Zared and Ian focused on the thing at her feet and then Quillan turned to Hannah. If they detected her blankness they didn’t mention it. Hannah breathed out a sigh of relief. She’d deal with what this meant later.
“You . . .” Quillan began, shaking a finger at her.
She swayed on her feet and the time paralysis shattered. Oriel blinked and then focused on where they were now, not where they had been before she enacted the freeze. There was a shout behind them from the parking structure. A face showed above the concrete and then vanished. A moment later there was a squeal of tires and the fast revving of an engine as the other talent
floored it out of the garage. Quillan’s attention flicked toward the parking structure before centering back on Hannah.
Oriel swallowed, and Hannah watched him through a mind gone fuzzy. She hadn’t expected to use her second gift—it had just emerged. The expressions on the faces around her told her all she needed. Whether they recognized her fugue state or not, they were freaked out by her second gift.
“I . . . commend you,” Oriel managed, his voice shaky. Whatever dazzling he was performing on them drained away, replaced by shudders that rippled through his body. “I had not expected something quite so dramatic.” He glanced at the item again and then at Hannah. Then, without warning, he ran, sprinting down the sidewalk. Ian went to give chase but Quillan called a sharp “No, Ian,” and the telekinetic subsided. They all turned to Hannah.
“Now I get why you’re so bloody interesting to Whisper,” Ian said.
“Does this . . . thing . . . have a name?”
Ian asked the question, but his tight-lipped expression showed that he wasn’t expecting an answer. They were back in Quillan’s office. Ian had called Maya but the sensitive had already been on her way.
Zared stood by the windows, peering at the night skyline. The lights of Virginia’s Tallest City and the capital of the Confederacy, shone around him but all he could do was remember that moment when the object that had once been metal and tree slammed to the sidewalk.
Quillan had taken it with them, of course. Using Ian’s telekinesis, they transported the damaged, twisted sign into the car and driven back to the office as fast as possible. There were no more disturbances by Whisper. Hannah had succeeded in ruffling that manyak’s Oriel’s composure and that was a win in Zared’s book. There had been a few moments where Hannah was as frozen as Oriel, her face unreadable, but then she had blinked and the strangeness cleared. Zared put it down to the drain of using her dual talents at the same time.
“Amalgamation,” Hannah supplied. “I can merge two or more objects into one thing. Kind of like a brundlefly. Any idea what I’m talking about?”
Zared just shook his head at the reference. He didn’t understand how she could be so calm. No words were big enough, so he stayed silent.
After not receiving an answer, Hannah went on. “In The Fly when Jeff Goldblum tries to merge with the fly he becomes a combination of them both. He’s Brundle and a fly. A brundlefly.
Something like that. One of my brothers made the reference and it stuck. That’s what they call me at home.”
“I don’t understand,” he admitted, still not turning away from the window.
“Haven’t you read my file?”
It had taken every ounce of him not to do exactly that, but Zared hadn’t. He was too interested in the chrono woman as it was and to show additional interest by asking to read her Universe personnel file would raise eyebrows, starting with his boss. Chara. This was getting complicated.
He could still feel the touch of her hand against his. It reminded him of the first time he’d been with a female, at the age of fourteen, when he still lived in Tel-Aviv, before the Brits had gotten hold of him and hauled him to Scotland for training. He had as much control over his body now as he did that first time, all trembling eagerness, with a sixteen-year-old who had more experience than him, but that wasn’t much either.
He did not plan to have this happen to him. At all.
“No, I haven’t read your file. I saw no reason to.” He strove for a casual tone, and determined he’d achieved it when Hannah’s face shifted as though his words had hurt her before it was gone. That brief, wounded moment made him almost blurt out the truth. Instead he stayed silent.
“I suppose you’re right. You wouldn’t need to.”
“Stop it,” Quillan said with a harsh edge to his voice. “It’s been a difficult night for all of us, but petty squabbling earns us nothing.” He glared at Zared. “This one is not in her public file. Hannah, it was unwise of you to lose your temper like that.”
Hannah shot Quillan a fierce glare. He raised an eyebrow and met her gaze until it was Hannah who looked away.
“You’re not my boss.”
Zared snorted, unfolding his arms. “He is as long as you’re in Richmond,” he said at the same time Quillan was saying “Yes I am.”
Many emotions moved across her face until it became an impassive mask. He should have been glad but instead he longed to shake the neutrality out of her.
“I lost my temper. Sue me. And screw you, weather boy,” she said with a caustic edge.
