Mac glared at Professor Dean. “That fucking hurt.”
“I’m taking a blood sample.”
“Then let someone competent do it. Let a machine do it. I think you just enjoy stabbing me.”
“If I do, that can hardly come as a surprise. You effectively blocked my data stream, and I want to know how.”
Mac set his jaw as she yanked out the needle. “You promised not to snoop on our lovemaking, so I’d say we were even.”
She swung around her cool blue eyes assessing. “Lovemaking?”
“Sex, then.” Shit. Mac shrugged then wished he hadn’t as his arm started bleeding again. “Whatever Pavlovans like to call it.”
“How exactly did you block me from that apartment?”
He met her gaze. She was like a dog with a bone. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Then who did?”
“If Dr. Neeve wants to keep her sexual adventures quiet, I’m not going to argue with her.” He offered up a half-truth. “She definitely did something. I felt my telepathic pathways freeze up.”
“You did? How about Commander Kaiden?”
“I have no idea. I’m sure you’ve already spoken to him about it. My guess is that it’s some Pavlovan protection barrier against outside interference with a mating session. It makes sense in a society full of telepaths who could listen in.”
Professor Dean continued to stare at him before slowly returning her gaze to the vial of blood.
“Dr, Neeve returns to Pavlovan in a month.”
“You’ll service her once more and then your duty here will be over. I’ve requested your transfer to my lab.”
Mac stood up and pulled on his uniform shirt. “And I’ve already put it on record that I will not accept that transfer.”
“You might have no choice.” She let her gaze roam over his torso. She’d never forgiven him for turning down her offer for a fuck. “I can’t wait to get inside your head again.”
Mac picked up his pants and put them on. “Are we done here?”
“For now,” Professor Dean nodded. “I’m not completely finished analyzing your results yet, so don’t go far.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Mac saluted and walked out of the lab and back through the hallways to his own office. The thought of Professor Dean performing surgery on him made his flesh crawl. Even if Neeve couldn’t follow through on her promise to take him to Pavlovan, he’d never allow himself to be used as a test subject again.
Neeve picked up way too fast on his emotions these days. He let out his breath and sat in his chair. “Nothing.”
“Did you find out how much data Professor Dean collected on you?”
He rubbed his upper arm. “From her extremely unhappy face and the way she stabbed me with her needle, I’d assume she didn’t get what she wanted.”
“Yeah, if you could only teach me and all the other human telepaths how to do that.”
“You already can, Mac. We’re linked.” There was a slight pause. “Can you communicate with the others?”
“I’ve never tried it from up here. We don’t tend to socialize much. The professor’s experiments left us all in a fucking mess.”
“I understand. If I am successful in my mission, you’ll need to contact your associates and bring them together for our departure. I can help you boost your telepathic signal if necessary, as can Kaiden.”
“When are you planning on doing that?”
“Speaking to my planet’s head of assembly? As soon as he wakes up, which will be in about five minutes.”
“Do you need help?”
“No, this is one thing I need to do by myself.”
A knock on the door had Mac breaking off contact and focusing his attention on the far more immediate problem of who was using up all the water allocation in the labs and what was to be done about it.
Neeve typed in her secret code to the private line of the head of the Pavlovan Assembly and waited until she was also able to connect telepathically. Being so far away from her home, she needed at least some boost from the messaging systems but she was hoped the network was as secure at the assembly could make it.
She smiled. “Hey Ash. How are you?”
His slow smile warmed her soul. In the last year since finding his female, he’d changed dramatically. Okay, maybe only to those who knew him and his family intimately, but it was still a welcome change.
“I’m fine.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Soreya and Esca are asleep next door so don’t get too loud.”
“As if I would.” They smiled at each other in perfect understanding. Neither of them were known for their outgoing personalities. “I have a favor to ask you.”
“Go ahead.” He nodded and his long silver hair slid over his shoulder.
“This is a one hundred percent secure line, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” he frowned. “Why, is something wrong? We were informed that the Earth military had cracked down on Etruscan attacks and that you were perfectly safe.”
“I want to come home early.”
“You don’t feel safe?”
“There’s that, and then there’s another matter. I want to bring some humans with me.”
“They are telepaths.”
He sat back. “You’re sure about that?”
“Yes. I can’t be more explicit at this point, but they all need to get away from this planet.”
“You want me to offer them refugee status on Pavlovan?”
“Could you do that?”
“Of course. I’ve grown a lot more powerful within the assembly since my triad was completed. Soreya gave me a new source of telepathic power that no one else has.” He hesitated. “As long as your family is okay with it. Have you spoken to your mother recently?”
“I don’t talk to her, she talks to me—you know that. She has no concept of an actual conversation.”
“Do you want me to go and see her?”
“I wanted to speak to her anyway.” His smile tightened. “Soreya is concerned about her inability to have a child.”
