Disclaimer: Some concepts and characters in this story belong to ABC TV, and no, ABC TV has no idea I'm writing naughty stuff about their characters. They didn't give me permission. I'm just borrowing them, in any case. Oh yeah. This story is just CHOCK full of SEX! EEK! Oh my! (*fan* *fan*) So, if you can't handle reading about people (m/f) having sex, or you're under 18 and don't have parental permission, DON'T READ IT!!
Oh, and I apologize to my faithful readers, I have succumbed to the vice of wanting to put plot in my erotica again. :-) FYI, timeline-wise Prometheus took place a couple of months *before* the "Lewis" story-arc in the series, and the sequel takes place about eight months after it.
Thanks to Sarah Stegall and Lisa Gaunt for Beta-ing this for me. As always, comments encouraged. --Kellie
Into The Fire
c. 1998 by Kellie Matthews
Sloan was annoyed. Attwood's goons should be handling this, they were the ones that had lost Lewis in the first place. Of course, those bright boys still hadn't figured out how he'd managed to escape from the facility at which he'd been held. She had a pretty good idea. After seven months, they had gotten slack, assuming he was tamed. So, now they were reduced to trying to see if he'd shown up at any of his previously known locations. She was a scientist, not a private dick from a bad mystery novel, she grumbled to herself as she wandered around with a photograph of Lewis showing it to people.
They had old credit card receipts from this very bar, under a pseudonym Lewis sometimes used, but so far not a single person had remembered seeing the man. Of course, those receipts were nearly a year old, so she wasn't really surprised that she was striking out. Most people couldn't remember what they'd had for breakfast, let alone a stranger at a bar. With a sigh, she made up her mind. Five more minutes, and she was giving up. She edged her way over to where an older man sat at the bar, he had the look of a regular. "Excuse me, sir?"
He turned and looked at her, and brightened. "Yes, darlin'? What can I do for a pretty little thing like you?"
She brought out the photo. "I'm trying to find this man. I think he was here some time ago, and was wondering if you'd seen him."
The man looked disappointed, but he did go ahead and look at the photo. His expression changed, eyes narrowing as he looked up at her. "What he knock you up too?"
Sloan blinked, uncomprehending. "Excuse me?"
The man stared rudely at her stomach, and shrugged. "I guess not. What'd he do? How come you're looking for him?"
Sloan trotted out their agreed-upon cover story tried to look tragic. "He's a relative of my husband's, and we need to find him. You see, my husband has leukemia, and this man may be a close enough match to be a marrow donor. Do you know him?"
"Nope, can't say that I do, but I have seen him. He was in here a few months back. I remember him because he's the reason Carlie ain't workin' here anymore. Leastways, I'm pretty sure it was him, considerin' the timin' and the look of those kids." He shook his head, looking disgusted. "I even warned her, but she had to go and do it anyway. Tell you what, seein' as how you're maybe a relative, I'll give you a tip. You go look up Carlotta Martinez, she lives over on Central these days. I don't think she knows where he is but it's worth a shot. You can tell her Henry sent you."
"This Carlotta Martinez, you think she knows him?" Sloan asked, just to be sure.
Henry snorted. "You could say that."
Sloan thanked him, trying to hide her excitement. Maybe this wasn't such a bad plan after all! She hurried out of the bar, stopping at the payphone to check the phone book and get an address before dashing out to where Tom waited in the car. As she got into the car, he stared at her, sensing her excitement.
"You found something?"
"Maybe. A guy in there said we should find a woman named Carlotta Martinez, that she might know where Lewis is. I got an address, and it can't hurt to check. Especially since it's the only lead we've had."
Tom nodded, and drove on in silence until they neared the address she had jotted on the back of the sketch. Abruptly, Tom started to scowl, and pulled into a parking place a block away from their target, looking at her.
"There's someone of my kind here. I can feel them."
Sloan immediately wondered if it were Lewis, flashing back to the night he had taken her prisoner. It still bothered her to think about it, especially since she couldn't admit to anyone that the whole time he'd been intimidating her she'd been growing more and more aroused. It was a strange and disturbing thing to be attracted to someone who held a gun to your head. Then she calmed, realizing if it were Lewis, Tom wouldn't be able to feel him. Tom got out of the car and started toward the house on foot. Sloan hastily got out and joined him.
Tom studied the house, finding it an odd dwelling for one of his kind. It was a small brick bungalow with well-tended yard, surrounded by a waist-high hedge. Flowers bloomed in boxes on the porch, bright curtains were pulled back from the windows to allow light into the house, and the front door stood open to catch the breeze. There was none of the spare simplicity, and close security he would have expected. As they neared the door, he realized he was reading several signatures from inside the house, three were quite weak, one stronger.
Before he could knock, a woman's voice sang out in fluent Spanish, telling someone named Marga to wait a moment and that she would be right there. A moment later there was movement inside the house, then the screen door swung open and a woman holding a baby stepped onto the porch. She had exotic, multiethnic features; thick black hair caught back in a loose ponytail that hung halfway to her waist, dark amber skin, a very full, sensual mouth, and striking green eyes. She stared at him, startled, clearly having expected someone else.
Tom stared back, fascinated. He had encountered many other females, but this one seemed different somehow, vulnerable. Perhaps it was the baby in her arms. He wasn't used to seeing females with young. His own fragmentary memories contained no information at all about infants. He sensed her fear, and saw it when she tightened her hold protectively on the squirming child, glaring at him as if he'd threatened to bash its head into a wall.
"Who are you? What do you want?" the woman snapped.
Tom eyed her, puzzled. Something was wrong. She was not reacting as she should, why would she fear him? He held his hands out pacifically. "My name is Tom Daniels, this is Sloan Parker. We just want to ask you some questions."
Her gaze narrowed as she looked from Sloan, to Tom, then lifted her eyebrows and indicated Sloan with a slight movement of her chin. He understood her unspoken question, and nodded.
"It's all right, she knows. Are you Carlotta Martinez?"
The woman nodded, looking wary. "Yes, why?"
"A man at the bar suggested we speak with you. We're trying to locate this man." He nodded to Sloan, who produced the photo, holding it out so the woman could see it.
The woman paled visibly and he sensed a strange mixture of excitement, anticipation, dismay, and uneasiness from her. She definitely knew Lewis, that much was quite clear. The baby began to fuss as she looked pointedly at Tom. "Why do you want to find him?"
Tom gave her a relative truth. "Lewis is my trainer. I need to find him."
Her gaze sharpened and she studied Tom intently, but then was distracted by the child once more. She tried to soothe it, but it wasn't in the mood to be placated, squirming and fussing noisily. She shifted her grip and brushed back a loose strand of hair with one hand. "Please, come in. I have to put Luke down, you're disturbing him. He's not used to males."
Not used to males. That seemed to rule out Lewis as a frequent visitor here. Tom followed her into the house, and Sloan brought up the rear. The woman walked over to a small metal-tubing and nylon mesh enclosure and bent down to place the dark-haired child next to two other babies who looked about the same age but were as fair as the boy was dark. Sloan, human as always, was entranced by the sight of babies.
"They're adorable! What are their names?"
Tom was startled when Carlotta smiled in response. "You met Lucien already, the girls are Arian, on the right, and Sorcha on the left."
As Tom moved a few steps closer to observe the children, all three looked up at him as if he were wearing a flashing neon sign. Already they could sense their own kind. The boy stared up at Tom in fascination, his eyes a brilliant, crystalline blue, startling with his dark hair and complexion. Startling, and strangely familiar. Tom looked sharply at the girls, both were blonde, one nearly silver-blonde, the other golden, both had blue eyes, though the paler one's were more blue-gray. Studying them, he knew with dead certainty that all three children shared a single sire. He caught Sloan's eye and looked from her to the babies then back again, mouthing "Lewis" silently. Her eyes widened and she turned to study the babies with new interest.
"So, you're looking for him?" Carlotta asked, apparently satisfied for the moment that they meant her babies no harm.
"For Lewis, yes." Tom confirmed.
She laughed, shaking her head. "Lewis. I never will get used to that."
Tom's curiosity was aroused. If she knew him by another name, that could be useful. "Did he use another name when he was here?"
Carlotta's gaze went distant. "No. He didn't use a name at all."
Tom stared at her, fascinated by that revelation. While their population base did not allow for monogamy, like the wolf, their instinct was to mate for life. For her to take as mate a man whose name she didn't even know was highly atypical. It was clear that Lewis had not been here in the recent past, which was not particularly surprising, since he had been locked up by Attwood and his superiors for months. Still, even if he had not been here, perhaps he had contacted her.
"Do you know where he is now?"
Carlotta shook her head. "No, I'm sorry, I don't. I haven't seen him in months. Why do you want to find him?"
"I just need to talk to him," Tom hedged.
Carlotta scowled at him. "You know you can't lie to me, why even try? You're not even with . . . them, are you?" Her gaze slid toward Sloan. "They would never work with a human."
Tom stared at her, puzzled, but sensing something important. "Them? They?"
She rolled her eyes. "You know. Lewis, and the others."
"The others?" Tom asked. "Why do you use that term?"
Carlotta shrugged. "It's how I think of them, mostly. My parents died when I was young and I was raised human. I didn't even know we existed until a few months ago. I just thought I was deformed, a freak. He taught me that I wasn't, but left me with more questions than answers."
Ah. The explanation he'd needed to make sense of her behavior. No wonder she acted so human. That gave him an idea. Raised human, she would be far more vulnerable than a female of his own kind. Also, no matter that it had clearly been an unusual mating, she was still Lewis' mate and those were still his offspring. They could be used as bait to attract his onetime mentor. While he might not feel an attachment to the female, he would defend his offspring, of that Tom was sure.
She might have been raised human, but the woman was not stupid. Eyeing Tom with suspicion, she crossed her arms, moving to subtly interpose her body between him and the babies. "Look, I still haven't decided how I feel about all this 'us' and 'them' business, but all the same, I won't be used against him, and I won't let you use them, either."
Sloan moved forward, breaking into the conversation. "We would never do that! That would make us as bad as they are!"
Carlotta studied Sloan for a long moment, then finally nodded. "I believe you believe that. Unfortunately, belief seldom has anything to do with reality. Now, I can't help you, so please go."
"Wait, please!" Sloan said, desperately bidding for information Tom had not been able to tell her. "Just tell me this. How long did you carry the babies? Are there more of them? When were they born?"
Carlotta stared at her for long moments, and her green eyes glimmered slightly . . . tears? Tom was shocked. He had never seen tears from one of his kind before. He felt a sudden, human guilt for having entertained the idea of using the woman and her offspring as a lure. She did not deserve such treatment, any more than Sloan had deserved what she received at Lewis' hands. Could he be less merciful than the man he was trying to apprehend? Sometimes it was difficult to balance his training with his nascent humanity.
Still looking at Sloan, Carlotta sighed. "I don't know why I should tell you this, but I can't see what harm there is in it either. I carried them for six months. Luke had a twin, but he didn't . . . make it." She drew a deep breath, and went on. "They were born three months ago," looking over at the babies, her mouth curved in a soft smile. "They were so small at first, so tiny, but as you can see, they're doing very well now. They're growing incredibly fast."
Watching that smile, Tom felt a strange sensation inside him. He was certain his own mother had never smiled at him that way, not even when he was as young as these. She was hard, cold, uncaring. He'd been only a child when she had given him to others, to be made into a killer. When he'd broken from his programming, she had tried to kill him. This woman would never do such a thing. The knowledge shook him to the core. He grabbed Sloan's arm and pulled her toward the door.
"We need to go," he told her, though it was his need, not hers.
Sloan resisted. "Wait! Is six months the normal gestation period?"
Carlotta shrugged. "I have no idea. Please, go."
Tom practically dragged Sloan back to the car. She reluctantly allowed it, but she was clearly annoyed.
"Why did you do that? This is the first time I've had a chance to talk to a female of your kind! I have a million questions to ask her!"
Tom knew instinctively what would deter her curiosity. He looked at her coldly. "It's not our mission, we're here to find Lewis. We need to stay focused unless you want to explain the delay to Attwood."
As he'd expected, Sloan reacted negatively. She actually shuddered. "No. Absolutely not. We're going to leave them alone! I'm not telling Attwood anything about her." Sloan suddenly stared at him, her chin squaring stubbornly. "And neither are you," she ordered.
He curbed an impulse to smile, wondering if she would ever realize how easily she could be manipulated, and instead nodded deferentially. "As you wish."
Carlie watched the peculiar couple drive away, staring after them thoughtfully. Tom Daniels was the first male of her kind she'd encountered since that night at the bar, and the experience had been interesting as much for what had not happened as for what had. She had not been attracted to him at all, and that surprised her. All this time she had assumed that simple biology accounted for what had happened that night. Now she couldn't be sure. If that was all it had been, why hadn't Daniels woken in her the same intense procreatory need that Lewis had?
Lewis. Carlie made a face. She never thought of him by that name. Such a normal, everyday, unassuming name. Of course, "Tom" had been about as appropriate for her most recent visitor. A pattern, perhaps? Innocuous names to hide behind? Who would suspect a "Lewis" or a "Tom" of being a lethal killing machine? She wondered if anyone had warned them about using "Wayne." Everyone knew that was a serial-killer name.
Why did they want to find Lewis? Though she didn't like to think of it, the most likely answer was that they wanted to kill him. Daniels was clearly working with the Humans, and Lewis was a threat to them. They had left her alone for now, but if they thought she could be of use to them how long would that last? Abruptly realizing the danger she and the babies were in, Carlie knew she had to leave, and quickly. She had no real idea where to go, but she knew she had to get away from here, it wasn't safe anymore. Damn Henry anyway, interfering old buzzard! He had to have been the one that told Daniels and Parker to look for her. He was still mad because she wasn't working at Patti's Place any more.
Frustratingly, the babies began to wail, no doubt having picked up on her distress. There were drawbacks to being a member of an empathic species. She went to comfort them, but that only served to quiet Sorcha, the others wanted more. With a sigh, she resigned herself to a longer delay, opening her dress, and settling herself in the armchair to nurse Luke and Arian. Sorcha, the most independent of the three, had already weaned herself, preferring solid food to fuel her rapid growth. Even Luke and Arian were mostly just comfort-nursing at this point, and it saddened her to realize it wouldn't be long before all three were past that stage. Her eyes drifted closed as they fed, and she found herself thinking of Lewis. As usual, thinking about him conjured him in her mind, so real she could almost smell him . . . incredibly real. Too real.
She opened her eyes, slowly looking toward the door. A dark shape was silhouetted against the bright rectangle of sunlight there. She didn't panic, she knew who it was-- knew his scent, knew he could 'hide' from her like this. As her eyes automatically adjusted to the light she could see detail. He stood just inside the door, a black-clad, silent figure watching her with that coiled-spring tension she remembered all too well. His gaze went lower, to the babies. She waited with held breath for his reaction. It was the first time he'd seen them. It took a long time coming, but slowly the slight smile she remembered eased the hard line of his mouth.
"Hello," she said quietly.
"Hello," he acknowledged, and moved a few steps closer. He looked puzzled. "How did you know I was there?"
She grinned. "I smelled you."
"You-- " he stopped, shaking his head. "I hadn't thought of that."
He looked different. Thinner, older. Ten months ago there had been a wealth of dark gold beneath the silver in his hair, now silver predominated. His hair was cut very short, and the neatly trimmed beard was gone, replaced by a three-day shadow. There were bruises on his face and in the careful way he held himself she sensed that he had other, less visible injuries as well.
"You look like hell," she said frankly.
He looked down at himself, and nodded. "I know." His gaze warmed as it lifted to her. "You look well."
She smiled, knowing that was as much of a compliment as he could give, and hoping he couldn't sense how much it meant to her. "I am well. What happened to you?"
He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I saw your visitors. They've gone for now, and though Tom and Sloan probably aren't a threat, not all of their associates are as benign. You can't stay here."
Carlie nodded, trying not to let her fear disturb the finally-calmed babies. "I know. I realized that as soon as they left. Unfortunately someone here decided I had better things to do than pack." She looked down at her lazily nursing babies, then back up at him. His eyes were locked on the babies with an intensity that almost took her breath away. Sensing her attention, he shifted his gaze back to her.
"I wasn't sure that you would . . ." He stopped suddenly, mouth taut.
After a moment's thought, Carlie realized what he had left unsaid. "You were right, the instinct is very strong. You didn't know?"
He shook his head. "Not until now. I was-- out of contact for some time."
Out of contact. Thinking of the changes in him, she wondered what he wasn't telling her. He hadn't moved, but as she watched him it seemed as if he wanted to come closer. Was she reading him right, or just projecting? Only one way to know.
"It's all right, you can come closer." She nodded at the playpen. "That's Sorcha. The two I have are Lucien-- I call him Luke, and Arian, Sorcha's twin."
Lewis took a step, then hesitated. Sorcha began to babble, and his attention swung to where she sat by herself in the playpen. Limping badly, he moved forward until he stood between Carlie and the playpen, looking down at Sorcha. She strained her senses, trying to feel what he was feeling at that moment, but he was too controlled, just like last time. She decided to try for more of a reaction.
"Why don't you hold Sorcha? She's probably feeling a bit left out."
His gaze was blankly baffled. "Hold her?"
Carlie nodded, trying not to smile. Her inappropriate sense of humor was at it again. Really, it shouldn't be funny, but it was. Homo Superior, completely at a loss, possibly for the first time in his life. "You know. Pick her up, hold her. Like I'm holding Luke and Arian, well-- mostly, anyway. You can't quite match what I'm doing. As you once told me, you don't have the right equipment." She grinned and winked.
He looked as if he wasn't sure he'd understood her, then turned to stare at Sorcha, who stared back at him wide-eyed, then suddenly smiled, flashing her single tooth. Unconsciously he echoed the smile, then shot a quick glance at Carlie as if he was afraid she might have seen it. When he saw she had, he looked embarrassed.
"Go on," she encouraged softly.
He got down on one knee with obvious difficulty, sweating lightly from just that little effort. Why? She realized abruptly that now that he was closer she could smell the rusty pungency of blood mingling with his scent. A quick survey showed her a dark stain on his left thigh, mostly concealed by the black fabric of his slacks. He was hurt, but had risked coming here to warn her? Why? He shouldn't be anywhere near here if he wanted to make sure Daniels and company didn't find him.
She lost her train of thought as she watched him cautiously touch Sorcha's hair before finally reaching out to pick her up. As he shifted her small, wiggling form into a more secure position, Carlie's gaze was drawn to the triads of livid scars that marred his inner arms from wrist nearly to elbow. She realized with a shock what those marks were. She could almost see him using his own nails to tear those wounds. He must have sensed her dismay, because he followed her gaze, and his mouth tightened.
"There are many ways of escape," he said quietly. "Unfortunately, or fortunately, they found me, patched me up and sent in a psychiatrist." He gave a derisive snort. "Can you believe that? A psychiatrist!"
Carlie felt a ripple of fear go through her. If whatever had happened to him was bad enough to make him try to take that way out, she might have underestimated her own danger.
