"The cat's getting desperate." Desperate enough that Vaughn could feel claws constantly pressing against his flesh, a mere thought away. How the hell could he trust himself with Faith's delicate skin?
"Then feed it," Lucas finally said. "We aren't Psy and Faith has to accept that before she makes any choice. Show her what you are."
"I've hardly been gentle with her so far."
"But you haven't demanded what you need either. I can feel your tension and it's already affecting the younger males in the pack." Another blunt truth - as sensitive as they were to scents in either form, Vaughn's unceasing sexual need was probably rubbing the juveniles raw. "Take her or find a cat to scratch the itch."
He bristled. "Would you f**k around on Sascha?"
"Exactly." Lucas shook his head. "You can't live without her. Do you even want to try?"
Hell no! And that quickly, he knew what he had to do. "Can you deal without me for a day or two?" The cat had had enough. It was taking over.
Lucas's attention shifted to the car gliding to a quiet halt on the other side of the site. "Good hunting. I'm going to go kiss my own woman."
Vaughn melted back into the forest, his beast stirring in anticipation of the most important hunt of his life. He was through playing by Faith's rules. The jaguar was loose and it was hungry. A roar came from his throat, rough and dangerous. Faith NightStar was about to come face-to-face with a predator determined to possess her. No compromises. No mercy.
Faith completed the forecast for BlueZ Industries, Sem-tech, and Lillane Contracting, then turned off the trigger panel. "I'm going to walk the grounds."
Only when she was outside and hidden by several large trees did she take a deep breath and rub her hands down the front of her jeans. She'd put them on instead of her usual dress in response to an early morning vision.
A jaguar was coming for her.
The vision had been a warning: choose. But she'd already made her decision, already accepted his claim. After today she'd never again return to this house, her safe place, her familiar place. Though she'd failed in her quest to track down Marine's killer - he hadn't bitten at her open mind last night, or this morning - she had to leave the PsyNet. Vengeance would still be hers. She knew.
Returning to the house, she did three more predictions before lunch. "Are you sure you feel no stress?" Xi Yun asked after the third.
"I think I've pushed myself far enough today." She'd need her strength to handle the predator heading in her direction.
"I can request a medical team attend you."
"That's not necessary. Given the increase in my raw psychic potential, I was trying to see how far my powers had come."
"Yes, of course. You should've told me in advance. I'll forward you the details of the scans. It appears your mind is regulating your body more efficiently during the forecasts. No stress lines at all."
"Excellent." An idea came to life. "I'll probably sleep deeply after this morning's exertion, so please ensure I'm not disturbed for at least twelve hours after I retire."
Aware she was being scrutinized for any erratic behavior as a result of nonexistent stress, she forced herself to follow her normal routines. Going into the kitchenette area, she poured and consumed a glass of the high-energy drink that carried most of the vitamins and minerals she needed, then ate two energy bars with slow deliberation. Next, she downloaded the promised medical scans onto her personal organizer and took a seat in the lounge area to go over them.
She had every intention of taking the data with her when she defected. It would likely be her last chance to access scans this detailed, and they were invaluable for an F-Psy, charting as they did every area of the brain. Including those sections most vulnerable to mental degradation. Because no matter what happened, she was an F-Psy and with that came a higher risk of insanity. It always had.
It was only after two hours that she stretched and walked into her bedroom, her eyes continuing to scan the files. Dropping the facade the second she was inside, she quickly packed her backpack with the few things she didn't want to leave behind. There wasn't much - her organizer, a holo-shot of Marine downloaded from the PsyClan's database, and one of her father. He'd consider her a traitor after tonight, but for all his coldness, he'd been the single constant in her life and she'd miss him. Finally, she threw in a change of clothes and that was it. A sad commentary on the life she'd lived to date.
Walking back out into the living area, she was surprised to hear the chime of an incoming call. "Yes?" she answered on audio.
"Your father wishes to speak to you."
"I'll turn on the screen."
"There's no need - he's at the gates."
Her hand dropped away from the screen-activation key, mouth suddenly the driest of deserts. "I'll meet him in the grounds." It hadn't been what she'd planned to say but, once again, the knowing had come to the fore.
Ending the call, she exited the house and started down the path that eventually led to the gate. Anthony only ever paid her a personal visit when he wanted to talk about confidential business and being outside was the easiest way to ensure privacy. She could think of two reasons for his surprise appearance today. It might be as simple as a request for a particularly sensitive forecast, but it could also be about a far more treacherous subject - her possible nomination to the Council.
Then there he was, striding toward her. A tall male with skin two or three shades darker than hers and black hair silvered at the temples. In his black suit, white shirt, and dark blue tie, he looked every inch the perfect Psy. What would he do if he discovered her planned defection?