“Rehabilitation was the usual response under Silence,” Kaleb told him. “The more lucrative were locked up and made use of in their cogent moments.”

Santos’s mouth thinned. “We don’t just erase those who break. And some have made recoveries to the extent that they can pick up the threads of their lives.”

Rocking back on his heels, he answered Kaleb’s next question before it was asked. “From what one of our elder empaths has told me of her sessions with Sascha Duncan, Psy empaths and Forgotten empaths have diverged to a degree that while we can offer some advice and direction, we can’t train your people. Our minds no longer function quite the same way when it comes to psychic abilities.” A faint smile. “Too much mixed blood.”

Kaleb wondered what unique abilities that mixed blood had bequeathed Devraj Santos, the fact one Kaleb had been unable to unearth. “Regardless of our differences,” he said, “having an open line of communication between my people and yours could prove beneficial to both.”

Santos held his gaze, the world beyond sketched in gray. “Are you declaring a cease-fire between the Psy and the Forgotten?”

“No,” Kaleb said. “I’m declaring peace.” He held out his hand as the snow began to fall in a hush of white. Touch wasn’t something he enjoyed with anyone aside from Sahara, but he could meet the Forgotten leader halfway. “I have no quarrel with the Forgotten.” Kaleb’s vengeance had always been focused on the corrupt within his own race.

Santos took a long moment before accepting Kaleb’s hand. “Peace.”

Chapter 8

The irony, of course, is that E-Psy are often treated as a vulnerable segment of the population. While this may be true in certain circumstances (as discussed in depth in chapter 3), such a simplistic understanding obfuscates the day-to-day reality of their existence.

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

LYING IN BED as the birds began to wake on the third day after an Arrow appeared in her life, Ivy thought of what Sascha Duncan had shared when she’d contacted the cardinal for confirmation of the E designation. We heal the mind and the heart. Sorrow, fear, pain, we help people navigate their way out of darkness.

The idea of it had made her chest ache, a painful pricking inside her . . . as if a numbed limb was stretching awake. Yet she had to face the fact that she was a patchwork creature, glued together through sheer stubborn will after the reconditioning that had almost erased her. Who was she to think she could heal anyone else?

We’re strong, Ivy, stronger than you might imagine right now. We have to be, to take the pain of others and make it something better.

Claws clicking on the wooden floor, Rabbit tumbled out from his basket to come stand beside the bed, eyes huge in entreaty. “You’re not meant to sleep on the bed.” She tried for stern, but it was difficult with Rabbit.

He gave her a mournful look before he collapsed with his head on his front paws, a pitiful sight.

“You big ham,” she said with a soft laugh and patted the mattress.

Sadness evaporating into mist, he jumped up and padded around before deciding on his favorite spot near the foot of the bed, diagonally across from her. Ivy smiled at his sigh of contentment, but her smile faded too soon, her thoughts tangled skeins. If she wasn’t careful, her PsyNet shields would begin to crack, exposing her and the others to outsiders.

Her nails cut into her palms.

Made up of fractured Psy and their families, the settlement was safe only because the tiny population had learned to interlink their shields. It had taken months of trial and error, sheer desperation the juggernaut that powered them, until finally the group had learned to form the connections that allowed each person to remain private while bolstering the shields of the group as a whole.

However, even their enhanced shields could only take a certain amount of pressure, and Ivy had been responsible for a significant portion of it in the preceding two months. Pushing up into a sitting position on that thought, she closed her eyes, her intention to do a simple mental exercise meant to effect calm. She had to—


Eyes flicking open, she was startled to see Rabbit standing right in front of her. “You know you’re not supposed to interrupt me when I meditate,” she chided gently.

He barked again, and this time she heard the worried whine underneath. “I’m fi—”

That was when she felt it, the trickle of wet from her nose. “Damn it!” Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, Rabbit bounding out beside her, she walked into the bathroom and turned on the light to confirm what she already knew.

She was bleeding from the nose. Not only that, but one of her eyes was bloodshot in the left corner, as if the capillaries had burst. Hands trembling and skin hot, she grabbed a wad of tissue to wipe away the thin trickle of viscous red, squeezing the bridge of her nose until the bleeding stopped. It didn’t take long, this incident minor.

Cleaning up afterward, she went down into a crouch to cradle Rabbit’s face. “I’m okay,” she reassured him, rubbing at his ears until he stopped whining low in his throat and butted her chest with his small head. “Let’s go have something to eat.”

Once in the kitchen, having pulled on a thick cardigan over the camisole she wore with flannel pajama pants, she gave him one of the special dog treats she bought from the general store in the nearest township. The human farmers who ran the shops there minded their own business the same way the settlement minded its own, their relationship cordial. Two years ago, after a severe storm damaged the township, Ivy’s group had helped in the cleanup and repair; a year later the favor had been returned when one of their barns needed to be rebuilt.

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