A slight tug as she curled her fingers. "Thank you."
As they followed Lucas and Sascha more slowly to the car, Faith spoke to him. "You think I'm making it up. I'm not."
"About the seizures. I've seen recorded instances of F-Psy collapsing after too much sensory input."
He scowled. "Are you telling me you're never touched?"
"Once every six months they do a medical checkup that involves some unavoidable touching. And of course, I sometimes need other medical attention." She tripped and pressed a hand against his back to steady herself, a fleeting imprint of feminine softness that was gone as soon as it had come. "I apologize."
"Only medics touch you? You've never been held?"
"Perhaps when I was an infant, I might have been cradled by nursing staff."
Even after all that he'd learned from Sascha about her race, he couldn't imagine the inhuman coldness of such an existence. "We're at the car."
She let him nudge her into the vehicle. Taking the seat next to her, he pulled the door shut. They started moving almost immediately. Faith was like a statue next to him. If he hadn't been able to see the rise and fall of her breath, hadn't been able to smell the soft woman scent of her, he would've thought her made of -
Soft woman scent.
His beast went into a hunting crouch. Because unlike the guards who had blanketed the area around her home in their distinctive scent, Faith didn't smell Psy. Just like Sascha. Most of the psychic race gave off a metallic stink that repelled changelings, but nothing about Faith repelled him, though neither man nor cat liked her coldness. The lack of the distinctive smell could be coincidence. On the other hand, it could be an indicator of those Psy who hadn't given in completely to the inhumanity that was Silence.
Curious, he found himself leaning over to take another sniff. She went even more stiff and Sascha looked around to glare at him. He smiled. Shaking her head, she turned back. Sascha was learning that sometimes, cats would do what they'd do.
"Why do you think your gift is mutating?" he asked Faith, shifting to sit closer than he knew she would've liked.
"I forecast for business. That's what I'm trained for and what my ability has always manifested itself as."
She turned her head, though she couldn't see him. "Why do you sound unconvinced?"
"The Psy have a way of training away powers they don't like." The cat in him was fascinated by the beauty of her skin. It was so rich and luscious he almost thought it might taste of cream.
"You can't train away foresight."
"No, but maybe you can channel it." This came from Sascha. "Tell a child something often enough and she starts to believe it."
Lucas stroked his fingers over his mate's cheek and Vaughn wanted to do the same with Faith. Delicate, icy, she was hardly the type of woman who usually attracted him, but there was something fascinating about her, something compelling.
"How old were you when they started training you?" he asked his Psy. He'd found her first. Therefore, she was his. It was the cat talking and Vaughn didn't feel like arguing.
"I was placed in the care of the PsyClan at three years of age."
"What does that mean?"
"Most children are raised by a parent or parents. I was raised by the PsyClan's nurses and medics. It was for my own good - F-Psy need isolation or they go clinically insane."
His beast clawed at the walls of his mind. "Three years old and you were isolated?" This time he did reach out and slide strands of her hair through his fingers. She didn't react in any obvious way, but he could feel her tension. Good. He wanted her disturbed - that damn shell she had around herself irritated the hell out of him.
"Yes." She moved, causing her hair to slip out of his fingers. "I had the necessary teachers and trainers, but they all came to me. I rarely left the compound as a child."
"I didn't know they did that," Sascha whispered from the front. "How did you survive?"
"It was for my own good." There was something almost childlike in the staccato rhythm of Faith's voice, as if she was repeating something that had been pounded into her.
It made Vaughn want to hold her.
His thoughts slammed to a halt at the alien urge. Drawing back to his side of the car, he armed every one of his protections and reminded himself that, blindfolded or not, Faith was a cardinal. And cardinals didn't need to raise a hand to incapacitate their prey.
They could manipulate or kill with a single thought.
Faith felt Vaughn move away and breathed a soft sigh of what some might have called relief. He was too big, too intimidating, though she'd never admit that out loud. Without having seen him, she already knew what he was built like, all lean muscle and fury. Part of her, the same part that had walked into a dark forest without stopping and then stepped out in front of a huge hunting cat, was fascinated by him.
Of course the fascination was purely intellectual, but that made it no less unwelcome. Apparently there was a streak of idiocy in her mental makeup that had survived conditioning, a streak that delighted in sticking its hand into the fire and waiting to see how badly it burned.
Added to the stress of their questions about her childhood, it was too much. She could feel herself reaching her mental limits. She'd rarely interacted this much with anyone and never with people who hid nothing of what they felt, who touched and spoke with the most unacceptable degree of emotion.
What if her shields cracked? Going into a seizure could cause major damage to her brain and leave her exposed in the most intimate sense. In the recording she'd seen, the F-Psy in question had almost bitten off her tongue. She'd also lost control of her mental processes for the duration of the seizure - even her shields against the vast public spaces of the PsyNet had come down. Faith couldn't imagine anything worse. Every day of her life, the visions forced their way into her mind. She needed some sense of control, some sense of safety, some sense of being alone within the walls of her psyche, if nowhere else.