Max nodded to the entrance ramp. “We’ll be waiting outside.”
“I’ll give you a yell soon as we locate anything.”
Faith paced across the beautifully lighted cave that was her home office, rubbing her hands up and down her arms.
“You cold, sweetheart?”
Looking up, she found Vaughn in the doorway. Her jaguar had a streak of white dust on his face, a rip near the bottom of his T-shirt, and was so wonderful she still couldn’t believe he was hers. “No.” But she walked into his embrace. “Hold me.”
“Hey.” His arms came around her, strong and warm, one hand gripping a chisel he’d clearly been using on his current sculpture. “I thought you said the cop and his J were all right?”
“They are.” She ran her fingers over the gritty dust that covered the skin of his arm. “But I still have this knowing that something bad is coming.” She hated the amorphous knowings even more than the dark visions. At least the visions showed her something concrete, something she could fight or avert. “It’s an emotional knowing—connected to someone who’s important to me.”
“Did you try the exercises you’ve been working on to fine-tune your control over your abilities?”
She nodded, sliding her hands under his T-shirt and to the muscled warmth of his back. “I can’t break through the veil. And Vaughn, it’s something really, really bad.” Ice filled her heart, coated her veins. “What if I can’t stop it?” What if she lost one of the people she loved?
Vaughn pressed his lips to her brow. “We discussed this. You’ll go mad if you take responsibility for every evil you can’t stop.” His tone was gentle but absolute. “You saved two lives today. Celebrate that.”
Raising her head, she met those golden eyes—eyes of a jungle cat made human—that had become the fulcrum of her universe. “It’s hard.” And part of the reason why so many F-Psy had gone irrevocably mad in the past—that need to save every life, avert every sorrow, could devour the unwary.
“That’s why you have me.” Lips against her own, intense protectiveness in the way his body curved over hers. “Let’s see if we can’t get you into a better frame of mind.” And then her jaguar was purring low in his throat as he peeled off her clothes. “It’ll come to you if you’re relaxed.”
She felt her heart lighten with sensual humor. Oh, how she needed him. His ability to play, to laugh, to love, made every darkness bearable. “So you’re stripping me na**d for my benefit?”
A look so innocent, it would’ve done one of Tammy’s rambunctious twins proud. “Of course.”
Faith let him love her, let him comfort her . . . and hoped it would break open the deadlock on her mind. Because whatever was coming, it was a crushing, terrifying blackness that only ever meant one thing.
We don’t choose our parents. And their mistakes aren’t our own. You are what you make yourself—don’t ever forget that.
—Max Shannon in reply to an e-mail from the sole
survivor of the Castleton murder-suicide
Sophia allowed herself to lean against the garage wall once they’d exited onto the quiet street outside. She wasn’t concerned about setting off alarm bells if caught on surveillance—even Psy sometimes lost the perfect posture that had been drilled into them as a symptom and indication of control.
Max braced himself with one arm on the wall beside her, his eyes ablaze though he kept his distance. His earlier touch everyone would discount as a human action inspired by the emotions of the moment. But if he touched her now, Sophia knew she wouldn’t be able to resist crumbling into his embrace.
“You okay?” Rough tone, violence contained.
She wanted so much to crawl into his arms, to hold the solid reality of him to her until she believed he was alive, was safe. “Yes.”
Lines bracketed Max’s mouth. “This has to be connected to the work we’re doing for Nikita.”
“Not necessarily.” Realizing that he was focusing his anger into work, she kicked her sluggish brain into gear. “Bonner is very wealthy, and Bartholomew said that he has many groupies.”
“I’ll have his visitor logs and mail records checked out. But fact is, he likes playing with you—I don’t think he’d have you killed.”
“He has no way of knowing I’m working with you on another case,” she said, her hands clammy inside her gloves, her heartbeat erratic, “especially if this particular plan was put in motion before we met. He considers you his adversary, doesn’t he?” She’d seen the notes, notes Bonner had sent to Max while he’d still been an unknown serial killer. Each had been a taunt, a declaration of his superiority.
But then Max had caught him.
“Fuck.” Blowing out a breath, Max clenched his fist against the wall, the rough texture of the plascrete rubbing against his skin. He wanted nothing more than to grab Sophia and drag her to his chest, to crush her close until the thudding fear of his heartbeat decreased to something less agonizing.
“Max,” a soft word, a warning from a J with eyes full of remembered terror.
Shoving his other hand into a pocket to stop himself from reaching for her, he said, “Bonner likes to get up close and personal.”
Sophia nodded, her hair lifting in the breeze that sent a discarded soft-drink bottle rolling down the otherwise empty street. “Yes, a bomb is something more apt to be used by those of my race—especially if the aim was expediency.”