“That is enough!” Quillan slammed his hand down on his desk and they all jumped.
Maya focused on the men. The aura of the man in the middle glowed with a white-hot light that screamed of danger. It was the same mind signature from San Diego. The duo faded into the background compared to this man. She wanted to turn and run but found herself moving toward the men in Bobbie’s wake.
“I brought her,” Bobbie said, half slurring and stumbling forward.
Maya blinked as calm settled over her, stilling her movements and bringing her to a stop.
“You did well,” the startlingly handsome man in the middle said.
Maya picked up the name in her mind. Oriel.
It was all going to be okay. There was nothing to worry about. She could trust this man.
The soothing murmur flowed over Maya, and she relaxed into it, taking one more step forward. Bobbie lurched to a halt in front of Oriel and turned her gaze toward the man to his right, who clamped a hand on her arm and drew her back.
“Come closer, mishka. There is nothing to fear.”
Of course there wasn’t. Maya raised her arms and turned her hands, palms toward the ceiling. She wanted to touch him. The man nodded in response, acknowledging her reaction as his due.
Of course it was. He was Oriel, after all. Even though she didn’t know him, she did know him. He was nobody to fear.
“Randy, please take Bobbie over there. We should not be disturbed.”
One of the men, a balding man of average height, showed Bobbie to the back of the warehouse. The third man stayed where he was, arms folded. Security or hired muscle, more than likely. Maya tried to read his mind and got images of guns and snarling dogs, of plunging through underbrush and gun battles. He was military of some sort. It didn’t matter. She focused
on Oriel again. He was what counted. She couldn’t read his mind. He was like a piece of plastic. Every effort she made just slid off. All she got was that he was trustworthy.
A distant part of her knew this wasn’t normal, but as soon as the thought flowed into her head it was gone again.
His presence was as radiant as the sun. She wanted to bask in his glowing bright, royal-blue aura. She almost wanted to shield her eyes against him but instead moved toward him, her strides quickening as she got closer.
The door banged open behind her, echoing loud in the cavernous room.
“She’s on the move. Hurry, Brit.”
Ian raced toward the door and yanked it open without touching it. His hands glowed in the centers, his talent surging to the forefront. Ian focused, keeping his telekinetic power at the ready.
Ian had only seen the dangerous Russian operative Oriel in surveillance video until now. Oriel was at the back of the warehouse, facing the door. Maya was
about five feet from him, an expression of adoration on her face. It matched Bobbie’s face as well as the Night Stars operative Ian knew as Randy.
Damn it. They’d been warned that Oriel was a new breed of talent called a dazzler, but he hadn’t yet made any moves on their people in Richmond. Now Ian realized that was because he was waiting for the right time.
This, apparently, was that time. The right time and the right woman. Maya was moving toward Oriel, her steps plodding.
“Maya, stop,” he said, his voice a combination of fear and anger. To his relief, the sensitive paused.
Maya tensed, her body wound tight on invisible strings. Bloody hell, he wished he were a sensitive at that moment. He needed to know what she was thinking and if he should get her out or take her down. He should have dealt with this back at the motel. Bollocks.
“I must go to him,” she said. Her tone suggested the words made sense.
“No, you do not,” he cried. The expression Maya turned on him was devoid of emotion. Then he saw a flicker, and her mouth twitched. Her face twisted with
some internal struggle. Good. Perhaps she had the strength to fight the effects of Oriel’s dazzling.
Bobbie was off to one side, with Randy behind her, holding her shoulder. Ian raised his voice and aimed it at Randy. “Still being Oriel’s dogsbody, are you?”
Oriel’s chuckle rolled through the warehouse, the sound echoing off the aluminum walls and ceiling. There was something hypnotic in the laugh, and he felt an urge to let go of his concern and join the man.
Oriel pierced Ian with his amber eyes and waggled a finger at him. The urge to move forward surged through Ian.
“Zared, I could use a little help,” he said into his watch.
All at once there was a clap of thunder, a streak of lightning, and loud thumps on the metal roof. Hail. It was one of Zared’s specialties. Zared had remained outside, where Oriel’s dazzling couldn’t reach him. Ian wasn’t sure how long he could hold out. It had been a mistake to do this without more backup. He assessed the large room in a quick sweep and smiled. This place, which appeared to be an empty storage
facility, had weapons. Focusing on a hammer, Ian shifted it slightly.
Maya’s eyes went to Bobbie, and a crease formed across the ridge of her brow bone. She shook her head, Oriel’s dazzle apparently fading when the hail struck the roof.