"You're a changeling, not a telepath." For a second, she thought she saw the gold flecks spark to life in the rich brown of his eyes. "There's more." Not a question.
She swallowed. "When I saw the murder in my dreams, when I heard the screams, it - " Her nails cut into the fleshy pads of her palms.
"It what, Brenna?" His voice was almost gentle. Or maybe that was what she needed to hear.
"It excited me," she admitted, feeling dirty and wrong...a monster. "I enjoyed it." She had craved the agony of her victim, her blood fevered with sick excitement. "Every cut, every scream."
Judd's expression didn't change. "But only during the actual dream?"
She wanted to be held so badly, but Judd Lauren was about as likely to do that as he was to turn wolf. "It's like he left a piece of himself inside of me."
"Santano Enrique was a true sociopath. He didn't feel anything."
Her laugh sounded jagged to her own ears. "If you'd seen him as I did, you would never say that. He might have been cold, but he enjoyed what he did. And he infected me."
"Enrique didn't have that ability. Transferring mental viruses is a rare skill." He pushed off the door and walked to her. "Sascha found no trace of one in your mind and she'd know - her mother is the best viral transmitter in the Net."
"He did something!" she insisted. "These thoughts, these feelings, they're not mine." They couldn't be. Not if she wanted to remain sane.
"You shouldn't be seeing anything," he said, standing so close she could feel his body heat. Alarm and need mixed in raw confusion. "Your brain pathways function completely differently from those of a Psy."
She went to thrust a hand through her hair and stopped. Her waist-length mane was gone, another thing Enrique had stolen. "Do you think he changed that?"
Judd's muscles rippled as he uncrossed his arms. "It would seem to be the logical conclusion. If you let me scan your mind - "
He inclined his head in a small nod. "Fine. But that makes it much harder to diagnose the problem."
"I know. But no." No one would ever again crawl into her mind. For most victims, it was the last inviolate space. For her, it was a part that had been brutalized once and would never trust again. "Do you have any idea what it could be?"
"No." He reached out to touch her neck. "How did you get this bruise?"
Taken completely off guard, she found herself placing her hand over his. "A bruise? Maybe when I was sparring with Lucy." Brenna might not be a soldier, but she needed to be able to protect herself...now more than ever. Because the truth that no one knew, the secret she'd successfully concealed since the rescue, was that Enrique hadn't simply damaged her mind, he had destroyed her on a far more fundamental level, a level that threatened to obliterate her very identity. "Can you find out about my dreams?"
His hand was big under hers, his fingers long. She was exquisitely aware of every millimeter of skin-to-skin contact. Touch might be second nature to her race, but predatory changelings didn't let just anyone touch them. Only Pack, mates, and lovers had skin privileges. Judd fit none of those criteria. Yet she didn't push him off.
"I'll put out some feelers." He withdrew his hand, the roughness of his palm an unexpected shock. "But you have to accept that no answers may be forthcoming. You're unique - the only one of Enrique's experiments to have survived."
He watched Brenna Kincaid leave Judd Lauren's room from the shadows. It was all he could do not to leap out and choke the life out of her right there and then. The bitch was supposed to die months ago, but she'd clawed her way back to life. And now she'd remembered something. Why else would she have pulled that scene with the body?
The words that left his mouth were low and vicious.
He'd been close to panic in the days after her rescue, but thankfully, her memory had turned out to be full of holes. If those holes were filling up, he was in trouble. The kind of trouble that could lead to an execution - especially if she had that f**king Psy on her side. He should've betrayed the whole Lauren family the first chance he'd gotten, but he'd waited too long to use the information and now his greed had come back to haunt him.
It made no difference. He had no intention of being hunted down like a rabid dog. He stared at the pressure injector in his hand, the same one that had weakened Tim and made him such easy prey. It could be used on Brenna, too. The crazy-eyed whore was not going to mess up his life.
Judd kept his eye on Brenna until she reached the end of the long corridor and turned the corner to join the steady flow of people on the other side. His military-trained mind had picked up something in the air the second after he'd opened the door, but he could find no reason for the warning flag. Still, he didn't move until she was safe.
Then, closing the door, he glanced down at his hand, flexing and unflexing it in an effort to lose the imprint of heat burned into it the second he'd touched Brenna. It had been an utterly irrational action, prompted not by thought but by some buried instinct that had momentarily overridden his conditioning when he'd glimpsed the bruise marring her skin.
His phone beeped, reminding him he had a job to complete. He couldn't afford to be distracted from his goals by a changeling who looked to him to vanquish her nightmares. As if he were...good. What would Brenna say if he told her that he was the nightmare?
His phone beeped a second time. Picking it up, he switched off the alarm and went to wash off the sweat that coated his body. The tactile sensation of soft feminine skin continued to cling to his palm, but he knew it would disappear soon enough - the scent of death had a way of immersing everything in chilling frost.