Nightshine, p.25
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       Nightshine, p.25

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
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Page 25


  “I beg your pardon?”

  “I know what’s on your mind. ” Her smile was a masterpiece of irony as she took his hand in hers. “Don’t worry. ” As she spoke, she used one fingertip to trace three letters on his palm: I, U, and D. “We’re safe now. ”

  The relief he’d expected didn’t come over him; instead he felt a moment of stunning disappointment before he cleared his thoughts. “But you don’t want this, do you?”

  “I’m fine with you and the sex for the duration. ” She gestured around them. “I don’t want to be here. I’m useless here. ”

  He realized she was referring to their isolation. “Is it so different from being back in the States?” When her expression became incredulous, he added, “You told me once in chat that you hardly ever use your ability, although you never mentioned why. ”

  “Aside from it being a complete violation of someone else’s privacy,” she countered, “it’s too painful. ”

  “Using your ability hurts them?”

  She gave him a bitter smile. “Oh, they don’t even know I’m in their heads, mío. It does a number on me. When I listen in, I not only hear everything someone thinks, but I feel what they feel. If they’re pissed off and I’m tapped in, I’m flooded with their rage. If they’re really upset, I start crying. If they’re in pain, I suffer, too. ”

  “There’s always a price, isn’t there?” he murmured. “It must be terribly unpleasant for you. ”

  “Unpleasant?” Her cheeks darkened and her eyes flashed. “Do you know how many times ordinary people think about things like punching out their spouse, stabbing their boss in the chest, or ramming their car into the back of someone who cuts them off? Or how it feels to have the same urges pouring into you?” Before he could answer her, she waved a hand at him. “Of course you don’t. People like you never have to deal with the real world. ”

  “Wait. ” He understood her anger, but not her contempt. “What do you mean, ‘people like you’ ? ”

  “People with limos and chauffeurs and no-limit credit cards,” she said. “People who don’t have to work, or worry about the bills, or live paycheck to paycheck. I figured you were pretty comfortable from some of the things you told me online, but you’ve got a lot more than that, don’t you? How much are you worth, Sam? Do you even know?”

  “At the moment I might as well be penniless,” he countered, “and you’d be surprised to know what I’ve dealt with, Charlotte. ”

  “You’re not making me feel guilty,” she snapped. “Not after the way you’ve been stringing me along all this time. ”

  “Stringing you along?” Now he was completely lost.

  “Didn’t you think it was hilarious when I told you how you could save money by making your own tortillas?” Her upper lip curled. “What do you really do when you’re hungry? Ring a bell? Have some maid bring you a gourmet meal on a silver tray with cloth napkins and a rose in a crystal vase? Before we were dumped here, you probably never stepped one foot in a kitchen. ”

  “I do have someone who cooks for me,” he informed her gravely. “Lately he’s also had to bring my meals to me on a tray, but not because I choose to eat in bed. Until this morning, I’ve been so weak that when I wake I can’t sit up without a shot of morphine and two men to help me. ”

  “That’s right; you’re a cripple. ” She looked him over. “For some reason I keep forgetting that. ”

  “I find it difficult to grasp as well,” he told her. “But you saw me on the bridge. Did I look as if I could run the hundred in five flat?”

  “No, but you were bleeding from an open wound. Something else you forgot to mention. ” She rubbed her temples as if her head ached. “Besides, whatever pain you were in was nothing compared to your driver’s. That guy was in agony, but even then all he could think of was protecting some woman. ”

  “You read James’s mind?”

  “I picked up his thoughts when we got to the scene,” she said. “It was so bad I nearly passed out. ”

  A shrewd look came into his eyes. “You can read someone’s mind even when they’re unconscious?”

  “I don’t do dreams or the subconscious,” she said. “For me to read anyone, they have to be awake and alert. ”

  “I see. ” His mouth hitched. “James was shot before you arrived. I’m afraid he never regained consciousness. ”

  It took her a moment to put it together. “That was you?”

  He inclined his head. “When the sniper opened fire on us, I had to drag James out of the car. At the time I was in no condition to do so. ”

  She drew back, visibly appalled. “That didn’t come from your wound. What made you feel that kind of pain?”