“Then you should definitely speak to her.” Neeve leaned in closer. “Could you make it soon? I’m worried about what’s going to happen to these telepaths.”
“I’ll confirm as soon as I can.” He raised his eyebrows. “It’s really that important to you?”
“It might be. By the way, these are all military personnel. I’ll be asking the authorities here if I can use them as security for the trip home. If it all works as planned, I’ll need you to back me up on this.”
“I’ll do that.” He smiled. “It will be good to have you home, Neeve.”
She sighed. “That depends.”
“What do you think?”
“You can’t run away from your destiny, forever.”
She signed off and spoke into the silence. “Yes, I bloody well can.”
“This is most unusual, Dr. Neeve, most unusual.”
Neeve smiled sympathetically at the Commander-in-Chief of Earth’s military. “My family is rather protective of me, General Schaeffer. There isn’t much I can do about that. I’m sorry for all the inconvenience. It’s just that once they realized there were a few telepaths on Earth who could help secure my return to Pavlovan, they wouldn’t settle for anyone else bringing me home.”
“One wonders how they found out about them in the first place.”
She opened her eyes wide. “I didn’t realize it was a secret. When my family asked if my mating needs were being met, I was happy to share that you had exceeded my expectations by providing me with telepaths. My planet is very grateful, and very amenable to continuing to share our telepathic skills with your emerging youth.”
Of course, all he cared about was the military applications of telepathy, like the Etruscans. But she wanted to give him the opportunity to at least pretend to respond positively to the Pavlovan assembly’s demands.
“I’ve been instructed by my government to release the required personnel to you for this mission. They will meet you at the space port when you depart tomorrow morning.”
Neeve smiled. “Thank you, General. I appreciate your support.” She shook his hand and waited for him to leave, accompanied by his large entourage. She could only hope he’d take the obnoxious Professor Dean with him.
Neeve smiled at Mac who was sitting on her bed, his hands clasped between his knees. He wore his usual black military uniform and had just had his hair cut so short it looked like bristles.
“Are we leaving or not?”
She leaned back against the door and considered him. “Yes, we are. Ash has arranged it all just as I asked him.”
“He’s the head of the Pavlovan Assembly.”
“A useful man to know.”
She debated mentioning her mother but decided it was far too early in their relationship to dump that on him. “He is. I’m also very fond of him.” She noted the slight tensing of his shoulders. “He’s one of the most powerful telepaths I’ve ever known. He’s gorgeous to look at too, long silver hair and a body to die for.”
He looked up at her. “I can’t wait to meet him.”
She moved closer until she was standing between his knees.
“He can’t wait to meet you either.”
“Did you tell him we were lovers?”
She cupped his chin. “No. I’d rather wait and share that in person.”
“Will he object?”
“It depends whether he likes you or not.” His jaw flexed beneath her fingers and she fought a smile. “He is a very powerful man. His good will is important to cultivate.”
“Understood,” he murmured, and turned his face until his mouth brushed her thumb. He kissed her knuckle and then licked it. “When are we leaving?”
“And the other telepaths?”
“Are definitely coming with us.”
He let out his breath. “I still can’t believe this is going to happen the way we planned. Are you sure Professor Dean can’t interfere?”
“Mac, I just spoke to General Schaeffer himself. He’s okayed all the details. Between him, Ash and my mother, I don’t think the prof stands a chance.” She bent to kiss him. “Are you still okay about this?”
“About accompanying you to Pavlovan?” He met her gaze head on. “If it means I can save the other telepaths from becoming Professor Dean’s lab rats, then yes.”
She took a step backward. “So it’s purely a business decision.”
“You know it’s more than that.” He stood up. “I want to hear what this Oracle of yours has to say.”
“And depending on what you hear, and how you interpret it, you’ll decide whether to stay or go?”
“It’s the best I can offer you at this point.”
“For a telepath you are so damn unemotional.” She turned on her heel, her heart a tight fist in her chest.
“What?” She wouldn’t turn around.
“Give me a chance here, will you? I’m trying, I really am.”
“Understood. Good night, Mac, see you at the spaceport at 0500 hours.” She held the door open until he came toward her.
“Would you rather I lied to you?”
“Of course not.”
He stopped in front of her and it took every centimeter of her control not to reach out and touch him. “I’m not trying to fuck you around, but—“
“I know. Just fucking’s fine without all the other stuff. Go away.”
She stepped around him, pushed him hard in the chest and shut the door in his face. The fact that he could enter her mind at will meant her action was pointless, but it was, at least, symbolic. It hurt her to realize he didn’t understand her world as much as it hurt him to consider sharing her with anyone else.
Neeve sat down on the bed still warm from Mac’s presence. Whatever the Oracle said, there were still a lot of issues to decide. Getting Mac to Pavlovan was only the first step of a potentially long battle. Would they ever see eye to eye?