"Psy don't feel." Dorian leaned back against the wall.
Amara turned to him, black pupils stark against the paleness of her irises. "It's the great irony of our race. Psy cling so hard to Silence because at the bottom of it all, they're terrified, afraid that if they let go, the monsters inside their heads will start crawling out, reducing them to the level of you animals once again."
Dorian understood when he was being played. Instead of letting her get to him, he raised an eyebrow. "But you don't think that. You feel."
She gave him a disappointed look. "No, I don't. I'm a pure sociopath. I can pretend, but I can't actually feel."
He was fascinated by the clinical way she described herself. "How do you know if you've never felt?"
She slanted a sly glance her sibling's way. "Ashaya's mind has all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies, doesn't it, big sister?"
"I told you she spied," Ashaya said, and there was pain in it. "Before I learned to block her, she used to shadow my mind every minute of every day. She's the reason Silence never stood a chance of gaining a foothold in my psyche." Her next words were directed at Amara. "You were never under, were you, Amara?"
Amara shrugged. "It's impossible to condition someone like me. Not when Silence is based on the theory that we all feel something to start with." She looked to Dorian again. "They tie the pain controls - the feedback loop that punishes us for 'bad' behavior - into emotion. Since I don't have any, the conditioning made no impact."
"And you made sure it didn't take with me, either," Ashaya said.
"Your mind was more interesting with emotion."
Ashaya's hand fisted. Pushing off the wall, Dorian began playing with his pocketknife, drawing Amara's attention. "Have you ever killed?" she asked him.
"Yes." In defense of those he loved, in protection. And once, in vengeance.
"What does it feel like?" Cold, scientific curiosity.
He balanced the tip of the knife on his finger. "Why? Don't you know?"
A shrug. "It's never interested me for its own sake."
He believed her. Ashaya's sister was a monster, but a monster of a different breed. Left alone, she wouldn't rampage through the streets spilling innocent blood. Nor would she abduct and torture for the sake of it. But, he realized, she would do any cruelty in the name of science, in the name of knowledge. And the true horror of it was that she might actually find answers to questions humanity had been asking for decades. A genius untrammeled by conscience or ethics. With no vulnerability... save one.
"Would you let the Council kill Ashaya?" he asked.
Something primal awakened in the depths of those blue gray eyes. "Ashaya is mine." Like a child staking a claim. "She's always been mine."
"No," he said, folding the knife closed and sliding it back into his pocket. "You can't get into her mind anymore."
For the first time, Amara struggled against her bonds. "I can feel her."
"I know." But he also knew something else. "There's a stronger bond there now and it's so powerful, it strangles your connection to a trickle."
Amara hissed. "The boy?" A disdainful sniff. "I considered him a threat once, but he comes from me, therefore he is me. Her bond to him is mine."
He saw Ashaya sag in relief. He felt like doing the same. He had complete faith in DarkRiver's ability to protect Keenan, but - and so long as they ensured she could never get physically close to the kid - it looked like they wouldn't have to worry about Amara's particular brand of evil. But this wasn't about Keenan. It had never been.
"You can sense it," he said to her, holding a gaze that should've been familiar but wasn't. She even did her hair in the same braids as Ashaya, had the same distinctive skin tone. Yet he knew he'd never mistake one for the other. There was an emptiness in Amara, a strange hollowness that sucked in everything around her. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."
A mute pause, then a slow, malicious smile. "It's not complete. She chooses me."
"Do you think so?" He raised his head as he caught the scent of Pack. Moving off the wall, he strode to Ashaya, closing his hand gently around hers. "Let's go, beautiful."
She glanced at Amara. "Dorian, I - "
"Shh." Raising their linked hands, he brushed his lips over her knuckles. "You don't have to worry." He didn't have a clue in hell as to what they were going to do with Amara, but no one would hurt her while Ashaya was gone.
Amara laughed and it was hollow, too. "Letting a man control you, big sister? My, we have come down in the world." Cool acid in every word.
But the taunt had the opposite affect from the one Dorian was sure had been intended. All hesitation left Ashaya's face, and she met her twin's eyes with steely determination. "Should I let you manipulate me instead?" A soft question weighted with fury such as he'd never heard. "Should I let you bury my spirit as well?" Pulling open the door, she walked out.
Dorian was the only one who saw Amara's expression - pure, lost confusion. As if she couldn't believe that Ashaya would choose anything or anyone over her. But Amara wasn't the one on Dorian's mind right then. Striding out after Ashaya, he saw her standing several meters away, the pine needles a natural carpet around her.
Keeping her in his line of sight, he glanced at Clay, one of the two extra packmates he'd scented in the area. While Clay had come here after escorting the Psy guards out of their territory, Mercy had called to say she was heading to the station to prepare for Ashaya's next broadcast. "Amara," he said to Clay, "is narcissistic, completely without conscience. Single person she cares about is Ashaya. Watch your back."