Shadow game (Chapter Two)
Lily wrenched herself awake, fighting for air. Her lungs burned. She pressed the button to bring the window down. Slightly disoriented, she told herself it was a dream, nothing but a dream. Cool air rushed in and she inhaled deeply. She noticed with relief that they were nearly to the house, already on the estate property. "John, would you mind stopping the car? I feel like walking." She managed to keep her voice steady, in spite of the way her heart pounded in alarm. She detested the nightmares that so often plagued her sleep.
Lily had wanted to dream of Captain Ryland Miller, but she'd dreamt of death and violence. Of voices calling to her, of death beckoning with a bony finger.
The chauffeur glanced at her in the rearview mirror. "You're wearing high heels, Miss Lily," he pointed out. "Are you ill?"
She could see her reflected image. Pale, eyes too big for her face, dark circles. She looked like hell. Her chin lifted. "I don't mind the heels, John. I need the exercise." She needed to get the remnants of the nightmare out of her mind. The oppressive feeling of danger, of being hunted, was still accelerating her heart rate. Lily tried to appear normal, avoiding John's gaze in the mirror. He had known her all of her life, and he was already concerned with the shadows in her eyes.
Why did she have to look so pale and uninteresting just when she finally met a man she connected with? He was so gorgeous. So intelligent. So… everything. She had walked into the meeting without one iota of information and had come off looking a complete fool rather than a woman of extraordinary intelligence. Miller probably dated model-thin blonds with big breasts, women who hung on his every word. Lily brushed a hand over her face, hoping to wipe away the nightmares that refused to allow her rest. Hoping to rid herself of the image of Ryland Miller embedded in her brain. He had somehow branded himself deep into her flesh and bones.
Come here to me.
His voice had whispered through her body, heated her blood, melted her insides. Lily hadn't wanted to look at him. She had been all too aware of the cameras. All too aware she knew nothing of men. She was bewildered by her father's behavior, bewildered by the sheer weight of her attraction to Ryland Miller. And she had run like a rabbit, wanting to find her father and learn what was happening.
The limousine slowed to a stop on the long, well-paved road winding through the enormous estate up to the main house. Lily hastily climbed out, not wanting to risk further conversation. John leaned out his window and studied her for a long moment. "You aren't sleeping again, Miss Lily."
Lily smiled at him as she pushed a hand through her thick mass of dark hair. The chauffeur claimed he was still in his early sixties, but she suspected he was probably in his seventies. He acted more like a relative than a driver and she could never see him in any other light than as beloved family. "You're right," she said. "I'm having those strange dreams I get once in a while. I'm trying to catnap during the day. Don't you worry about me, it's happened before." She shrugged her shoulders in a dismissing little gesture.
"Have you told your father?"
"As a matter of fact, I had planned to tell him over dinner, but he stood me up again. I thought he might be in his lab, but he didn't answer the phone or his page. Do you know if he's home yet?" If he were home, she would have a few words to say to him. It had been unforgivable to drop her into the situation with Miller without giving her the least indication of what was happening.
She was furious with her father this time. Miller didn't belong locked up in a cage like an animal. He was a man, a strong, intelligent man, loyal to his country, and whatever was going on at the Donovans laboratories had better be stopped immediately. And what was the nonsense with the computers and her father's codes? He had written reams of gibberish and acted as if the mess were legitimate notes on his work. She couldn't consult with nothing to work with. Dr. Peter Whitney, father or not, had a lot to answer for and he'd ducked out on their appointed meeting like a coward in retreat.
Impatience crossed the chauffeur's face. "That man. He needs an assistant to walk along behind him and kick him every now and then so he notices he's actually living in the real world." The renowned doctor had a long history of ignoring or forgetting his daughter's important moments and it annoyed John. The event never mattered-birthdays, planned outings, graduation ceremonies, Dr. Whitney just never remembered. The chauffeur had attended each and every event, watching Lily earn honor after honor without a family member present. It was a sore point with John Brimslow that his boss would treat his daughter with so little care.
Lily burst out laughing. "Is that what you say about me when I'm researching and I forget to come home?" She kept her gaze centered on the top button of John's coat, hoping she had become an expert at hiding emotion. She was used to her father's absentminded ways concerning her. Their dinner date would never have been important enough to him to try to remember it and normally she would have been understanding. She often was caught up in a research project and forgot to eat or sleep or talk with others. She could hardly condemn her father for being the same way. But this time, he was going to get a well-deserved earful, and he was going to sit down and tell her everything she wanted to know about Captain Miller and his men, with no excuses.
Her chauffeur grinned unrepentantly. "Of course."
