Sometimes, he broke her heart. “Never will I be ashamed to be yours.”
Kaleb bent his head toward her, his eyes a moonless night. “Don’t say things like that, Sahara. What will I become if I don’t fear losing you through my actions?”
“You’ll always be mine.” She cupped his face, his jaw smooth. “And I won’t let you cross those lines.”
He said he had no conscience, but he loved her with a wild devotion that made her feel safe, feel whole, feel cherished. In that love she saw hope for who they’d become together.
His kiss was raw, sexual, his hands lifting to place her on the counter. Standing between her spread thighs, his shoulders beautifully muscled under the fine fabric of his black shirt, he kissed her as if she was his air. She thrust one hand in the damp strands of his hair, cupped his nape with the other, and kissed him back with the same hunger. They’d both been deprived of touch for so long, and now they denied themselves nothing.
When he tugged up her top, she lifted her arms to allow him to pull it off. Wrapping those arms around his neck afterward, she luxuriated in the feel of his hands on her skin. “I thought you had a meeting,” she said, kissing his jaw, the line of his throat, the masculine scent of him overlaid by the clean bite of his aftershave.
“I’ve told Silver to postpone it.”
Leaning back, she simply looked at him, her dangerous lover who always put her first. “We’ll beat it,” she said, conscious the infection was a problem about which he never quite stopped thinking. “With the empaths and the Arrows and our race’s will to survive.”
Kissing the upper curve of her breast, Kaleb bracketed her rib cage with his hands. “The Arrows and the empaths—perhaps. But you have more faith in our race than I do. Right now most are burying their heads in the sand, hoping I’ll tell them who to be, what to become. They’re sheep.”
She tugged up his head with a hand fisted in his hair. “If they are, it’s because they’ve been trained to be that way for a century. A good leader will lead them to true independence. You’ll lead them to freedom.”
Kaleb might not be a white knight, but he was the knight the Psy race needed. Strong, fearless, and willing to make the hard decisions. And he was hers. Wrapping her thighs around him, she sank into the kiss, into him.
There have always been unsubstantiated rumors of a hidden designation in the PsyNet. Sascha Duncan’s defection brought those rumors to the surface, only for them to be thoroughly quashed by the Council at the time. Now, however, new whispers are coming to the fore—and the Ruling Coalition has yet to make a statement to either confirm or deny their veracity.
ADEN MET WITH Vasic close to dawn the next morning, the two of them standing near the trees looking out over the mist-licked peace of the compound.
“Nightmares,” the other man said, referencing the telepathic conversation they’d had the previous night.
“Ivy was unable to give me any specifics.” Vasic had asked toward the end of their walk, when she’d seemed more centered, no longer afraid. “She described it as a feeling of suffocating darkness.”
“Was she discouraged by the incident?”
The single word answer was characteristic of Vasic, yet the depth of confidence in it intrigued Aden. Vasic had stopped getting to know people in tandem with his increasing remoteness when it came to the world. Even with new members of the squad, he made no effort beyond what was necessary for him to function as part of the team. And still, he was one of the first ports of call for any Arrow in trouble. Not because he was a Tk-V, but because he inspired trust on a visceral level.
Vasic simply did not let people down.
“The other empaths?” Aden asked, remembering how he’d felt that same trust as a boy. It had never altered.
“I haven’t had a chance to assess them, or to speak in depth with their Arrows, but it’s possible we may lose one or two.”
Empaths, Aden had learned from Vasic, weren’t all the same. Rationally, Aden had already known that, but the mystery of the E designation was such that he’d lumped them into a single mental category.
“The recent episodes of violence in the Net”—Vasic put his arms behind his back—“seem erratic and small scale.”
“The agitators tend to be individuals who are finding it difficult to adapt to the fall of Silence, but in one case at least, it was a surviving Pure Psy sublieutenant.” Aden looked down at the small white dog that had appeared out of the mist to sit at his feet, its shining black eyes trained on him.
The canine belonged to Ivy Jane, he remembered. “We were able to eliminate the sublieutenant and his attendant cell,” he told Vasic. “The cell was planning a larger-scale event that had no chance of success, though they were too wrapped up in their fanatical ideology to see that.” Pure Psy didn’t have the necessary independence of thought to function efficiently without their leader. And that leader was dead.
“He’s left the Pure Psy cleanup to us and is concentrating on ensuring the Net remains stable.” The latter couldn’t be done by brute force alone, but Krychek was far more than that, the former Councilor’s intelligence a blade, his connections labyrinthine.
“We don’t need you on the team handling the cleanup,” he said, to head off any offer Vasic might’ve made. “Your skills are better served here.”
Vasic’s gray eyes were penetrating when they met Aden’s. “I can’t leave the Es, not given the security leak we had with Lianne and the proximity of the infection.” A glance at his gauntlet to check incoming data before he turned back to Aden. “That doesn’t mean I’m not cognizant of your attempts to shield me from overt violence.”