It wasn't crushing yet, the darkness. It felt... satisfied. Its needs had been fulfilled for the time being and it was relishing the bloody rush. But then it showed her a glimpse of the future. A future she could no more not see than she could stop breathing.
Unable to bear the ugliness, she tried to draw back. It refused to let her. Her heart beat in a dangerous, jagged rhythm. This was impossible, her practical Psy mind tried to point out. But it was drowned out by the primitive core of her psyche. It screamed because it knew that this was possible.
Sometimes, visions didn't let go. Ever. The end result was insanity so deep and true that no more than twisted fragments of the mind remained. Faith clawed at the darkness, but there was nothing to hold on to, nothing to fight her way out of. It was everywhere and nowhere, an enclosing prison she couldn't break. Her racing heart began to go sluggish as her mind concentrated every ounce of energy on finding a way out. Only to slam up against a blank wall.
Touch intruded, a sensory alarm so shocking that it snapped the twining threads of the vision. She woke with a gasp, her eyes clashing with a pair that were not quite human. A ragged breath later, she became aware of hands holding on to her upper arms. Skin to skin. Her tank top was soaked with perspiration and, by rights, she should've begun to cascade because of the sensory overload, but she said, "Don't let go." Her voice was a rasp. "Don't let go or I'll fall back in."
Vaughn tightened his hold, worried by the look in Faith's eyes. There was something unfocused about them, as if she wasn't fully awake. "Talk to me, Faith."
She kept breathing those jerky ragged breaths and then, to his surprise, reached out to put her hands flat against his bare chest. Her touch was pure heat when he'd expected coolness. It burned and the jaguar wanted more. "Don't let me fall back in. Please, Vaughn. Please."
He didn't understand what she was so afraid of, but he was a sentinel - he knew how to protect. His senses had lit up in warning minutes ago, though Faith hadn't made a sound. He'd walked into her room on silent feet, expecting her to wake and tell him to get the hell out. Instead, he'd found her barely breathing, her skin sheened in sweat, her hands curled into fists so tight she'd been bleeding from tiny cuts made by her nails.
Now those same instincts had him locking his arms tight around her. Touch unsettled Faith; maybe it would unsettle her enough to bring her back from wherever it was that she'd gone.
He finally realized what it was about her eyes that had worried him - the complete lack of stars. He'd seen Sascha's eyes do that before, but there had been something different about Faith tonight, as if there were a deeper darkness behind the one he could see. He ran a hand up her back and under her hair to close over her nape. The woman he'd met hours earlier would've been shoving him away and threatening to go into seizures. This one was too still, too passive.
"Shall I kiss you, Red?" It was a dare. "Never kissed a Psy before. Might be fun."
Her breath hitched and she shook her head against him like a kitten shaking off wet. Then she shoved at his chest. The devil might've made him keep her with him for a second longer, but he was all too aware that her body had had an unexpected effect on his. He was used to his sexuality; what he wasn't used to was it reacting so completely against his wishes. Letting Faith pull free, he watched as she scrambled backward until her back pressed against the headboard. The eyes staring into his were wide and full of stars.
He made his smile a slow tease. "So, you back?"
She nodded, continuing to stare at him as if he were some large wild animal who might see her as dessert. She wasn't far wrong. The cat definitely liked the smell of this Psy and the man found her disturbingly fascinating.
"I've never scared anyone by threatening to kiss them before," he commented, checking her face for any lingering signs of whatever it was that had frightened her badly enough that he'd become safe.
"I don't feel fear."
He tugged at her tank top. "Lost control of your physiological responses again, huh?"
She pulled the damp fabric from his grasp. "Even Psy can't control sweat in sleep."
"You going to be okay?"
Faith didn't want him to go, an illogical reaction. Vaughn couldn't stop the visions if they were determined to come, but some irrational part of her was convinced that if he left, the darkness would return and this time, nothing would make it let go. "Of course."
"You don't look it." He scowled and reached to push her hair off her face. "Do you want to shower?"
His touch made every nerve ending ignite but she held strong. She could handle this. It was what had brought her back from the vision and she'd learn to deal with anything that helped keep the darkness at bay. "Yes. Will I wake Sascha and Lucas?"
"They're not here."
"We're alone?" She suddenly felt vulnerable in a way that was so viscerally female, it was an utterly new sensation.
"You didn't think I'd let our alpha and his mate remain in a spot that a cardinal Psy knew about?" He snorted. "We might've blindfolded you, but Psy have other ways of knowing."
"You thought I'd lead others here."
"It was a possibility."
She didn't know what to say, hadn't expected Sascha to abandon her like this. Though of course, once she thought about it, her supposition had no basis in fact.
"She didn't want to go," Vaughn said, and almost startled her into an overt physical response. "But we weren't going to let her heart put her in danger."