"They who? What happened to you? Don't tell me it doesn't matter, you're not the only one at risk here!"
Lewis looked down at Sorcha, who was momentarily content to be held by him. He cautiously touched a finger to her face, sliding it down her cheek, clearly fascinated by her. After a moment he looked at Luke and Arian, then finally his gaze returned to Carlie and he nodded, a muscle twitching along his jaw.
"For the last seven months I've been held in a high security U.S. Government black ops facility by the people Dr. Parker and Tom Daniels work for."
"And they want you back."
He nodded. "Badly enough that you're at risk, because I was careless, arrogant. I didn't believe they could turn Tom, I didn't believe anyone I had trained could betray me." Anger blazed in his eyes, and Sorcha started to fuss. Startled, he looked from her to Carlie, clearly asking what he should do.
"She's responding to your anger. Let it go, and she'll calm down."
"Let it go?" He asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice. "Just like that?"
She shrugged. "I didn't say it was easy." Arian and Luke had finished, and she stood up, bending to place them in the playpen, feeling a sudden flush of awareness as his gaze caressed her bared breasts. Somewhat slower than necessary, she buttoned her dress and straightened it, then held out her hands for Sorcha.
"Let me have her, and you go in the bedroom and take off your pants."
He flashed her a startled look, and she returned it innocently. "I'm assuming we ought to take care of that bleeding before too much longer."
Carlie watched that register on him, and saw a hint of amusement in his cool blue gaze. He knew she'd done it deliberately. She took Sorcha and turned away to hide a smile. She'd been sure there was a sense of humor hidden somewhere under that glacial calm, and that confirmed it. It might not get used very often, but it was there. She heard a soft grunt of pain as he put his weight on his injured leg to stand. She bent to place Sorcha in the playpen with the Luke and Arian to give him time to control the pain before she turned.
"All right you three," she said sternly. "I have a lot to do, and not much time to do it in. Be good, play nice, and let me work?" They gazed back at her with innocent trust, and she sighed, knowing it was too good to last. Straightening, she turned to find Lewis staring at her, looking surprised.
"They obey you?"
She laughed. "Oh, heaven's no, but I keep hoping. Come on, let's see what we can do about your leg."
She led him back to the bedroom and left him to undress while she collected Marga's medical bag. Returning to the bedroom, she found him sitting on the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped, head bowed. He looked exhausted and clearly in pain. Kneeling beside him, she tucked a towel under his leg then carefully unwound his makeshift bandage. The injury was on the inside of his left leg, a handspan or so above his knee. The exposed wound was ugly; purplish and puffy, bleeding sluggishly, the flesh so swollen she couldn't tell what had made it.
"They weren't too happy about my leaving."
Carlie sighed. "I figured that much. What I meant was how. Knife? Bullet? Sharp stick? Spoon?"
He smiled a little, shaking his head. "Bullet."
It figured. "Is it still in there?"
He nodded. That figured too. "Damn, I wish Marga were here, she's much better at this kind of thing than I am." Thinking of Marga made her worry suddenly. "She really should be back by now. I hope she's all right."
"She's fine. I caught her before she got in range of Daniels and sent her to take care of some things, she'll be back soon."
Carlie stared at him a moment, and then looked away deliberately. "I see."
Back in her life for a whole fifteen minutes, he was at it again, usurping her decisions, throwing her life into chaos. She clenched her teeth and counted to ten. Picking up the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, she uncapped it and poured a liberal amount over his thigh, feeling some minor satisfaction at the hiss of pain he gave. Opening the first-aid bag Marga kept on hand, she dug through it until she found the long tweezer-like object she was looking for. She had no idea what it was called, but it looked like the kind of thing you'd use to find and remove a bullet. She slopped peroxide over it, and her hands, drying them on a clean diaper before turning back to face him. Cautiously blotting bloody peroxide foam from around the wound with a cotton pad, she spoke without meeting his eyes.
"Okay, you have two choices here. You can let the amateur do this, or you can wait for the professional."
"We don't have time to wait. You do it."
She looked up. "You're sure? I know I'll hurt you."
"It has to be done and we can't wait for Marguerida."
Carlie made a face. "I was afraid you'd say that. Okay, let's see how much I've learned from watching 'ER'." She suppressed a shudder at the thought of poking around in his torn flesh with a pair of tweezers. The sting of peroxide was one thing, but what she would have to do would be sheer torture. She looked up at him hopefully. "I don't suppose you're feeling Rambo-ish and want to try it yourself?"
He shook his head, and she sighed. "I thought not. Damn, and I don't even have a bottle of Scotch handy."
"Just do it, I don't need a drink."
She shot him a dark look. "Who said it was for you?"
To her surprise, he actually laughed out loud at that. She didn't remember him being this . . . open, before. Of course, she'd known him for a grand total of about two hours and twenty minutes, so whatever she thought she knew about him was probably wrong, just fantasies conjured to shorten lonely nights. She shook her head. Just do it, Carlie. Just do it.
Trying desperately not to imagine what he felt, she began to search the wound for the projectile. Out of the corner of her eye she could see one of his hands clenched into a white-knuckled fist. Her hands shook as a soft whimper escaped him. For a man with his control, that slight sound must express tremendous pain. Gritting her teeth, she probed deeper and felt metal scrape metal, but that was only half the battle. She'd found it, now she had to get it out. It took hours, or at least it felt that way, but Carlie finally got the damned thing out.
Dropping the bloody slug on the floor she sloshed more peroxide into the injury, then grabbed yet another clean diaper and slapped it over the wound, pressing firmly to stop the fresh bleeding. To her complete surprise, that, apparently, was the last straw. His eyes rolled back in his head and he slid off the bed in a dead faint. She managed to wrestle him into a prone position, thinking irritably that it would have made things a lot easier on all concerned if he'd just gone ahead and passed out as soon as she'd started. She finished bandaging the wound, all the while wishing Marga would get home so she could make sure she hadn't missed something important. Belatedly remembering that people in shock needed to be kept warm, she dragged the bedspread off the bed and tucked it around him, just in case.
Standing up, Carlie nearly passed out herself, and had to sit on the bed until her head cleared. Trying to ignore her shaking hands, she picked up his pants along with all the bloody cloths, and dumped them into the washing machine, starting the load. As she stood there staring at the swirling soapy, bloody water, she felt Presence again. Adrenalin flooded her, and she dashed for the door, praying that Daniels hadn't returned. To her relief, Marga was just coming up the walk, her weathered face set in a worried scowl. Carlie grabbed the older woman as she entered the house, enveloping her in a hug. Marga pushed her away, as she always did, and looked around, her dark eyes scanning the room.
"He is here?"
Carlie nodded. "In the bedroom."
"Good. I have done as he asked, now he can help us get ready." She started toward the bedroom, then suddenly she stopped, studying Carlie with a scowl. "There is blood on your hands, what have you done? Did you kill him?"
Carlie laughed a little hysterically. "God, I hope not."
"I just dug a bullet out of his leg."
Marga's eyebrows lifted in almost comical surprise. "You, pequena?"
"Yes, me!" Carlie felt a little insulted that Marga obviously didn't think she was capable. Of course, she hadn't thought herself capable of it either. Still didn't, for that matter. "I want you to look at him, though. I have no idea if I did it right."
Marga nodded and went calmly into the bedroom, kneeling down beside Lewis' still figure. With quick efficiency she checked him over, and then looked up at Carlie with approval.
"You did well. He will wake soon, and should recover quickly."
"Does he need stitches?"
Marga shrugged. "It would heal with less scarring if it were stitched, but it is not necessary."
Carlie stared down at him, remembering the sleek perfection of his body. It would be a sin to mar it any more than necessary. "Do it."
Marga looked at her, puzzled. "He will not care one way or the other."
"I know that, but I do," Carlie said, feeling a blush rise.
The old woman laughed softly. "Ah, I see." She reached for her bag, which Carlie had left next to the bed. "Very well, get busy and I will take care of this."
Carlie fled, wondering why she cared.
Lewis opened his eyes, heart pounding, already sitting up. There were human Hunters near, he could sense them closing in, moving toward him. Momentarily confused, he looked around to get a sense of his surroundings. Though the room was dark his eyes used what light there was like a cat's. He was in a bedroom, but oddly, not in the bed. He was lying on the floor beside it, covered by a bedspread. The throbbing ache in his left leg made him reach down to feel the thick protection of a bandage, which in turn triggered his memory. He knew where he was now. Still, there was a gap, he couldn't remember anything past the point where Carlie had grimly fished out the bullet in his thigh. Realizing what must have happened, he felt a flush of humiliation at his own weakness. Using the bed as a prop he maneuvered himself to a standing position, though the yielding surface was almost more of a hindrance than a help.
By the time he was upright, his internal alarms were going wild. Lewis limped toward the door, then stopped, hearing a loud pounding and voices from the front of the house. They had arrived. He bit back a warning, realizing that it would only reveal his presence. His mind racing, he grabbed the bedspread and settled it back onto the bed so that a casual observer would not wonder why it was on the floor. He found his stolen slacks, clean and neatly folded on a chair, his shoes beneath it.
Incredulous that she had taken time to do laundry, he dressed quickly, listening as Carlie spoke with the men at the door, sounding confused and innocent as she disavowed having seen him. She was giving him a chance to get away. Unfortunately she clearly didn't realize that she too was at risk. The Hunters wouldn't just go away and leave her in peace, as Daniels and Parker had. Now she was getting angry, threatening to call the police. That threat wouldn't deter them for long, as their government clearances would smooth over any local trouble.
Dressed, he concentrated for a moment, locating all the Hunters. There were four clustered at the door, two more in their vehicle at the front of the house. Obviously they didn't realize he was here, or they would be here in greater numbers and with far more efficiency. Quietly he slid the bedroom window open and with equal silence lifted out the screen, lowering it to the ground outside, then following it. Thankfully the house was only one level, but even that easy drop jarred his injured leg and left him shaking. He stood and closed the window, replacing the screen, then crawled painfully across the yard, grateful for the hedge that shielded him from view. In the corner of the yard was a small stand of trees, and he hid in their shadows and tried to sort out the details of what was occurring.
He felt Marga and the children nearby, but not in the house. Marga must have sensed the Hunters and taken the children to safety. Yet Carlie was still here, why hadn't she gone as well? To stay went against both logic and instinct. The reason was probably related to her human upbringing. Humans frequently acted against logic and instinct. The Hunters were generally an exception to that, their training made them more like his own kind. Fortunately this group was not as well trained as some. They still had not even bothered to check the rest of the house. Careless. If it had been him, he would not have stood on the step arguing with the prey, he would have removed that obstacle immediately and searched the house. Interrogation could wait, there were much more efficient ways to do it.
Apparently they finally decided that as well, and tried to get past Carlie, into the house. She objected. Loudly. A porch-light went on across the street and a door opened. Usually he found the human tendency toward curiosity irritating, but tonight he welcomed it. It might save her life. Any chance he had of helping her was frustrated by his lack of weaponry. There was only so much he could do unarmed and injured. Abruptly there was silence from the house, and he stopped feeling Carlie's fear. She was alive, so they had probably sedated her with one of the tranq-darts developed using him as a test subject. After a moment, the nosy neighbor across the street went back inside.
He clenched his fists. He shouldn't feel anything, he shouldn't allow himself to be distracted by emotion. However, the fact remained that the Hunters had long-standing orders to bring in a live female, and because of him they had just managed to secure the one female who would let herself be taken alive; his mate. That shouldn't matter, but it did. He felt anger, where usually calm prevailed. He felt other things. Things he didn't understand. Why? He shook his head. Why didn't matter at the moment, expending thought on it would only distract him. He needed to concentrate on the task at hand, she could not be allowed to remain in Hunter hands.
As he slid from shadow to shadow, moving deliberately toward the Hunter's vehicle, he was suddenly aware that more Hunters were on the move, converging on the area. The distinctive sound of a helicopter brought his gaze skyward, and he saw the dark shape above him, not even running lights distinguishing it from the night. He weighed alternatives, and decided that he had no choice. He needed weapons and a vehicle, and there was a ready source of both only a couple of meters away.
Moving silently toward the van, his foot hit a loose rock, rolling his left leg outward abruptly. It failed him, and he went down, pain blocking out everything else. Panting, he willed the pain to recede, which it did reluctantly. Finally able to stand, he tried to concentrate on the van and its occupants, but the pain, and three days without rest or food had taken their toll on him. He couldn't regain his focus and had to risk going in blind. He slid up on the passenger side, wishing he could see through the tinted windows, but knowing the one with his hands free would be the hardest to take out. Yanking the door open, he reached for the occupant . . . who was not there. Even as he realized it was a trap, he registered the slender barrel of a dart-pistol in the hands of the driver, heard the soft 'chuff' of its mechanism, then he was sliding down into an all-too-familiar darkness.
Carlie stirred groggily, realizing by the ache in her breasts that she'd overslept. It was unusual for the babies to let her go so long, and she started to sit up, intending to go to them and make sure they were okay, but something across her ribs held her down, and she couldn't move her hands. Struggling against the unknown constraints, she opened her eyes. The first things she saw were walls of a pale institutional green. The second was the steel door with no doorknob or latch. The third were the metal railings of a hospital-type bed. A strap attached to those rails ran across her body just below the breasts and a second one went across her at mid-thigh, both wrists were manacled to the rails as well. Her only garment was one of those open-back smocks that were de-rigueur in hospitals.
Panic surged through her instantly. A hospital? Where were her babies? Were they okay? Had they been hurt? Why was she in a hospital? She didn't feel hurt, other than a peculiar soreness that pervaded her abdomen, and an aching lump on her arm that looked like some giant mosquito bite. Her brain was to be working in slow motion, but the last thing she remembered was arguing with those men at her house. She looked around again, confirmed that she was alone, and also realized that she wasn't in a hospital. Hospitals had doorknobs, and didn't generally use handcuffs. She remembered Lewis telling her he'd been held for months in a high-security facility. She had a strong suspicion that it had looked just like this.
She stared at the ceiling, blinking back tears, trying to believe that whoever had her, they weren't evil enough to hurt her babies. It had been stupid for her to stay, but she just hadn't been able to bring herself to leave Lewis there unconscious and vulnerable. She lay back against the mattress and stared at the ceiling, trying to organize her thoughts, trying to be something other than angry, but that remained her primary focus. She was angry with Lewis for putting her in danger, with herself for being stupidly sentimental, with whoever it was that had kidnaped her, with the world in general. Carlie jerked and writhed, but the restraints didn't give more than a fraction of an inch. After a few moments of struggling, she gave up, panting a little. Anger was getting her nowhere.
As she lay there, trying to think of anything useful she could do, a persistent crampy ache in her abdomen distracted her. She hadn't felt like this since a couple of weeks after babies had been born. Why the hell should she be feeling like someone had been poking around in her insides? Several answers occurred to her, none of them pleasant. She shivered, deciding she really didn't want to know. A sound drew her attention to the door as it swung open to admit a portly, middle-aged man with a goatee. With his tweed jacket and glasses, he looked like he ought to be teaching freshman English at some college until he got close enough for her to register his cool, emotionless gaze. His eyes told her he was no professor. He came over to stand next to the bed, looking down at her impassively.
"Hello Ms. Martinez, my name is Attwood."
She ignored his greeting. "Why am I here? Where am I?"
"You're in a private research facility, and I think you know why you're here. You're a very interesting woman, Ms. Martinez, and we would like to learn more about you. We've already learned quite a bit, just in the little time you've been with us."
He made it sound like she was there voluntarily. She glared at him. "You can't just grab people off the street and imprison them! I have rights!"
"Of course you do," he said soothingly. "However, those rights are secondary to the dictates of national security, and right now you are definitely a risk to that."
"Me? How, for god's sake?"
"You are a member of a terrorist organization which is attempting to overthrow the government of the United States."
"What?" She demanded, stunned. "I am not!"
"Now Ms. Martinez, you were harboring a highly placed member of this group, a very dangerous criminal. Why would you do that if you were not also a member?"
"What dangerous criminal?"
"The man you probably know as Lewis."
"I met Lewis in a bar, for God's sake! I was helping him because he was hurt!"
"Oh yes, we know about that," Attwood smiled coldly, "we're the ones who hurt him." Abruptly he changed the subject. "Now, we would like to get some information from you about your offspring."
Carlie literally saw red, a crimson haze of rage obscuring her vision, and she lunged against her bonds. "What have you done with my babies? Where are they?" Her voice was a harsh growl, almost unrecognizable.
Attwood stepped back, looking startled. As his fear registered on her, Carlie struggled for control, and found it somewhere. She couldn't afford to antagonize these people, they had her babies.
"Please tell me where they are!" She saw a hint of uncertainty in his gaze, then he looked away.
"I can't tell you that."
Panic surged hot and acid in her throat. "Why? What have you done with them?"
He looked at her for a long moment, his gaze speculative, then without a word, he turned and walked to the door, waiting there, looking up above the toward a dark lens above the door. After a moment the door buzzed and opened, allowing him to leave. She realized with a shock that somewhere in a distant room someone was observing her on a monitor. She shivered. Why hadn't Attwood told her anything? What good did it do him to keep her in ignorance, unless--
Carlie closed her eyes against the pain. No. They couldn't be so cruel, could they? She would know, wouldn't she, if they had come to some harm? She had carried them within her, part of her, and as they had grown she felt what they felt, every joy, every pain, every fear. She would know. They were alive, they were safe, somewhere, just not here. She knew they weren't nearby because couldn't feel them at all, but neither did she feel the gaping hole in her soul she instinctively knew would be there if they were . . . gone. She couldn't even bring herself to think a harsher word.
The door opened again, shocking her from her thoughts. Instead of Attwood, a trio of people entered the room, a man and woman in white lab-coats, and a second man in fatigues who carried a rifle and stayed near the door, weapon ready. The implication was clear; cooperate, or else. Well, she was no fool. She watched warily as the other two came over and removed the restraints that had held her. Immediately she sat up, and swayed dizzily. The woman put a hand on her shoulder to steady her.
"It's the sedative. It'll wear off soon," the woman volunteered, not unkindly.
The man brought out handful of what appeared to be small electrodes, though they had no attached wires. They were sticky on one side, and he fastened one to each of her temples, then matter-of- factly pulled down her smock so he could attach the other two to her chest. As soon as he finished, Carlie tugged the gown back up, embarrassed by the avid stare of the soldier who ensured her complicity. She tentatively touched one of the devices at her temple.
"What are these?" she asked, aiming her question at the woman, who seemed more sympathetic.
"They're just monitoring devices," the woman told her. "To track your breathing, heart-rate, skin response that sort of thing."
Carlie held her gaze. "Why are you doing this?"
The woman looked a little flustered. "I ah. . . , "
"That's enough, we're finished," the man said, heading for the door, gesturing for the woman to follow.
"Wait, please," Carlie said. "My clothes? Can I have them?"
The two in white exchanged a look, then the man shook his head, without explanation.
"Isn't there something I could wear over this?" She hated to beg, but the idea of parading around in front of a camera in a backless smock was humiliating.
