A cold rush of wind across her face. The low rumble of Lucas's growl as he warned away something in their path. The rich scents of the forest. It all dragged her firmly into the physical. Glorying in her freedom to indulge, she threw herself into the experience as only a former inmate of Silence could.
But the exhilarating ride was over too soon and they were at the lair. Leaving her alone with Vaughn, Lucas went to grab some drinks. Sascha glanced at the male lounging against the window ledge across from her. "Vaughn."
"I know." The jaguar folded his arms across his chest, his tattoo hidden by the gray sweatshirt he was wearing over his jeans.
Lucas walked back into the room. "Catch." He threw a beer to Vaughn and handed her a bottle of cranberry juice - alcohol had an odd effect on Psy minds.
She waited until both men had taken long drafts from the dark green bottles. "I saw something in the Web."
Lucas wrapped one arm around her neck and began to play with the end of her braid. "What?"
"Maybe Vaughn should be the one to explain." She felt uncomfortable. "I didn't mean to breach your privacy. I'm really sorry."
The jaguar threw the half-empty bottle from hand to hand. "I knew you'd see the bond."
"With Faith?" Lucas stopped tugging at her braid. "Why didn't you tell us you'd mated?"
"Because Faith doesn't know." Vaughn thrust a hand through his hair, his frustration evident. "She's not ready."
"You can't ignore a mate," Lucas pointed out. "The bond has a way of showing itself at unexpected moments."
"She's feeling trapped as it is - how do you think this is going to look to her?" Vaughn rocked back on his heels. "Could other Psy detect the bond?"
Sascha took a moment to think about it. "They shouldn't. The mating bond is changeling in nature, completely separate from the PsyNet. But" - she paused - "Faith is linked to both. I don't know how that's going to affect things. You need to tell her."
"It might make her run. She's had enough as it is."
Sascha knew he was right. Vaughn was the sentinel Sascha had always been the most wary of - there was something dangerously primal about him. His animal roamed very close to the skin. She couldn't imagine how Faith was going to deal with such an aggressive male. The F-Psy was new at emotion, at feeling anything. To ask her to embrace not only a male like Vaughn, but also the extreme devotion implied by the mating bond, might be to ask for far too much.
But as Lucas had already stressed, the bond couldn't be ignored. "She might surprise you," Sascha said. "She's seeing some horrific things without any training in how to deal with them, but she hasn't crashed. I think Faith is tougher than even she knows."
Vaughn's body was a tight wall of muscle as he faced them. "How do we get her out of the Net? Will the Web be able to support both of you at the same time?"
Sascha bit her lower lip. "I think there's enough biofeedback." Feedback no Psy could live without, the reason why dropping out of the PsyNet usually equaled suicide. "Two Psy minds should, in theory, augment the multiplication effect."
"Should?" Lucas shifted around to scowl at her.
Vaughn watched Sascha scowl back. "It's pure guesswork. DarkRiver's Web isn't supposed to exist in the first place. I don't know how it'll work, but we have to try. There's no other choice."
Lucas turned to him. "Shit, Vaughn. You had to go and mate with another damn Psy." Dragging his mate closer, he bit her lightly on the neck. "Okay, so we have to utilize the Web. We'll figure out the rest later."
"It could kill all four of us if we get it wrong and there's not enough feedback," Vaughn said, fists clenched.
"Then I'll just have to blood-oath some new sentinels if that's what it takes to strengthen the Web." Lucas's promise held the determination of a friendship forged in the darkest of fires. "But first, we need to get Faith out. Any ideas?"
"Use the disc?" Sascha was referring to the incriminating recording they'd created when they'd taken down the serial killer who'd butchered Kylie and mind-raped the SnowDancer, Brenna.
Vaughn wanted to grab at the idea, but he was a sentinel, sworn to protect DarkRiver. "The reasons why we didn't originally release the recording still apply. We can't take the risk of the Council feeling backed into a corner." An animal in that position had nothing to lose by trying to go for the kill.
"He's right," Lucas said. "They can't know how many more times we might blackmail them."
"Talk to me, Sascha." Vaughn folded his arms and tried to contain the urge to simply take what he wanted and damn the consequences. "Is there anything else you can think of?"
"Faith's isolated lifestyle is one thing in our favor." Sascha leaned against Lucas's side. "People know her name, but very few have actually seen her. Her dropping out won't cause as big a ripple as my defection did. But on the other hand, losing her will rob the Council of millions."
"Taxes in the most basic sense," Sascha answered. "F-Psy create enormous amounts of money and it flows up. I know from my mother that in certain cases, the Council uses foreseers to increase its wealth in a much more direct fashion. They get the service free or at a generous discount."
"Let me guess," Vaughn interrupted, enraged at the idea of his mate doing anything to assist that group of coldblooded monsters. "Nobody wants to piss off the big, bad Council by asking for payment."
Sascha nodded. "People who get paid have a habit of disappearing and leaving their money to the Council."