Jack touched his son's knee, fear a knot in his throat. "Did you do something, Will?" It had been two months since the dead birds on the lawn. Not one or two, dozens of them. All appearing as if they'd simply fallen from the sky.
Will had woken screaming in terror that morning, and while Melissa had cuddled his shivering form, Jack had gone out into the dark edge of dawn to prove to Will that it had only been a dream. He'd found a nightmare instead. But Jack had buried the birds before full light, and Will had never known. "Come on, son," Jack said, raising one little hand to his mouth for an affectionate kiss. "Did you break a window or something?"
Will shook his head. "No. I haven't done anything yet."
Something in those words made Jack's heart chill. "You think you're going to do something?"
"I'm bad," Will whispered. "I'm bad inside."
"No, Will, you're not." He would not allow his son, his precious child, to become a victim of his own gifts. "You're a good boy."
But tears filled Will's eyes. "Help me, Daddy."
What about the ones who are already mad? What about the ones like me?
Katya's question haunted Dev as he finished working out that night, trying to exhaust himself in an effort to forget the delicate heat of her hands, the lush warmth of her body. But the exercise did little to assuage his frustration. He was angry at fate itself - why bring Katya into his life if he was meant only to destroy her?
He looked up, having sensed her arrival. "What're you doing here?" It had taken all his control to leave her that afternoon instead of pressing her to the glass and taking her in every way his body demanded . . . then doing it again. "Go back to bed." Because he couldn't trust himself. Not after walking away twice, and now with the night a secret blanket that hid them from the world.
"I need to ask you something." Stepping into the gym, she padded across on bare feet, until they were separated by only a single step.
His fingers curled into his palms as she looked up, eyes luminous. "I've been thinking about what happened this afternoon."
"Katya - "
"No, it's my turn to speak."
He gave a short nod, unable to talk past the need in his throat.
"I've decided," she said, "that I was shortsighted. I want - "
"No." Gritting his jaw, he went to walk past her.
She stopped him with a hand on his arm. "You don't know what I was going to ask."
Pushing her back against the wall, he found he'd fisted his hand in her silky soft hair. "I know what a woman's got on her mind when she looks at me that way." And his body was only too happy to reciprocate. Except he couldn't do that to her. She had no idea what she was asking for, what she was risking.
This afternoon, he'd been drunk on his hormones, but if he did this tonight, it'd be a conscious choice, one that would haunt him forever. "The answer is no. It'll continue to be no."
A blush of color across her cheekbones, so f**king innocent he called himself every name in the book for letting things get this far. But then she parted her lips and he couldn't remember what he meant to say.
"Why not?" she insisted. "There's a connection between us."
It was all he could do not to take what she was offering. His c**k pounded with every beat of his heart, hard and painfully ready to take her, mark her. "Have you ever been with a man, Katya?"
"You know I haven't."
Yeah, he knew. Psy didn't believe in such intimate pleasures. "Then let me tell you something - we do this, it won't only be physical sensations you experience."
A steady look, but he felt the fine tremors that snaked over her body, they were pressed so close. "I'll feel more bonded to you."
"That's one way to put it." He couldn't let go, couldn't step back. "This afternoon, you learned to hate me a little."
She didn't answer.
"Yes," she said, jaw setting. "Yes."
It felt like a f**king lance through the heart, for all that he'd known it already. "We do this, think about how badly it's going to hurt when I have to throw you into a cell."
She physically flinched. "I know things will change. I'm ready."
It would be so easy, so very easy to let her talk him into it. "Are you?" He spoke with his lips against hers. "Or are you just hoping I'll spare your life if we f**k?"
Her entire body went stiff at the deliberately crude statement. "Let me go."
He gripped her hip instead. "Hate me enough yet, or - "
"You've made your point!" She pushed at his chest with angry hands. "Now let me go!"
He heard the break in her voice, and it broke him, too. "God help me, but I can't." Crushing her to him, he held her tight.
She didn't stop fighting till he whispered, "Shh, I've got you."
A pause. "You said that to me before." Her arms slipped around him, her voice a trembling whisper. "You saved my life that night."
Unspoken were the words that it was a life he could no longer protect.
When they slid to the floor, he leaned back against the wall and held her as close as humanly possible. They sat that way for hours, until dawn streaked its way past the horizon.
"The situation in Sri Lanka," Shoshanna said to Henry, "were you responsible?" They'd been a team for years, working to increase their combined power in the Council, but after the incident with Ashaya Aleine's prototype implants, he'd changed. She was certain he'd sustained brain damage when the implants malfunctioned, but instead of lessening him, whatever had happened had unleashed another part of his personality - one that could lead to their downfall.