The man looked as if he were going to say no, but the woman looked at him rebelliously and took off her coat, holding it out.
Carlie moved to take the proffered garment, and caught the woman's gaze again. "My babies, are they here? Are they safe? Can you tell me anything at all?"
The woman shook her head, not meeting her gaze, and hurried from the room, followed by the two men. Alone again, Carlie sighed, and put on the lab coat, then explored the room hoping to find some sign that perhaps they had been there. The windowless room was about ten feet square. It contained the bed, a small table and a chair. A few very old magazines were stacked on the table. Behind a sliding curtain she found a tiny alcove containing a sink and toilet. There was nothing at all to indicate that the babies had ever been there. Desolate, she sat down in the chair, and stared up at the camera.
"So, what do you have planned?"
"For now we've got some sensory acuity questions that we want to play with. We suspect that scent plays a role in their species recognition, as we've found that they seem to be extraordinarily sensitive to scents, so we've got a little experiment planned to test that."
"They're in rooms on opposite ends of a corridor from each other, which we've connected via a small ventilation shaft. We've had the shaft sealed, but we're going to open up it up and see if we get a response." He looked over at Lewis' monitor. "Looks like both measuring devices are in place. It's funny, he didn't fight us at all this time. Maybe getting caught again has tamed him."
Attwood thought of Lewis' arctic gaze and shook his head. "Don't count on it. He's probably just conserving energy for some reason of his own."
Jamison nodded distractedly, and punched a few buttons. He looked more closely at Martinez's monitor, and frowned. "Where did she get that?"
"That coat. It looks like one of ours." Jamison looked around the lab. "Clark!"
A young woman working across the room turned. "Yes sir?"
"Is that yours?" He pointed at the monitor. Clearly the young woman knew exactly what he was asking, because she flushed.
"Yes, sir, she asked for something to wear, I didn't think it would hurt anything--"
Jamison interrupted her irritably. "I pay you to think about the project, not about the test subjects. I'm docking your pay for the cost of that coat."
She lifted her chin mutinously. "I think the union might have something to say about that, sir."
Jamison glared at her, then muttered something under his breath and turned back to the control board in front of him. "All right, everyone ready on monitors, I'm about to open up the ventilator." He reached forward, finger poised over a button, then pushed it. "Begin monitoring now."
For a couple of minutes nothing happened, then suddenly Lewis turned his head slightly, bringing his profile into view. His head lifted, nostrils flaring, not unlike an animal testing the air for scent.
"We're getting skin response, and respiration changes in the male subject," reported the young man watching Lewis' monitor.
"Same on the female," Clark reported. "Very strong, in fact. I'm also seeing a temperature increase."
"I knew it! Good, now let's try that a few more times, just to make sure it's not a fluke."
Attwood shook his head. Some people were easily excited. "That's very interesting, Jamison, but haven't you got anything more practical planned?"
Jamison looked a little nervous. "I, ah, yes, actually I do, but I needed to verify scent response before I could proceed. Ms. Givens has been quite clear about her disappointment with our results to date, and very specific in her requirements. She wants a psychological advantage over the male, and now that we know the scent response is as strong as we suspected, we'll give the woman an injection to elevate her hormonal levels, which should also affect her pheromonal levels. This will hopefully provoke emotional and physical protection responses from the male which can then be used to break him."
Attwood nodded thoughtfully. Though he wasn't too keen on the specifics of their plan, the idea was relatively sound. All along he'd been sure they could break Lewis if they could just find the right stressor. So far they hadn't been able to do that, but the woman might just be what they had needed. He didn't think all this malarkey about hormones was necessary, though. There was only one reason for Lewis to have gone to the woman after escaping, and Martinez's physical condition only strengthened his conviction that there was a far easier way to do this. He'd have to talk to Givens and find out why she had withheld information from him. He wanted to know what they'd done with Carlotta Martinez's babies. They were, he suspected, the key to the puzzle of Lewis' mind.
Lewis was in Carlie's bedroom. She was there, placing clothes into a suitcase which lay open on the bed. He stood in the doorway, feeling conflicted, wanting to reprimand her for not leaving, and at the same time strangely pleased that she had stayed. Though her back was to him, Lewis could tell she was aware of him. She had stopped packing and stood unmoving, her body tense. With anger? Irritation? Fear? No, she had never feared him, one of very few who could say that. He moved closer.
In the small room her scent was very strong, rich and complex, maddeningly female. He remembered that brief flash of breast before she'd buttoned her dress after putting down the children. His children. His gaze slid down her, noting how her dress softly flowed over her hips and buttocks as she bent to place something in the suitcase. Her body seemed fuller now, more lush than he remembered. Was his memory faulty, or had childbirth changed her? Involuntarily he stepped closer, his hands aching to touch her. She had straightened again, and the tension was still there. She waited, her breathing shallow and rapid. Slowly he reached out, fanned his fingers over the curves of her hips, slid them down her flanks and back up, feeling the thin, soft fabric of her dress shift under his palms, and through it the heat of her skin.
With gentle pressure he urged her back against him, and she complied, letting her head tilt back against his shoulder, her body lightly brushing against his. He moved his hands, upward this time to cup the soft curves of her breasts. She shivered, and her nipples were hard beneath his palms. He brushed her throat with his lips, slid one hand from her breast to her belly, bringing her hips back firmly against him, pressing his growing erection into the warm hollow below her buttocks.
A sharp metallic sound shattered the moment and his eyes snapped open. There was a moment of dissonance as he realized he'd been dreaming, and the sound that had woken him had been the door's electronic lock. He was lying on his side in bed, facing the doorway. Fortunately the sheet concealed the physical effect of his dream, which was subsiding rapidly. No doubt their machines would have recorded that he'd been dreaming, and that he had experienced related physical disturbances, but that wasn't unusual for him. Until very recently, however, his dreams had always been nightmares. He wasn't sure why that had changed, nor was he particularly pleased by the development. These new dreams made him feel vulnerable. Rationally he knew their source-- she was here, close enough for him to feel, close enough that sometimes he could even smell her. Her presence had haunted him for days now, waking and sleeping, taunting him with his failure to protect her.
One of his keepers entered the room and placed a tray on the table. The scent of the food tantalized him, his body demanding nourishment to replenish reserves depleted during his brief escape. He had to stay in reasonably good shape or he wouldn't get far should another opportunity present itself. He waited until the keeper and guard had left the room, then got up and went to see what they'd given him. A paperboard tray held a piece of fried chicken, boneless of course. A slice of wholegrain bread, an apple, and a cardboard carton of orange juice completed the meal. As usual, all things which could be eaten with the fingers. They hadn't given him tableware since the third day of his incarceration, when they had discovered just how much damage a trained killer could do with a plastic knife.
The door mechanism sounded again and he looked up in surprise as the door swung open and two armed guards entered his cell. They were followed by a second pair of guards, who flanked a smaller figure wearing a white lab coat. He stifled a sigh, wondering what new test they had planned, then suddenly he registered the fact that the person was barefoot. That made him look up at her face, and he stared in surprise as he realized they had brought Carlie into the room. He had gotten so used to feeling her nearby that he hadn't felt them bringing her closer. As her escort stepped back and she saw him, her eyes widened, and emotions flashed across her face; relief, pleasure, dismay, and interest.
Lewis kept his own expression impassive, which served to halt her in mid-step as she started toward him. She stayed where she was, looking wary as the guards exited the room, leaving her alone with him. She looked back at the door as if she expected them to realize she was in the wrong place and come retrieve her. When they weren't forthcoming, she turned back toward him, still looking apprehensive, with good reason. Seeing her reminded him that the only reason she was here was because she had disobeyed him, and he struggled to keep a rein on his temper. What he really wanted to do was shake her senseless for getting herself captured when she could have gotten away.
"Are you all right?" she asked, awkwardly. "How's your leg?"
"I'm fine," he snapped. "We heal quickly."
She looked relieved. "Good, I'm glad." She looked around the room, and smiled wryly, clearly trying to ease the tension. "I see we have the same decorator. Are any of your magazines less than a year old?"
"You should have left as soon as you finished with my leg," he said flatly, ignoring her attempt at levity.
She looked down, not meeting his eyes. "I know," her voice was almost a whisper. "God, I know, but I couldn't."
He frowned. "Why not?"
Twice she started to speak, stopped, then finally got it out. "Because I'm a fool. I stayed because I thought it would be wrong to leave with you out cold on my bedroom floor. So go ahead, and tell me what an idiot I am, I deserve it."
Lewis stared at her, stunned. Of all the reasons he had imagined, that one had never even occurred to him. He tried to think of something to say, and couldn't. Finally he gave up, and just stood silently, feeling her gaze burning through him. The silence drew out, and she crossed her arms defensively, wincing slightly as she did. He saw it, and his gaze narrowed. Had they been experimenting on her? The anger her statement had partially defused returned full force, this time directed against their keepers. He moved closer, half expecting her to back up, but she held her ground. He touched her arm, lightly, and lowered his voice so only she could hear him.
"What have they done to you?"
Her expression turned ironic as she gazed at him evenly. "Oh, other than taking my babies, locking me up against my will, and subjecting me to unauthorized medical examinations, not much."
"Carlie, I know you're hurt. I saw you flinch just now."
She looked puzzled. "I didn't fli. . ." she stopped mid-word, and he watched in fascination as her face slowly turned red. She refused to meet his gaze as she replied with studied nonchalance. "Oh, that. Don't worry, that's nothing they did. At least, not directly."
She wasn't really going to leave it at that, was she? He waited, but apparently she was. Lewis ran through possibilities in his head, and came up empty-handed.
"I don't understand," he finally admitted, scowling.
She rolled her eyes in obvious exasperation. "You don't need to, okay! Just drop it. I'm fine. Why did they bring me in here?"
He glanced at the camera, then back at her, deciding honesty was probably his best tactic at this point. "I would imagine they brought you here to see if we would become intimate. It would further their research, and they probably assume that it would give them a lever to use against me."
He watched it register on her, saw her eyes widen, heard the sharp intake of breath. She turned and stared up at the camera, her face a study in fury, clearly about to start a diatribe aimed at whoever lurked behind the lens. He grabbed her arm and pulled her around to face him, bringing her up hard against him. She flinched, pulling away, cupping her hands protectively over her breasts.
"Don't," he said firmly. "Don't give them a reaction. And what the hell is wrong with you?"
She blushed again, but lifted her chin and glared at him. "Nothing's wrong. It's normal. It's just that I'm used to having the babies . . ." She looked away, biting her lip.
Lewis had a sudden, almost physical memory of standing in the doorway to her house, watching her bare swollen breasts and then settle Luke and Arian against her. Understanding came, and with it a rush of desire that knifed through him, painfully intense. He felt unaccustomed heat in his face, in his groin. The reaction embarrassed and angered him; it was madness to allow such a response when he knew it was playing directly into the humans' hands. Seeing the distress in her eyes he was shocked to realize his control had deteriorated so badly that she could feel his anger. Controlling himself, he caught her gaze with his.
"I'm not angry with you," he assured her firmly. "Can anything be done to help?"
She shook her head, not meeting his eyes. "No, time will take care of it eventually. I just need-- I need my babies. " Pain filled her eyes, and she closed them, hiding it from him. "God, I miss them so much." She turned her back to him. "They won't tell me where they are, or even if they're all right. I think they must be, or I would know, but that could just be a fantasy. If they would just tell me something, anything, it would be better than not knowing!"
Her voice broke, overflowing with desolation. Lewis had no experience with that kind of pain, but even just feeling it through her hurt, raising echoes of it inside him. Though he didn't know them, they were his blood; his body and his desire had helped create them. He lived on in them as much as she did. He reached out and she went into his arms, burying her face against his chest. Lewis felt dampness against his skin through the surgical scrubs that were his uniform here; she was crying, right on the edge of breaking down. He was very familiar with that place, having spent most of his life deliberately bringing people to it. He had never tried to bring anyone back from that place unbroken, but right now he had to. He had no choice.
"They don't have the babies. Marga took them away before the Hunters came," he whispered against her ear.
Carlie gasped, her head coming up so she could stare into his eyes, searching for confirmation of his words. Finding it in his face, she started to shake.
"Oh my god, are you sure?"
Lewis put all the conviction he could find into his gaze. He had to believe Marga had done whatever was necessary to ensure their safety. She had trained him, and though in the years since then he had far surpassed her, she was still capable and strong. Carlie read the certainty in his eyes, and sagged, hiding her face again, weeping. He held her, wordlessly, and after a little while, she pushed away, wiping her eyes.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm just so relieved!"
Lewis shook his head, refusing her apology. "It's all right, I understand."
Although he said it in part because he thought it was what she needed, the strange thing was that he almost did understand. A week ago he hadn't even known he had children, yet now he felt disturbed by their absence. Even knowing they were likely in Marga's capable hands did not take away the ache. The feelings bewildered him. Everything about this woman provoked the very feelings he'd spent his life disavowing. He had underestimated her effect on him; she was dangerous, possibly as dangerous as the humans had thought she would be when they decided to place her here.
Carlie reached out and gently put her hand on his face, her palm warm and soft. "Thank you," she whispered thickly, lifting her mouth to his.
Knowing if he accepted her kiss he was lost, he turned his head. "Don't."
Carlie looked confused and hurt. He didn't explain, hoping the hurt would help keep the necessary distance between them. She stood there for a moment, awkwardly, then looked toward the lavatory, and fled to the meager privacy afforded by the flimsy curtain there.
When she had gone, Lewis took a deep, ragged breath, and dropped into one of the chairs and staring sightlessly at the food on the tray. Where the hell was his discipline? Why did she affect him this way? It wasn't just because he'd been imprisoned here for seven months; that was bearable. He had been alone most of his life, why should it make any difference if he was alone here, or outside?
It wasn't just that she was a female; he'd known many females, though most of that experience had been with humans he needed to control or manipulate, not his own kind. It wasn't even that she had borne him three strong, beautiful children; though that certainly did nothing to mitigate his feelings. No, it was her emotion, her inner strength, her compassion, her-- for lack of a better word, humanity. He closed his eyes, trying to will that knowledge away. Humanity was weakness, compassion was death; yet in this woman they compelled him like nothing else ever had. That frightened him.
With her emotions once more under control, Carlie splashed cold water on her face, then had to use her sleeve to dry off with, there being no towels in evidence. Did Lewis usually just drip dry, she wondered, then spent a moment contemplating that idea, her imagination supplying some very nice images. With her worry about the babies relieved, it was nearly impossible to stop thinking about why they had put her in with him. While she was appalled and angry that they would do such a thing, she couldn't deny the fact that under different circumstances she would certainly not be averse. Remembering that night still made heat bloom in her belly, despite everything that had happened since then. Being so close to him only made it worse, bringing those memories to the fore every time she looked at him, or caught his scent.
Her stomach chose that moment to growl, and she sighed. Speaking of scents, she had a ridiculously overactive imagination. Not only was she conjuring images of a dripping, naked Lewis, she was smelling nonexistent fried chicken. Her mouth watered at the thought. She raked her fingers through her hair, wishing vainly for a comb. She had no idea how anyone could use a comb for a weapon, but they must think she might be able to, since they hadn't given her one. Carlie stood behind the curtain, trying to gather her nerve to open it when she saw Lewis' shadow against it.
Instantly her body reacted to his voice saying her name, to his nearness, her heart-rate climbing, her skin tightening. She reached up and opened the curtain. "I'm here."
"Are you all right?"
Carlie nodded. "I think you just saved my sanity."
He gazed at her with ironic humor in his lucent eyes. Carlie waited for a moment for him to tell her what he found amusing, but he didn't explain. He took a step back, giving her room to leave the lavatory without touching him. She wondered if he was feeling her nearness like she felt his. If so, she really didn't understand his humor. It was going to be torture sharing a room with him, yet not to be able to touch him. She found the continued silence awkward, and found herself talking just to break it.
"Well, on second thought, maybe my sanity's not so great after all. I think I'm having nasal hallucinations, I keep smelling fried chicken. Ever since they brought me here they've given me nothing but fruit, cereal, soup and ice cream. I keep wondering if that's their idea of a balanced diet or if they're afraid to give me anything I can't eat with a spoon. I'm so sick of it I could scream. I've been praying for a steak, fried chicken, anything that doesn't drip!"
The amusement in his eyes deepened. He picked up something from the table and held out a square of aluminum foil on which rested a piece of chicken, thick with crisp, golden-brown breading. Amazed, she lifted her gaze to his. He lifted an eyebrow. She tried biting the inside of her lip to keep from smiling, but it didn't work. She sighed.
"Okay, fine, I admit it, you're a god."
His mouth curved a little. "I wouldn't go that far."
"Demigod, then. How do you rate real food?"
"If I told you then you'd know all my secrets."
She looked in his eyes for a long moment, and shook her head. "I don't think so. I could know you for a lifetime and not know all your secrets."
Her reply seemed to take him aback, he clearly hadn't expected a serious answer. He distracted her then by nodding at the chicken in her hand.
"Are you going to eat that?"
She admired the morsel for a moment, sniffing its steamy fragrance, and finally bit into it, savoring the explosion of salty-greasy-spicy-flavor in her mouth with her eyes closed to intensify the experience. She chewed slowly, not wanting to waste the moment, and finally swallowed. It was wonderful. Looking up to thank Lewis again, she caught him watching her with hunger in his eyes. Though the look was instantly smoothed into his usual reserved expression, she knew she hadn't imagined it. She looked at the chicken and knew she couldn't enjoy it now. Not when she was stealing his food, and he was hungry too. Suppressing a sigh, she held the chicken out to him.
He shook his head, not moving. "It's yours."
"Actually, no, it isn't. They brought it for you."
"It doesn't matter."
"I want you to have it."
"We can share."
God, he was so stubborn! It was really starting to annoy her. She looked at the chicken, then at him, and walked back into the lavatory. He followed her, a step or two back, clearly curious. Very deliberately she extended her hand so it was poised over the toilet bowl. "Fine, it's your call. Either we share, or it's gone."
He mulled that over. Carlie stared at him while he thought, daring him to call her on it. She wasn't bluffing. Apparently he figured that out.
"We can share," he agreed, albeit reluctantly.
"There may just be hope for you, yet," Carlie said fervently, handing him the piece of chicken. He took it, but hesitated. She gave him a stern look. "Eat. That's an order."
He complied, and she watched him tear off a bite, eyes closing involuntarily in pleasure, just as her own had. Watching his throat move as he swallowed, she remembered his teeth, strong, sharp, yet gentle on her skin. She remembered that expression, with a different cause. A shudder went through her. He looked up, and she saw shared memories in his gaze. The space in which they stood was suddenly far too small.
Without speaking, he held out their lunch, close enough to her mouth for her to reach it with just a slight movement. Torn between feeling silly and feeling aroused, Carlie leaned forward and took the offered bite, then he took another. Together they finished it off all too quickly. Carlie sighed, and Lewis looked at her with amusement.
"It was your decision."