"I'll be up to the house in a few minutes. Tell Rosa, will you please, otherwise she'll worry." Lily stepped away from the car with a small wave, turning away so John couldn't continue to look at her face. She knew her face had thinned, making her cheekbones stick out, and not in the complimentary way of a model. The nightmares had put dark smudges under her eyes and a droop in her shoulders. She had never been all that much to look at, with her too large eyes and her limp, and she had never been fashionably thin. Her body was curvy at a young age and insisted, no matter how much exercise she did, on being truly feminine. She had never minded much before about her looks, but now…
Lily closed her eyes. Ryland Miller. Why couldn't she have looked stunningly attractive just once? He was so unbelievably sexy. She had never been attracted to classic handsomeness. Miller wasn't handsome, he was too earthy, had too much raw power. Her entire body felt hot just thinking about him. And the way he looked at her… No one had ever looked at her like that before. He looked hungry for her.
She slipped off her heels and stared up at the house. She loved San Francisco, and living in the hills overlooking the beautiful city was a treasure she never tired of. Theirs was an Old World country estate, several stories high and sprawled out with balconies and terraces, giving it an elegant, romantic charm. The house had more rooms than she and her father could ever possibly use, but she loved every inch of it. The walls were thick and the spaces wide. Her refuge. Her sanctuary. God knew she needed one.
The wind blew softly, ruffling her hair and touching her face gently. The breeze brought her a sense of comfort. After a nightmare, the impression of danger usually dissipated a few minutes after waking, but this time it lingered, an alarm that was becoming frightening. Night was beginning to fall. She stared up at the skies, watching the gray threads spinning into darkening clouds overhead and floating across the moon. Dusk was a soft blanket enfolding her. Wisps of fog began to drift across the terraced lawns, white lace in ribbons curling around the trees and bushes.
Lily turned in a circle, taking in the rolling manicured lawns, the shrubbery and trees, the fountains and gardens artfully placed to please the eye. The sprawling acreage to the front was always perfectly immaculate without so much as a leaf or blade of grass put of place, but behind the house, the woods were left wild. There always seemed to her a balance in nature, a quiet and a sense of peace. Her home gave her a freedom she couldn't find anywhere else.
Lily had always been different. She had a gift-a talent, her father called it. She called it a curse. She could touch people and know their private thoughts. Things not meant to be out in the open. Dark secrets and forbidden desires. She had other gifts as well. Her home was her one refuge, a sanctuary with walls thick enough to protect her from the assault of intense emotions bombarding her night and day.
Fortunately, Peter Whitney seemed to have natural barriers so that she couldn't read him when he had tucked her into bed at night as a child. Still, he had been careful of physical contact, careful the barriers in his mind held firm when she was around. And he had taken great care in finding others with natural barriers so that her home was always a sanctuary for her. The people who had cared for her became her family and were all people she could safely touch. It had never occurred to her until that moment to ask how Peter Whitney had known the people he hired were people his unusual daughter would be unable to read.
Ryland Miller had been totally unexpected. She could have sworn the earth moved when she first set eyes on him. He had gifts and talents of his own. Lily knew her father considered him dangerous. She sensed Ryland was dangerous but she wasn't certain in what way. A small smile curved her mouth. He was probably dangerous to all women. He certainly had an effect on her body. She had to corner her father and make him listen to her for once. She needed a few answers that only he could give her.
Anxiety settled in the pit of her stomach and Lily pressed a hand to her midsection, wondering at the persistence of the threatening omen. She knew better than to ignore a continual disquiet so deeply imbedded in her bones. With a soft sigh, Lily headed determinedly for the house. The path she took was a narrow one, made of blue-gray slate, leading around the maze, through the tea garden toward a side entrance.
Lily stepped on the smooth slate stair and the earth rocked. She caught at the ornate banister, her shoes falling to the ground as she used both hands to steady herself, it took her a moment to register that there was no earthquake, but the motion was very much as if she were standing on a boat as it was riding over the waves in the ocean. She heard the lapping of the water against wood, a hollow sound that echoed through her mind. The vision was so strong, Lily could smell the sea air, feel the spray of salt water misting her face.
Her stomach clenched in reaction. Lily's fingers tightened until her knuckles turned white. Again she felt the rocking of the waves. She lifted her face to the darkening sky and saw the ominous clouds whirling faster over her head, spinning wildly until only the center was clear and dark and moving relentlessly, searching, searching. Lily jerked her hands from the banister and wrenched open the kitchen door. Staggering inside, she slammed the door and leaned against the wall, her breath coming in hard gasps. She closed her eyes and drew the air of her home, her sanctuary, into her lungs. She was safe inside the thick walls. Safe, as long as she didn't fall asleep.
The kitchen smelled of fresh-baked bread. Everywhere she looked there were gleaming tiles and wide-open spaces. Home. Lily patted the door with her palm. " Rosa, it smells wonderful in here. Did you cook dinner?"
