"Aren't you afraid I'll talk about this and blow your cover?"
"No. In an hour, this place will be clean, so clean that not even changeling noses will be able to sniff out the blood." As if to prove that, he looked at the carpet and Dorian saw the blood drops literally detach from the fibers and rise to hover an inch above.
Dorian's leopard growled low in his throat. "Where's your team?"
"They're coming by car." The man raised his arms again. "You need to give her to me and disappear. I can't hide your presence if you're still here when the cleanup crew arrives."
"Why do this if you don't believe in your Council?"
"Every freedom has a price." His eyes shifted from gray to crawling black. Dorian saw more and more blood begin to rise out of the carpet and off the walls. "You need to leave. The PsyNet isn't ready to know this yet. But it will be one day."
Dorian walked across the now clean stretch of carpet and faced the Psy, the girl's body between them. "My memories will be your proof?" A Justice Psy could pick out those memories if he cooperated, and broadcast them to the court. "What about yours?"
The Psy took the murdered girl with the same care that Dorian handed her over. "I'm tired." A calm statement. "I can't continue to erase lives as if they were nothing more than marks on a page. I'll make a mistake. Then I'll die."
Dorian's ears picked up the sounds of steps on the cobblestones. "You don't have the right to be tired." He took the girl's birth ID, which was hovering in the air between them. "When you can write her name on a memorial, when you can honor her blood, then you'll have earned the right." He didn't give the Psy man a chance to answer, turning to make his way out the back door as the other members of the cleanup team came in through the front. As he moved, he could feel a screen of blood rising behind him.
Another image to add to the gallery of nightmare.
Obsession comes easily to Dorian. It worries me. If he walks back into the abyss, if he chooses the darkness, I'm not sure we'll be able to pull him out.
- E-mail from Sascha Duncan to Tamsyn Ryder
Ashaya had disobeyed Dorian's direct order. She knew she was taking what could amount to a stupid risk, but had found that it wasn't in her to leave him behind. She'd driven a mile down the road, raised every one of her shields to conceal her presence in case of telepathic scans, and pulled off into the shade of a large tree. The vehicle remained visible from the road but there was nothing she could do about that.
She'd wait another fifteen minutes, she rationalized. If he wasn't back by then -
The driver's-side door wrenched upward.
"Slide into the passenger seat." Dorian's tone was clipped, his clothing streaked with blood.
She moved swiftly and they were on their way seconds later. "What did you find?"
"An entire family, dead. Murder-suicide."
She swallowed. "Someone breached Silence," she guessed, "and didn't come out sane on the other side. There were vague rumors that that was happening - "
"I told you to get the hell out of here." Dorian turned in to a side road with a jarring movement. "What the f**k did you think you were doing?"
She'd been fooled into dropping her guard by his apparent calm. Her head jerked up. "I thought you might need hel - "
"I'm a sentinel," he interrupted, his tone cutting. "That means I can take care of myself. Contrary to what you think, I'm not a cripple."
"I never - "
"Yeah, you never thought," he said and it felt as if he'd scraped a razor blade over her skin, his rage was so sharp. "Did you even consider how it would've hit Keenan if you'd been captured or killed?"
Guilt grew a taut knot inside of her. "No."
She felt her desperate grip on her emotions begin to unravel. She tried to rewind the unraveled thread. Failed. Her hands curled. "Don't make judgments about my feelings toward my son." Keenan was her weakness. They both knew that.
It was a direct hit, but she stood firm. She knew she was right - and she wasn't going to let him intimidate her into silence. "I was concerned for you. Your emotional reaction to the girl was so strong, I thought you might not make it out before the Psy team arrived." All his rage, his need for vengeance, it had been in that final chrome-blue glance.
Dorian shot her a furious look. "You're so brainwashed you can't even accept your own emotions and you're judging mine? That's f**king rich." He shook his head, the blond silk of his hair shifting with ease.
She wanted to do violence. "Next time," she said, gritting her teeth, "I'll leave you to your self-destructive urges. It would make my life considerably simpler."
Dorian was still fuming more than an hour later. He'd showered at Tammy's and changed into the spare clothes he always kept there. With Tammy being their healer, they often came to her bleeding or worse. Now he stood with his body braced against the frame of the back door, staring out at Ashaya and Keenan as they sat politely across from each other at the picnic table in the yard.
"You want to talk about it?" A warm female voice.
He glanced at Tamsyn. "No. I told Sascha the same thing before she left."
She wrapped an arm around his waist, leaning against him until he put an arm over her shoulders. "Always were stubborn." A smile. "Sascha figured we'd tag-team you. She was round one. I'm the closer."
"Damn Pack," he muttered. "No one's heard of f**king privacy."