"I know." She lifted a hand to wipe the slick of oil from her mouth, and he caught her wrist with one hand. Startled, she met his gaze, saw his pupils dilate until only a faint rim of aquamarine ringed them, felt the heat in their cool depths, and knew that food wasn't the only thing he was hungry for. His mouth came down on hers, and she tasted him through the salt and spices, both familiar, and unfamiliar. She made a soft, excited sound as he wound his fingers into her hair to hold her ruthlessly for his mouth. She didn't protest, kissing him with the same ferocity, her arms going around him, fingers splayed across his back as if to pull him inside her.
Mouth still locked to hers, Lewis lifted her to the edge of the sink and moved between her legs. The lab coat rode up, leaving only the thin, soft cotton of his scrubs between them; she could feel the heat and hardness of him full against her. Her insides liquefied with desire, and she hugged his hips with her thighs. He suddenly stopped kissing her, pulling his mouth from hers and catching her hands in his.
"I'm sorry," he said hoarsely. "I should not have done that."
Carlie didn't understand. She wanted him, she knew he had to oblige her, he'd told her that last time. Frustrated, she put her hands on his hips and tried to pull him closer, but he resisted.
"If we do this, we'll be playing right into their hands. We can't do that."
Oh, god. She'd forgotten where she was. For few brief moments she had inhabited a reality in which only the two of them existed. She opened her eyes, saw the curtain that afforded them only a thin veil of privacy. He was right. She let go of him, profoundly shaken. How could she have forgotten everything so totally?
"I'm sorry," she said. "I just . . ." not sure what it was that she 'just', she let her sentence die, and shrugged helplessly.
"I know," he said softly, looking as shaken as she felt. "I know." He reached out and touched his fingertips to the fabric over one of her nipples. A shudder went through her, and she caught his hand and moved it away.
"Did that hurt?" he asked, frowning slightly.
Carlie laughed. "Not hardly, but I only have so much willpower."
Lewis nodded, looking rueful. "I seem to be having that problem myself. I think they've put something in the food."
Carlie stared at him, startled. Was that a joke? She was pretty sure it was. She smiled, tentatively. "Well, if it helps any, you seem to have that same effect on me," she confided.
Lewis sighed "I really didn't need to know that. Come on, before we do something we'll regret." He stepped back out of the small lavatory enclosure.
Hopping off the sink to follow him, Carlie glanced up at the camera and stuck out her tongue, wiggling her hands beside her ears. Lewis stared at her, frowning, clearly puzzled. She blushed, but grinned. "Sorry. I think it's a cultural thing. You probably wouldn't understand."
"I guess not." He moved the two chairs so they were a good three feet apart and sat down on one, gesturing for her to take the other. "Sit, please. Talk to me."
"About?" Carlie asked as she sat.
His expression changed, became softer. "I would have asked before, but there was no time when I was there, and before that-- " he waved a hand at their cell. "As you see, communications are somewhat difficult from here. Tell me about the children."
A quiet warmth spread through her, and she didn't bother hiding her smile. She had hoped he would eventually ask her about them. After his reassurance, she could at least bear to think about them. The pain was still there, but somehow lessened by the fact that though she didn't know exactly where they were, at least they were in familiar hands.
"Are they healthy?" he asked.
She nodded, smiling. "Very. I was worried at first because they were so small, but Marga told me that's normal, and they certainly grow fast enough. Thank god for second-hand stores or I'd never be able to keep them in clothes."
"Their names are rather unusual," he said. "We don't usually use names that attract attention."
"I'm not you," she snapped, then realizing he probably hadn't meant to sound critical, she tried to explain. "I wanted names that suited them."
Lewis' gaze was sharp and curious. "Suited them? How?"
"Their names have meanings?"
Carlie looked at him, wondering if he really meant that. "Of course. All names have meaning, surely you knew that?"
He shrugged. "I never gave it any thought."
"No, you probably wouldn't have much call to. But take 'Lewis' for instance. Is that your first name or your last name?" she asked, finally given a chance to resolve the curiosity that had been with her since Marga had shown up, saying, "Lewis sent me."
He shrugged. "It's my only name. Any others I use are temporary."
That was interesting. Filing the information, she went on. "I looked it up when I was considering names, it's of German origin, and means 'famous in battle." She smiled wryly. "Not an inappropriate name for you, all things considered. Now, with Arian, I called her that because she was so fair, her hair and eyes so pale they looked like silver. Arian means 'silver' in Welsh."
He nodded, seeming interested, or at least humoring her. "And the others?"
"Luke is short for Lucien, which means 'light,' and Sorcha is Gaelic for 'bright.'"
Lewis frowned, looking slightly perplexed. "You called Luke that, though he's dark, like you?"
Carlie grinned. "Not his eyes. They're full of light, like yours." Lewis shifted uncomfortably, and she wondered if her comment had embarrassed him. Too bad. She went on. "Sorcha is bright in every way, full of life and laughter."
"And you? What does 'Carlotta' mean?"
She made a face. "You would ask that. Basically, it means either 'man' or 'servant.'"
He smiled that quirky, one-sided smile she was starting to find endearing. "Clearly whoever named you didn't do their research. So, go on, tell me more."
"Well, they were born April ninth and tenth. Sorcha and Arian were born just before midnight on the ninth, then Lucien, and Valentine . . ." Carlie fell silent abruptly, realizing he didn't know about Valentine. There had been no opportunity to tell him.
"Valentine?" Lewis asked, and she could hear in his voice that he had guessed the answer.
Carlie felt her eyes fill, and looked at her hands, unable to meet his gaze. "Val only lived for a few hours. He was the last, and Marga said the stress was too much, and he was oxygen-deprived. She told me that it's common with first births to 'older' mothers, which for our kind, I guess I am." She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. "I find myself wondering all the time, if we'd gone to a hospital, could they have saved him? I'll never know, I suppose. Marga said it was too dangerous for one of us to go to a hospital. There's a part of me that may never to forgive her for that."
"She was right," Lewis told her quietly.
Carlie lifted her eyes from her hands, meeting his gaze steadily. "I know that. It doesn't matter." She held his gaze for a moment, then stood up, pacing, fists clenched. "We shouldn't have to live like this! If you hadn't started this stupid conflict with the humans, we wouldn't have to!"
"I didn't start . . . " Lewis began.
She turned swiftly, jabbing the air with a finger. "Don't give me that! I don't want to hear it! Maybe it wasn't you, personally, but you certainly have done everything you could to continue it! Yes, Marga's given me the 'party line' and I understand it just fine, I simply don't believe it! I think we could coexist. Perhaps not easily, but we could! Don't you see I'm proof of that? We don't have to be vicious, we don't have to kill or be killed. We could just be!" Her voice broke, and she retreated behind the lavatory curtain again, unwilling to let either him or the camera see her weep.
Lewis listened to Carlie try to pretend she wasn't crying, and not knowing what he could do, he did nothing at all. He thought about what she had said, and discovered guilt. She was right, he thought, then refused the thought. How could she be right? They had to fight, they had no choice. Given half a chance, humankind would destroy them, so they had to strike first. Everything he had done in his life had been done to assure the survival of his kind, but her words came back to him, accusing, true. In assuring the survival of his species, had he brought about the death of his own child? He shuddered, remembering Luke's sleepy blue gaze. He had heard that at least among humans, twins often shared an unusual bond. Was Luke conscious of the loss?
Thinking about twins sparked a new thought Among his kind it was more common to have a twin than not to have one. Lewis wondered for the first time that he did not. Why was that? He knew nothing about his birth, his family, his childhood. It had been taken from him just as he had taken it from others. Now that he thought about it, it was strange that he had never wondered about himself. Deliberately he tried to summon his first truly conscious memory and was unsurprised to realize that before about ten, there was absolutely nothing, just like those he'd trained. Again, that indelible image of Carlie nursing flashed into his mind. Had his mother given him life like that? Who was she? Was she still alive?
Fists clenched, he forced his thoughts away from that path. Such meanderings served no purpose, and only undermined his stability. He knew the psychological effects of imprisonment and isolation well, having used them to his advantage on many occasions. It was ludicrous that even knowing the basis for what he was experiencing, he still suffered from it. Thinking of that made him realize that even just a few days would be having similar effects on Carlie. She had no training in resistance, and with her emotional nature separation from the children would worsen the effects drastically. He should explain what was happening. Perhaps that would allow her to resist more effectively.
Carlie. Lewis realized suddenly that she had been too quiet, for too long. He stood up, indecisively, and shuddered at the realization that he was indecisive. He was losing it. He had always known what to do, and when and how to do it. Now he was at a loss and he hated the feeling. Quietly he moved over to the curtain, and looked behind it. Carlie was curled up on the floor asleep, head pillowed on her arm, hair tangled across her face. Her face was still flushed and swollen from crying.
He debated leaving her there, but finally could not. Kneeling, Lewis carefully picked her up and placed her on the bed. Exhausted and probably already feeling the psychological effects of her imprisonment, she didn't wake. When he tried to let her go and move away, her arms went around him, refusing to let him leave her. He stood there trying to decide what to do. If he remained in such an awkward position, he would shortly be in pain, but if he pulled away, she would wake up. With as much difficulty as he was having with self-control, the obvious solution was asking for trouble. He did it anyway, climbing onto the bed.
Carlie sighed, and burrowed closer against him. Lewis closed his eyes and lay there stroking her hair. It was comfortable, soothing almost. He might have fallen asleep as well, if not for the host of unfamiliar emotions vying for notice within him. Walls were crumbling inside him, he could feel it. He was acting human, and enjoying it. He began to panic at the realization of what he was doing. This was dangerous, he had to reassert control. He started to untangle himself from Carlie so he could get as far away from her as possible, and in his alarm he woke her. She lifted her head, obviously surprised to find him there, but slowly the surprise faded, replaced by the most peculiar expression. He had no reference for the emotion she was feeling until she identified it for him.
"I'm sorry. I'm ashamed of myself. I knew it would hurt you, and I did it anyway. I guess I just wanted you to feel a little bit of what I felt, just for a moment, instead of being so god-damned controlled."
She pulled back a little, shaking her head. "Lewis, that's not us, it's not who we're meant to be! I know you were taught to be cold and remote, but I can also feel your emotions, trapped inside, trying to get out! You can feel it too, don't tell me you can't! I know we can be passionate beings, passionate in everything we do, in hate, in anger, in sorrow, in elation, in lust, and in love. Don't deny yourself that!"
Lewis stared at her, speechless, wishing that what she said didn't resonate so fully through him. He was afraid. Terrified. He had no idea who he would be if he didn't control, didn't know how to keep the ghosts inside him at bay without denial. Finally he shook his head. "I don't know any other way to be."
She got to her knees, hands fisted on her thighs as she leaned close. "You can learn, damn it! You told me that we're smarter than humans. Prove it. Learn. Adapt. Species that can't adapt die, Lewis, you know that as well as I do. Darwin may have been lowly human, but he was right!"
He couldn't listen anymore. Roughly he pushed her away and retreated to stand with his back to her, his arms crossed as if to shield himself from a blow. He heard her sigh.
"Think about it. Just think about it."
He couldn't bring himself to acknowledge her at all.
"I still don't think this is a good idea, Sloan," Tom said, pulling the car up to the curb. "You should just leave her alone."
"Look, Tom, she's the first female of your species I've met who wouldn't just as soon shoot me as talk to me! I need to know what she can tell me! I promise, this won't take long."
Tom sighed. Sloan was like a dog on a bone about this. Ever since Lewis had been recaptured, she'd been bugging him to go back to Carlotta Martinez's house with her so she could ask her some questions. Knowing Sloan wouldn't give up, he'd finally agreed to do it even though he felt strongly that they should leave the woman alone. He set the brake and looked at the house.
"I don't feel them, they're not there. We should have called ahead."
Sloan looked disappointed. "I was afraid of that, but I didn't want to spook her. Come on, let's go up, I'll leave her a note, and my number."
He nodded, and got out of the car, following her up to the porch, noting that the lawn looked a little dry, and flowers in the window boxes were shriveled and drooping. There were newspapers on the front porch, still folded and rubber-banded, and the small mailbox was stuffed full.
"Looks like she already spooked. I'd say she hasn't been here since about the time we left."
Sloan nodded, looking frustrated. "Damn it! I knew I shouldn't have let you drag me off that day. I think she would have been willing to talk."
Tom felt only slightly guilty. Although he was still trying to figure out exactly why, he knew he didn't want Sloan around Carlotta Martinez. In fact, he didn't want anyone around her. He felt oddly protective of her, not in the same, intense way he felt about Sloan, but in a way he could only describe as 'tender.' It was a very peculiar feeling. Sloan looked at the business card in her hand and sighed.
"Guess there's no need to leave this," she said with a sigh, then her jaw squared in that stubborn way that he found strangely attractive. "But I'm going to do it anyway. Who knows, she might come back, if she thinks it's safe."
Sloan opened the screen door to tuck the card into the crack where the door met the doorjamb, but as she put her hand against the door, it swung inward a fraction. Startled, she yanked her hand away and looked at Tom, guiltily, as if she'd done it deliberately. He frowned, and looked at the door, examining the lock.
Their eyes met, and he saw the trepidation in hers. "Broken?" she echoed.
Tom nodded and pushed the door open. The air that escaped was stuffy, and smelled faintly of soiled diapers. He wrinkled his nose and moved into the dim confines of the house. Just inside the door he stepped on a small object, and leaned down to pick it up. It was a small, sharp-tipped dart with a tiny reservoir in the shaft. He held it out on his palm, showing it to Sloan.
"It's a tranquilizer dart," he said, identifying it for her, knowing she wasn't familiar with weapons.
"A tranquilizer dart? Something your people use?" she asked hopefully, though he could tell she knew it was a vain hope.
He shook his head, confirming what she already knew. "This is something your people developed to use against us."
"Do you think Attwood . . ." She let her sentence trail off.
"I wouldn't put it past him, no."
Sloan went pale, and her hand shook as she lifted it to her mouth. "Oh my god! Tom, we led them here, this is our fault!"
"We don't know that." Tom said. "They might have found her through some other means."
Sloan glared at him. "Oh, come on, Tom! We were the only ones who knew about her, and I know I didn't tell them, and I doubt that you did. They probably had a bug in our car and were listening the whole time!"
Tom nodded grimly. "That does seem likely, Attwood has never fully trusted me. It would be logical for him to have a backup system. However they found her, the fact remains that they apparently have her."
"Attwood never said a word!"
"I expect there is a great deal Attwood does not tell us. Come on, let's go."
"Wait. I want to check something," she headed down the narrow hallway toward the back of the house.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't want to make an unfair assumption here. I want to see if she left on her own."
"And how do you propose to do that?" Tom asked, following her into the small bedroom.
"I'm going to use deductive reasoning." Sloan said, turning on the light. She opened the closet, rifled through the clothes briefly, then closed the door again and went to the bureau, which she also looked through. Then she picked up a small suitcase that sat next to the door, looked in it, and sighed.
"I think they got her."
"What makes you say that?"
"She packed, but she didn't take the bag." Sloan sat on the edge of the bed, and looked up at him. "What do we do now?"
Tom came to stand near her, gazing around. Something was bothering him, something just on the edge of his senses, faint, uncertain. "I'm not sure," he said, distracted.
"What is it?" Sloan asked, familiar with what that air of distraction meant.
"I smell blood."
"What?" Sloan jumped up, and slipped on a small object on the floor, almost falling. Tom steadied her, then bent to pick up the object. After a moment's examination, he looked up at her.
"It's a spent bullet. I'd say it came out of somebody, there seems to be dried blood on it."
Sloan stared at him. "You could smell that? It's tiny!"
Tom shook his head. "No, not just this. There must be something else." He wandered around the room until the scent took him to the wastebasket. Kneeling, he reached in and pulled out a long strip of stained cloth. "This."
The fabric appeared to be woven cotton, the color, where not obscured by dried blood, was an unattractive medium green. Some months back when they had visited the facility where Lewis was being held, he'd been wearing clothing made from this type of fabric. When they had been trying to locate Lewis after his escape, Attwood had remarked that Lewis had been wounded getting out of the facility. The connection was not hard to make.
"Lewis was here. This is where they caught him."
Sloan looked at him, her expression going soft in that way it did when her feelings were engaged. "Oh, Tom, he came to see her, to see the babies."
Tom had a hard time reconciling a man who would risk capture to see his offspring with the man he knew Lewis to be, but it did seem as if Lewis had done exactly that. How odd. He could find no logical reason for such behavior. He frowned. "There must have been some other reason."
"Why?" Sloan asked. "Wouldn't you have done the same thing, if it was you?"
Tom could sense that she was emotionally invested in this idea, and understood that his answer was important to her. He analyzed the question, trying to figure out how she wanted him to reply. Even a human male might have trouble answering that one without getting in trouble. He finally nodded, slowly. "It would depend on the circumstances, but yes, I probably would. However, I am not Lewis."
"But you were like him, once. If you could change . . . "
Tom looked at her, one eyebrow lifted. "If I could change, Lewis could? Is that what you're thinking?"
Sloan looked away, her jaw set. "It could happen."
"Certainly. And a meteor could fall out of the sky and flatten this house as we speak, but it's about as likely."
She glared at him. "I hate it when you're cynical."
"I'm not cynical, I'm honest. Come on, there's no reason for us to stay here. Let's go."
Sloan nodded. And as they walked toward the door, she paused, staring at the playpen in the front room. She turned to him, stricken. "Tom, the babies!"
He nodded grimly. "We know they have him, and probably her as well, so it's likely they have all of them."
"Oh my god," she whispered. "Tom, we have to do something! We have to help them!"
Tom looked at her, puzzled. "Sloan, the man kidnaped you, he tried to get us killed. Why would you help him?"
She looked at him with the strangest expression on her face, and shook her head. "There was a time that everyone I knew asked me that very question about you. Why would I trust you? Why would I help you? After all, I knew you were a killer. But Carlotta Martinez and her babies have certainly harmed no one, and even if I couldn't bring myself to help him, I would still want to help her. It would be . . . " she paused significantly, eyes locked with his. "It would be inhuman not to help."
And that, as far as she was concerned, was that. Tom wondered if he would ever understand her completely. Probably not, but from what he heard, that problem was not specific to interspecies relationships. He stifled a sigh.
"I will help you try to locate and free Ms. Martinez and her children."
Sloan looked at him speculatively, but must have sensed that there was no way he would consent to trying to help Lewis, because she nodded, accepting his statement.
Tom didn't tell her he thought it was useless. She would find that out soon enough.
Carlie lay on the bed, watching Lewis' back. He'd finally sat down, but still had his back to her. It was a nice back, but staring at it for what felt like at least a solid hour was not exactly thrilling. She knew he was afraid of something. She could feel his fear swirling and seething like some malevolent fog. What was he so afraid of? Living?
No. After analyzing it for the same hour she'd been staring at his back, she was pretty sure she'd figured it out. Lewis was afraid of feeling, because if he felt anything it would force him to confront the things he had done in his life. She remembered the look on his face when she had told him she was ashamed of hurting him. Complete and total incomprehension. He hadn't the slightest concept of shame, or at least he hadn't until recently. She could tell that was changing. He had started the long fall to grace, and shame lurked just close enough for him to feel its presence and fear it. She didn't blame him. It wasn't something she would want to face after a lifetime spent as his had been. Too many ghosts. Carlie sat up abruptly, tired of the silence and the inactivity.
