That dosage wasn’t calibrated for a temporary reset, but a permanent one, because Ming didn’t want Vasic’s brain, only his ability. He’d believed the teleporter’s brain had already permanently reset years ago, but recent events had made that seem a premature conclusion.

“You’re certain the problem that led to the Arrows being weaned off the drug was manufactured?” He’d initiated the inquiry after discovering that Judd Lauren wasn’t only alive, but a defector who’d joined the SnowDancer wolves.

The rebel Arrow was the first Tk who’d shown signs of impaired physical and mental ability while on Jax, a side effect that had then spread subtly through the ranks, leading to dangerously erratic behavior. Given that Arrows were meant to be shadows, subtle and invisible, Ming had authorized the discontinuance of the Jax regime.

Judd Lauren’s apparent mental health, however, argued for a far different interpretation.

“Yes,” the medic answered. “I’ve run multiple controlled tests on the assigned unit of your soldiers.”

Soldiers, who, Ming thought, had no idea they were being dosed with Jax and thus couldn’t doctor their responses.

“It appears,” the M-Psy continued, “the Arrows collaborated to get off the drug.”

It was another indication of how little Ming had understood the men and women he sought to lead, a critical flaw in his strategic thinking. Ming didn’t accept or tolerate flaws, so he would fix this. “Keep the Jax prepped at all times.” It would take considerable planning, but Ming would find a way to enslave Vasic.

Chapter 14

Empaths can endure a lack of tactile contact, but those of designation E find such a lack difficult at best. When asked to describe the sensation, most simply said that it “hurt.” What is impossible to put into words is the profound pain embodied in that single word.

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

DINNER WAS A quiet affair for Ivy, she and the other Es having decided they needed space to consider everything that had been discussed. First, she spoke to her parents on the comm; she’d messaged them after her arrival at the compound, and now she reiterated that she was safe and excited about this new phase in her life.

Then, ignoring the nutrition bars and drinks in the pantry, she put together a simple meal, akin to what she’d have at home. That, of course, was only possible because of the fresh ingredients stocked in the kitchen.

Would you like to have dinner? she asked the man who’d no doubt arranged the supplies. The quiet, intense compulsion he aroused within her continued to grow unabated. She’d watched him organize his unit with military efficiency in the past hours, deal undaunted with the most lethal predator in the Net, handle multiple questions from the Arrows and empaths both. Through it all, he’d been a solid wall.

No, she frowned, that was the wrong analogy. Vasic was stable, but in the way the sea was stable on a day without a breeze, his depths hidden beneath a reflective surface that was an impenetrable shield.

His voice slid into her mind like ice-kissed water on the heels of that thought. Almost too cold . . . and yet delicious to a parched throat. She shivered, her ni**les tightening in a confusing physical response that left her breathless.

I’ve had the nutrition bars I need.

His response was a jolting reminder that her awareness of him was most-assuredly one-sided. To Vasic, she was simply a task, his job to keep her alive for the duration of this experiment. It might be that the winter-frost eyes in which she saw haunting mysteries, were instead nothing but remote gray: flat and without depth.

Disturbed at the idea, she took the salad she’d prepared and—leaving the fish to grill—went to sit on the edge of her little porch, her booted feet on the hard-packed snow below. When Rabbit ran out to join her with a reproachful look, she got up with a laugh and carried out his food and water bowls so he could eat with her under the night sky. She could’ve turned on the porch light, but she liked the silver caress of the moon, the way the glow from the cabin windows around her painted the air in hazy warmth.

Two seconds later, the hairs rose on the back of her neck and Rabbit growled.

“Is there a problem with your cabin?” Vasic asked.

Stomach clenching, she looked up at where he stood silhouetted against the night, tall and distant and every inch a soldier. “I just wanted to sit out here.” Her breath was puffs of white, her pulse a rapid flutter in her throat

“The temperature is continuing to drop.”

“I’m wearing warm clothes, and it’s nowhere near as cold as the orchard.” She ate a little of her salad in an effort to ease the sudden nervous tension that had her muscles taut, and decided to follow instinct. “Why don’t you sit?” If he’d wanted solitude, he could’ve left as soon as she’d confirmed she was happy out here. “Keep me company.”

When he took a seat on the porch, a foot of distance between them, she had to bite back an exhilarated cry. No, Vasic was no flat mirage. Never would be. He was an intelligent, complex, fascinating male who made her body and mind respond in a way with which she had no experience . . . but she knew she didn’t want it to stop. “Are you sure you don’t want anything?” she asked, feeling a deep need to give him something. “A drink?”

“No.” Forearms braced on his thighs, he stared out into the darkness, his profile ascetic in its purity and his shoulders broad. “What are your views on the other Es?”

“Why?” Teeth sinking into her lower lip, Ivy fought the urge to trace the clean lines of him. “Are you making a report?” Copyright 2016 - 2024