"Anything you have to say can be said in front of us or not at all," Lucas stated.
Sascha managed to get the alpha to move enough that she could look at Faith. "He's my mate and Vaughn is Pack."
The renegade cardinal's loyalties couldn't have been clearer. Nothing Faith had learned on the PsyNet had prepared her for this... or for the considerable power in Sascha Duncan. Whatever she was, she was no flawed cardinal who couldn't hold on to the Net link. Faith would bet her life on that and perhaps she was going to have to. "If this gets back to the Council, they'll imprison me completely." And then they'd use her. Use her until she was empty of everything but madness.
"Not sentence you to rehabilitation?" A silky whisper against her ear.
"No. I'm too valuable."
Vaughn was startled by the complete lack of conceit or pride in that pronouncement. Faith spoke of herself as if she were talking about a machine or an investment. He looked down at the top of her head and wondered at the mind within. Was she as inhuman as she sounded, as cold? His instincts said otherwise - they saw her as something more, something intriguing.
"We don't tattle to the Council," Lucas spit out. "Now talk or leave."
"I think my ability is mutating." Cool, clear, haunting, her voice wasn't quite right. Wasn't quite ... complete. "I'm seeing things. Disturbing, violent things."
"Are the visions about specific events?" Sascha leaned against Lucas.
"Until two days ago, I thought not." Faith shifted a subtle inch.
Vaughn knew she was attempting to increase the distance separating them, but he didn't want that. He moved with her and felt her spine stiffen. But she didn't say anything to him, concentrating on answering Sascha's question.
"The relevant dreams and visions have a recurring motif of suffocation until death." Her voice remained unshaken by the horror of what it was she was describing. "Then two nights ago, I was told that my sibling, Marine, had become a victim of murder by manual strangulation."
Vaughn felt Sascha's empathy reach out to Faith but it seemed to have no effect. It was as if Faith NightStar were encased in a shell so hard, nothing could get in ... or out.
"Why come to me?" Sascha finally pushed around her unhappy mate to stand face-to-face with Vaughn's Psy.
Faith shifted her feet, but her voice remained steady. "You're the only Psy I know who won't immediately turn me in to the Council."
Vaughn's beast reacted strongly to the utter isolation implied by Faith's confession - it couldn't comprehend that kind of aloneness. Though he was a loner by nature, he knew his packmates would lay down their lives for him. Lucas wouldn't blink. Neither would Clay or any of the other sentinels. Even the damn wolves would defend him against anyone but another wolf.
Sascha shook her head. "What I have to tell you might not be what you want to hear."
"If I'd wanted lies, I would've gone to the Council or to my PsyClan."
Vaughn felt an unexpected stroke of pride. She was small, but there was strength in the female in front of him.
"How long before someone misses you?"
"I said yesterday that I'd be out of commission for three days, but I don't think their patience will last that long. I need to be back inside the compound sometime tomorrow night at the latest."
Sascha looked over her shoulder. Lucas scowled at the silent question, but jerked his head at Vaughn. "You got any ideas?"
"The old cabin." It was both far from any of their vulnerable people and hidden enough to provide privacy. "We have to blindfold her. Sascha can make sure she doesn't pull any Psy tricks."
"Don't talk about me as if I'm not standing right in front of you." A cool comment, but Vaughn wondered what had driven her to make it. Psy weren't known to take offense, because to take offense, they'd have to feel.
"Any objections to being blindfolded?"
"No. So long as it's Sascha who leads me."
"Leave her be, Vaughn." Sascha frowned. "She can't handle your energy."
"No way she gets to put a hand on you." He glanced at Lucas.
"Vaughn's right. We don't know anything about her."
Sascha turned to argue, but Vaughn knew Lucas wouldn't budge on this point.
The other man gripped his mate's wrist and said to Faith, "Let Vaughn lead you or leave."
Sascha seemed to realize this was one battle she wasn't going to win. "He won't touch you any more than necessary," she told Faith.
"Fine." She gave a short nod that sent her hair sliding everywhere. Standing so close, Vaughn couldn't fight the urge to run his fingers over the fire that shimmered even in the darkness. She went immobile, though she shouldn't have felt his featherlight touch.
"Here." Sascha pulled off her scarf and threw it to him.
Catching the makeshift blindfold, Vaughn enclosed Faith in the circle of his arms. She didn't move as he placed the soft material over her eyes, despite the fact that his front was pressed against her back. He was being deliberately provocative, taunting her. He'd never have done it if he'd thought her weak and easily bullied. No, this woman, despite her apparent fragility, was more than tough enough to take him on.
But as he finished fastening the knot, he felt a different kind of stillness steal over her. He imagined what it must be like - darkness, complete darkness, and she was having to trust people she'd only met minutes ago to do her no harm. It was to her credit that she did nothing but stand there in an appearance of utter calm. Deciding not to push her any more than he had already, he came around, took her hand, and hooked two of her fingers through a belt loop on his jeans.