"How can you just sit there, doing nothing?"
Lewis turned at that, looking at her oddly. "What should we do?"
Carlie stood up, and paced. "I don't know, anything but just sit here! I can't do that. If I just sit, all I do is think."
He nodded. "Of course. That is, after all, the point of imprisonment. It's intended to disorient, and in our case, to foster intimacy and dependence."
She sighed. "So, you're the expert, right? How do you stand this?"
He thought about that a moment, and she saw uncertainty flash across his face. "I don't know that I can explain it. It's something I was taught when I was very young. The only way I can describe it is that it's like shutting off the monitor on a computer. I just go blank until I'm needed. Almost a hibernation."
"Great," Carlie sighed. "That does me a lot of good."
"I'm sorry, I'd teach it to you if I thought I could, but I've never successfully taught it to an adult."
She stared at him. "You've taught it to children?"
He looked back at her warily. "Yes."
She sat forward, her gaze locked on him. "Why? Why would you teach it to a child?"
His gaze fell, and he didn't reply for a good minute. "It was required," he said finally, his voice flat and emotionless.
Carlie continued to stare at him in shocked silence. He didn't look up. She had known what he did, even accepted it, but this . . . this was inconceivable.
"Lewis, the man who came to visit me, Tom Daniels. He said you were his trainer. Was that true?"
"How old was he when you started training him?"
He looked up, and she thought there was a plea for understanding in his lucent gaze. "Nine."
She steeled herself to go on. "Was he the youngest you ever trained?"
Lewis shook his head. Carlie put her head in her hands. "Oh my god," she whispered. "Oh my god." She kept trying to pretend she didn't understand.
"It was necessary," he said, the same plea in his voice that she had seen in his eyes.
"How can it ever be necessary to turn a child into a killer?" Carlie asked, lifting her head to look into his eyes, to see if he felt anything at all. He was looking at her, a strange, bewildered expression on his face.
"It's all I know," Lewis said quietly. "That's how I was made."
His simple statement found the chink in Carlie's armor and slid between her ribs like a blade. Every time she wanted to hate him, he showed a side that wouldn't allow it. Her heart went out to the child he had never been. He was a victim too, a Lost Boy, who instead of remaining a child forever, never got a chance to be one. How long had he been killing? At a guess he was in his early forties, if he had started as a child . . . she shuddered, pushing the thought away. Who was responsible for doing this to him? She wanted to hunt them down, to somehow make them feel the pain they had given. She stood up and walked over to where he sat. When she reached out, he flinched back fractionally, as if expecting a blow. That hurt, too. She knelt next to him and reached up to put her hand against his face.
"I'm sorry they did that to you, and I'm sorry you did it to others. Both are wrong. You know that, don't you?"
He closed his eyes and swallowed heavily. "No."
She knew he was lying, she could feel the knowledge in him, in the tension in his jaw, the rigidity of his posture, in his quick, shallow breathing. She let him have the lie. He needed it. With a sigh she stood up and started to pace the room, rubbing her arms, though the chill she felt wasn't physical. Suddenly, she stopped, realizing something that stopped her breath in her throat. He had sent Marga to help her, did that mean Marga was like him? She could be ruthlessly cold when she needed to be. The night the babies had been born, when Val had died . . .
"Lewis, is Marga like you?" she asked, her voice thick with fear.
He looked at her, puzzled. "In what way?"
"Was she trained like you?"
He looked thoughtful, and finally shrugged. "I don't know. She was one of the ones who trained me, but I have no idea how she was trained."
Carlie wasn't sure which was worse, her fear that the humans might have her babies, or the knowledge that Marga did. How could she have lived with the woman all those months and never suspected anything? She'd thought Marga was just an old woman, a neighborhood 'Auntie' like so many she'd known growing up; stoic, capable, and efficient. Carlie had never once suspected she was anything more than a midwife. Her knees buckled and she caught the table for balance. Lewis was on his feet immediately, supporting her.
"Are you ill?"
"She has them," Carlie whispered.
"Who has--" he began, then she saw understanding come into his eyes. "Marga has them. Yes."
"I won't let her do that to them. I won't." She pulled away from him and looked him in the eyes, putting every ounce of her determination into her gaze. "I'll tell Attwood who has them, and give him a description before I let her do to them what she did to you."
His gaze narrowed. "You would not."
"You just try me. I won't let her make them into monsters."
He didn't move, but his face tightened. She knew she'd hurt him, but at the moment she didn't care. She had to think, had to find a way out. Perhaps if Attwood returned, she could bargain with him, though she really couldn't think of anything she knew that would be useful to him. Lewis' hand on her shoulder was an unwelcome distraction, but she looked up.
"What?" she snapped irritably.
"Please, don't give them to the humans," his voice was huskier than usual. "I will see that they are not trained."
Please? The word sounded strange on his lips, but she welcomed it, because it meant he did care, at least a little. That promise had cost him, she knew it had. His only peace came from the inner surety that his cause was just, and by giving in to her he had just conceded that perhaps it was not. She nodded acknowledgment, but had to be honest.
"Thank you, but there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it from in here. We have to get out, either way."
"I know," he said, looking toward the door with an expression of utter frustration etched on his face. "Believe me, I know. Unfortunately, I doubt that history will repeat itself."
"In what way?"
"The way I got out of here before was through a malfunction of the lock system. I suspect they've not only taken care of the original problem, but installed backup systems in the event of another failure. I know I would have, and so far they haven't shown themselves to be complete idiots."
"Then we have to find another way, or make one. Look, I know I'm not like you, I haven't been trained to think like a terrorist, but I'm not stupid either. Two minds can be better than one. Tell me everything that you know about this place, everything that's happened to you in the last few months. Maybe I might think of something you overlooked."
He didn't dismiss her idea out of hand, instead he looked at her speculatively, his mouth and jaw taut. "You're sure you want to know everything?"
She realized what he was asking her. If he told her everything, there would be parts she probably didn't want to hear. She steeled herself, and nodded. "Everything. You never know what will be important."
Carlie amazed him. She had listened to him detail the last few months of his life, from guard and feeding schedules, to experiments, examinations and interrogations, and had not flinched from details Lewis had expected to repulse her. Despite her inexperience, she asked intelligent questions. Carlie was so determined to find a way out, a way to protect Arian, Sorcha, and Luke, that he felt wonder at the intensity of her resolve. No one he had ever trained had such focus, he doubted that even he could match her. Was it something inherent in her, or was it because she allowed herself to feel? All his conscious life he had followed his duty, not his heart. Was that what made the difference?
He had always believed in his cause, but it was a distant, unemotional belief fostered by obedience. Obedience to what, he wondered. Why was he obedient? He had unquestioningly carried out anonymous orders given through mysterious channels. He knew a great deal about the strategy he was supposed to help implement, but nothing about why they needed such a strategy. He had accepted what Carlie referred to as 'the party line' blindly, without once questioning its necessity. If he had witnessed such behavior in a human, he would have sneered, disgusted by their gullibility. What did that say about him?
Every belief that had supported him was rocked by the revelations she evoked within him. He had lived his entire life believing he was fighting a necessary war. Now he was no longer convinced that was the case. He was beginning to realize that hatred could not bring the changes they hoped to force. He had read human histories, he knew that they'd had their noses rubbed in that lesson time and time again, yet he had managed, like so many of them, to assume the lesson did not apply to himself.
Emotion was the most powerful motivator he had ever seen. It had transformed Tom, his ablest lieutenant, the one who was as committed, if not more committed to the cause than he was. It fired the determination he saw in Carlie's eyes even as it softened the curve of her mouth when she spoke of her babies. No, Lewis realized, not hers, theirs. He was beginning to feel that connection, tenuous as it was, as her emotions informed his. She was teaching him to feel, bit by bit, every bit as tenacious as the mentors who had taught him not to.
He clearly remembered holding the child-- no, he corrected himself yet again. Not 'the child,' but Sorcha. When he had held Sorcha for those few moments, feeling the rapid beat of her heart and the silky, tender warmth of her, smelling the newness of her, feeling her fragility, he'd learned awe. Her smile had drawn his own, unbidden, and it had hurt to see himself reflected in her gaze because it reminded him of all the times had he seen his face in dying eyes.
The cold, hard foundation of his life wasn't marble, but ice, and it had melted, dissolved by months of captivity and the fiery heart of a woman. He was tired of death, of killing. He wanted life, warmth, and light. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could never again be what he had been. Whatever had made it possible was gone now, had been gone even before he'd escaped. Why else would he have gone to Carlie, instead of one of the dozen safehouses that were closer? He had gone to her, seeking the comfort of her humanity, instinctively knowing no one else would offer it to him. And she had. Foolish as it had been, she had tried to heal him, to protect him.
Lewis watched Carlie pacing the cell like a lioness. She was everything he was not. Passionate, open, trusting, loving. He wanted that, yet feared it just as much. Though he knew that it was probably the stress of imprisonment, it was growing very hard to be rational when what he wanted was to embrace irrationality, and with it, her. He wanted to touch her, to take her in his arms and taste her, become part of her. But he knew that was what the humans wanted, which made it wrong, so instead he sat and watched her, wishing he could think of a way to get her out of here.
On one of her circuits of the room, she suddenly she stopped in front of the table, staring at the remains of their lunch. He could almost feel her thinking, but wasn't quite in tune enough to know exactly what. She reached down and picked up the foil, then came over to where he sat, crouching close next to him. Keeping her voice to a bare whisper, she held out the foil.
"If I could get it in there, would this be enough to break the lock mechanism?"
"Very good," he said, meaning it. "Yes, it would disrupt the flow of current that keeps the lock engaged. I've thought about trying something similar, but I had no way of distracting the guard while I did it."
"But with two of us, it could work, right?"
He nodded, slowly, hating to quash the sudden hope on her face, but he couldn't let her get too excited. "Unfortunately, it wouldn't take long for them to notice we were gone."
She frowned thoughtfully, then looked up again. "Do you think they would notice if just one of us were gone?"
Lewis thought about that. "It would probably take them longer to realize it, especially if you were the one who was gone. I suspect they keep a much closer eye on me than they do you."
She nodded, and stared at the foil, turning it over in her hands, obviously deep in thought. Finally she spoke again, without looking up. "The problem is, if I left without you I'd probably get caught before I left the building, and even if I did manage to make it out I wouldn't have the faintest idea where to look for Marga."
She had a point. She looked up then and he saw a hint of tears in her eyes that belied the stubborn thrust of her chin.
"Look, as much as I hate to say this, I know this will work better if it's just one of us trying to pull it off, and if that one is you. You could get out, and you would know where to find her. I don't have either the skills or the knowledge. You should go alone. I trust you to make good on your promise."
She trusted him. No one had ever said that to him before. Nothing had ever hurt as much as those words, but nothing had ever felt as good, either. He didn't know what to say to her. There were many things he could say, but they all sounded forced, artificial. Finally he just nodded.
She drew a deep, shuddering breath. "Thank you."
Lewis leaned close, speaking softly. "I should give you the contact information anyway, you'll need it if you get out of here, or in case I . . ." he stopped at the look in her eyes. She didn't want him to say it. "Well, just in case," he amended. She relaxed a little bit, and he gave her the information. Closing her eyes, she repeated it several times, committing it to memory. When she opened her eyes again the determination had returned to her gaze. "So, now, what do we need to do to make this work?"
"First, they have to be convinced that I wouldn't leave you here alone, otherwise they might suspect even with you remaining here. That will take some time."
She glanced up at the camera, then back at him. "Do they watch us all the time?"
He shook his head. "Probably not, though I suspect they tape everything, so they can refer back at a later time if necessary."
She nodded thoughtfully, and was quiet for several seconds before finally looking back up, a faint flush painting her face. "Then let's convince them."
Carlie knew the moment Lewis realized what she was suggesting, because his eyes widened, and he scowled, shaking his head. "No," he said firmly, as if that were the last word.
She looked at him directly, feeling the heat in her face. "Why not?"
"I'm not . . . you're not . . . we can't . . ."
Three attempts, no sentence. She really had flustered him. "It's the logical thing to do," she argued, trying to push the point.
His gaze grew heated, but not with desire, and Carlie decided discretion was the better part of valor, and backed off. "Okay, forget it. It just seemed like a good idea," she muttered under her breath.
Lewis didn't reply, just sent her a look that could have stripped paint. He was obviously content to wait. She wasn't. She wanted her babies out of Marga's hands as soon as possible, and if that meant she had to push things, so be it. The only problem was, she didn't know how. He'd said they had to convince their captors that they were devoted, yet he just sat there, being obviously irked with her. That was a whole lot of help. Irritably she thought it pretty strange that a man who could kill without compunction could possibly be shy, but apparently he was. It wasn't like she was Linda Lovelace herself, but there was very little she wouldn't do to protect her babies, up to and including performing on camera.
Carlie sighed, and stood up, resuming her pacing since it felt marginally better than just sitting there. Soon she was glancing at the camera every time she passed it. Finally she stopped in front of it, and stared at the damned thing with her hands on her hips. After a moment she glanced over her shoulder. Lewis was still ignoring her. Good. Hopefully he'd stay that way for a minute or two. She put her hands over her eyes, then made a well known obscene gesture at the lens, then put her hands over eyes again.
It was a simple message, blunt even, but would anyone watching understand? Probably they'd just think she was flipping them off, but she had to try. Carlie snuck a look at Lewis, who didn't seem to have noticed what she'd done, thank God. She didn't want to face his temper. She debated retreating to the bed with one of the ancient magazines, then decided to be pushy instead. She grabbed the unoccupied chair, moved it closer to him, and sat, staring at him until he looked up, eyebrows lifted.
"So, what do you do when you're not plotting the ultimate demise of the human race? Surely you must have done something interesting at some point."
Lewis looked at her thoughtfully. "Why do you want to know?"
"It's called 'having a conversation.' You ought to try it sometime."
He studied her for a moment longer, then shrugged. "I've done a lot of things."
"Yeah, but did you like any of them?"
He frowned thoughtfully. "Like . . . " He said the word as if it were in a foreign language. "I did what was necessary."
"No, I didn't ask that. I asked if you liked any of them."
"Enjoyment was irrelevant."
Carlie shot to her feet. "Oh for God's sake, what are you, a Borg? I swear, you are the most annoying, irritating . . . " She slapped her thighs with her hands. "I give up." Grabbing a magazine off the table, she stomped over to the bed and sat down to read, her back to him. If he wanted to be that way, let him.
For a long time there was no sound in the room other than the rustle of the magazine as she turned the pages, then finally Lewis broke the silence.
"I taught psychology for a time, that was interesting."
Carlie jumped a little in surprise, not having heard him get up and move close to the bed. She shifted position so she could see him, intrigued that he had initiated the conversation.
"You taught psychology?"
"How'd you pull that off? I thought you had to have a Ph.D. in the field to do that kind of thing."
"Oh, I get it. You faked the credentials."
He shook his head, smiling slightly. "No."
She studied him narrowly. "You have a Ph.D. in psychology?"
"Among other things."
"What other things?"
"I have degrees of various levels in anthropology, computer science, structural and electrical engineering, and architecture."
Carlie realized her mouth was open and shut it. She'd wanted to know more about him, but that was rather more than she'd expected. How the hell was she supposed to communicate with someone that well-educated? Sure, she wasn't stupid, but she'd had to get a job and support herself after high school, and bartending school was the extent of her higher education. It had never bothered her before, but now she suddenly felt like the village idiot. Realizing he was waiting for her to reply, she cast around for something to say.
"Geez, you must've spent your entire adult life in school," she said finally, with an uncomfortable laugh.
"Not really. You'd be surprised how easy the human educational system is for one of us. With our eidetic memory and enhanced intelligence, it's really not difficult at all."
"For you maybe." Carlie took a deep breath, and decided it was time to change the subject to something she could deal with. Hopefully. "So, now we've covered what you find interesting, how about what you enjoy? What do you like?"
"No, now I get to ask you something. That is how a conversation goes, isn't it?"
She smiled a little. "Well, they tend to be rather free-form, but if you want to ask me something, go ahead."
"What is it like to be a child?"
Carlie was shocked silent for a moment by the implication of his question. She had to replay the question in her head to make sure he hadn't asked what it was like to have a child, instead of to be a child. He hadn't. Maybe he hadn't meant it quite the way it sounded. "You mean, to be raised human?" she asked.
"No. Just to be a child. What was the experience like?"
"You don't remember?" Carlie asked, appalled.
Lewis shook his head. "No. Nothing before my training began."
Probably at nine or ten, if what he'd told her was any indicator. God, not only had they taken away his childhood, but they'd left him no life of his own after that. Her mind suddenly filled with the memory of holding him, feeling the pain inside him leaking out in an unguarded moment. Now she finally understood what had made him that way. No wonder he'd told her he was already dead.
Trying to keep from tearing up, Carlie tried her best to answer his question. "It's not an easy question to answer, there are so many things to try to say." She patted the bed. "Sit down for a minute while I figure out how to express it."
Lewis sat, cautiously, as far from her as he could and still be on the bed, and waited. Carlie closed her eyes and thought back. There were plenty of bad memories, especially as she remembered things closer to the present, but he didn't need pain, he needed joy. She discarded the memories that were too distressing, going back to a very early image, she couldn't have been more than five. She started to talk as the images came, laying them out in a stream of random words.
"Dew-damp grass under bare feet, the smell of fresh dirt and daffodils in a basket made from construction paper. The pounding of your own heart as you leave the flowers on a doorstep and push the doorbell, then dash off before anyone can see you. The pain of a skinned knee eased by your mother's soft arms and soft body holding you, caring for you. The spicy-sweet flavor of marranitos. Listening to the Aunties gossip. Watching the neighborhood cat with her still-blind kittens, holding one in your hand, feeling its heartbeat. Trust. Innocence. Safety. Unconditional love."
The word was whispered. She opened her eyes and saw him, ivory-pale, eyes closed, jaw tense. She realized that without intending to, she had actually made things worse. In remembering, she had felt, and as an empath he could feel what she felt. To give him both words and awareness of what had been stolen from him had been thoughtlessly cruel. That was something she'd had trouble with all he life. She was too impulsive, always acting without thought for how her actions would affect others. She reached out and put a hand on his arm.
He sat up straighter, seeming to shake off the hurt. "No, I shouldn't have asked. I know better." He looked up. "You asked before what I like. That's not something I have a great deal of experience with. Some of the things I enjoy would probably shock you."
There was no surer way of getting her curiosity going. Now she was imagining all kinds of alarming things. Well, best to just ask. "Such as?"
He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment before answering. "I like to get inside people, get into their heads and find the flaw, the place where if you push, they crumble. The place where you can control them from."
Carlie laughed a little, relieved. "Is that all? Here I was imagining black leather and whips."
Lewis looked puzzled. "Black leather and whips?"
