The odd thing was, she didn't want to remain in here until Sascha arrived. What Vaughn was doing threatened her sanity, but it also ... stimulated her. For the first time in her life, she felt alive in more than the mind alone. Her body had always seemed like something that wasn't quite hers, but now it was very definitely a part of her - Vaughn stretched every one of her senses to the extreme.
And he made the darkness go away.
Getting up, she rubbed her palms on her thighs. There was no logical reason to walk out that door, but Faith decided that today, logic wouldn't help her much. She was in changeling territory, predatory changeling territory. They lived by different rules.
He wasn't waiting for her in the hallway as she'd half expected. Neither was he in the living room. Thinking that he might have stepped out, she walked to the porch and sat down in a chair-swing she hadn't noticed the previous night. The motion of the swing was soothing, but the fact that she couldn't see Vaughn left her unable to fully relax.
The scrape of claws on wood.
She sat perfectly still as a large jaguar walked around the corner and prowled over. The eyes that watched her out of that savage, wild face were familiar, but no less dangerous. He walked past her, rubbing the side of his heavy, warm body against her legs.
The sensation was indescribable.
Her mind tumbled as it tried to process the new information. The slide of fur over clothing, the heavy nonhuman heat, the sheer beauty of the creature so close to her. Part of her wanted to reach out and touch, the part that had lived a life inside of walls so thick there had been no other living presence within touching distance. But another part of her wanted to run. Because this predator had very sharp teeth and he hadn't decided whether she was friend or foe.
He turned and rubbed across her legs once again. Her breath caught in her throat, her heart slamming hard against her ribs. And she knew she'd reached overload level. Her mind was about to go critical - the false sense of security that had allowed her to fence with him this morning was gone under the looming reality of a mental cascade. She pulled her feet up onto the swing and wrapped her arms around her knees. Desperately fighting the closing wings of darkness, she heard a low, throaty growl.
She refused to open her eyes, refused to allow any more sensation into her mind. She had to stop hearing, stop feeling, stop seeing. Maybe then she could control the nerves going haywire inside of her. That was when human male hands cupped her face and everything snapped.
Vaughn felt Faith go completely motionless under his touch. A split second later, her body spasmed with such violence that he knew she'd lost control of it. The second time, he barely caught her before she hit her head hard against the back of the swing, but she was already unconscious.
"No," he whispered, voice raw. He would not allow the Council to win and if he left Faith alone and untouched, they would. It had become imperative to him that this Psy became strong enough to make choices other than those mandated for her.
Deciding against taking her inside, he was about to stand when he heard the distant noise of an approaching car. Identifying it from the sound of the eco-engine, he used his considerable speed to go into the house and pull on some clothes. He was outside on the swing with Faith in his arms by the time Lucas and Sascha pulled up. Sascha almost leaped from the vehicle and ran up the steps.
"Oh, God, Vaughn!" Her rapidly darkening eyes moved over Faith's silent body. "How could - "
"I know what I'm doing." Sascha might be an E-Psy, but the jaguar wasn't budging on this one point. The cat knew something she didn't, knew it on the deepest, most primitive level. If anyone had asked Vaughn to explain, he wouldn't have been able to put his certainty into words, but that made it no less strong.
"She's so deeply unconscious that I can't reach her and you think you know what you're doing?" Her words were bullet fast.
"Lucas," Vaughn said quietly.
The alpha's eyes met his. "Are you sure?"
Sascha turned furiously to her mate and when she didn't speak aloud, Vaughn knew she was yelling at Lucas mind-to-mind. Lucas couldn't broadcast speech, but the two had discovered that he could hear her perfectly fine. It made sense given that Lucas's great-great-grandmother had been Psy.
The alpha winced and caught Sascha around the waist to haul her up against his body. "He's a sentinel. He protects. Leave it be, darling."
"He might protect, but that protection doesn't stretch to Faith."
"It does now."
Everyone went silent. "Since when?" Lucas asked.
"Since I decided."
Sascha glanced from one male to the other then shook her head in obvious frustration. "Let me see if she's doing any better." Wiggling out of Lucas's grip, she came over. "She's like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon."
He understood, and because she was one of the few beings he respected, he said, "I won't bruise her wings, Sascha darling."
A smile flirted with her lips at the small tease. "What's gotten into you?"
He didn't reply as she put her hands over Faith's body and tried to read her emotional temperature. The truth was, he didn't know the answer. Not withstanding the promise he'd just made, he wasn't sure about Faith. Her story made sense, yet it could very well be a clever facade. The cat didn't think so, but despite its predatory nature, the cat was sometimes innocent in a way the human male could never be.
"She's shut down to a point where I'd compare it to a coma - I don't know when she'll come out of it."
Vaughn cradled Faith against his chest. "She'll be fine in a few minutes."