  “It doesn’t—”

  “Damn it, Sam, tell me. ”

  “My back,” he said reluctantly. “One side effect of my ability has been causing damage to my spine. ”

  “But that should have healed. ”

  All of the Takyn had accelerated immune systems that allowed them to recover from injury many times faster than ordinary human beings—all but Samuel.

  “When I was younger, it did,” he agreed. “I can’t tell you why, but as I’ve aged my ability to heal like you and the others has been compromised. For some time now my health and mobility have been steadily declining. Last summer my doctors told me that the damage had begun to accelerate. ”

  Her voice went low and husky. “How long did they give you to live?”

  “Twelve months. ”

  New anger flared in her eyes. “What the hell were you doing on that bridge? If you were in that much pain, you should have been in a hospital. ”

  She wasn’t ready to hear about the gift of his foresight, not yet. “I received information from an anonymous source that one of the Takyn named Charlie would be killed on the bridge that morning. I couldn’t allow that to happen. ” When she started to speak he shook his head. “It was supposed to be my final act of courage. ” He thought of Lilah, and the utter stupidity with which he had behaved toward her, for which he could never atone. “Or perhaps one last attempt at redemption. ”

  She looked sick. “Why didn’t you ever tell me your condition was that bad?”

  “There was nothing you could have done. I’ve investigated and tried every possible treatment; even one I should never have considered,” he admitted. “Nothing slowed the deterioration. ”

  “Then who healed you? And don’t tell me you did it yourself,” she added. “When I woke up last night you’d almost bled out. I nearly lost you. ”

  “I don’t know who to thank—or blame—for that. ”

  “Maybe I can run some blood tests later. ” She glanced through the window and quickly released his hand. “We should go before we lose the last of the light. ”

  Samuel helped her collect the plates, carrying them downstairs to the kitchen. After he put them in the disposal bin under the sink, the lid closed with a snap and he heard the sound of suction. When the sound stopped, he lifted the lid and saw that the bin had been emptied.

  “It seems we won’t have to argue over who takes out the trash. ” He inspected the interior of the bin before he looked through the window over the sink, but saw nothing outside. The previous day he’d also noticed no cables or wires leading to the house. “They must have buried everything under the soil when they were building the house. ”

  “It would protect against storm damage. ” She removed two candles from a drawer and turned on the stove, lighting the wicks in the gas flame. She sniffed, and then bent over and blew out the flame but left the dial on. “I have a gas stove at home. It doesn’t smell like this. ”

  Samuel went over and breathed in. “This isn’t commercial-grade methane. ” He switched off the dial and looked again at the bin, this time crouching and thrusting his hand inside before he found the lid latch and pushed it down. Powerful suction yanked at his arm before he released the latch to shut it off
. “The land surrounding the house elevates in the back, doesn’t it?”

  “From what I could see. There’s a lot of landscaping back there. ” She peered up at him. “What are you thinking?”

  “I’ve never cared for our dependency on foreign oil, so over the years I’ve invested in a number of ventures researching and inventing alternative fuel sources. Solar, wind, and water. ” He stood up. “And garbage. ”

  “I don’t understand. ”

  “I have to see the generator to be sure, but I think I know what they’re using for power. ” He checked the window again. “We’re almost out of light. Come on. ”

  Charlotte followed him from the house to the back, where the land rose in a gentle slope toward tiers of shrubs and small trees. Samuel went first, pushing his way through the stiff branches of the sea grapes and squeezing through the narrow gaps between palmettos, holding back as much as he could for Charlotte.

  When they reached the top of the slope, he saw sharp-edged saw grass that appeared to have been heaped together atop a long, narrow mound. Beneath his feet he felt a faint vibration that told him he was in the right place.

  “Stay here,” he told her, before he waded into the grass, keeping his pace slow and holding his arms up over the thorny blades. In the center of the mound he found a depression, and when he pulled away the grass he uncovered a heavy door made out of teak with a combination lock on the latch.

  He placed his hand on the lock, closing his eyes as he coaxed his flagging ability to show him the last combination used. Once he had the numbers, he also knew enough about the structure to support his theory, but opened it anyway.

  A huge wave of sound blasted out, startling birds out of the trees overhead. Samuel squinted as a light inside snapped on, illuminating two enormous machines painted bright orange. Only one of the pair was running, but the sounds it made confirmed Samuel’s suspicions. Both machines were powerful, gas-driven industrial generators, known in the States as “thunder pumpkins” for their appearance and distinctive roar.

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