Conscious Lianne’s increasing panic could soon paralyze them both, Ivy twisted to face her. “Breathe, Lianne,” she ordered, modulating her own inhales and exhales until the other woman fell into the same pattern. “The Arrows aren’t planning to execute you.”
It was over seven minutes of repetition later, Ivy’s empathic senses raw, that Lianne calmed down enough to follow Ivy’s request to shield her emotions.
Ivy couldn’t hold back the shudder that rippled through her.
Lianne, cheeks red, whispered, “I would’ve been exposed on the Net.” Her hand spread on Rabbit’s head where the dog was sprawled across her lap.
Ivy understood the other woman’s worry. Silence might have fallen, but the change was too new to be trusted. Ivy herself had discarded her veneer of Silence now that she was safely away from the settlement, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t worried about the consequences of her actions. Even now, she maintained her PsyNet shields so her emotions wouldn’t leak out and betray her to strangers who might wish her harm.
“I ensured you weren’t.”
Vasic’s voice was an icy balm on Ivy’s ragged senses . . . until she realized she couldn’t sense him. At all. Even a shielded Lianne continued to register on her empathic senses, but Vasic was missing. If she hadn’t been able to see him, she’d never have known he was in the room.
Her breath hitched as she understood the crushing depth of his control for the first time.
“It’s time for you to leave the compound.”
Lianne went rigid at Vasic’s statement. Turning to offer comfort, Ivy found herself facing thin air. Vasic had initiated the teleport—after transferring Rabbit from Lianne’s lap to beside Ivy.
Blinking, she shook her head as her poor, confused dog stood up and did the same. “Yes,” she muttered, rubbing at her temples. “That is definitely starting to annoy me.”
Rabbit woofed in agreement and bounded down to the floor while she continued to sit on the cot. Uncomfortable thing. And this was where Vasic would sleep when he was off shift. Frowning, she wondered if he’d had any rest the previous night.
Then there he was, walking over to crouch in front of her. “Your headache is worse, isn’t it?” His eyes focused totally on her, his hair black silk she wanted to feel against her skin. “Aden said they should pass within forty-eight hours.”
He was so beautiful, she thought. All hard lines and strength and a strange, unexpected vulnerability. Of the latter she had no evidence, and yet her instincts insisted. Foolish Ivy. “Lianne?” she asked, drinking in the sight of him as if she’d been thirsty for a lifetime.
“Safe with those family members I’ve confirmed have no fanatical pro-Silence leanings. I have an Arrow keeping a discreet eye on her to make certain,” he said. “Your headache?”
She hadn’t expected him to care about Lianne’s safety after the other woman’s betrayal. That he did . . . “Yes,” she murmured. “It’s worse.”
“Do you have the training to ease it?”
He had such solid shoulders, wide enough to block out the world. She wanted to smooth her hands over the breadth of them, tear off his armor, touch the living heat of him. Visceral, the need knotted her gut, made her hurt.
Fingers curling into her hands, she forced herself not to take advantage of his nearness to indulge her need. It would hurt worse if he started keeping his distance because she couldn’t follow the unspoken rules. “Yes.” All Psy children were taught how to manage pain, since pain medication had an unpredictable effect on psychic abilities. “But I haven’t used it a lot,” she admitted, and it wasn’t quite a lie. “I’m rusty.”
The truth was, she didn’t want him to go.
“I’ll talk you through it,” he said, before switching to telepathic communication to do exactly that.
I like your voice, she said afterward, luxuriating in the icy strength of it.
Good, since you’ll hear it throughout this contract.
Laughter sparkled in her veins. Yes, I suppose so. Unable to touch, she ran her gaze over the nonregulation-length hair that hinted so tantalizingly of a man behind the frost. Hopefully, you don’t find mine irritating.
“No.” Biting the inside of her cheek, she tried for a solemn tone. “You’re very verbose, you know that? I don’t know how I’ll stand your chattering.”
No smile in his eyes, but when he rose to his feet, he said, “I don’t see your bodyguard.”
Hope exploded like confetti in her heart. That hadn’t been an Arrow comment. It had been a Vasic comment. “I think Rabbit’s starting to thaw where you’re concerned,” she said, fighting not to betray the strength of her response. “Still, it must’ve been something really exciting to draw him away while you were so close to me.” She had no idea how right she was until they left the cabin.
A squeak escaped her.
HER VERY SMALL dog was sitting at quivering attention in front of a huge wolf with a coat of silver-gold. A beautiful, scary wolf who could eat Rabbit in one bite, and who appeared to be listening to an unfamiliar male clad in jeans and a black sweater with the sleeves shoved up to his elbows. Not an Arrow, given his clothing, but there was something about him that said he wasn’t much different.
From him, she sensed very little, but from the wolf came a whiplash of primal wildness and dangerous focus.
“Rabbit,” she called, patting her thigh.