Dev knew he'd need that luck as he walked into the meeting. With Jack having withdrawn his appeal for Silence, the fractious situation within the Forgotten had calmed, but it was by no means over.
"I can't stop any of you who want to practice some kind of conditioning," he now said to the men and women around the meeting table. "But here's what I think - we found a way to help William, could be, we find a way to help the others, too."
"Lot of coulds and maybes, Dev."
He met Tiara's distinctive eyes. "Case-by-case situation." He'd thought this over, would go to the floor to save his people. "And Aubry had a point - can you honestly tell me you'd be happy living a life where you didn't spend half of it teasing Tag? Jesus Christ, his balls must be f**king purple by now."
"Way past," Aubry muttered. "I'm pretty sure the pitiful things are about to fall off."
Tiara's cheeks went red as several people around the table snickered. But she wasn't one to back down. "Since when are you interested in other men's balls, Aubry? Something we should know, hmm?"
Another round of snickers as heads turned toward Aubry.
"Look at us," Dev said, rescuing his second-in-command, "we're on opposite sides and still able to laugh about it. That doesn't happen with the Psy."
A few nods, troubled glances. "But Dev," another woman, a solid member of the board, said, "this is the tip of the ice-berg. What if we can't find a way forward?"
"The Forgotten have always been known for their courage under fire. We will find a way." He had to believe that - not only for his people, but for his Katya. "I'd like to read you all something," he said. "This is a letter that my great-great-grandmother wrote to her son. She was an M-Psy, her husband a foreseer. It's dated November eighth, 1984."
He waited to ensure everyone was listening. "'Dearest Matthew, ' " he read, " 'We buried your father today. Do you know what his last words were to me? "Damn stubborn woman." ' "
A ripple of restrained laughter.
He continued reading. " 'You better believe it. I wasn't going to leave my husband behind when the Council's murderers came after us, no way, no bloody how. We only had two more years together, but those two will last me a lifetime.
" 'So now you know - you come from the stubbornest stock this side of the equator. No one is going to stop your star from shining.' " Putting the page on the table, he met each gaze in turn. "Zarina buried her husband, and still she fought for her children's right to be free. How can we do any less?"
The meeting disbanded an hour later, with the unanimous agreement that they'd make no move toward any kind of a Silence program. The Forgotten had fought too long, and too hard, to give in this easily.
Dev called Katya on the comm panel as soon as he was able. "How are you?"
"Fine." Her lips curved. "Connor brought me a smoothie - he said you threatened to cut his legs off at the knees if he forgot."
"Damn straight." Heart a forever ache in his chest, he simply looked at her for a long moment. "I should be home around eight tonight."
"How did the meeting go?"
He'd stopped hiding things from her the instant he'd understood the truth, understood how little time he had to share his world with this extraordinary, beautiful woman. "There are going to be no easy answers for the Forgotten. We'll have to ride the tides and see where they take us."
"That's freedom, Dev," Katya whispered. "Don't ever give it up."
Katya had thought hard all night about what she was about to do, knowing that at this moment, she could ask anything of Dev and he'd give it to her. She didn't want to take advantage of that, and yet, at the same time, she knew she'd never again have the chance to do this.
Crossing over to him, her lower legs encased in computronic black carapaces that gave her the strength to move, she put her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up from his contemplation of the snow-draped woods. "Sit on the steps with me."
"I want to ask you something."
"I'd like to meet your father."
His shoulder turned to rock under her hand. "Why?"
"There are so many things I want to do with you," she whispered, "things I know I'm never going to get the chance to do, but maybe, there is one thing I can do."
"I'm not going to forgive him now if I haven't all these years." He stared straight ahead.
"I know." She slid down to sit beside him. "But maybe you can see him through new eyes."
"It'll be a waste of time."
"Please, Dev, do it for me."
"Below the belt, baby," he whispered, wrapping one strong arm around her shoulders. "Damn unfair."
Her eyes burned at the pain she could feel in the big body beside hers. "A woman's got to use what she has with you."
The faintest hint of a smile. But it was layered in a heavy wave of darkness, of loss. "Alright. I'll take you to him."
Four hours from the time she'd asked him, they walked into the large, sunny visiting room of the place Dev's father called home. It was, as Dev had said, a lovely place. Cane chairs with soft white cushions lay in easy conversational groupings, while indoor plants soaked up the sunshine coming in through windows that looked out over the sprawling gardens. The plants outside lay in winter sleep, but even so it was a peaceful vista.
But the gardens apparently held no appeal for the lone man who sat by the windows. His attention was locked on the doorway.