"My abilities aren't common, not the specific subdesignation." Of which she could know nothing. The second she found out about his Tk, she'd classify him in the same group as Santano Enrique: the cabal of murderers. No matter what he'd decided about the need to force her to keep her distance, he didn't want Brenna seeing him that way. A jagged spike of pain speared through his skull - the dissonance had moved to stage two. "So there was no way for anyone to cross-check my statements about it."
She reached out to brush a lock of hair off his forehead and her skin felt so delicate, so different from his. "You lied."
"Yes. I began to deliberately make psychic mistakes while on Jax." Such as not applying enough pressure to cause death or the specific type of injury he'd been instructed to bring about. "Then I told them I was having dreams."
"Dreams?" Her forehead lined with concentration. "What's wrong with having dreams?"
"Psy don't dream." To dream was to be considered flawed. He'd begun dreaming as a child, but the dreams he had as an adult were not the ones he'd had then - before his ability had come to vicious life.
Brenna's hand clenched on his shoulder. "No freedom, even in sleep."
"No." He wanted to touch her hair, it looked so soft and silky. The dissonance became a fraction stronger, but it was nothing compared to what he'd undergone as a ten-year-old boy put into the custody of the squad's trainers. They'd placed modified electrodes on the most sensitive parts of his body, strapped him down, and proceeded to teach him the meaning of pain.
It had taken him only a week to learn to stop screaming, another five to stop blacking out. By his eleventh birthday, he could watch his arm being broken and not react. "My plan worked - they took me off Jax." They had also removed several others with related abilities. Interestingly, none of those men had ever asked to be put back on the drug.
"I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear that."
He didn't respond, his attention caught by something else.
"You're staring," Brenna accused a minute later, a faint blush coloring her cheeks.
"I apologize." Her skin looked creamy and rich in the warm light from the laz-fire, her hair golden and her eyes - they appeared lit from within. "You're staring, too."
Her blush deepened. "I can't help it. You're so pretty, so perfect."
It wasn't the word he'd been expecting and he wasn't sure it was the one he wanted to hear. "Are you attracted to perfection?" He wasn't being vain. He'd been told during advanced training that he had a face of perfect symmetry, something that attracted humans and changelings alike, and could, therefore, be used to his advantage. He'd never followed that advice - it would have been one step too far into the abyss.
She laughed, the sound husky and intimate. "No, pretty doesn't do it for me. Otherwise Tai would have succeeded in reeling me in during high school."
He recalled the young wolf's face - a shock of straight black hair, high cheekbones covered by healthy brown skin, slightly slanted blue-green eyes. The elements added up to a picture that Brenna's comment told him was attractive to females. Pretty. His hand curled into a fist on the carpet. "Then if you don't find me attractive, why are you staring?"
"I didn't say that." Brenna's voice had grown darker, hungrier. "If pretty was all you were, I wouldn't be so fascinated. You have dangerous eyes, a stubborn jaw, the body of a soldier, and the mind of a hunter. That, my darling Psy," she whispered, "makes you a gorgeous, sexy package I want to lick from head to toe."
Her confession was followed by silence so deep Judd could hear the whispers of the wind whipping around the cabin. Then her blush fired to red hot. "Oh, my God, I can't believe I actually said that out aloud."
Neither could he. The fact that she saw him as so sexually appealing was enough of a surprise to render him speechless. He was numb. Even the dissonance cut off - likely reading his reaction as one of complete unemotionality.
"Say something." Brenna's hand turned into a tight fist on his shoulder.
He found his voice through an act of intense willpower. "I'm not sure what to say."
"I don't usually say things like that to men." She scowled. "Are you sure you aren't using Psy powers on me?"
"I would never break that ethical law." His tone went cold at the implication.
She thumped his shoulder. "I was joking, you idiot." Blush having faded, her lips began to curve in a slow, teasing smile. "You don't know what to do with me, do you?"
Admitting that seemed like a bad idea. "If you were male, I'd simply throw you out with a few bruises. As you're not, I'm uncertain how to get rid of you."
"That's just mean." But she continued to smile. "Can I ask you something?"
At that instant, he was her personal Arrow. "Ask."
"Don't you want to - " She paused. "Actually, I don't think I'm that brave."
"Don't I want to what?"
"Forget I said anything." Rising to her feet, she ran a hand through her hair, sending the short strands spiking.
Still seated, he put a hand on her leg, on the sensitive skin behind her knee. A small touch but one that restarted the dissonance with a vengeance and froze Brenna. He knew why. According to his research on body language, the touch was an intimate one, something most females only allowed those they trusted. "Tell me."
Her expression was inscrutable when she glanced down. "You're Psy, figure it out. It's a logical progression." With that, she shook off his hand and walked toward the small kitchen area. "Do you want coffee?"