He watched Sascha park her car some distance from the others and walk to the eastern edge of the site, far from where they were working. Getting up from a crouch, he handed over his notepad to the woman next to him. "Hold the fort, Zara."
"What would you do without me?" The wildcat winked.
Smiling despite the fact that his gut was tight in anticipation of trouble, he headed after Sascha. It was a shock to come face-to-face with her only to realize that no trace remained of the woman who'd let him kiss her. Every nerve in him went stiff in rejection. Not of her. Of the mask she'd donned once again. She was hiding herself and that was unacceptable to both sides of his nature. He wanted nothing more than to force her to remove it... although he didn't understand why it made him so wildly furious.
"How long till construction begins?" she asked before he could speak.
"The plans will be complete in about a month. If you sign off on them, construction begins."
"Please keep me updated." There was a darkness to her eyes that set every one of his instincts on edge.
The panther's hackles rose. "What have you done?" he asked point-blank.
"I'm Psy, Lucas."
"Damn you." He grabbed her arm. She froze. "What the hell have you done?"
Her lips compressed to a fine white line. "I went to tell my mother everything."
The flames of betrayal spread like acid in his blood. "You bitch." He let go of her arm, disgusted.
"But I didn't." The words were so quiet he almost didn't hear them.
"I couldn't tell her." Turning from him, she stared out at the trees that edged the lot. "Why not, Lucas? I'm Psy. My loyalty is theirs but I couldn't speak."
Relief kicked him so hard it was almost pain. "What have they done to earn your loyalty?" Mixed in with the relief was anger. Anger that she should've even considered betraying him.
"What have you?" She glanced over her shoulder.
"I trusted you." And he wasn't a man who trusted easily. "I figure that evens us out."
She averted her gaze. "I'm going to search the PsyNet for information. I'll give you what I have." There was something heartbreakingly lonely in the perfect tones of her voice, something that made him think she'd splinter into a thousand pieces if he spoke the wrong words.
"Sascha." He went to touch her shoulder, unable, in spite of his anger, to watch her suffer that way. It didn't occur to him to consider why it was so important that she not hurt. It just was.
"Don't." Moving away, she whispered, "I need to be something, even if that means I'm part of a race of killers. If I'm not Psy then what am I?"
Before he could respond, Zara called out his name. Giving her a wave, he said, "Who said the Psy can't be anything else?"
Sascha didn't speak again until Lucas was on the other side of the site. "Nature." The ragged whisper revealed the best-kept secret of their race. Like the rest of the Psy, she was dependent on the PsyNet for every breath she took. Cut off from it for much longer than a minute or two, she'd die a miserable death. And if her flaw were discovered, she'd be sentenced to living death through rehabilitation. Her only hope of survival was to become more Psy than the Psy, to become... unbreakable.
This morning she'd gone to Nikita with the full intention of giving her everything she had. Filled with confusion and a kind of blind anger at a fate that had shown her glory and then told her she couldn't have it, she'd convinced herself that if she betrayed DarkRiver, she'd redeem herself in Nikita's eyes, at last be the daughter her mother had always wanted.
Yet when she'd opened her mouth to speak, all that had come out had been a string of lies. Every single one of them had been told to protect the changelings, to protect Lucas. They'd come from a hidden part of her she'd never before seen, a bright, hard knot of fierce loyalty and utter determination. That part wouldn't let her do anything to hurt the panther who'd kissed her and smashed the glass walls of her existence into a million slivers.
It was then she'd realized that, for the first time in her life, she wanted something else even more than she wanted to belong. If only for a moment, if only for a second, she wanted to be loved.
What a futile, impossible dream for a Psy.
She would never have it, but she could at least help this race which knew how to love. Perhaps that would be enough to feed the need in her soul. Perhaps.
Lucas allowed Sascha to keep her distance as they finished the measurements, but he had no intention of letting her withdraw. He'd never been very good at following orders.
"Don't," she'd said when he'd tried to touch her. Not because she was one of the untouchable Psy but because she was something more - a woman who felt. If he hadn't been convinced of that after their kiss, he would've been left in no doubt after her confession. He hadn't forgiven her for even contemplating betrayal, but that didn't mean he was going to let her go.
She was his. The idea of watching her walk away was simply not tolerable. He might've been blinkered to the facts before now, but the fire of his rage at the thought of her selling him out had ripped the blinkers from his eyes. The truth had hit him like a slap. As much as Sascha might react to him, he definitely reacted to her - physically, mentally, and sexually.
What she didn't know, because he'd been very careful not to let her agile mind figure it out, was that he didn't touch easily outside Pack. He hadn't been joking about skin privileges. Yes, he was more tactile than the Psy, but he didn't get affectionately intimate with those who were not his. Yet from the first, he'd found himself playing with her as he might play with a woman who'd aroused his most primitive instincts. Never had he treated her as the enemy deserved to be treated.