"You sound very sure."
"The first thing you can share with him is that contrary to popular Psy belief, changelings aren't stupid." No one who'd met the hard blaze of intelligence in Lucas's eyes could ever believe anything that asinine. "They're not going to open up to a Psy who's clearly out to gather data. If I go softly, we'll get more. We have months."
But she didn't. As today had demonstrated far too clearly, she was coming apart at the seams, breaking into a thousand pieces. She no longer understood her own actions. Right at that instant, she was standing there lying to her mother through her teeth, keeping everything she'd learned to herself. Why?
"I'll tell him. Good night, Sascha."
"Good night, Mother."
Sascha couldn't sleep. She'd tried every trick she could think of to put herself under and failed. After the lush dreams of the past few days, it was a rude awakening to reality. Ever since she'd met Lucas, the physical symptoms of her accelerating mental disintegration had leveled off. She'd become used to a good night's sleep, free of night terrors or muscle spasms.
She finally gave up and began to pace up and down the confines of her room, back wall to front wall, front wall to back wall, side to side, left to right. And back again.
A serial killer... changeling women... metallic stink... the Council... psychopath...
In the hours since she'd spoken to Nikita, she'd used every electronic means at her disposal to secretly surf the human-changeling Internet. The murders had been reported. However, instead of being front-page items in major newspapers and magazines, they'd only gotten serious attention on fringe sites nobody really took seriously. That didn't change the fact that the killings had occurred and been noticed.
Before mysteriously disappearing.
The killer is Psy and your Council knows it.
Dorian's angry words reverberated in her head.
"No," she whispered aloud. He had to be wrong, had to be driven by emotion rather than logic. The Psy didn't feel rage, jealousy, murderous fury. The Psy didn't feel. Period.
Except that she was a living, breathing rebuttal to that statement.
"No," she said again. Yes, she felt, but a serial killer? Nobody could've hidden such a huge flaw in the Silence Protocol. Nobody had that much power.
They are Council. They are above the law.
Her own words returned to haunt her. Was it possible...? "No." She stared at the blank wall in front of her, unwilling to believe so quickly that her mother was guilty of aiding and abetting a murderer.
Nikita might not feel maternal emotions but Sascha felt a child's. Her mother was the sole constant presence in her life. She'd never met her father, her grandmother had been distant, and she had no cousins or siblings. Not that it would've meant much if she had had them. They would've been as cold as the woman who'd borne her.
She had to find out more information.
Decision made, she began to code in a call from the communication console. Then she cut it off. Enrique's too-focused interest in her had made her wary of being monitored. Picking up a black leather-synth jacket to throw over her jeans and black shirt, she headed out to her car.
It was only when she'd almost reached the DarkRiver building that she started thinking.
It was two in the morning. No one would be there.
Certainly not the man she wanted to talk to. Her hands clenched on the wheel as she parked the car in the deserted lot and dropped her head back against the seat. She'd come here acting on instinct, seeking Lucas.
Sitting there staring at the darkness, she kept thinking about the way his eyes had gone cold as he'd told her that the Psy had a "metallic stink." Tears rose perilously close to the surface. Why had she indulged herself with those dreams? They were impossible, even if she didn't have the threat of rehabilitation hanging over her head. And they had been a conscious indulgence.
She'd given herself those moments hidden deep in her subconscious to explore her needs, her hunger, and had been fully aware of what was happening. Aware of the way Lucas felt under her fingertips, his skin so hot, so alive. Aware of every sound he'd made, every flash of those amazing eyes. Aware of his every demand, his every need.
Lies. All of them. She'd made up his reactions as she'd made up everything else. It had been her fantasies that had driven those dreams. How pathetic was it that she'd imagined him holding her, imagined him caring. She slammed her palm against the manual steering wheel and opened the door. It slid smoothly back, allowing her to swing her legs out and take a breath of night air.
Getting out, she leaned against the part of the hood closest to the driver's side door and stared up at the sky. Diamonds on velvet, that's what it looked like. She knew the clarity wasn't thanks to the Psy. It was humans and changelings, particularly changelings, who'd fought pollution, fought to keep their world beautiful.
She owed them a portion of her sanity.
Even when she was forced to lock herself into the cage of the Psy world, the shimmering night sky gave her beauty that no one could take from her. No one could damn her for staring up at the sky.
Something moved to her left.
Sascha spun around but all was silent darkness, the hedge lining the side of the parking lot blocking her line of sight. Heart thudding so hard she could feel every vibration, she sent out a cautious psychic probe.
And brushed up against something so hot and alive that she felt burned.
She withdrew immediately. A few seconds later, a hand touched her shoulder. If she hadn't felt his emotional shadow before he'd reached her, she would've jumped sky high and blown her cover to smithereens.
When she turned, it was to find herself face-to-face with the very male she'd been searching for. "You're wearing clothes" were the first words that popped out of her mouth.