Illicit Intuitions: Sensory Ops, Book 3 (6 page)

BOOK: Illicit Intuitions: Sensory Ops, Book 3
3.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Perhaps it was a little wicked, but he wanted to know how she would handle surprises. What happened to her guards when she got caught by surprise?

He lowered his first mental barrier, grinned and dove below the surface. He slid through the water toward her, timed his attack and approached her from behind. Just as she prepared to turn so she would be on her stomach, he grabbed her waist and lunged deeper.

Rather than fight or struggle, she fitted her back closely to his chest and synchronized her moves with his. Two kicks later, she curled her body and propelled herself upward. His hands slipped from her waist. The gliding contact of their bodies broke before he was fully able to register how she’d so fluidly and rapidly matched her moves to his.

His heart slammed against his ribs as he broke the water a second time. His shields slid into place as the water cascaded off him. She was treading the bouncing water, waiting for him with a sexy smile. Her long hair floated around her shoulders and rhythmically moving arms.

“Tell me, H. What part of your morning plans includes trying to drown a woman?”

He cut through the water until he was close enough that his legs brushed hers as they kicked to stay afloat. After a few kicks they were moving again in unison, their bodies instantly matching the tempo of the other. Connecting.

“I was curious to see your reaction.”

“Curious to see if I would freak out.” She laughed—an illicitly lilting rhythm that danced along his spine. “Sorry to disappoint you. I’ve spent too much time in the water to be thrown by such amateurish moves.”

“That sounds almost like a challenge.” He circled her.

Rather than follow him, to command they maintain eye contact, she continued facing the horizon. He stopped behind her and allowed the grin teasing his mouth its freedom. “How far will you trust me out here?”

“I have enough skill and stamina to save myself. Whatever games you play will have no impact on my safety.”

He moved closer so the fronts of his legs brushed the backs of hers. The hard-on he’d banished before sprang back to life. If he moved any closer she would feel his desire. “Who says I’m referring to physical trust?”

“No one. Were I in trouble, I would trust you to handle yourself well enough to help. In the water.”


“Sure.” Her arms drifted back and forth just beneath the water. “I watched you swim. I know how long you can hold your breath before surfacing for air. You’re competent.”

Ha! She was challenging him.

He moved closer and allowed his tented shorts to brush her ass. She shifted her legs. Surprisingly, she spun around and braced her hands on his shoulders.

Habit had him wiping the grin off his face before she could see it. To the outside world he didn’t know how to have fun. She was part of the outside world, even in his sanctuary. Nothing could prepare him for her hands on his body or the lust filling her gaze.

“I’m good in the water.”

She drew out the word “good” and added a sexual inflection that had his dick jumping for attention. He reached through his barriers into her mind again, gently. He wouldn’t get a clear read, but she may feel him. Feel something. “How good?”

“Better than you can imagine.” She smiled and with a single blink the door he’d accessed earlier slammed.

Interesting. She was actively blocking herself. Maybe she didn’t do it intentionally. Maybe her ability to feel an intrusion was unwittingly innate and the blocks were an automatic response. Maybe she had true abilities she’d learned to protect.

Regardless, and auditor or not, with her ability, he wanted to study her. To work with her. The trick would be keeping her off guard long enough to figure out the basis of her power. To earn her trust so she would willingly allow him access to her mind. To her emotions.

“You’re also awake and more fully focused than you would have been with that energy shot.”

“You can’t know how those shots make me feel.”

She shoved him down into the water and flung her body in the opposite direction. Before he could grab her in retaliation she’d put several feet between them. He caught up to her easily, but rather than pull her below the surface again, he ran his hand up her side and over her tattoo to come up alongside her.

As soon as they were in shallow enough waters, they stood. He traced a fingertip over her tattoo. “Interesting tat. Had it long?”

“Thank you.” She smiled as she walked up the beach and grabbed her towel to wrap it around her waist. “Yes.”

He grabbed his shirt and flip-flops as they headed back toward the path. She added nothing more.

She’d been open and approachable, aside from morning grumpiness, but the first hint at personal questions shut her down. Point taken. He would use a different approach. “How long did you swim competitively?”

“Ten years, give or take. I almost made the Olympic team once.”

He pulled his gaze from her hard, pebbled nipples and allowed her to move past him. She didn’t seem like the kind to quit easily. “Why didn’t you try again?”

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

Simple acceptance suffused her tone, but somehow he suspected the matter had been a difficult one for her to grasp.

They remained silent the rest of the way up the path. Just as they crested the top of the hill a gunshot rang out. His shields evaporated, clearing the path for heightened impressions. Sub-arctic hatred iced through him.

He grabbed Ava’s waist and pulled her to the ground. The bullet smacked into a palm tree.



They landed hard in a flurry of sand and tangled limbs. A second shot popped into the ground by Ava’s head. She didn’t move.

“Shit!” H grabbed Ava’s arms and dragged her unconscious body deeper into the brush at his back. They would likely get scratched up but the alternative was considerably less desirable.

If Janus was anything, he was methodical. He wouldn’t shoot blindly into the bushes in hopes of scoring a hit.

H had been so sure he’d be ready for his old tormenter, he’d been braced for a mental assault, but Ava had distracted him. Now she was hurt.


The shots had come from behind them at fairly close range. They had walked right past the bastard. If he’d had his shields down…

No. That was part of Janus’s game. Think about that later.

“Ava.” He kept his voice low and checked her over. A nasty gash sliced across her temple where a purple knot was already plumping up.

Smooth. He’d taken her down to save her only to slam her head into a rock like she was a coconut he needed to crack open.