Carlie grinned. "Never mind, if you don't know what I'm talking about I'm not going to enlighten you. So, what other awful things do you enjoy?"
"Then it doesn't bother you?"
He had to ask. She sighed. "Well, on some level it does, because I know that you're not just talking about the intellectual idea of it, but of really using that knowledge to manipulate people. But, actually it's not too surprising that you would enjoy that kind of thing, considering you're a psychologist. That's what they do for a living."
He considered that, and nodded slowly. "I hadn't thought of it that way. Interesting."
She couldn't resist. "So, what's my weakness?"
He studied her assessingly. "Do you really want to know? Most people don't."
"Good question. No, but tell me anyway."
"You have several, actually."
"Great. Well? What are they?"
"You lack self-confidence. You constantly second-guess yourself, your instincts. You act against logic."
She snorted. "Tell me something I don't know."
"You're too sympathetic and trusting, it makes you easily taken advantage of."
"Golly, ya think?" she asked sardonically. She'd trusted him, look where it had gotten her.
Lewis was obviously disconcerted by her response. "If you know these things about yourself, why don't you correct them? It's a very inefficient way to live."
"Because I kind of like me the way I am. Life isn't about efficiency, Lewis."
He shook his head. "I don't understand you."
Carlie sighed. "No, I don't suppose you do." She gazed at him, shaking her head. "God, it's such a shame."
"You. What they did to you. You're beautiful and brilliant, and so God-damned wasted. I think about what you could have been if they hadn't done this to you and just want to hurt someone."
Lewis's reaction surprised her. He shook his head, looking superior and amused. "There's your biggest weakness. Humanitarian impulses are probably the most easily exploitable flaw I find in people. It's remarkably easy to convince most people to do something they would not normally do, if you tell them its for the greater good."
His smug look sparked Carlie's temper and she glared at him. "I'm not talking about the greater good here. I'm talking about you, as an individual. Which, in the long run, means I'm talking about me. If you weren't what you are, I would still be a blissfully ignorant virgin working at Patti's Place instead of stuck in here with you, worrying about my babies and wondering what they're going to do to me in order to get to you!"
She could almost see the wall come down between them. His gaze took on that remote quality she was starting to hate, and he got up and walked back to the table to sit unspeaking. She'd done it again. Hurt him. She knew damned well that was why he retreated behind that icy shield. Carlie cursed her quick temper. Damn it, they'd actually been communicating, and she'd blown it. She slumped, chin on her knees, wondering if it would do any good to apologize. Probably not. Well, she'd just ably shown yet another of her shortcomings for him, if he wanted to update his list.
Dinner came, this time they brought enough for two. Again, they brought no utensils, not even a spoon, so the meal had to be eaten with fingers. Though it was nice to have enough food, Carlie was slightly disappointed that there was no opportunity for sharing. They ate in silence and after eating, Lewis continued to hibernate, and she retreated to the bed with another old magazine. When the guards returned to collect the food refuse she held her breath, half afraid that they kept an inventory of everything they brought into the room, and would notice the missing foil. When they didn't, she had nearly laughed with relief.
Once they'd gone, she touched the foil in her pocket, reassuring herself it was there, and looked toward the door, wondering how she was going to manage to get it into the lock. There was always a guard by the door whenever it was opened; she'd need for Lewis to distract them, or maybe she could distract them while Lewis did it. No, they'd probably let her near the door a lot sooner than they'd let him approach it. Glancing up at the camera, she noticed something was different. What? A dark lens, small red light below it . . . Red light? Hadn't it been green before?
He didn't turn. "What?"
"The light under the camera, wasn't it green before?"
He turned, staring up at it with narrowed eyes. "Yes."
"What does red mean?"
"That it's off." He was on his feet, moving toward the door, running his fingers down the seam where door met frame. After a moment he stepped back, shaking his head. "Damn. The last time that light was red, the lock system malfunctioned at the same time. That's how I got out of here. Unfortunately it looks like they corrected that problem."
"So, does that mean they turned off the camera?" Carlie tried her best to project surprise. Actually, it wasn't hard, since she was surprised they'd actually noticed and figured out her improvised sign-language. She just hoped Lewis couldn't sense the reason for her surprise. She knew damned well he'd be pissed.
Lewis shook his head. "It's more likely that it just malfunctioned."
They both stared at the camera, waiting. Minutes passed, and the light stayed off.
"Don't you think they'd have fixed it by now if it was just a malfunction?" Carlie asked nonchalantly after some time had passed.
"That would depend on what was wrong with it," Lewis said, thoughtfully. "But we'd probably hear them working on it," he allowed.
"Then they did turn it off."
"Why? Have they ever done it before?"
"Occasionally, though they don't generally keep me informed about their reasons. Why do they do anything? Maybe they just want to play with our heads."
Carlie was pretty sure that wasn't it, but wasn't about to tell him that either. She gave a theatrical sigh. "You're probably right. God, this place is driving me nuts! How do you stay sane?"
He looked at her oddly. "How do you know I have?"
She rolled her eyes. "Give me a break. It's obvious."
"To you, perhaps, not to me. I have never felt less sane in my life."
Lewis turned away from her again, running his fingers up and down his inner arm. Carlie felt a shock of fear spark through her as she realized what he was doing. She bounced out of bed and was across the room in seconds, grabbing his wrist. The next thing she knew she was halfway across the room fetched up painfully in a heap against the very hard metal bedstead. She blinked, trying to figure out how she'd gotten there, and taking inventory. She seemed to be in one piece, if a bit banged up. Before she could do anything else, he was there suddenly, helping her sit up, his hands as gentle as they had been hard a moment earlier. His face was white, his features taut and worried.
"Are you hurt?"
She shook her head, rubbing her back with a grimace. "No, not really, just a couple of bruises." She looked at him askance, shaking off the hand he still had on her arm. "It's a good thing for you that we're stuck in here or I'd call cops on you for that one, buster."
"I would deserve it," he said quietly. "I have never done anything like that before."
She snorted. "Tell me another one."
He looked confused. "Tell you another what?"
His jaw tightened. "I don't lie."
"Right." She scooted away, still rubbing her back.
"I don't lie to my own kind," he amended.
"I'm not your kind," Carlie stated flatly.
He studied her for a moment, then shook his head. "No, you're not, are you?" Abruptly, he sat down on the floor staring at his hands. "Why did you do that?"
"Grab me like that."
Should she tell him? No reason not to, she supposed. "I was afraid you were going to hurt yourself again. You were scratching at your arm."
He looked at his arm, at her, at his hand, and started to laugh, shaking his head.
"What?" She demanded, not understanding.
He couldn't seem to stop, he just kept laughing, until tears came. She was starting to worry that he really had lost it when he finally managed to get a little control over himself.
"Sometimes it just itches," he said, tears of laughter in his eyes.
As his words registered, Carlie felt herself beginning to smile, then to laugh. She had completely misinterpreted his gesture. Unfortunately, laughing made her back ache where she'd fallen, and she stopped laughing abruptly at that reminder.
"Why did you hit me?"
His laughter died instantly and he looked away. "Reflexes. My body decided you were attacking me and acted before my mind had a chance to reinterpret your movement."
"You thought I was attacking you? Me?" She laughed, shaking her head at the absurdity of it. "Yeah, like I'm dangerous."
His gaze locked on hers, lambent, and utterly serious. "You are. You're the most dangerous woman I have ever known. You will be my death."
Shaken, Carlie knew he wasn't joking. She felt a chill go through her, a wracking shudder. "I don't want to be," she breathed, protesting.
"I know," he said, a wealth of understanding in his voice. He twined his fingers into her hair and drew her to him, lightly brushing her lips with his.
She felt another shudder go through her as she thought about what he'd said. Why had he said that? What did he fear from her? His mouth on hers grew more demanding, and the question slid from her mind, unimportant.
This was wrong. With some tiny, rational fraction of his mind Lewis knew it was wrong. It was what the humans wanted, so it had to be wrong. But just like the last time, everything about her felt so right. The silk of her hair, the warmth of her skin beneath his hands, her scent, her taste, the way she responded. Everything else was right, why not just forget that one wrong thing? He could feel the weight of time catching up to him. How long did they have? If he left here, would he ever see her again, ever feel her again? Though he would have preferred to leave her no choice, he couldn't do it. He lifted his mouth from hers to give her a chance to protest. She reached up and put her hand against his face, her eyes open, fully cognizant and consenting as she drew him back down to her.
Her mouth was gentle, soft and warm, like her spirit. She traced the edges of his ears with her fingertips, feathering across his cheekbones, then one hand moved down to touch his lips even as she kissed him. He turned his head, catching her fingers in his teeth, sliding his tongue across them, sucking on them. A whole-body shiver went through her, and her free hand moved behind his neck to cup the back of his head. He teased her fingers with his tongue a moment longer, then opened his teeth and let her go, feeling them slip free to fan damply against his skin as she turned his face toward her once more. They kissed again, slowly, languidly, tongues sliding, breath mingling.
Finally she sat back with a sigh, and with her eyes locked smokily with his, unbuttoned the lab coat. No practiced stripper could have made removing a single garment more sensual. He could almost feel each button slip free, and when she lifted to her knees and spread the coat open so she could shrug it off, the sight of her rich amber skin made him ache. She let it slide from her shoulders and fall to the floor, and when she would have moved toward him he shook his head.
Carlie waited, looking puzzled for a moment, then smiling as she realized why he had stopped her. She arched her back a little, sliding her hands beneath her hair and lifting it, the motion rounding her breasts as she posed deliberately. He studied her full curves, shadowed hollows, the sheen of her skin, the dark chaos of her hair, imprinting her image on his mind. For the first time he could remember, he regretted his calling, wishing he was an artist, not a killer; to capture her on canvas, not in a cell.
Finally she let her hair fall, and held out both hands to him. Lewis stood, catching her hands and bringing her to her feet as well. She tugged loose the drawstring of his scrubs, and he stepped out of them as she pulled the top off over his head. He lifted her and eased her down with her back and thighs on the bed, her feet dangling. Moving between her knees, he dropped a kiss on the soft curve of her belly as a warning before moving lower for a far more intimate caress.
As his mouth touched her, she cried out, clutching the sheets, lifting herself toward him. He caught her hips in his hands to hold her still, licking, suckling, gently nibbling. She was liquid fire, sweet and hot, responding to his slightest touch, her body bucking under his tongue, whimpers of delight urging him to continue. He did, until she moaned and shuddered her way to completion. Lewis waited for her to relax. In this, as in all else, she was unique. Affected with neither the self-conscious prudery of so many human females nor the businesslike complacency he had experienced with females of his own kind, Carlie took so much unashamed delight in him that it spurred him to offer more. He had learned to give sexual pleasure as part of his training, it being an excellent way to control and disorient a human, but none of his own kind had ever required it of him before. She was the only female he had ever shared this with out of desire, not duty.
Sliding a hand up the silky length of her inner thigh, Lewis found his paleness a powerfully erotic foil to her tawny bronze skin. He rubbed his nose against her belly and used his tongue to trace the faint silvery striae left on her skin by her pregnancy, curiously shaken by their presence. His hand moved higher, finding the deep, wet heart of her, easing one finger inside, then another. Carlie moaned, hips moving, then whimpered forlornly as he withdrew his fingers. Reaching down, she clamped her hand around his wrist, refusing to let him remove his hand. He chuckled, and slid his whole body upward along hers, until they were belly to belly, her soft warmth teasing him. As soon as she felt him, she let go of his wrist and moved her hand, curling her fingers around him, stroking.
"On the bed," he whispered against her ear.
She moved, scooting back so her whole body was on the bed, and he followed her. Catching her hand, he moved it to her own flesh. She understood, opening herself to receive him, and he guided himself into her, entering her slowly, with deliberate care. The contrast to his memory of the almost mindless urgency he remembered so well from their first time was stark, and delicious. She purred like a cat beneath him, sheathing him in her supple heat. He moved lazily, using his fingers against the moist softness of her sex to build her pleasure higher. Remembering her past reactions, he leaned over her and brushed his lips across one taut nipple, then captured it between teeth and tongue with a gentle tug.
Carlie arched upward with a sharp gasp. An unfamiliar sweetness flowed across his tongue, warm, startling. He would have looked up then, but she grabbed his head in both hands, holding him still. Seconds passed, and finally she drew a deep, shuddering breath, and released him, lifting her hands to hide her face.
"Oh god . . . " she whispered, invoking an alien deity. "Oh, god."
Suddenly remembering her earlier discomfort, Lewis wondered if her breasts were too sensitive to touch at all, and he tugged her hands down from her face so he could see her expression. She didn't look like she was in pain, but he needed to be sure.
"Did I hurt you?" he asked, every muscle trembling with the effort of stillness. It was one thing to move slowly, and something else entirely to not move at all.
Smiling oddly, she shook her head and touched his face lightly with her fingertips. "No, not hurt, just surprised, that's all. I hadn't thought what might happen. I guess it doesn't matter whose mouth does the work, the result is the same." She let her hands slide down his back, nails skimming his flanks lightly. "God, you are so beautiful," she sighed, shifting her hips beneath his, releasing him from his self-imposed immobility. He surged back into her, forgetting he'd meant to go slowly. She closed her eyes, lips parting on a sigh. "And you feel so good." She cupped a breast with one hand, and touched his lips with the other. "Again?" she asked, her voice a husky whisper.
Resuming his indolent slide within her, he leaned down and complied with her request, laving the tightly furled nipple with infinite care, curling his tongue around it, tugging with as little pressure as he could manage. As he did, she sighed and arched against him, though less frantically this time. This time he could also feel her sheath contracting around him in a rippling flutter as once again unaccustomed sweetness flooded across his tongue. Raising his head, he touched a fingertip to the cloudy pearls that beaded on her other nipple, finding it strangely arousing, strangely moving as well. Life spilled from her body, and she gave it to him willingly, offering him the same unconditional welcome she had given his children, she enfolded him, as she had enfolded them. He was surrounded and permeated with creation.
Carlie opened her eyes and watched him, her face flushed. Lewis lifted his finger from her nipple and touched it to her lips, then kissed her, beginning to move more strongly. She urged him back to her breasts, and he complied, using his mouth to give her the other relief she needed. Her hands went to his head, holding him to her, fingers stroking his hair. As his tempo increased, she made a soft, excited sound and brought up her knees, hugging his hips, meeting each of his thrusts with a quick upward lift that pulled him even deeper inside her. Her body tightened around him each time he tugged at her breast; the sensation was indescribable.
Lost to everything but the feel of her around him, he braced his arms to change the angle of his penetration and gave in to the urgency of his own need, driving hard into the yielding welcome of her body. He barely felt her teeth score his shoulder or her nails in his back, but her shuddering moan of delight and the flurry of ripples within her demanded that he follow. Pleasure exploded through him and he caught her hips in his hands, burrowing deep as he spilled into her with a dark, animal sound of satisfaction.
"Gotcha," Jamison whispered under his breath, watching heart rate and respiration readings peak and start declining toward more normal levels. It had just been chance that Clark had curiously pointed out to him the section on the video where the woman made her request. Really, he should have thought to turn off the camera on his own. He was embarrassed that he hadn't. They weren't animals to perform without a care who saw them, though he tended to think of them that way in order to maintain his objectivity.
He felt tremendously relieved. Now maybe Givens wouldn't nail his ass to the wall next time she came in. He didn't think one could get fired from a position in a black organization, and he didn't want to find out what the alternative might be. Still, it was just a first step, they needed more and he had no idea what to do next. He was a physician, not a psychologist. He stewed on the problem for a few minutes, then sighed, and wished Attwood were present to relieve him of the responsibility. That gave him an idea. He grabbed his electronic organizer, found Attwood's number, and dialed it. Maybe it wasn't too late at night. The number rang several times, then forwarded, and rang a couple more times before being picked up.
Jamison grinned, pleased to have caught him. "This is Jamison at the research center. I need your advice."
"Well, we've succeeded in the first part of our experiment, the subjects have established intimacy. But I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do next. I was hoping you might have a suggestion for me."
"How long ago did this occur?"
"Just a few minutes, actually. Does that make any difference?"
"It might. The sooner you act, the more disruptive it will be. I suggest separating them immediately, for several hours at least."
"Separate them?" That made sense. "Okay, what should the reason be?"
"Why do you need one? It doesn't really matter, use whatever excuse you like. Just do it without warning and be rough about it, especially with Ms. Martinez."
Jamison swallowed heavily. "Rough? How rough? You mean, like, hurt her?"
"That's up to you, but if you don't do it, you won't provoke the emotional response we need from Lewis. If you're squeamish, get the guards to do it. That's what they're there for."
Jamison swallowed again, still upset by the idea. "Look, I'm not sure we ought to do that. I mean, she's been pretty cooperative . . . "
"You asked for my suggestion, I gave it to you," Attwood interrupted. "You're not dealing with some ordinary Joe off the street here, Lewis won't respond to a bluff."
Jamison nodded nervously, knowing Attwood was right. He stifled the urge to sigh. "Well, thanks for the advice."
There was a short silence, then Attwood spoke again. "I can be there in an hour."
Oh wonderful. Givens would just love that, proof positive that he couldn't do his job. "No, I'll take care of it," Jamison said curtly.
"Fine. Keep me updated," Attwood said, then hung up.
Jamison stared blankly at the phone for a moment, trying to think of a reason to separate them. He had to have a reason, no matter what Attwood said, for himself if not for them.
Carlie was wide awake, sitting back against the head of the bed, her fingers smoothing Lewis' hair as he slept with his head pillowed on her thigh, one arm around her waist as if to keep her from escaping. Just like last time, he left her with more questions than answers. For a killer he was a remarkably gentle and generous lover. He wasn't as stoic as he's first appeared, either. Thinking about his reactions to some of the things she'd said to him over the past few hours, she was amazed to find that she had the power to hurt him. Was that natural to him or a product of this place and the things they had done to him here? Whatever it was, the profound need he carried inside him called out to the complementary urge within herself to give.
She'd always been that way; dolls, animals, other kids . . . they'd all been subject to her need to give. Even when she was just a little girl, Tia Beata used to call her 'mamacita'-- little mother. Though that was definitely part of what she felt, her emotions about Lewis were far more complex than that. It wasn't just the urge to 'mother.' She felt completed by him in a way she didn't understand at all. She barely knew him, why did he make her feel like this? It couldn't just be that they shared the same genetic heritage, or even that she had a pathological weakness for controlling, amoral, men. Tom Daniels shared not only Lewis' genes, but the same history, even the same sins, yet he left her completely cold.
The distinctive sound of the latch mechanism on the door brought her out of her reverie and she looked up, puzzled. It couldn't be time for breakfast already, it hadn't been all that long since dinner. Or had it? She smiled a little, thinking of the all-too-appropriate 'how time flies when you're having fun.' The door swung open and four armed guards entered the room. Startled, she grabbed for the sheet but before she could cover herself, the guards moved forward, one of them grabbing her arm, pulling her off the bed.
