Color rode high on her cheekbones when he released her after a stolen kiss, but she met him eye to eye. "You pointed a gun at me. You told me you'd kill me if necessary."
"You weren't a woman then, you were a Psy scientist." A feline answer, full of a cunning Ashaya realized could get her into very hot water very fast if she wasn't careful.
She could feel her breath coming quicker as he began to place suckling kisses along the bared line of her neck. "That's against your own rules." She didn't know why she'd said that. It was blatant encouragement, no two ways about it.
His teeth grazed her pulse as he spoke against her neck. "I said I would kiss you. I never said where I would kiss you."
Of course Ashaya knew about the mechanics of sex, though it was an act the Psy had phased out as soon as technology allowed. But, she now realized, there was a giant hole in her knowledge - practical application. "A kiss between two people is, by definition, on the lips," she argued.
He chuckled and she swore she could feel the sound across her skin. "But this isn't about two people kissing. It's me kissing you." He opened his mouth on her neck and sucked. Hard.
Heat exploded from that point outward, devastating her defenses even as that strange layer of chaos went up between her and her twin, shutting Amara out of this intimacy. "Dorian, please." An ambiguous plea.
He released her heated flesh, but only after a final, warning bite. "Talk."
Bright blue eyes clashed into hers, demanding a form of surrender she didn't know how to give - she'd spent her entire life protecting herself from someone who should've been her one point of safety. Trust didn't come easily. "What if Amara - "
"Let her try to hurt Keenan." Another kiss, this one pressed to her parted lips. The dark taste of male fury entered her mouth. "Let her f**king try."
"You're so arrogant you don't even realize she could kill you," she snapped. "She might be an M-Psy, she might be my twin, but she's got the calculating mind of a sociopath. She won't worry about honor or courage. She'll stab you in the back, shoot you with a gun, poison you, whatever it takes!"
"I know exactly what Psy killers are capable of." He tugged her head farther back.
"She's not a killer!"
"Fine." He didn't know whether to be infuriated or impressed by her loyalty. "I know how sociopaths think."
When he ran his knuckles over her arched neck, she reached up with both hands and gripped his wrist. "You think of her as a woman, like me. She's not."
"So tell me what she is like." A face that was a warrior's, ruthless, without mercy. "Or would you like me to kiss you... elsewhere?"
She could almost see flames lick their way across the extraordinary color of his eyes. Then he whispered, "Lie to me, Shaya."
Her thighs pressed together without conscious thought and she found herself fighting the desire to give him exactly what he wanted. That much sensation might finally shatter her PsyNet shields, exposing her to the hunters. Which left her with only one choice. "On my seventeenth birthday, Amara put something in my water glass."
Dorian didn't release her hair, but he relaxed his hold enough that she could straighten up. Then he listened with the quiet, lethal focus of the leopard within.
"After I lost consciousness, she dragged me into a hole she'd dug under the house - it was an old building, raised up off the flood-prone ground. We'd been moved to it after we completed our run through the Protocol at sixteen." Ashaya felt her skin begin to crawl with the sensory memory of insects scurrying across the exposed skin of her face. "The hole was shallow, but it was... enough." For sheer, unrelenting terror.
Dorian didn't say a word, but he released her... only to pull her down against his chest as he sprawled lengthwise on the sofa. Her head, he held pressed to his chest, his free hand stroking up and down her arm. She should've fought him, but she had a feeling this was a battle she'd lost the day she'd first spoken to the sniper in the trees.
"Go on," he said when she went silent. "I've got you."
She took a deep breath, drawing the scent of him into her lungs. "Amara had made a lid for the hole. Nothing complicated - just slats of wood nailed to each other - but she'd weighed it down so it couldn't be pushed up. When I woke, I could see the light shining down from the torch she'd left hanging over an exposed beam. I tried to sit up, hit my head, panicked." Her hands had been bloody by the time she realized she couldn't get out, her vocal cords able to utter nothing but paralyzed whimpers. And her Silence had broken so suddenly and irrevocably that only memories of the pain controls remained - because what her trainers had never considered was that there could be worse terror, worse pain, than the backlash of Silence.
Her brain had come through the break unscathed, perhaps because of the adrenaline, perhaps because Amara had never let her be truly conditioned in the first place. But her mind... "She was there the whole time, listening to me. She knew no one would come - she'd drugged our guardian's drink, too."
Oddly, Dorian's bitten-off curse made her feel safer. Amara couldn't get to her here, she dared to think for the first time. "After the blind panic passed and I was able to comprehend where I was, she started to talk to me."
How does it feel?
Has your conditioning fragmented, or are you holding on to some of it?
Come on, Ashaya, don't be a spoilsport.
"I begged her to let me out. But she said the experiment wasn't over yet. I don't know how long we stayed like that - perhaps an hour, more likely two. Then..." Her throat dried up. She found she was digging her fingernails into Dorian's chest, gritting her teeth so hard her jaw hurt. "I'm sorry." She tried to release her fingers, couldn't make herself let go.