Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling 3) - Page 15

Taking a deep breath, Brenna poured out the whole sordid story, then asked, "Did he do something to my mind?" She stared down at the purity of the snow in an effort to make herself feel less dirty...less raped.

Faith's answer was to say, "Walk with me, Brenna." She took them on a slow stroll to the bottom of the waterfall. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

She looked up. "Yes." Before, she would've been the first to say that, to see the good out there. One day, she promised herself fiercely, she'd get back that lost part of her, the part that believed in joy.

Bending down, Faith picked up a smooth stone that had been stranded on the edge of the waterfall and rolled it between her fingers as she rose, her face set in thought. "I've never heard of a situation where a non-Psy was altered to have Psy abilities. But they do sound like visions of a sort." She dropped the stone back to earth and nodded as if reaching a decision. "I need to go into your mind."

"No." An instinctive response, unadorned by civilized thought. "I'm sorry, but no."

"Never apologize for protecting yourself." Faith sounded furious. "I know what it's like to feel as if your mind is the only safe place."

"Except it isn't. Not anymore." That was what threatened to destroy her. How did she wash herself clean if the evil was lodged inside of her, becoming more a part of her with each passing hour? She dashed the incipient self-pity with sheer effort of will - it was a weakness she couldn't afford. "Can you still help?"

"I can try." Shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat, Faith blew out a breath. "Do you think you can access the part of your mind that the visions are coming from?"

"I don't know how." The truth was, she didn't want to go to that twisted place in her soul.

Faith's eyes held no judgment, only understanding. "I know it'll hurt, but I want you to attempt to relive the vision. At the same time, imagine shoving all that - thoughts, feelings, images - outward."

Brenna's gorge rose at the idea of returning to the malevolence, but she was no coward. She reached inward...and found it horrifyingly easy to awaken the memories, to feel the victim's fear and her own sadistic satisfaction. Stomach threatening to revolt, she thrust the emotions and images out of her mind with the desperation of a trapped creature. This evil wasn't her, couldn't be her. Because if it was, then she hadn't walked out sane from the butcher's torture chamber. She had walked out a nightmare.

"Enough."

Brenna clamped down on the repugnant stream of memory. "Did it work?" The snow was too bright. It hurt her eyes.

Faith was frowning when she replied, "I'm not that powerful a telepath, but I did catch bits and pieces - things you pushed outside your shields. All I can say is that it doesn't...taste like foresight."

"I can hear a 'but.'"

"There's something there that shouldn't be - not wrong by itself, but because you're changeling." The foreseer folded her arms around herself. "I hate the cold up here."

"I like it - the way the snow makes everything pure again." She regretted the words the second they were out. Faith's eyes were too intelligent, too knowledgeable. "Can you tell me anything more?"

Thankfully, the F-Psy took her lead. "I think Enrique succeeded in doing something to your brain itself."

At the echo of Judd's words, Brenna felt her nails cut into her palms. "Could he have caused irreversible damage?"

Night-sky eyes met hers. "I wish I could answer you with certainty, but I can't. I'm sorry, Brenna." She touched a hand fleetingly to Brenna's arm. "What I can say is that everything you've told me points to a psychic side effect, rather than an organic one. You were scanned at a human hospital, weren't you?"

She nodded. "Lara and Sascha wanted to make sure they'd caught everything." An M-Psy - gifted with the ability to see inside a body - could have done the same thing at less cost, but her pack didn't much trust any Psy hooked up to the PsyNet.

"Then I don't think you have to worry about brain damage - those scanning machines catch the tiniest tears and lesions. I should know. While in the Net, I was scanned on a regular basis."

The practical reminder grounded Brenna. She'd seen the scans herself, seen the lack of damage. "So what do you think he did?"

"Well, Enrique did say he experimented on changeling women. We read that as the justification of a madman, but perhaps it wasn't. Perhaps he succeeded with you."

"He still would've killed me." Enrique had been pleased with her, but only as you'd be pleased with a lab rat. It, too, was disposable. "Is there any way to find out what his goal was?" And whether he'd torn into her brain for reasons other than psychopathic pleasure.

"He has to have kept records." Faith sounded very sure. "I'll ask those I can, but it's almost certain that they're in the Council's hands by now."

In other words, utterly out of their reach. "If you had to guess, what would you say he was trying to achieve?"

"Let me think." Faith picked up a handful of snow and began to sift it through her fingers. Flakes caught on the dark green of her gloves. "Do you mind if I ask Sascha? I won't tell her details about the dreams - just what Enrique might've done to your mind."

Brenna looked at the waterfall rather than at Faith. "Ask."

Faith's eyes lost focus for a microsecond before brightening again. "Okay, I've got her." A pause. "Apparently," she said into the silence, "Enrique thought that changeling women were perfect because of their ability to bear emotion without breaking."

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