Whispers in the Dark eBook: Page2

Maya Banks (2012)

Page 2

 

  Already her gut was screaming that she’d remained too long here. It was time to go.

  She bent as if tying her shoe and casually looked left and right, as if simply preparing for her exercise regimen.

  In truth, she hated jogging. She was in shape out of necessity, not out of any love for exercise. She used the routine to carefully scout her surroundings, always looking for any change, anything out of the ordinary. She watched for those who hunted her.

  You’re pensive this morning, Shea.

  Shea frowned as she rose and began to stretch.

  You can’t ignore me. I know you hear me. Talk to me, Grace begged softly.

  Shea sighed. You know we shouldn’t communicate, Grace. It isn’t safe. I don’t want to know anything that could be used against you. You don’t need to know anything about me. If I know nothing, I can hardly be forced to tell what I don’t know.

  It isn’t your job to protect me, Grace reprimanded.

  The hell it isn’t. You have a gift, Grace. I won’t allow those bastards to use it or you. I want you safe. Are you all right? Do you need something?

  Shea could feel her sister’s exasperated sigh.

  I felt your pain and your fear. I worried for you. I…I miss talking to you.

  Shea’s heart twisted and sadness welled in her throat. . I miss you too. Now go away before I see more than I should.

  Grace went silent for a moment. You have a gift too, Shea. You sell yourself short. What you give to people is priceless. What you give to me is priceless.

  I love you, Shea said fiercely. We’ll be together again. I swear it.

  Shea felt Grace’s sadness and she slowed in her run so that she could mentally wrap her arms around her older sister just as she’d done the night before to the soldier who so desperately needed comfort.

  The sensation of her sister returning her hug was so warm and powerful that Shea closed her eyes to savor it.

  I love you too, Shea. Be careful.

  Always.

  As always when she communicated with her sister, when they broke contact, Shea was left with an emptiness so keen that it ached. Her sister was her best friend in the world, and she hadn’t seen her for a year.

  Tears blurred her vision as she pushed herself on, lengthening her stride until the muscles in her legs began to tremble and protest.

  A year ago, she and her family were living a normal life. As normal as any family could live when she and Grace shared remarkable abilities. They lived with their parents mainly because her father and mother had feared for the two women to live out on their own.

  Shea and Grace had complied good-naturedly, although they’d always believed their parents too paranoid. Their abilities were secret. No one knew what they could do. Their parents were adamant that they never used them. It was as if they wanted to eliminate them by ignoring them.

  And then one night their home had been broken into despite their state-of-the-art security system. Their parents had been gunned down, and the only reason Shea and Grace had escaped capture was because of the safe room their father had meticulously constructed, complete with an escape route that led into the dense woods surrounding their house.

  Their father had shoved them into the safe room, set the locks, and the two girls stood there in frozen horror as they listened to their parents being murdered just feet away.

  Their parents hadn’t been paranoid. They’d known the very real danger their daughters faced. Maybe if Shea and Grace had taken their fears more seriously, their mom and dad would be alive today.

  Her fists clenched in rage and she slowed to a walk, cursing the fact that she’d gone much farther than usual. She turned in a half circle and began to walk back the way she came.

  Halfway back to the tiny duplex she rented, she noticed a dark sedan with tinted windows parked on the opposite side of the street. It hadn’t been there before. She would have noted it. Nor did it belong to the owner of the house.

  She was meticulous in her recon. She knew every vehicle for every house in an eight-block radius. She’d even memorized license plate numbers. She glanced casually over, never letting her gaze stop its progress. Quickly committing the plate to memory, she picked up her pace just a bit.

  At the end of the block, she turned right instead of continuing straight ahead toward her street. She swung her arms, rotating as if working the kinks out, like she hadn’t a care in the world.

  But she glanced back to see the vehicle slide from its parking space, execute a quick U-turn and then crawl down the street in the direction she’d gone.

  Shea held her breath and forced herself to remain calm and not bolt. Not yet. She needed a few more feet before she’d have a few moments where she wouldn’t be spotted.

  As soon as she was out of view, she put on the speed and ran through the yard and in between two houses. Everyone on the damn street had privacy fences, which made them a bitch to get over.

  She flew over the top and landed in a heap on the ground on the other side. She picked herself up, fled toward the back of the lot and pulled herself over the top of the fence again.

  She hoped the car turned down the street she’d taken and hadn’t headed directly toward her house. She needed just a few minutes to get home, grab the bag she always kept packed, and then she’d get the hell out.

  Through it all, she kept her mind tightly shielded so that her sister wouldn’t sense her fear and agitation. The last thing she wanted was Grace to come out of hiding because she worried that Shea was in danger.

  And she would. She’d do anything if she thought it would keep Shea safe. Just as Shea would do for Grace. If Shea allowed herself to get caught, Grace would be a sitting duck.

  Well, fuck that.

  She wasn’t going down without one hell of a fight.

  By the time she reached her backyard, she was winded and sucking some pretty heavy air. Instead of going balls to the wall inside her house, she took stock of the surroundings, listened for the sound of a vehicle and then quietly crept to her back door.

  The very last thing she needed was to run headlong into a bad situation.

  She cracked the door open and listened intently for any sound coming from within. As she stepped inside, she immediately looked toward the front picture window, which gave her an unimpeded view of the street.

  She breathed in a sigh of relief and bolted into action. She ran for her bedroom, took the already packed bag out of the closet and then went for the handgun in her nightstand drawer.

  She popped the clip in, thumbed the safety and then jammed it into her shorts. Wasting not a single glance at the things she was leaving behind, she hustled to the front door.

