idea. Utilizing his ability to affect small, delicate things, he stroked telekinetic fingers through her labia.

Ivy jerked, her fingernails digging into his shoulders. “Oh my God.”

Taking the moan as encouragement, he did it again, dipping his head to suck on her ni**les at the same time. Deciding the other one shouldn’t have to wait, he split his attention and used telekinetic fingers to pluck at it. Have I told you how much I like my hobby?

Ivy’s spine arched. “No,” she gasped, “romance novels for you.”

“I bet I can change your mind.”

• • •

EIGHT hours after losing the bet to Vasic in a delicious paroxysm of pleasure, Ivy sat down in a chair beside Zie Zen at his Lake Tahoe home. Her eyes were on Vasic where he stood in conversation with a DarkRiver soldier near the edge of Zie Zen’s property line, the lake water beyond a silver mirror under the moonlight. Vasic was dressed in his Arrow uniform, the changeling in jeans and a faded sweatshirt. Their conversation appeared relaxed.

“He will be all right, Grandfather,” she said, able to sense the concern Zie Zen would likely never put in words, having lived in Silence for too long.

The older man, his hand on the head of his cane, turned to look at her. “I had forgotten what it was to live with an empath.”

“I don’t mean to intrude,” she said, uncertain about how to be with Zie Zen. He was so remote sometimes, and yet he loved Vasic with a quiet, painful intensity. “I don’t seem to be able to filter out a certain level of my ability.”

“And why should you? It would be equivalent to me having one of my eyes permanently shut.” His gaze returned to Vasic. “He is meant for great things, my son.”

The words used, she knew, were deliberate, a sign of what Vasic meant to Zie Zen. “He is a great man.”

“Yet he ties himself to an empath, seeking only to make her path easier.”

Ivy’s hand tightened on the arm of the chair. “He’s earned his peace.” She would allow no one to take it from him. “Earned the right to a home and a life undefiled by blood.”

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