Part of him continued to resist the idea of what Sascha meant to him, really meant to him. That part had been tortured, broken, almost destroyed. It didn't want to open itself up, didn't want to permit a vulnerability that could lead to a harsher pain. Paradoxically, it was that same part which understood what this Psy was to him, and it was that same part which couldn't let her go.
Only one thing was certain - he was keeping her.
"Have you had lunch?" he asked at around one thirty, as they prepared to leave the site.
She continued heading to her car, parked several meters from the others. "I'm fine."
"You didn't answer my question." He could play this game just as well as his Psy.
"I have an energy bar in the car." Reaching her sleek vehicle, she went to open the door.
He stopped her by the simple expedient of putting his hand on hers.
"Don't," she said again, pulling away.
She didn't answer but he saw a spark light those eyes. That temper of hers was flickering again, bringing her back to life. What he'd give to see her in full fury. "Come with me to Tammy's. She was asking about you." The healer had taken an unusually strong interest in Sascha.
"I don't think that would be wise." Her face was cool but he could hear the whispers of her soul, the panther in him attuned to every nuance of her body.
Leaning close, he whispered, "Don't worry - the cubs are off visiting family." In truth, they'd been spirited away to safety with the rest of DarkRiver's young. Something was going to break soon and the worst-case scenario equaled massive bloodshed. But for this one moment he allowed himself to play, aware that he was standing with the lone woman who might be able to stop the carnage. "Your boots are safe."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
Grinning at the bold-faced lie, he tapped her cheek. "Zara's already taken my car back to the office. Keys?" He held out his hand.
She crossed her arms. "You have a short memory."
"Only for things I don't want to remember. Do you know the way?"
Her expression clearly said that that was a stupid question. "Get in."
Lucas let her give him the order, aware he'd won the first skirmish in their very private battle. However, it was a battle he could only continue if they won the much more dangerous war hanging over their heads.
Sascha waited until they were on their way to bring up the subject preying on her mind. "Have you learned more?"
Lucas didn't try to pretend he didn't know what she was talking about. His sudden fury was so pure and taut that she felt like she could reach out and touch it. What amazed her was that there was no confusion in that anger.
Lucas could think through his feelings, displaying a strength of will beyond anything she knew. She was barely skirting the edges of emotion and already it felt like a yawning abyss at her feet, ready to suck her in and spit her back out battered, bruised, and possibly dead.
"The SnowDancer he took is a twenty-year-old female. Brenna was on the way to classes at a private school at the time she was taken. When she didn't arrive, a packmate in the same class sent out an alert."
"What was she studying?" She filed away the data - she'd need it to narrow down the search parameters in the Net. At the same time, she reached out with her psychic senses and soothed the jagged edges of his anger. It was done so instinctively that she was barely aware of it.
"Repair and maintenance of computronic systems, concentrating on communication consoles."
"Intelligent," she muttered.
"Yes, that's part of his pattern."
"It must've been around noon because that was the time Brenna would've been on the path from where she was taken - she usually cut through a small park in her neighborhood."
"So someone could've picked up her habits?"
"Yes. But to abduct her in broad daylight speaks of extreme confidence. The park isn't large or particularly wooded. He could've been seen from several angles."
"Yet he wasn't." If he was Psy, then there were things he could've done to hide himself. "A Tk-Psy with the ability to teleport could've taken her out with him."
"How much power would that take?"
"More than most Psy have. I doubt it was done that way."
"Strong telekinetics can transport themselves easily but taking along another person is difficult, especially if they won't give you entry into their mind to ease the psychic transition."
She'd learned all this during elementary school, when the different skills had still been in the same classes. Before the other cardinals had gone on to specialize and she'd been left alone to hone what pitiful skills she had, an embarrassment no one wanted to acknowledge.
"Could he have forced her mind open?" Lucas stretched out his legs and linked his arms around the back of the headrest. The lazy movement made her want to reach out and pet him... as she'd done in those forbidden dreams.
Clenching her hands on the wheel, she shook her head. "She's a changeling. That immediately doubles the difficulty, and even for a cardinal, forcing open a mind is already one of the most difficult of tasks. If you don't care about killing the victim, it can be done with a massive burst of power, but he wanted her alive." So he could torture her.
Sascha took a deep breath and forced herself to continue. "Plus to do that and teleport her would've taken enough power to lay him up for days. I haven't heard of any strong Psy in that condition. That sort of thing, a Psy flaming out, tends to create a buzz in the Net." She tapped the wheel. "He could've just planned it carefully and had a vehicle nearby. A lot of human serial killers function that way."