In a single fluid movement, Lewis slid from the bed and caught hold of the man who had her arm, twisting his other arm up and back until it made a sickening snap. The guard let go of her with a sharp cry of pain and stumbled away, cradling his injured arm with his uninjured one. As soon as he let her go, Lewis released his hold and stepped between Carlie and the other guards, apparently undisturbed by the fact that he was naked. Carlie wasn't so nonchalant and hastily grabbed her lab-coat off the floor, pulling it on. Two of the guards moved toward her and Lewis took a step that direction, halting them. The guard who stood nearest the door lifted his weapon. Carlie remembered him from other times, he looked older than the others by a good decade. His name, according to his uniform tag, was 'Connelly'. He glanced briefly at the injured guard shaking his head.
"Harris, go have that seen to. You ought to know better than that by now. Give him an opening, and he'll take it." As the injured guard left, Connelly's gaze returned to Lewis and he sighed. "You always have to do things the hard way, don't you?" He sounded resigned.
Lewis shrugged. "Would you do any differently?"
Connelly grinned unexpectedly, and shook his head. "Nope, sure wouldn't. Especially not under the circumstances . . ." He shot an appreciative glance at Carlie. "Sorry, but the doc needs her."
Lewis shook his head. "No, he doesn't. They just want to separate us. It's a psychological tactic intended to induce stress."
The older guard nodded. "Yeah, probably, but orders are orders just the same. Now, you aren't really going to make me use this, are you? That would just shoot my whole day to hell, pardon the pun."
Carlie put her hand on Lewis' arm and leaned close. "You even know what they're doing and you're going to play into it? What kind of stupid is that?" she hissed in his ear, annoyed. Stepping forward, she looked at the Connelly. "No, he's not. I'll go."
Lewis didn't move, just looked at her with an odd, analytical expression on his face. The guard stepped back and motioned her toward the door. Carlie slid her hand into her pocket and palmed the folded foil, then moved forward. As she got to the door, she deliberately stumbled, catching hold of the doorframe to steady herself and pressing the foil into the lock mechanism as she did so. Pausing there, she looked back at Lewis, who stood immobile, watching her with a sharp, intent gaze. She pretended to blow him a kiss, and mouthed 'try it' at him, hoping he understood, then moved into the hallway. The guards followed her out, closing the door behind her.
"This way, ma'am." The older guard said, taking the lead.
Carlie followed, trying not to let her emotions show. She couldn't give him away. Lewis had to get out of here so he could keep his promise. That was all that mattered.
Attwood had cleared them into the facility the last time they'd been here, and as they had hoped the overall clearance had never been rescinded. Their ID's passed them through security and they were able to access the lab building using the codes Tom remembered watching Attwood use during their last visit. Sloan thought it was pretty slipshod for a supposedly high-security facility. No wonder Lewis had managed to escape. Sloan stopped Tom as they approached the main lab.
"Do you think she's here?"
"If they have her, it seems likely, since this facility is already set up to deal with our kind. I know of no reason why they wouldn't have brought her here, but that's only speculation."
"Can you feel anything?"
"Anyone, you mean? No, not yet. We're not in . . ." he stopped suddenly and his gaze went distant. "Wait, now I do," he paused, moving forward slowly, concentrating fiercely until he managed to confirm his initial impression. "Two. I sense two others."
Sloan frowned. "Just two?"
"I don't sense the children," he said, answering her unspoken question.
"They're not here?" Sloan's heart fell.
Tom shrugged. "I don't know. They could be. It's harder to sense children, and this is a large facility. If they were held separately from the adults I might not be able to feel them from here."
"Damn it, how are we going to manage this if they're not together?" Sloan asked in frustration.
Tom looked at her evenly. "The other one might not even be her, you know. It could be any of my kind. Perhaps she's not here at all."
Great. That was reassuring. "We need to find out for sure."
Tom nodded at the door leading to the main lab. "In there, then. They'll know for sure. And remember, we belong here. Attwood sent us to check on things."
Sloan nodded, wishing she could project the same sort of certainty that Tom did. "We belong here."
Tom stepped into the lab and Sloan followed closely. The room was empty, which surprised her, even though it was late. She'd figured they had a night shift. Tom looked around motioned toward the bank of video monitors. Only one appeared active, and they moved forward to look at it. Sloan realized with a surge of relief that the small screen showed the lab director, Jamison, and Carlotta Martinez in a small room which contained an examination table. Tom found the sound control and boosted it until they could hear what was happening.
". . . on the table, if you would," Jamison was saying.
"No. Absolutely not. I am not letting you do this," Martinez said firmly.
"I assure you I know what I'm doing. I just want to make a cursory examination and take a few specimens."
Martinez held her ground, arms crossed. "I know exactly what you want and I have no intention of getting on that table."
Sloan nodded. "Good for her! I wouldn't do it either."
Tom looked at her, curious. "Why? It's only a medical examination."
Sloan looked back at him, both eyebrows lifted. "Only? Ha! I bet you don't have a clue what those metal doohickeys on the end of that table are for, do you?"
Tom looked at the screen, then back to her, blankly. "No."
"I figured as much, men usually don't. Those are called stirrups, get the picture?"
She watched him think about it, and hid a grin as she saw understanding come to him.
"I see," he said looking slightly embarrassed.
"We have to get her out of there," Sloan said flatly.
Tom nodded. "We should still be able to use our plan. Jamison won't know that Attwood didn't send us, and he's not the type to question perceived authority."
"But can we get down there?"
He thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "I remember the way to get to the general area, and once there I will be able to sense where she is. Come on."
It was amazing the cachet the name "Attwood" conferred. The guards stationed at the entrance to the cell level didn't even question their presence after they invoked him. The maze-like area was mostly unoccupied, but finally Tom stopped outside a doorway and concentrated for a moment, then shook his head.
"Wrong one," he told her, then proceeded a few steps toward the juncture of two corridors before stopping again. "Martinez and Jamison are in the room right around the corner."
"Good, let's go."
Tom shook his head. "I think I should go alone. Jamison knows you're too sympathetic, he'll figure Attwood wouldn't send you. However I'm an unknown quantity as far as he's concerned so he won't be suspicious of me. You stay back here out of sight."
Sloan sighed. "Why do I always have to stay behind? Last time you told me to say put, I got kidnaped by Lewis."
Tom scowled. "You're perfectly safe here, Lewis is locked in his cell. Just wait, okay?"
Sloan nodded, annoyed, but knowing he was probably right. "Okay, but hurry."
Tom didn't acknowledge her request as he moved around the corner. She waited impatiently, pacing until a noise from the other end of the corridor, made her duck into a doorway, flattening herself against the door, trying to take up as little room as possible. As she pressed against it, the door silently opened inward. Startled, Sloan lost her balance and would have fallen if someone hadn't caught her. It wasn't until they put their hand over her mouth that she realized she was in trouble, and it wasn't until he spoke that she realized just how much trouble.
"Sloan Parker, so good to see you again."
His voice was unmistakable, soft, precise, almost hoarse. Adrenalin surged through her, sending her heart pounding. The fingers against her lips were eerily familiar, and just as unsettling as last time. She struggled against the arms that held her until they tightened, making it hard to breathe.
"Be still, be quiet, and I'll let you go. I need to talk to you."
Let her go? What could they possibly have to talk about? She didn't believe him, but if she screamed it would just bring the guards, which under the circumstances was the last thing she wanted. Resigned, she stopped struggling and nodded. He slowly moved his hand from her mouth, and when she didn't scream, he let her go and stepped back. She turned to face him, unconsciously licking her lips. His gaze followed the movement of her tongue, and looked amused. He clicked his tongue against his teeth and shook his head.
"Still? Tom really should take better care of you."
Sloan flushed, somehow sure he didn't mean Tom's habit of leaving her alone while he forged ahead.
"What do you want?"
Lewis gazed steadily back at her. "I want your help."
"To get out of here?" she asked, assuming that would be his top priority.
To her surprise, he shook his head. "No, I want you to get someone else out. Carlie Carlotta Martinez. You've met her."
Sloan stared, realizing she'd been right, and Tom had been wrong. She'd almost let Tom talk her out of believing that Lewis cared about the woman, but something inside had refused to give up on the idea completely. Still, she needed to be cautious, her experiences with Tom had taught her not to make emotional assumptions where Species X was concerned. She crossed her arms and looked back at him with what she hoped was a skeptical expression.
"Why should we help you?"
An expression of frustration flashed across his face. "Considering my current situation, there's very little I can offer in the way of incentive. I don't suppose that 'out of the goodness of your heart' is an acceptable answer?"
Sloan shook her head, wondering what he would do next. He sighed, and was silent for several seconds, thinking. Suddenly he looked up at her, speculatively.
"If you help her get out, I'll give you Tom's trigger phrase."
His what? She shook her head. "I don't know what you mean."
"Remember the night I called your house?"
Sloan remembered all too well, handing the phone to Tom, and watching him become a zombie right before her eyes. She shuddered. "I remember."
"Anyone who knows his trigger phrase could do that to him again, and there are several of us who know it. You managed to break his conditioning last time, but there's no guarantee you could do it again. If you help me, I'll give you his trigger phrase and the information you need to deprogram his response to it. You'll never have to worry about him turning again."
Sloan considered the offer. It was tempting, but it could also be a trick. "How do I know you'd tell the truth? You could tell me anything and I wouldn't know until it was too late."
He raked his fingers through his hair, then rubbed his forehead, eyes closed for a moment. Finally he shook his head looking tired and defeated. "Unfortunately there's nothing I can say to that, no demonstration I can make, nothing that would convince you. I suppose it's only fitting that the one time I need belief, no one has a reason to give it to me. I believe you humans have a story about 'crying wolf' that seems strangely apt."
Sloan held her ground with difficulty as he rubbed at his inner arm, drawing her gaze to a series of parallel scars there that almost looked like claw marks. She wondered how he'd gotten them. He walked away from her then, going to the door and opening it a tiny bit, looking out into the hall, probably checking for guards. When he spoke, it was without turning around. She had the impression he didn't trust himself to face her.
"You're free to go. I'll just have to find a way to get her out of here myself. All I ask is that you not tell them I'm trying to get her out."
Free to go? Sloan stayed where she was, a slow smile forming. That was it. That was the proof she'd been waiting for. She stepped forward, almost reached out to touch his shoulder, then thought better of it.
"What about the babies? Do you know where they're being held? Tom said he couldn't feel them. We can't get her out and leave them behind."
Lewis spun around, disbelief plain on his face. "What?"
Her smile broadened. "I think you heard me."
"You'll do it?" he demanded, hands clenched into fists.
Sloan nodded. "It would be wrong not to." Which was quite true, as far as she was concerned. He didn't need to know she and Tom had come here with that in mind.
Lewis closed his eyes for a moment, relief spreading over his face before he looked at her again. "Thank you." He paused, and regarded her quizzically. "You know, I think I'm beginning to understand what Tom sees in you, in human culture."
Sloan was shocked by that admission. She wondered if he really did understand, or if he was just saying it to put her more at ease. Perhaps some of both. She looked at him evenly. "I know both you and he think I'm foolish, but I really do believe we can coexist."
"So does she. The two of you have that in common."
"The babies?" Sloan prompted.
He shook his head. "They're safe, don't worry about them. Carlie's the only one you have to get out of here."
Sloan nodded, relieved that her worst fears had not turned out to be true. "I'm so glad they're okay, I was worried they were here too. It'll be a lot easier to get her out without them."
Lewis nodded. "Yes, it will. Now, Tom's trigger phrase is 'we shall reign in the world of men.'" He paused and looked at her. "You have that?"
"'We shall reign in the world of men,'" Sloan repeated. "Got it."
"Good. In order to remove the post-hypnotic compulsion you'll need to actually use the trigger phrase and put him into a compliant state first. Once he's under, he will respond only to the voice of whoever spoke the trigger phrase, I assume that will be you. Tell him 'release command statement we shall reign in the world of men,' then count backward from five. When you reach one, he will be released from the compliant state and the trigger phrase will no longer have any effect on him in the future. Can you remember that?"
Sloan looked at him skeptically. "That's it? That's all I need to do?"
"That's all," Lewis confirmed.
She frowned. "That seems too easy."
Lewis shrugged. "I never saw any reason to make it difficult. It needed to be something that could be done quickly if I needed to change the phrase, so the simpler the better. And would any of you ever have come up with it on your own?"
She thought about it, and realized he was right. "No, probably not in a million years."
"I thought not. So, how long do you think it will be until you're ready to get her out of here?"
Sloan thought about it. Tom should have her by now. "Ten minutes."
Lewis looked at her oddly. "Ten minutes?" He was quiet for a moment, studying her thoughtfully, then a slight smile curved his mouth. "I underestimated you Sloan Parker. You were already planning to get her out, weren't you? I didn't need to tell you anything, you'd have done it no matter what."
Sloan grinned. "Guilty."
He shook his head ruefully. "I'm losing my touch, that never even occurred to me. Congratulations on a game well-played. Does Attwood know?"
Sloan shook her head. "No, and he's not going to be very happy when he finds out we not only used our own ID's, but we ah-- kind of used his name to get in here. I suspect they keep a record of that kind of thing."
Lewis smiled coldly. "I can take care of that."
Sloan almost asked what he meant, then decided she'd really rather not know. She held out her hand. "Good luck."
He looked puzzled for a moment, then slowly put his hand in hers, clasping it firmly. "Thank you."
Sloan withdrew her hand from his and nodded solemnly. "I'd better get out there before Tom comes back."
He checked the hallway again, and opened the door, stepping aside to let her pass, then reached out to stop her just before she left. She couldn't keep herself from tensing as he touched her. He noticed and let her go immediately, but his expression seemed amused.
"Tell Tom that I suggest he implement training program forty-three."
Sloan eyed him suspiciously. "What's training program forty-three?"
His amusement deepened. "Just tell him. It's not dangerous."
Sloan chewed the inside of her lip. "Why do I get the feeling you're making fun of me?"
He shook his head. "I'm not. You're doing something for me, and I believe that it's common practice among your kind to reciprocate favors. Now go on."
Sloan stepped into the hallway, glancing back over her shoulder to see the door close again. She paused thoughtfully, wondering if she ought to tell Tom what had happened. Lewis was obviously able to leave his cell at will. If he were to get free of the facility it could be a problem for them. On the other hand, if she didn't tell him, then Lewis would be able to cover their tracks for them. She had to rely on her gut instinct, and it told her that Lewis was no longer the threat he once had been. He had changed subtly over the months, the edge, the hardness of him eroded, leaving behind a man who would not break but only because he had been forced to learn to bend. If he broke, if he gave them what he knew, they would destroy his people, and he would not let that occur. She couldn't fault him that. Lewis was what necessity had made him. No, she decided. Tom didn't need to know.
Tom paused momentarily outside the room occupied by Carlotta Martinez and Dr. Jamison. He calmed himself using techniques Lewis had taught him, and focused on projecting authority, then knocked sharply on the door. He sensed annoyance from Jamison as he came to the door and opened it.
"What? I'm busy here!" He snapped, then seeing Tom, he frowned. "I remember you, you were here before, with . . ."
"Attwood." Tom interrupted. "Yes, he sent me. He's concerned that things aren't progressing quickly enough."
Jamison's face fell. "Damn it! I told him I would do it, and I did, just like he suggested! Lewis even broke the damned guard's arm, I'd say that's progress! Now leave me alone, I have work to do."
Tom shook his head. "I'm sorry, I can't do that. I've been authorized to remove Ms. Martinez from the facility for examination by our specialists."
The researcher's expression turned outraged. "What? You've got to be kidding! I'm finally getting somewhere and you want to yank her out of here?"
Tom nodded, reaching toward his inside jacket pocket. "I have the authorization . . ."
Jamison shook his head, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration. "No, no, this is just exactly what I'd expect of this place." He sighed. "Fine, take her, I guess I'll have to get my samples next time. Tell Attwood he owes me one! And you'd damned well better bring her back! She's essential to my experiment."
Jamison opened the door and let him into the room. Carlotta was standing behind the examination table, staring at him angrily. For a moment Tom was surprised by her hostility, then he realized she had no way of knowing he was there to free her. As far as she knew, he was there to do exactly as he had said. Moving closer to where she stood, his nostrils flared as her scent reached him. It was clear that she had been intimate with a man, very recently. Not just a man, a male of her own kind. Lewis? It had to be. Remembering Sloan's comment about the examination table, Tom wondered exactly what sort of samples Jamison had been attempting to collect. No wonder she had been unwilling. To be taken from her mate and brought here? Jamison's comment about Lewis breaking a guard's arm made sense now. Disgusting. Not even animals should be treated so.
Trying to project calm and reassurance to Carlotta, Tom stepped forward. "Ms. Martinez, if you will come with me, please?"
She looked confused, obviously sensing his projection and unable to reconcile it with his purpose. "Why? Where are we going?"
"It doesn't matter, does it?" He lifted his eyebrows and glanced at Jamison meaningfully.
She thought about that, weighed the alternatives, and finally shook her head, looking resigned. "No, I suppose it doesn't." She stepped out from behind the table and moved to stand next to him, carefully keeping him between her and Jamison.
Catching her arm, Tom took the handcuffs he'd borrowed from Ray Peterson out of his pocket and fastened her wrists behind her back. She looked betrayed, and he wished he could explain, but couldn't. Yet.
He turned to Jamison and stared directly into his eyes. Jamison stared back, obviously wanting to look away but unwilling to look like a coward by backing down. After a few moments the man's gaze started to waver. Tom spoke softly. "You won't speak of this to anyone."
Jamison frowned a little. "I . . . why not?"
Tom kept his gaze steady. "You won't speak of this to anyone. You haven't seen Ms. Martinez since she went into Lewis' cell," he repeated.
Jamison blinked rapidly. "I won't?"
He was more resistant than Tom had expected. "You won't speak of this to anyone, and you haven't seen Ms. Martinez since she went into Lewis' cell," he said again. Finally he got results. Jamison nodded, looking vaguely puzzled, and turned to start putting away the instruments that lay on a wheeled cart beside the table. Tom put his hand on Carlotta's arm and steered her toward the open door. Once in the hallway he closed the door, leaving Jamison alone in the room. As soon as it closed, she stopped and looked at him.
"Okay, just what's going on here?" she demanded.
"Sloan and I came here to rescue you," he told her. "I'm sorry about the handcuffs, but it has to look convincing."
To Tom's bewilderment, Carlotta stared at him a moment longer, and then burst out laughing. "And these aren't the 'droid's you're looking for, right?" she asked after controlling her laughter at his urging.
He frowned. "Excuse me?" Was she drugged? Had they done something to her mind?"
She shook her head. "Never mind. I should have known you wouldn't get it. Come on, let's find Lewis and get out of here!"
Tom caught her arm before she'd gone two steps. "We're not here to get Lewis. Just you and your children."
She spun around, her gaze searching his face, and he could tell when she realized he was serious, he could feel her dismay like a physical ache.
"Not Lewis?" she asked softly. "How can you leave him here, to these people? They're killing him!"
"I'm sorry, he's too dangerous to release. You don't know him as I do."
She nodded slowly. "You're right, I don't. I know him far better. You can't leave him here!"
