She used that moment to push through the hidden door and lock it behind her. Something slammed into it a second later - Enrique's mind trying to shove into hers, destroy hers. Cracks appeared in the already fragmented shields around the doorway.
"Very clever, Sascha," he said. "How long have you been hiding out here?"
She didn't answer, trying to patch up the door enough that she could run into the second layer of her shields. Even so close to him, her senses picked up nothing of the deep-seated rage she'd expected from the murderer. Enrique didn't feel. And yet he killed.
You're a race of psychopaths!
Dorian's accusation ripped open from some forgotten pocket of memory.
No conscience, no heart, no feelings! How else do you define psychopath?
The true horror of Silence hit her so hard, her inner walls shook. But there was no time to think. Enrique was close to breaking through. Slamming a temporary block on the door to her mind, she ran through the second layer of shields just as the block on the outer shields shattered.
He was inside her mind.
His power crashed into her, shocking pain into every synapse. Shaking, she threw everything she had into her inner shields and went even deeper, until she was behind a third layer. Enrique couldn't violate these so easily. They were the natural walls of the mind - the walls he'd ripped open in the changeling women he'd taken. She had no doubt he'd tear her apart, too, if she gave him the time.
Fed by adrenaline, she found her mental link to the PsyNet. Even Enrique's trap couldn't cut that link. It went too deep, was too instinctive. She touched the lifeline for the last time and whispered, "Good-bye."
Enrique hit her with another Shockwave of pain and at that exact instant, she sliced the link into two. Everything stopped for her. Her mind was silent. Alone. There were no stars in the darkness, nothing but emptiness.
Death opened its arms.
She screamed awake in Lucas's hold. Excruciating agony cramped every nerve in her body and she could feel her mind desperately trying to re-create the link. Forcing herself to think despite the red-hot torture sparking through her, she cauterized the wound and shut down the instinctive reaching. It hurt. Like being shot point-blank in the face.
The agony was everywhere. Her skin felt as if it was being flayed off her. Her mind screamed and screamed, gasping for the feedback it needed to survive. She clawed at Lucas's chest, unable to breathe. Claustrophobia closed around her, the darkness pressing down deeper than Enrique's attempts at crushing her mind. She was going to choke to death. Alone. She was so alone.
Alone. Dark. Black. Cold.
Lucas was terrified by what he saw in Sascha's eyes. All the stars had disappeared in a blink when she'd opened her eyes and now there was such deep ebony in the depths, he thought he could see eternity.
"Sascha!" He shook her, ignoring the others who'd run into the room at the sound of her screams. It didn't occur to him that he knew the killer's name, that he could start the hunt for vengeance. Only she mattered. "Sascha!" She didn't respond. It was as if she couldn't see him.
He wasn't Psy. He couldn't get into her mind. But he could anchor her another way. Wrapping one hand around her nape, he pulled her close and kissed her. Hard. Without mercy. It was a brutal, savage, possessive kiss and it held every emotion he felt for her. He poured it all into her mouth, calling her back with touch. Her claw-like grip eased but she clung to him, wrapping her arms and legs around him as if she wanted to crawl into his soul.
Alone. So alone.
It was as if he heard the words in his mind. Had she linked? Had she followed through on her promise? Was that why he could feel the load of darkness pressing down on her? He pushed it back with heat and fire and emotion, squeezing her body close.
When he broke the kiss so she could breathe, she whimpered, "No, no, no, no." He pressed his lips against hers once again. The darkness was no longer so heavy but it wasn't disappearing. Why not? She was linked to him. She wasn't alone. Not anymore. Never again.
The next time the kiss broke, she took a deep breath and said, "It's Councilor Santano Enrique. He feels nothing. Doesn't know about you. Thinks I'm just flawed." It came out in a staccato rush - as if she were spitting things out before they were forever lost.
Lucas looked at Hawke, who'd been first into the room. "Go. Dorian. Vaughn." His eyes locked with the jaguar's. Vaughn gave a slight nod. He understood his job - to protect Dorian from his own rage. Lucas couldn't go with them, not with his mate growing alarmingly weak in his arms.
Hawke's eyes slid to Sascha, who was starting to draw shallow breaths that sounded like fatal whispers. "What's wrong with her?" He held his arm out to stop Brenna's two brothers from leaving the room in pursuit of their quarry. It was an indication of his power that they paused though their eyes had gone wolf.
"She's dying." Tamsyn pushed between the males to touch Sascha's cheek.
Sascha jerked. "Enrique lives in... uh..." Her teeth began to chatter.
"We have the address." Hawke's face was a study in the most chilling fury. "I'll take care of him." The words were directed at Lucas.
It was time to trust the wolf.
"Complete the plan." They'd hatched it between them early this morning. It was designed to keep Sascha safe... forever. "Go." He was entrusting Hawke with his mate's life. The plan had called for Lucas to ensure this part of their strategy was implemented, but not for anything would he leave Sascha.
"Your Psy belongs to us, too. We won't fail her." Hawke moved and the four wolves in the room, along with Dorian and Vaughn, streamed out with him.
Tamsyn dropped a throw around Sascha's shaking body. "I don't understand. Your mind should be feeding hers."