Tamsyn chuckled. "So? Ashaya hides it well, but that much ice in a woman's eyes when she looks at a man spells trouble. What did you do?"
"She disobeyed a direct order, put herself in harm's way." He watched as Keenan took something out of his pocket and put it on the table. Ashaya took the object at once, enclosing it tightly in her fist.
"Are you sure you're really angry at her, and not at what you saw inside that house?"
He thought of the wall of blood droplets, the metallic bite of iron in the air. "What I saw inside that house was a nightmare," he admitted. "But I'm very definitely furious with her." The cat nodded in agreement inside him.
"Why?" Tamsyn insisted. "She only did what any other woman would've done for a man she cared for, in the same situation."
Ashaya looked up at that second and even from this far away, he saw the primal awareness in her eyes. She looked away an instant later, but the damage had been done. His body tightened, the anger transforming into something else. "It was easier to keep her at a distance when she didn't act so human."
Tammy hugged him, her warmth soaking into his bones. "I don't think your cat wants to keep her at a distance."
"That's the problem." He broke their embrace. "I want her so badly I'm burning up from the inside out, and I can't justify it." He'd hungered for her from the start. But now that hunger was clawing into his heart.
"Just because she's Psy - "
He cut her off with a sharp slice of his hand. "It's not that. She worked for the Council, Tammy. How do I face Kylie's memory if I feel this way about a woman who was part of the machinery that led to her death?"
"Ashaya had nothing to do with Enrique."
His cat hissed at the sound of that name. "She kept the Council's secrets, worked for Ming himself."
"You're not making any sense." Frowning, Tammy folded her arms. "Sascha was a Councilor's daughter and, granted, you wanted to rip her throat out once, but you adore her now. Faith did predictions for the Council and you never reacted to her like this. What is it about Ashaya that makes her worse?"
Dorian couldn't betray Ashaya's secret, her love for a sister who was more than broken, more than damaged. "Just leave it."
Tammy's eyes widened. "Oh, my God, Dorian, it's not only lust, is it? You're starting to fall for her. She matters."
Tammy was wrong, Dorian thought, looking out and into the yard again.
The truth was, he'd already fallen for her.
Did you even consider how it would've hit Keenan if you'd been captured or killed?
The truth was, Ashaya hadn't thought at all. She'd acted... on instinct. The need to protect Dorian had slammed into her without warning, broadsiding her with its sheer strength.
It wasn't as if she was a stranger to irrational behavior. She was used to acting that way where Keenan and Amara were concerned. They were both blood of her blood, flesh of her flesh, linked to her with invisible psychic threads. It made a certain kind of sense that she wouldn't be entirely logical where they were concerned.
But today, she'd acted against all reason and sense for a man who was wholly unconnected to her. She'd disregarded her own safety - the first priority for most Psy - disregarded common sense, disregarded her other obligations, everything but her driving need to ensure Dorian made it out alive.
Now she sat across from her son, and instead of the guilt that had first hit her, she felt a kind of peace. Because in doing what she'd done, she'd taken an irrevocable step. A step out of even the pretence of Silence. On the PsyNet she continued to protect her mind, but within, the last vestiges of her conditioning had ceased to exist.
Come on, Amara, she whispered. Let's end this. Because Dorian was right, she couldn't keep living this half life.
"Mommy?" Keenan's solemn little face, looking at her quizzically. "Where are you?"
"Right here." Standing, she walked around the table and picked him up in her arms, hiding nothing of what she felt. "I love you, my baby. I love you."
He gave her the sweetest smile. "I know that, Mommy."
Even as her heart broke under the lash of that confident voice, she looked up to see Dorian stalking toward her. Her body tightened, her heart thudded, and her mind grew frantic with a need so primitive and sensual, it threatened to make a slave out of her.
Dorian spoke to Keenan first. "Tammy made cookies."
Keenan immediately wiggled to be put down. "I like cookies!"
Ashaya set him on the ground and watched him run to the house. "Has there been a decision on her cubs?"
"They'll be back tonight. Sascha's confident he won't hurt them, but when you're not with him, she and Faith are going to take turns at keeping an eye on things."
Ashaya nodded, understanding the caution. Keenan was a strong telepath, and conversely, the cubs did have claws and teeth. "I want him to have friends." To have a life.
Dorian stepped closer, backing her against the picnic table. "What did he give you?"
"None of your business," she snapped, not having forgotten his earlier temper - nor the way he'd deliberately put her on the defensive so she'd back down. It had taken her too long to recognize that bit of feline trickery, but now that she had, it made her wonder what secrets he was keeping. Not that he would tell her. That thought gave her voice added force when she said, "Go away."
Instead of complying, he put his hands on either side of the table, trapping her. "They can see us from the kitchen, so play nice." His eyes gleamed in a way that turned the word "play" into something sinfully sensuous.