Take him as he is.
Her spine straightened. "Now tell me what happened."
His tone was flat as he told her about the PineWood pack. "We went in, cleaned out their den. A number of them were compromised - I had to undo the programming."
Relieved he hadn't been forced into using his more covert skills, she blew out a breath. "There's no need for you to beat yourself up about that. You did something good."
"It's not that." A bead of sweat rolled down his temple and she remembered the pain. The dissonance. But before she could speak, he told her the rest. "What our contact didn't know was that the Psy had attempted to place commands on immature minds, too."
"Children?" Her voice shook. "They tried to do that to babies?" She wanted to bury her head in the sand and not hear the rest of what he had to say - she'd almost died after having her mind raped. And children were so much weaker. "How many?"
"One died before we reached their den." His cheekbones stood out like blades against his skin. "I was able to remove the programming on the others but two are damaged. Their brains couldn't handle the pressure and battered themselves bloody trying to get out."
"Oh, Judd." She could feel his hurt inside herself. "There was nothing you could have done."
Another bead of sweat, the only indicator of the amount of pain he had to be in. "There was no reason for them to mess with the children's minds. No reason. They were too young and weak to provide assistance in the plot. It was done as a message."
The most visceral kind of fury exploded in her. "They've crossed the line. But" - she stared him in the eye - "you haven't."
Startled, she snapped her mouth shut. "Then why...?" She waved her arms at the ruin of her living room and kitchen.
"Don't you recognize rage when you see it?"
"Oh." She wasn't sure what to say to that blunt admission. "You've broken Silence?" Something in her said it couldn't be that easy.
His next words proved it. "If I had, you wouldn't have been able to bring me back." His eyes traced over her body and though she was demurely covered, she felt her ni**les peak, her thighs press together. "I can still taste you on my lips."
She put a hand on the wall to steady herself, certain her knees were about to buckle. "You pushed your anger into sex." Burning it up without causing harm to living creatures.
"It wasn't planned." He couldn't seem to take his eyes off her lips. "I was about to leave your home when you walked out. I should have never come here in the first place."
"I didn't mind." Heat in the air, so thick she could almost touch it. Her eyes dropped to his erection, hard and heavy against his jeans. She wanted to feel him in her hands, to experience more of the animal passion he'd shown her tonight.
Something smashed to the floor, jolting her out of the erotic fantasy. Her eyes widened as she realized he'd thumped the armchair - one of the few undamaged pieces of furniture in the room - hard onto the floor.
"I need to leave." He pulled out a phone, skin stretched tight over his features.
It made her wonder if he was as tightly stretched in other places.
"Why not?" She met his gaze. Stubborn. Needy. Changeling to his Psy. "I don't care if you destroy the whole apartment."
His hand clenched on the slim width of the phone. "As the state of this room shows, I'm no longer listening to the dissonance. It's not keeping me in check. All it would take to kill you would be one mistake in the heat of passion. One."
The taut restraint in his voice cut her. "Judd, I need you." They had to find a way past this. She was so hungry she was almost to the point where she wanted to cry. "I need your touch and I need to touch you in return."
A crack appeared in the casing of the phone in his hand. "Where's your comm console? I'll call someone to stand watch - you're not safe from Timothy's assailant."
"No." She thrust a hand through her hair, fingers shaking with need such as she'd never before felt. Yes, changelings craved touch. But this was something so primal it was a claw inside of her. "I'm awake. I'll stay that way. I'll call you if anything happens."
"Somebody is trying to hurt you." Something not wholly on the side of the angels moved at the back of his eyes.
She had already decided she wasn't going to run from what he was, but that didn't mean she was going to submit to his every wish. "I don't need a babysitter if I'm wide-awake." She swallowed. "Go. Looking at you makes me want."
For a timeless second, it appeared he wouldn't listen. Then he turned on his heel and left even as she reached out to touch the odd glint of dark red she thought she saw at the side of his face. "Oh, God." She fought the urge to collapse, to rage at the unfairness of it all. Instead, she pushed up her sleeves, found the vacuum-bot, switched it to manual, and began to clean up the dust Judd hadn't manage to corral.
Judd touched the wetness near his jaw and brought his fingers up in front of him. Pale red stained his fingers. His first guess was that he'd been cut by a piece of flying debris but when he moved to the mirror over the sink, he discovered his mistake.
The blood had leaked from his ear.
His body was literally fighting itself, the conditioning and its attendant pain controls slamming up against the emotions he shouldn't have been feeling. He wiped away the blood and did an internal check. The rupture had already healed over, his body having automatically utilized the same technique as the one that made his scars disappear.