The short, buxom woman spun around, a large chopping knife in one hand, a carrot in the other. Her dark eyes widened in surprise. "Miss Lily! You nearly gave me a heart attack. Why didn't you come through the front door like you're supposed to?"
Lily laughed because it was normal for Rosa to scold her and she needed normalcy. "Why am I supposed to come through the front door?"
"What good is a front door if no one ever uses it?" Rosa complained. Her gaze took in Lily's pale face, her haunted eyes, and then traveled down to Lily's bare feet and shredded nylons. "What in the world have you done now? And where are your shoes?"
Lily gestured vaguely toward the door. "Has my father called yet? He was supposed to meet me for dinner at Antonio's but he didn't show up. I waited an hour and a half but he must have forgotten."
Rosa frowned. As always there was only acceptance in Lily's voice, a gentle amusement that her father had once more forgotten an appointment with his daughter. Rosa wanted to box Dr. Whitney's ears for him. "That man. No, he didn't call. Did you eat? You're getting skinny, Lily, like a boy."
"I'm only skinny in places, Rosa," Lily contradicted. When Rosa glared she shrugged hastily. "I ate all their bread-it was fresh-baked, but not nearly as good as yours."
"I'm fixing you a plate of fresh vegetables and insist you eat it!"
Lily smiled at her. "Sounds good to me." She hoisted herself onto the countertop, ignoring Rosa 's frown. " Rosa?" She tapped out a small nervous rhythm with her fingernail. "I found out the most disturbing thing about myself today."
Rosa turned quickly back to her. "Disturbing?"
"All this time I've been around men dressed in suits and ties, good-looking, intelligent men with a portfolio my father would admire, but I've never once been attracted to them. I don't think I even noticed them."
Rosa broke out into a smile. "Ah… you met someone. I've always hoped you'd get your nose out of your books long enough to meet someone."
"I didn't exactly meet him," Lily hedged. The last thing she needed was for the housekeeper to repeat her foolish confidences to her father. He'd pull her off the project immediately if he thought she was attracted to his subject. "I just saw him. He's got these shoulders on him and he looked…" She couldn't say "hot" to Rosa. She fanned herself instead of coming up with words.
"Oooh, he's sexy. A real man then."
Lily burst out laughing. Rosa always helped to rid her of demons. "My father wouldn't be too happy hearing you say that."
"Your father wouldn't see a woman if she had a perfect figure and stood naked in front of him. He'd only notice if she could speak in seven languages at the same time." Rosa pushed a plate of vegetables and dip into Lily's hands.
"The picture is too awful to contemplate," Lily said as she slipped to the floor. "I've got to spend some time tonight studying." Lily blew Rosa a kiss as she skirted around her toward the door. "This new project I'm working on is giving me a few problems. Dad just dumped it in my lap with hardly any data and it isn't making sense." She sighed. "I really needed to talk to him tonight."
"Tell me about it, Lily, maybe I can help you."
Lily snagged an apple as she passed the fruit bowl and added it to her plate. "You know I can't do that, Rosa, and you'd just roll your eyes and tell me it's all so silly anyway. This is a project for the Donovans Corporation."
Rosa did roll her eyes, "All that secrecy. Your father is like a little boy playing secret agent games and now he has you doing it, too."
Lily couldn't help smiling. "I wish it was secret agent stuff. It's all paper and lab work, nothing exciting at all." With a little wave she went on down the wide spacious hall, not looking at the huge open rooms. The library was her favorite sanctuary and she headed right for it. She preferred working there to her own office. John Brimslow would have left her briefcase on the desk for her, knowing right where she would go.
"Because I'm so darned predictable," she muttered aloud. "Just once I'd like to shake everybody up."
The fireplace was already lit, thanks to John, and the room was warm and comforting. Lily flung herself into the deep-cushioned armchair, ignoring her briefcase containing her laptop and the work she'd brought home with her. If she had the energy she would have turned on music, but she was bone weary. She couldn't remember the last time she had willingly, without apprehension, gone to sleep at night. In her sleep, all her natural protections came tumbling down, leaving her vulnerable and open to attack. Normally, because the house had such thick walls, she felt safe in her home. Lately, though…
Lily sighed and allowed her lashes to drift down. She was so tired. Little catnaps during the day and during work hours weren't cutting it. She felt as if she could sleep for weeks.
Lily! Almost at once she heard the water, the sound loud and persistent. Lily jerked upright and looked around, blinking to bring the room into focus.
She had no anchor, nothing to hold her to her world, but the safety of her home. She was in familiar territory and she hoped that would help. Whatever was lurking outside, riding the waves of energy to find her, was insisting she reach for it. Lily took a deep breath and resolutely opened her mind, allowing all her protective walls to come down so she could embrace the flow of information.