  Her car was parked as close to the house as possible, but not so close that she couldn’t execute a sharp turn and drive away without having to back out of the drive.

  It sucked to have to live this way, but the alternative didn’t bear thinking about.

  She shoved out of the door, ran for her car and threw her bag inside. She jammed the key into the ignition, started the engine and then roared out of the drive.

  As she pulled onto the street, she glanced in her rearview mirror. Fear slid up her spine and around her neck until it had a stranglehold on her.

  The sedan she’d seen on her run was pulling up the street just past her house.

  It was pointless to try and play it cool. As if they hadn’t seen her. She blew the stop sign at the end of the street and hauled ass.

  SHEA was somewhere in Colorado, her eyes peeled for a place to stop for the night, when she was seized by unimaginable pain. Her entire body went rigid, her vision blurred and her mouth went horribly dry. She was too exhausted from days spent on the road with little to no sleep to fight off the onslaught of her soldier’s suffering.

  She barely managed to pull to the side of the road before another wave of agony bit through her flesh and burned her from the inside out.


  Oh no. No.

  She leaned forward, resting her forehead on the steering wheel as she battled for control. Then she reached for him, sliding into his mind and body. She hadn’t meant to leave him alone for so long. Guilt flooded her. The last days had been spent running and looking over her shoulder until she was sure she’d shaken her pursuers.

  I’m here. Be strong. Please be strong. Don’t let them defeat

  you.

  She could feel the tears on his face. Felt the helpless wave of despair that hit her so strongly it knocked her back against the seat. She forced herself to see through his eyes and then gasped her horror, tears squeezing her own eyes.

  Another man knelt in front of her soldier. He’d been removed from the tiny, dark hole they kept him in. When they hadn’t been successful in gaining what they wanted from her soldier, they’d dragged another man into the room and forced him to his knees so that he had no choice but to look at him.

  Shea closed her eyes to the atrocities committed. But it was no use. She saw through her soldier’s eyes. Felt everything he felt. Knew what he knew.

  Rage built. Horror. Fear. Loathing. Pain.

  He wanted to kill them. For a moment he considered giving in, but he knew it wouldn’t alter the fate of the other captive. These were animals with no honor.

  And then a single gunshot rang out, echoing first through the soldier’s mind and then bleeding into Shea’s consciousness. She blinked and stared glassy-eyed through the windshield as she watched the other captive fall forward to the floor, blood streaming from his head.

  Grief welled, though she wasn’t sure if it was her own or her soldier’s. There was self-condemnation and guilt. He considered that the other captive was better off because he at least wasn’t suffering any longer.

  Why were they keeping him alive? Why didn’t they just kill him and end it all?

  His emotions bombarded her, a mixture of determination to survive and the desire to be free of his pain. He hated that he was so weak, and self-loathing was sharp and bitter in his mind.

  It wasn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself for his death. Turn your hatred to the animals who deserve it. Not yourself.

  Who are you?

  The demand was strong. He was still in the grip of a terrible rage. It consumed him, even more so than his pain. She could feel it sizzling through his veins and into hers. It was white, nearly electric and blinding in its intensity.

  Someone who wants to help you.

  How can you possibly help me?

  The weary question slipped into her mind. She knew he expected no answer. He didn’t even think she was real.

  She went completely still when he was suddenly hauled to his feet and roughly dragged from the room where the dead man lay. It was silly. They couldn’t detect her. And yet she was afraid to move, afraid that anything she did might make the soldier react and draw more abuse from his captors.

  When he was thrust back into his cell, he hit the floor hard and then crawled toward his corner, the same corner he huddled in day after day. Night after night.

  Unable to resist, she wrapped her arms around him and held him as he shivered violently in reaction to the torture he’d endured. The air around them was stale and warm and yet he quaked as chills raced up and down his body.

  She closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath and then focused on her task of ridding him of his pain.

  This time she didn’t make a single sound. Her jaw was too locked, her body too rigid. She didn’t think she could have cried out, though in her mind she was screaming at the things he’d endured.

  When she was done, she lay limply to the side, her head tilted sideways as she struggled to regain her senses. She sensed his question, knew his brow was furrowed in confusion as he mentally took stock of his painless state.

  He rubbed the marks on his body, ran his hands over his wounds, testing, poking, baffled by the fact that he no longer felt anything.

  Do you know where you are?

  She tried to inject strength into her question. Confidence. But she failed miserably. The inquiry came out as a faint whisper, barely audible in his mind.

  Immediately his frustration was strong and a sense of helplessness gripped him, as strong as any pain he’d previously felt.

  No.

  There has to be something we can do. You can’t continue like this. Is there anyone who can help you?

  She felt his sigh. He rubbed his head tiredly and then pushed both palms into his eyes and curled his fingers over the top of his skull.

  My brothers are looking for me. I know it. They won’t give up until I’m found. Dead or alive.

  I could contact them.

  The offer spilled out before she thought better of it. Regret was instant. How could she place herself and Grace in danger? How could she trade themselves for this unknown man?

  And yet as soon as the question rose, she knew that she had no choice. She wouldn’t leave him to die. His survival had become all-important to her. She didn’t even know why exactly. Or how they’d forged the connection they had. It was just another random aspect of her gift. As random as everything else when it came to her abilities.

  He laughed. It was hoarse, cracked and ugly sounding. His voice was rusty from disuse. He rubbed his eyes again.

  How can you help me? You aren’t real.

  She wasn’t going to argue her validity to him. She barely had the strength left to maintain her connection to him, but now more than ever, she sensed that he couldn’t bear to be alone. He was inching ever closer to the edge.