A minute later he was gone, leaving her starving for him. When she glanced at the two sentinels, she saw no reaction on their faces. Vaughn scared her. He wasn't cold and distant like Clay, but there was a prowling darkness behind his eyes that made her wonder just how close to the surface his beast was.
Mercy was a little more approachable but she couldn't get rid of the feeling that the sentinels wanted her gone. She couldn't blame them. She was part of a race guilty of helping the worst kind of scum. Who knew what she'd drag Lucas into?
"Are you here basically for my safety?" she asked, aware that there weren't any other vulnerable people in the house.
"Thank you." She put her hands on the table and made herself meet the male sentinel's eyes. "I know I'm not what Lucas needs but let me have him for a few more days. After that I won't be a problem." She refused to allow self-pity to destroy the magnificence of what she was experiencing, but what she'd said was fact.
The changelings didn't know the extent of the PsyNet. It had eyes and ears in every corner of the world, shadows within shadows. It was impossible to escape it physically even if her mind could somehow survive the mental separation.
Wherever she went, whatever she did, they'd hunt her down. They would've done so for any renegade because dissent undermined the Silence Protocol. However, her case would garner an extreme reaction - she was Nikita's daughter. Not only did she know too much, her defection would strike at the heart of the Council's image of invincibility.
Vaughn leaned forward, those strange almost gold-colored eyes focused completely on her. "If I'd thought you were going to harm Lucas, I would've ensured you never had the chance."
"So the fact I'm still breathing is a vote of confidence?" Sascha would not let him intimidate her, no matter that he made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up in primordial warning.
His lip quirked. "No."
Mercy put down her coffee cup. "Stop playing with her mind, Vaughn. I think she's been through enough."
"I think our Psy is a lot tougher than she looks, aren't you, Sascha?" Dark-gold eyes searched her face for something she couldn't even begin to guess at. She just knew that what was looking at her wasn't wholly civilized.
"I had to be to survive." Sascha held his gaze. "Even as a child, I knew that if they found out I was different, I'd be slated for rehabilitation - a kind of psychic brainwipe." To this day, she could hear the shuffling feet and mumbled whispers of the rehabilitated as they traversed the halls in the inner sanctum of the Center.
She should never have heard those sounds or seen the nightmarish creatures who'd made them, but Nikita had taken her in one day when she'd been barely ten years old. She'd never forget her mother's words - "Don't ever be anything but perfect, Sascha. This is the result of failure."
Sascha had been a teenager before she'd understood why Nikita had gone that far. She had to have been aware of her child's flaw, had to have seen inside her mind before she was old enough to protect herself.
The harsh gesture had worked - to the outside world, Sascha had never been anything less than perfect. She'd even convinced Nikita that her flawed daughter had become a Psy to the absolute core. Until she'd started cracking apart.
"I can't believe they do that to their own people," Mercy muttered in disgust. "How can anyone choose to live like that? I'd prefer death."
Mercy's words had Sascha's throat closing up. "I need to ask you both a favor."
Vaughn raised a brow. He might have let her live but she knew he was withholding final judgment.
"If I get taken in when we put the plan into effect, if I get sent to the Center instead of being executed," she began, "I want you to kill me. I won't be able to do it myself because they'll lock my mind." A mental strait-jacket that she knew would propel her into the final madness.
"That's Lucas's call," Mercy said, her tone pure steel. It was an indication that for all her beauty, she was a soldier first and a woman second.
"I don't want him to do it." Not anymore, not when she knew what it would cost him. "He shouldn't have to watch someone he cares for die." In Vaughn's eyes, she saw awareness of Lucas's past. "Even if you feel nothing for me, do it for him. He deserves better than to witness me being turned into a vegetable."
Vaughn stood and she thought he was rejecting her plea. But instead of leaving the room, he walked around to the back of her chair. Putting his hands on the wood, he leaned down until his lips touched her neck. She froze, feeling the power contained in that dangerous male body. He could snap her neck with one hand.
"You have skin privileges," he said against her pulse, biting down very gently. "You're Pack."
It was the last thing she'd ever expected to hear.
Mercy closed her hand over Sascha's clenched fist. "We don't let Pack members die without a damn good fight."
Sascha felt tears burn at her eyes. "You don't understand!"
Vaughn nuzzled his way up her neck and bit her lightly on the ear before standing to his full height, his hands on her shoulders. "We understand you think the PsyNet is omnipotent. That's because it's all you've ever been taught." He moved around to lean against the table by her side. "But the rules have changed."
"What rules?" she said, feeling defeated by their refusal to see the truth. "They're just as powerful, just as deadly."
"But you aren't anything they've ever seen," Mercy said.
Sascha looked up into the other woman's face. "I'm only a broken Psy."