"I can, and I must. Without him their effort is severely crippled. If we release him it could gain momentum."
"Please, you have to get him out!" Her voice broke, and there were tears in her eyes.
Tom steeled himself to resist and shook his head. "No. Now, can you tell me where the children are being held?" he asked, hoping that bringing up her offspring would distract her.
"They didn't get them, they're with a friend on the outside. Please, we have to get Lewis out too! I can't leave knowing he's still here!"
"No." Tom was getting desperate, when suddenly Sloan came hurrying around the corner.
"What are you two waiting for?" she whispered urgently. "We need to leave before someone figures out we're not supposed to be here!"
Tom nodded toward Carlotta. "She won't leave without him."
Sloan shot him a look he had learned to identify as meaning 'I told you so' and sighed. "Tom, would you go check that corridor? I thought I heard someone a minute ago."
He cocked his head, listening. "I don't hear any . . . "
Sloan dug her elbow painfully into his ribs. "Just do it, Tom!"
Oh. He understood then. Sloan wanted to speak with Carlotta alone. He nodded and stepped around the corner. It was difficult not to listen, but he knew Sloan would be displeased if he did so he managed it. A few moments later they appeared, Sloan had her hand on Carlotta's arm and was urging her to move quickly. Whatever Sloan had told the woman must have worked, because she was no longer resistant, though she looked at him reproachfully as she fell into step beside him. As they passed the door to Lewis' cell Carlotta hesitated, then stopped and put her hand against the wall beside the door, her eyes closed.
Tom flinched from the poignancy of what she felt, and then was utterly staggered by the response that surged from behind the wall. He had to barrier himself against it, left open-mouthed in complete disbelief. Lewis? That was Lewis? The most controlled, analytical, callous man he'd ever met, and he was capable of that? The knowledge shocked him past words. Clearly Carlotta had been right, she did know him better than Tom did. No matter, he couldn't allow Lewis to be freed. He was still the most dangerous of their enemies. After a moment Sloan put a hand on the other woman's shoulder and shook her head. Carlotta lifted her hand from the wall, used it to wipe her eyes, then nodded.
Tom put his hand around Carlotta's upper arm and guided her down the corridor, toward freedom.
Sunlight threw shadows of leafy branches against the drawn shade that dimmed the room. Standing at the foot of the crib they'd nearly outgrown, Carlie filled her senses with the sight and scent of her babies. Every time they slept she found herself here, reassuring herself that they were really there, safe and free. After her escape she had called the contact number Lewis had given her, and Marga had agreed to bring her the babies, not yet knowing Carlie's plans. She could still almost feel the cold fury Marga had projected when she'd realized that Carlie really intended to raise her babies without her help or interference. She still wasn't sure what had caused the older woman to back down, whether it was just her own determination, or if she had sensed the truth in Carlie's insistence that Lewis had agreed his children should not be raised in his image. Whatever had turned the tide, she was glad, but she still had a sneaking fear that somehow Marga would manage to steal them back from her.
Of course, the trade-off was that she was alone now, with three children to care for unassisted. It had never been easy, but now it was much harder. Sloan and Tom had helped her find a new place to live, and she still had a little money in the bank. Part of that was her own savings, but most of it was funds that Lewis had sent with Marga when she appeared the first time. The money wouldn't last forever, but it would help her get by until she could arrange child-care and find a job. Lewis' last gift to her.
Lewis. She bit the inside of her lip, willing away the pain that might wake the babies if she let it reach full force. Tom and Sloan had broken the news to her a week after they'd freed her. The lab facility where she and Lewis had been held had been destroyed in a fire just hours after she had left it. Lewis had been the only fatality. No one had thought, or cared enough to get him out. They'd just left him to burn. Anger flooded her, and the babies fussed restlessly. She left the room, knowing the more distance she put between them, the less they would feel her upset. After two months it shouldn't still bother her so much, but it did.
Tom had told her she should be glad of the fire because it had effectively concealed her escape. Sloan had smacked him for being insensitive, but in a way he was right. Everyone but Sloan and Tom apparently assumed she had died there with Lewis. At first, since Sloan had told her in confidence about her conversation with Lewis, Carlie had assumed Lewis escaped as well. As time went on and he didn't come to her, she had begun to worry that he had not, and Sloan had finally told her that the DNA tests run on the fragmentary remains found in Lewis' cell had confirmed them as belonging to a member of Species X. There had been no denying that evidence, it had to have been him. She and Lewis had been the only ones their kind there. Though Sloan had seen him free the night they got her out, he must have been recaptured before the fire broke out.
Carlie's fists clenched as she thought of him trapped there. Though she knew it wasn't really her fault, it was still hard not to feel that. He wouldn't have been caught after his escape if he hadn't come to her, if he hadn't tried to help her. What had drawn him back to her? Why hadn't he gone someplace safe, instead? Had he just needed to know if he was a father, or had there been more to it? She would never know, now. She still got mad at Tom, sometimes. If he hadn't insisted on leaving Lewis behind . . . But then, as the saying went, 'if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.'
With a sigh she went to the kitchen to check on the pot of posole on the stove. As she stirred it, she suddenly sensed one of her own kind near. For a moment she thought nothing of it, since Tom frequently came with Sloan, but then fear caught her breath in her throat. Tom and Sloan always called ahead before they showed up. Why would they be dropping by unannounced? Something must be wrong. Or worse, could it be Marga returning to try to take the babies? Carlie dropped the spoon and dashed for the front door, flinging it open in time to see a car pull into the parking space directly in front of her unit.
It wasn't Sloan's car, but rather a dark blue BMW. She frowned, not recognizing the vehicle, and reflections off the windshield made it impossible to see inside. She waited, heart in her throat as the driver's door opened and a man got out, sunlight brilliant on his silver hair. She grabbed the door-frame, staring in shock as he came up the walk toward her. His hair had grown out some, curling in the soft halo she remembered from their first meeting; and the trimmed beard was also back, softening the line of his jaw. He stopped on the doorstep, watching her with an oddly uncertain expression on his face.
It was his voice. Even though she'd already been sure, that clinched it. She managed to get her own voice working.
He smiled a little, and shook his head. "No, Llewellyn Pryce. Lewis is dead, he died in a fire two months ago."
For a moment she was confused. She knew it was him, knew it with ever fiber of her being. What was this nonsense about him being dead? Then she realized what he meant, and started to smile. "Llewellyn Pryce? Funny, you look just like someone I used to know."
He smiled. "You know what they say, everyone has a double somewhere."
She opened the screen door. "Would you like to come in, Mr. Pryce?"
He nodded. "I would, if it's all right."
"It's more than all right," she whispered, not even giving him a chance to get all the way inside before she was on him, feeling the hard, solid reality of his body in her arms, the heat of his mouth on hers. She recognized the welcoming urgency in his kiss, it echoed her own feelings. She wove her fingers into his hair, felt the response of his body to hers. Suddenly she pushed him away, glaring at him.
"Damn you, I thought you were dead! I thought it was my fault!"
"There were things I had to do before I was free to come. Mine wasn't a position I could just walk away from. There were things I had to put into motion, and things I had to stop."
She fisted her hands on her hips. "And what, your fingers were all broken so you couldn't dial a phone?"
"It was necessary to assure certain factions that Lewis was dead. You were the best way to achieve that. I'm sorry to have put you through that." He touched her face gently, tracing the curve of her cheek, running his thumb across her lips. "I would have come sooner, but it took this long to be sure it was safe."
She caught his hand, it was too distracting. "They found your body. Sloan told me."
He shook his head. "They found what was put there for them to find. As far as Attwood and his superiors are concerned, both of us are dead. I destroyed all the visual records and made sure Jamison and the guards wouldn't remember Tom taking you out of there, so they all believe that the second set of remains they found were yours."
Carlie frowned, confused. "What other remains? Sloan didn't say anything about that."
"Sloan's bosses don't tell her everything. I suspect they find her difficult to control, and were probably afraid of what she might do if they told her."
She nodded slowly. "You're probably right. She's pretty strong-willed." She looked at him thoughtfully. "So, whose bodies were they?"
Lewis lifted an eyebrow at her. Carlie thought about it for a minute, and then shook her head.
"Never mind. I guess I should just be glad that everyone seems to think I'm dead. That was very . . . efficient of you."
He nodded. "It's what I was trained to do, and I was very good at it." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "But I'm done with it now. I'm not going back. Lewis is dead to both Attwood's group, and those of our people who would have had me continue."
"You're really done with it? You just-- quit? They won't make you go back?"
"They can't." He smiled, and she shivered at the icy confidence in his gaze. "I've made sure of it."
"So, what do you do now?"
His certainty vanished instantly. "I'm not sure," he said, not meeting her eyes. "I have some things worked out, but others are out of my control."
"That's how real life goes, Lewis."
"Llewellyn," he corrected her.
Carlie wrinkled her nose. "I like it, but it's a mouthful. How about Lew?"
"If you like." He paused and looked past her, into the apartment, and his mouth curved slightly. "They're here."
Carlie knew he was talking about the babies, and nodded. "Yes. It was a bit of a fight, but she finally gave in." She drew a shaky breath. "I keep expecting her to come back and try to take them, though. When I felt you, I thought maybe . . ."
He touched her shoulder comfortingly. "I'm sorry. I knew she would be difficult but I couldn't help you, and I was sure you would be able to persuade her."
She was surprised and warmed by the confidence in his statement. She hadn't been sure herself. The line of his mouth hardened then, and he spoke again, his gaze fixed on some distant, unknowable sight.
"You don't need to fear her any more, though. Marguerida will not return."
The finality in his voice told her that wasn't voluntary on Marga's part. She didn't need to ask more. That, combined with his earlier statement about no one being able to compel his return to his position told her all she needed to know. He nodded toward the bedrooms.
"Can I see them?" he asked, oddly tentatively.
She smiled and nodded. "They're sleeping, but it won't hurt to look."
He followed her to the second bedroom and stood quietly for a time, just watching them. Finally he looked at her, and seeing his need to speak, she took him into her own room where their conversation wouldn't disturb the babies.
"They're different," he said, sounding surprised.
She grinned. "Every day. Babies do that, you know."
He shook his head. "No, I didn't. I guess I will learn?"
Carlie knew there was more to his question than the obvious, and she looked him in the eyes as she nodded. "Yes, if you want to."
"Then you will." She reached to touch his face with gentle fingers. "So, how does it feel to be just one of the masses?"
He drew in a deep breath, and met her gaze. "I think the word is 'scary.'"
Carlie laughed. "Good. It's about time you found out what that means." He lifted his hand to her face, and she rubbed her cheek against his palm. "Welcome home."
"Am I?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, both," she said, no doubt in her mind as to what he was asking.
He looked down at her, shaking his head, an expression of disbelief on his face. "I've dreamed about this," he said softly. "At least a hundred times."
She turned to look at him. "What did you dream?"
She smiled, and held out her hands. "Show me."
Show her. Lewis closed his eyes. He wasn't sure he had the self-control to do that. His dreams had been slow and subtle, but faced with the reality of her, his responses were fast and hot, like the first time. He wanted to rekindle the fire that had haunted him during the months of his captivity. Resisting the demand of his body, he drew her slowly toward him, rediscovering the way she felt against him. He brushed his mouth back and forth across the soft darkness of her hair, and reached up to touch her lips with his fingers before letting his hand slide down her throat to her breast. Her nipple went taut under his touch, and she arched a little. He stroked his other hand down her back to rest on the small of her back, softly caressing the curve there before pressing her into him. She made a soft sound, and reached up to frame his face between her palms, brushing the full softness of her mouth against his.
Memory exploded through him, destroying his restraint. He pushed her up against the wall, shifting the full skirts of her dress upward until his hands found the silky length of her thighs, the smooth flare of her hips, the soft curve of her belly. A narrow band of fabric hampered his explorations and he hooked his fingers into it, meaning only to push it out of the way, but the fabric tore like tissue under his eager touch. He discarded the torn fabric, not caring, so long as he could touch her. He cupped the soft, damp heat of her in his palm, fingers sliding between her thighs. She whimpered and shuddered, her lower lip caught between her teeth.
He put his mouth against hers again, feeling the hardness of her teeth until she opened to him. He leaned into her, rocking his hips against her belly as they kissed, imagining how she would feel, remembering in exquisite detail. Realizing if he kept on this way he wouldn't last five minutes, he broke the kiss, gasping, bracing a hand against the wall, shaking his head.
"You make me lose myself," he said, not sure if he should tell her that, but unable not to.
A slow smile curved her mouth. "Good, that means we're even." She put one hand on his shoulder while the other went to the back of his neck, fingers softly stroking his hair as she kissed him softly, without urgency, then drew back.
The bedroom was warm and curtain-dimmed, but light enough for him to watch as Carlie unfastened her dress and shrugged it off, leaving it in a soft heap on the floor. He stood frozen, knowing that if he moved, the moment would shatter. She came to him, slid his jacket off, laying it aside on top of a dresser. A tiny frown of concentration creased her forehead as she opened the buttons of his shirt, and he reached to touch a finger to the frown, smoothing it away. She glanced up, smiled, and finished her task, before turning her attention to his remaining garments. He helped her, silently, and as she turned away to place his slacks on top of his jacket, he caught her before she could turn back, curving his arms around her, drawing her against him.
She relaxed against him as he cupped her breasts, thumbs stroking her nipples, and nuzzled the dark fall of her hair out of the way to bare the nape of her neck. Still caressing her breasts, he kissed and licked and nibbled her neck and shoulders until she was shivering in his arms, her hips arching back against his. Taking the hint, he shifted one knee forward, forcing her feet wider apart. Her balance disrupted, Carlie put her hands against the edge of the dresser for support. Lewis stroked one hand down her stomach, over the soft curve of her mons, parting her, finding the slick, hot heart of her. She gasped and shuddered, moving against his hand as his fingers slid deep.
As always it was nearly impossible to resist her reaction to him, his body demanded more. He closed his eyes to block the sight of her, hoping it would help him regain his control. All it did was make him more aware of her scent, changed now. He could smell her excitement, knew it matched his. He struggled for control, shaking his head.
"No. Not like this," he whispered, placing a kiss against the tender hollow beneath her ear. "You deserve more."
Carlie turned her head, her gaze dark and feral as it met his. "I want this," she whispered back. "Just like this. I need this." She moved then, a soft undulation that made him shudder, and reached back with one hand to curve her fingers around his hip and press him toward her. "I need you," she breathed.
He felt the tension in her increasing, heard it in her breathing, in the soft little sounds she made. Realizing that neither of them could resist the urgency of their desire, he slid to his knees and put his hand against her hip, urging her down. Reading his intent, she shifted her feet further apart, and eased down over him. He fit himself against her and felt her yield to his insistence, her body opening to his, hot and slick around him as her weight came down on him. That was all it took for her. She shuddered and moaned, and he felt the deep flex of her body around him as her orgasm shook her.
He closed his eyes, absorbing the echo of her pleasure, then pressed it further, driving deep. She pushed back against him, giving him permission to assuage his need. Her consent ignited him. Gripping her hips tightly he began to thrust, feeling her rock with each push. She rode his passion, accepting and reciprocating his desire. He wrapped his arms around her, arching her back until she was drawn like a bow, feeling the fall of her hair over his shoulders and chest. He moved one hand between her widespread thighs to where they joined, to feel the wet slide of his flesh within hers. He cupped her in his palm, pressing hard, until she bucked against his hand and he found his release in her pleasure.
Still locked with her, he eased down, taking her with him. They lay together on the floor, breath slowing, sweat cooling save where their bodies touched and preserved the warmth. He sighed and nuzzled the back of her neck, tasting her with his tongue, breathing in the intimate, opulent scent of her. She reached back to stroke his hair, and they lay wordlessly in the relaxed, sleepy aftermath of passion. The fierce possessiveness she provoked in him was as hot as ever. When he was with her, like this, or just in her presence, he felt whole for the first time in his life, as if she supplied some part of him that had been missing. He didn't understand it, he couldn't control it, he just accepted it.
"You complete me," he said softly, hearing wonder in his voice. It made him feel vulnerable, and for once that didn't frighten him.
Carlie shivered. "Yes, exactly," she said. "I feel it too. Is that normal?"
He shook his head. "I don't know. What is normal? I think we have to define it for ourselves. Whatever this means, we both feel it. That has to be enough."
She nodded. "It is, for me."
They lay silent for awhile, until his racing thoughts demanded expression once more. "Will you teach me?"
"Teach you what?"
"How to live." He felt her response, she didn't have to speak it. Satisfied, he relaxed again. "Thank you."
She shook her head. "Don't, not yet. In forty years, maybe."
He smiled. "You think it will take that long?"
She chuckled. "Well, that wasn't what I was thinking, but it took this long to make you, it may take at least as long to unmake you."
He shook his head. "You unmade me two months ago, when you taught me how to feel."
She shifted in his arms, turning to gaze into his eyes, her own bright with tears. She blinked them away, touched his lips with her fingers, and smiled. "Then you already know how to live. Everything else is just detail."
Lewis didn't think it would be that easy, but he hoped she was right. His shoulder was beginning to ache from pressure against the floor, so he sat up, stretching.
Carlie followed suit, rubbing her knees. "I think I have bruises," she said, her voice rich with humor. "One of these days we really will have to see if we can do this in a bed like normal people, instead of a parking lot, or a break-room, or a cell with camera, and guards."
He grinned at her. "What, and be boring?"
She lifted an eyebrow. "Somehow I don't think we ever have to worry about that. Come on."
He let her draw him to his feet and over to the bed. As she turned back the covers, he yawned, and she caught him at it. Smiling, she climbed onto bed and held out her hand. "Come on, it's naptime, I think. You know, I've never once gotten to actually sleep with you. Let's see if we're compatible. Which side do you prefer?"
"Whichever side the door is on," he said automatically.
"I bet you always take the seat facing the door when you eat out, don't you?" She asked, shaking her head. "Good thing for you I'm flexible. But if you take that side, you get to get up if the babies cry."
"Why would they?"
"Because that's what babies do when they want something."
"What would they want?" He asked, trying to learn, knowing he would need to know.
"Oh, food, attention, a clean . . ." she broke off and grinned evilly. "Now there's something I would pay to see. I can hardly wait."
He eyed her suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
She widened her eyes innocently. "Oh, nothing." Yawning, she scooted to the far side of the bed and lay back. He studied her, absorbing the moment, then joined her. She turned onto her side, and he curled up against her, one arm draped possessively over her. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, and let sleep rise. Home.
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the fire
I yearn for comfort
Open the doors
That lead on into Eden
Don no cheap disguise
Follow the signs marked
'Back to the beginning'
No more compromise
And into the fire
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort
Feel the water That carries me to the sea
You I see as my security
Into the fire
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort
I will stare at the sun
Until its light doesn't blind me
I will walk into the fire
'til its heat doesn't burn me
And I will feed the fire
Into the fire
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort
Into the fire...
--Sarah McLachlan & Pierre Marchand,
"Into the Fire" From "Solace" c. 1991
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