He broke the kiss and had the pleasure of feeling her nails dig into his skin as she tried to make him return. "Faith."
She pressed closer, her eyes remaining shut.
"Faith." He made his voice a command edged with the roughness of a growl. It wasn't difficult. This aroused, he had trouble controlling the beast. It was something Faith was going to have to learn to deal with, but not today. Today was about keeping her safe. "Open your eyes."
She shook her head, but her hands slipped down from around his neck to curl into fists against his chest.
A slow smile spread over his lips. "I'm not naked." Taking one feminine fist, he pressed it against his jean-covered thigh, then had to bite back a very sexual demand when the fingers of that hand spread and sent sensation straight to his groin.
"Are you real?"
It was a question that made it brutally clear how deep she'd retreated into her mind before he'd pulled her out. Leaning forward, he nipped at the skin of her neck. She jerked and opened her eyes at last.
Silver lightning sparked in their night-sky depths, vivid and wild.
"What?" she asked, when he continued to stare.
"I can see lightning."
"How - ?" She shook her head but didn't shift off his lap, and that told him everything he needed to know. "Thank you."
She gave him a wary look. "Why are you being so agreeable?"
Because the cat found it amusing to tease her. "I'm always agreeable."
The wariness turned into full-blown disbelief. "You're playing cat games with me."
Surprised by her quick understanding, he shrugged. "I am a cat."
"You're right." Then she did something that stunned the hell out of him. Drawing up her body, she took a deep breath and brushed the most fleeting of kisses over his lips. "Thank you. I wouldn't have made it out on my own."
Raw anger wiped out the playfulness. "What the hell were you doing going alone into that kind of a vision in the first place?"
"You know I can't control them."
Pressing her closer with hands that threatened to go clawed, he stared straight into those lightning-storm eyes. "Then learn."
Faith blinked, not sure how to handle Vaughn in his current mood. But everything she'd learned about predators, about him, told her not to betray her lack of assurance. "I can hardly learn to control something without rules," she pointed out, "and there are none for the F-Psy, none that ensure the visions will only ever come when I want them to come. Yes, I can usually set them off with certain markers, but I can't hold them back for long periods of time."
"My trainers, the PsyClan, the Council..." Understanding dawned. "Why wouldn't they teach me to block the visions if there were a way?"
"What would that control mean for the PsyClan?"
"It would contribute to a considerable rise in income," she said. "I could produce on command - there'd be no chance of my having a vision during sleep or in any other situation where my recall could be compromised, as sometimes happens now. So their not teaching me control, if they know how to accomplish it, makes no sense."
"Faith, why do you live in this house surrounded by sensors?"
She didn't want to answer and the impulse was so against any kind of rational behavior that she knew she couldn't give in to it. "Sometimes the visions are hard on my body and mind. I need to be monitored in case I need assistance."
"And if you could control the visions, then you could contain them until you reached a safe location. There would be no need for you to be caged up here."
Faith slowly drew her hands away from his body. "You want me to say they don't teach me control because this way I'm dependent on them, my ability at their beck and call. I have no choice but to forecast."
"What I want is for you to use that sensible Psy brain of yours - if they can train your visions to be lucrative and business focused, don't you think they could train you to decide whether or not you wanted to give in to a vision at any particular moment?"
For a member of a race notorious for acting first and thinking later, he made far too much sense. "Be that as it may," she said, instead of confronting his irrefutable logic, "I can't control them now and I absolutely cannot control the dark visions. Neither can I risk betraying the degradation of my conditioning by asking for further training."
"You're a cardinal." Vaughn tipped up her chin until she could no longer avoid meeting that wild gold gaze. "You don't need anyone to hold your hand."
"But I do need someone to hold back the darkness." There was no way she could become proficient enough at control, if control was even possible, soon enough to fight its growing power. "I can't break its grip when it hooks into me."
"Maybe because you've locked away what you need to fight it."
She pushed off his chest and slid down to kneel beside him. "Emotion."
He stretched out onto his back, acting as if this were his territory. She'd read about the way predatory male changelings liked to claim territory, be it land or sexual mates. Flames raced through her, a memory of the earlier lightning storm.
"Fire to fight fire, Red."
The echo of her thoughts might've startled her if she hadn't been concentrating on keeping her eyes from moving over the body lying so carelessly on her bed. Big and dangerous, there was at the same time something ultimately strokable about Vaughn.
"I can't." She shook her head to dispel the strange compulsion. "You don't understand the extent of the madness that infected the F-Psy before the implementation of the Silence Protocol." She'd seen the records, records no one could've doctored. "My own family records show generation upon generation of mad ones."