She went quiet again. He walked them out of the shower and dried them both. When he carried her to the bed, she didn't protest. And when he claimed her in the most physical way, she gave him her surrender. Afterward, they lay intertwined, watching dawn infiltrate the room on slender beams of light.
Faith moved to rest with her cheek against his chest, her hand over his heart. And then she cried. He stroked her hair and her back, not knowing how else to comfort her. But what he did know was that these hot, wet raindrops had nothing to do with him. He enclosed her in his arms and the jaguar spoke to her in rough, wordless murmurs.
Several long minutes later, she took a shuddering breath. "They came after me as if I were an animal to be tracked down and bagged."
He clenched his fist in her hair, but didn't interrupt.
"I thought - perhaps my father - of course not, he's Psy. He wanted his investment back. It didn't matter to him to find out the choices I'd made, that killing you would kill me, too."
"I'm not that easy to take out, Red."
"It's stupid, but I feel betrayed by Father, though he was never truly a father to me. How could he have allowed them to come after me like that?"
Vaughn had no answers to soothe that hurt. So he just held her, held her and told her that her worth to him was beyond any price. After a while, she slept. Secure in his home, a home no Psy could enter without setting off a hundred booby traps, he, too, went into the twilight.
Faith woke at nine. Her body didn't want to sleep in, despite having been deprived of rest. Her cat, on the other hand, complained when she moved and told her to lie still. Able to smile this morning, though the smile was a little fragile, she settled back against him, listened to the sound of the waterfall, and took in the sunlight pouring in through the ingenuity of Vaughn's vent designs.
The light swept through carefully placed pieces of colored glass to lay mosaic patterns on the carpets. Her Psy mind found them intricately beautiful. So organized but different with every minute, changing as the light changed. She was admiring them from the bed when the wall-mounted communication console chimed. Knowing there was no way Vaughn was going to budge, she wiggled out from under his arm and walked over to answer it. They really had to get something for the bedside, she thought, answering with audio only.
The voice that returned her greeting was so unexpected, she didn't reply for ten complete seconds. In those ten seconds, Vaughn was fully awake and by her side. She let him make the rest of the decisions. Because for her, the person on the other side of the communications hookup was akin to a ghost.
Less than four hours later, Faith walked into a meeting room at DarkRiver's business headquarters, Vaughn by her side. Located near the bustle of Chinatown, the building was both central and heavily protected, not only by changeling strength but also by the human ability to blend in - thus hearing things most Psy thought secret. In turn, the people of the area looked to DarkRiver for reciprocal protection against gangs.
However, Faith's mind wasn't on security right then. She was, in fact, incapable of any rational thought. But she reacted almost automatically, years of training kicking in. "Hello, Father."
Anthony NightStar rose to his feet, but didn't approach her. "Hello, Faith."
Faith didn't know what to feel. She'd readied herself for being cut off from the Psy, contact with her forbidden under Council mandate.
Anthony's eyes flicked to Vaughn's silent presence. "Privacy may be in order."
She felt Vaughn bristle, but he let her answer for herself. "Vaughn is my mate. He's welcome to my secrets."
Anthony didn't press the issue, which wasn't surprising. Her father was an eminently logical man and had quickly understood that this issue was nonnegotiable. "Then let's talk."
She took a seat across the table from him and put a hand on Vaughn's arm in unspoken request. He acquiesced, sitting down to her right instead of standing like a jaguar just waiting for an excuse to pounce.
"Your defection has affected every aspect of the PsyClan."
"I know." Her choice had been the right one, but the far-reaching consequences continued to haunt her. "How much did the clan lose?" How many jobs had been affected? How many lives?
"Not as much as we would have had we not taken preemptive action."
She frowned and saw Anthony's eyes focus on the betraying gesture. "I thought Juniper wasn't yet forecasting with high accuracy."
Anthony shook his head. "She isn't. She's eight years old and nowhere near as skilled as you were at the same age."
Vaughn spoke for the first time. "She's a child. Let her be one."
"Our worlds are different, Mr. D'Angelo," Anthony responded, though he hadn't been told Vaughn's last name. "To let Juniper be a child as you suggest would leave her abilities untrained and unshielded, open to exploitation." He raised a hand to forestall comment. "Yes, the PsyClan will use her talents as we used Faith's, but we'll also undertake to ensure her welfare. In the past, before the PsyClans came into being, some F-Psy were kept captive by others of all races for personal gain."
"Father," Faith interrupted, "if not Juniper, then who?"
Vaughn's entire body went hunting-quiet beside her. She was glad. She knew the power of the PsyClan and exactly how far it would go to get its way.
"She's no longer yours." A human voice but a jaguar's lethal challenge.
"No. But her ability exists whether she's in the Net or not." Anthony didn't flinch. "She can be subcontracted to do the work for NightStar."