"Oh, God, Judd." She went to embrace him, but he held up a hand to stop her.
"Your proximity tests my control and right now, it wouldn't take much to push me over the edge. One mistake and they'll be burying you tomorrow." A stark warning.
She could feel the unacknowledged pain in him as if it was her own. "You were a child, with a child's lack of control."
"And now I'm an adult with total control, but Silence is at the core of that control." The pure black of his eyes met hers, wouldn't let her look away. "I will never choose to fully breach it."
"I won't accept that." The trapped wolf in her bared its teeth at the very idea. "What did your subdesignation do before Silence?" Hope took root in her heart.
"They were either hermits, in jail, or dead." His blunt statement held the destructive force of hard truth, stifling all hope. "I've done my homework, Brenna." A cold Psy reprimand but those eyes...they spoke of passion and need. "Those who realized what they were early enough separated themselves from society and spent their lives ensuring they never came into contact with other sentient beings."
The inhuman loneliness of such a life shook her.
"The ones who weren't so lucky ended up killing by accident. However, because the nature of their abilities meant that all such killings took place during childhood, Tk-Cells weren't incarcerated but given training and a second chance." His eyes went even more black, something she wouldn't have believed possible a second ago.
"Some chose the hermit's way," he continued. "The remainder tried to lead normal lives but inevitably ended up taking another life in a flash of thoughtless rage - wife, neighbor, child. At which point, most of them chose to stop their own hearts. Those who didn't were locked into isolation cells for the rest of their natural lives, their minds chained so even the PsyNet was closed to them."
Brenna understood responsibility and punishment, but what Judd was describing was a kind of vicious cruelty. "How could they do that to - "
"We felt then, Brenna. The Psy felt everything. The imprisoned Tk-Cells wanted to suffer, wanted to spend eternity reliving the nightmare of killing what they most loved." Moving closer, he continued his relentless barrage. "There have never been very many of us - the scientists' favorite theory is that we occur by spontaneous mutation. That's the only explanation for our continued existence, given the fact that our genes are rarely passed on, especially under Silence. We don't make reproduction agreements. We don't father children. We don't mate."
She felt as if he'd slapped her. But instead of pain, her dominant emotion was anger. "So you're going to let fear drive you? You're choosing the isolation of Silence as your own personal cage! How can you do that to us?"
Those unearthly eyes were so close, she could see the reflection of her own furious expression in their depths. "I'd rather watch you take a lover than die at my hands."
She knew how much those words must've tortured him. Even now, the air was staining bloodred with anger. "And would you let that man live?" she whispered.
No response. That gave her hope even when hope seemed impossible. "Then we fight, Judd." She dared to place her hand gently on his chest. He flinched but didn't move away. "We fight until every avenue is closed and then we dig under the roadblocks. Because I am not walking away from us." Strong words, but she was shaking. He could destroy her with a few careless comments.
"You're the strongest, most determined woman I know." He played his fingers along the strands of her hair. "You'd make mincemeat out of a lesser man. It's a good thing you belong to me."
Relief almost collapsed her knees. "Not funny."
"I'm serious." Something very male moved over his face. "If you say yes now, I won't let you go if you decide I'm not what you want later on down the road. You say yes, you say yes forever. Be sure."
For a single taut second, she was afraid of the possession in that voice, the implacability in his eyes. Judd was no tame wolf who would do whatever she wanted. He was complicated and dominant and more than a little bad.
And he was hers, no matter that the mating bond didn't exist between them. She didn't need that validation. Not with her dark angel. "If I ever want freedom, I'll get it." Men like Judd needed to know their women had claws.
"Is that a threat?" Cool Psy arrogance as he drew close enough that her br**sts brushed against him with each indrawn breath. His eyes faded back to normal.
She wanted to moan, having been deprived of his touch for too long. "How's your control?"
"Not good enough." The words were pure ice.
Most people would've read that as rejection, but Brenna knew it was a sign of exactly how much he felt for her. Heart in her throat, she pushed up his shirt to bare the ridged lines of an abdomen that made her mouth water. "I want to check your wounds."
"They're fine - I can move things inside my own body, shift blood, fix damage." But he unbuttoned the shirt and let it drop to the floor. The bandages joined it a second later.
Easy, so easy. Because he wanted this, too.
"You're healed." With her eyes, she traced every muscular line, every inch of golden male skin. "Beautiful." It came out on a heated breath.
His chest muscles tightened. "Yes. No scars."
"Yes." But that wasn't why she'd called him beautiful. "Your body makes me want to do sweaty and hot and athletic things in bed. I want to kiss and lick and taste."
His biceps bulged as he fisted his hands. "Enough." Bending, he picked up his shirt. "I can't chance hurting you through an inadvertent activation of my abilities."