Placing his fingers over the pulse in her neck, he timed her heartbeat while simultaneously dropping his shields to search the area. Nothing came to him. It seemed Janus had only been toying with him—a favorite method of his. Still, he’d be cautious.

“Hang tough, Ava.”

Fear he’d never allowed himself to feel for anyone aside from Dana crept in. Fear he’d never allowed to eke its way inside edged closer. Fear he’d never allowed to rule him settled in his consciousness.

Rather than think too much or give Janus time to reposition for a better shot if he was still around, H scooped Ava into his arms and cut through the bushes toward the lab. The blood seeping from her head soaked his shirt and coated his skin with sticky warmth.

The rougher terrain jostled her form against him. It would be easier if she’d only injured a leg and could move beside him or support herself by holding on to his neck. She weighed maybe one-thirty, but the longer he held her the more weight she gained.

He ran hockey stats in his head to pull himself under control. Now was not the time to be aroused or think about how she felt against him. She was injured and would be hurting when she came to. She could easily have a concussion thanks to him. Then again, she could have been shot if he hadn’t moved quickly.

Still mentally unshielded, he scanned the area one more time before leaving the cover of the foliage. Nothing.

Janus liked to play with his victims. Maybe that’s all this morning was—a fucked-up game. He doubted it.

Certain enough to risk crossing the unprotected space between them and the building—maybe a twenty-foot dash—H stepped from his hiding spot and jogged to the building. He leaned toward the door, using the hand beneath Ava’s knees to reach for the security pad. He coded in and opened the door.

He hustled inside and turned to push the door closed. A second gunshot popped. A bullet blasted into the side of the building.

Ducking, he reengaged the locks with a humming swish of promised safety.

Glad he’d invested in bulletproof glass and that he’d changed access codes and installed an auto lock-down failsafe on the doors, he carried Ava down the hall to the dressing room. If anyone tried to get in without the correct code, backup locks would engage.

The room shimmered in a red-tinged blue haze. Ava’s pain contaminated the air. His lungs shrank to the size of raisins with an inability to catch a clear breath.

He needed to scan her. First, he needed to stop her bleeding.

After laying her on the futon, he shot off a quick text for Dana to stay away for a bit, and then grabbed some hand towels and dampened them in the sink. Checking the clock over the door, he did some quick figuring.

From the lab to the beach was a five-minute walk. They’d been at the top of the hill before he’d taken her to the ground. He couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to get them inside.

She was breathing, but the longer she was unconscious the more probable it became her injury was more severe than a bump and cut. He rung out the towels and returned to her side.

He wasn’t calling 9-1-1. He didn’t want to deal with cops and medics; the fewer people buzzing around his lab the happier he was. Especially when some of those people would be Feds asking questions about his enemies.

Gently wiping the dirt and blood from her head, making more trips for fresh towels, he worked until the bleeding stopped. He’d never needed to apply first aid before. He’d heard head wounds bled more than others. It was true. Ava bled profusely until, finally, on the fifth towel, he was able to staunch the flow of metallic dread overtaking his olfactory senses.

Checking the clock again, he saw it had been ten minutes since he’d laid her down. She’d been unconscious for close to fifteen minutes. The chances of a concussion, or worse…

His belly banded into intricately woven knots.

Sitting beside her on the futon, he steadied himself. The redness of her agony spanned his vision like a spidery web of busted vessels, almost entirely obliterating the calming powers of the typical blue mist.

Braced, as ready as he could be, he used his mind and fully activated the lenses fused to his eyes. The layers of Ava’s head slid away one by one until he saw into her like a full-color, three-dimensional x-ray machine.

Below the surface wound and the bruised and busted blood vessels, he confirmed his fears. Ava was bleeding into her brain. The leak was a small trickle, but if he didn’t help her she may not wake up.

Taking her brain bleed into himself wasn’t wise. Aside from one forced experiment… He’d only ever eased surface pains for Dana, but turning away from Ava, away from the responsibility to fix an injury he’d caused… It wasn’t in him.

He had no choice.

Blinking, he deactivated the lenses and had his shields bounding back into place. He hated cutting her off, but needed to prepare himself if he was to succeed. He couldn’t prepare her any further than he had with the gentle probes on the beach.

H raised her eyelids. Her pupils were equal in size. A good sign. But she’d been out too long.

Her face was soft, eerily frozen and lifeless, without her spunk. She might look peaceful in sleep, but somehow he suspected even then she would appear more lively. More vital.

She needed major help. He couldn’t call any in.

Damn it.

Most of his life he’d vacillated between viewing his talents as a gift and a curse. But when he could help someone the outlook definitely swung toward gift. This time, if he pushed too far, the gift could get him killed.

He’d never gone all the way in. Even partial healing probes required Dana to pick him up after the effort drained him. Connecting as closely as he needed—without Ava’s willing acceptance—was dangerous for them both. The possible side effects were fatal.

She needed him.

He couldn’t ignore that.

Settling onto the floor before the futon, he crossed his legs in the meditation pose he practiced often. He rested his left palm over her heart. The beating tempo pulsed against his hand, slid up his arm and into his heart.

Three pumps later, their heartbeats synchronized. Claiming neither his beat nor hers, but forming instead a new cadence. A cadence unique to their dualities. Dualities that may be closer to commonalities than he’d anticipated.

He placed his right hand over her temple and closed his eyes. Channeling his energy and visualizing a wormhole connected to her mind, he lowered the first shield and sought the access that would allow him to help her.

BOOK: Illicit Intuitions: Sensory Ops, Book 3
3.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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