Waves rolling and pounding. It was loud. So loud she pressed her hands over her ears while she forcibly turned down the volume. She smelled the salt-water. There were warehouses, unfocused, as if her vision were blurry. The stench of fish was strong. She had no idea where she was. But the warehouses were growing smaller as if she were moving away from them.
Her stomach rolled. Lily caught at the edge of her chair for support, her legs rubbery. There was movement. They were moving out away from shore. She smelled blood. And something else. Something familiar. Her heart nearly stopped beating, then began to pound in alarm. Daddy? It couldn't be. What would he be doing on a boat on the ocean? He didn't go on boats.
Peter Whitney had no real telepathic powers, but he had experimented with Lily for years and they sometimes had managed a faint connection. Lily frantically caught up her father's back pillow, clutching it between her hands to better focus on him. Daddy, where are you? He was in danger. She felt the vibrations of it all around him, she felt the violence lingering in the air. He was hurt.
Her head, his head, was hammering from the terrible wound. She could feel pain ripping through her body, through his body. Lily breathed deeply, trying to reach past pain and shock, trying to reach for him. Where are you? I need to find you so I can send help. Can you hear me?
Lily? Her father's voice, so weak, almost tinny, as if he were fading away. It's too late for that. They've killed me. I've already lost too much blood. Listen to me, Lily, it's up to you now. You have to make it right. I'm counting on you to make it right.
She could feel his fear, his great determination in spite of his weakness. Whatever he was trying to convey to her was of the utmost urgency to him. She fought down panic and her need to scream for aid. She fought down a daughter's reaction and reached out with all the power of her mind to stay connected. Tell me what you want, I'll do it.
There's a room, a laboratory no one knows about. The information is there, everything you need. Make it right, Lily.
Daddy, where? Donovans or here? Where should I look?
You have to find it. You have to get rid of everything, the disks, the hard drive, all my research, don't let them find it. They must never repeat that experiment. It's all there, Lily. It's my fault, but you have to set it right for me. Don't trust anyone, not even our people. Someone at the house discovered what I was doing. They betrayed me.
In our house? Lily was horrified. Their people had all been with them from the time she was a little girl. There's a traitor in our house? She took another deep breath, dragging air into her lungs to center herself. Daddy, tell me where you are, I can't see anything of value. Let me send help.
The men are prisoners. You'll have to free them. Captain Miller and the others, get them out of there, Lily. I'm sorry, baby. I'm sorry. I should have told you what I did right from the beginning but I was too ashamed. I thought the end results always justified the experiment, but I didn't have you, Lily. Remember that, don't hate me. Remember I never had a family before you came along. I love you, Lily. Find the others and make it right. Help them.
Lily's body jerked as she felt her father being dragged across the deck. She realized whoever was dragging him thought he was unconscious. She caught a brief glimpse of a shoe, of wrists and a watch, then nothing at all. Daddy! Who is it? Who is hurting you? She flung out her hand as if she could hold him there, hold him to her. Stop the inevitable.
There was silence. She was connected: she rocked when the boat rocked, she smelled the sea air and felt the pain wracking her father's body. But his blood had drained out on the deck of the boat and with it, most of his strength. Only a small flicker of life remained. He had to reach for the words, images in his mind, to communicate with her. Donovans. Lily, let go now. You can't stay with me.
He was fading fast. Lily couldn't bear to let him go. No! She wouldn't leave him to die alone. She couldn't. She felt the burn of the ropes on his wrists, on hers. He had closed his eyes. She never saw the face of the killer. But she felt the bump of the rail, the free fall, the plunge into icy water.
Break off! The command was a roar. A strong directive issued by a powerful male. The masculine voice was so strong, so authoritative, it actually drove her away from the scene of her father's murder and left her floundering alone in the library of her house, rocking back and forth, a low keening wail of grief coming from her raw throat.
Lily forced her mind back under control, driving out all panic while she reached for her father. There was… complete emptiness. A black void. She stumbled to the hearth, knelt, and was sick in the brass kindling bucket. Her father was dead. Thrown, like so much garbage, into the ocean, still alive, to drown in the icy waters. What had he meant saying Donovans was responsible? Donovans wasn't a person, it was a corporation.
She rocked back and forth, hugging herself, seeking some kind of comfort. She couldn't save her father, she knew in her heart he was already gone from her. She could hear herself weeping, the pain so deep she could hardly bear it. Her instinct was to rush to John Brimslow and Rosa for comfort. But she didn't move. She continued kneeling there by the fire, rocking back and forth, the tears running down her face.
Lily had never felt so alone in her life. She had a gift, yet she hadn't been able to save her own father. If only she had allowed the contact earlier. She had been too busy protecting herself. He had suffered such pain, yet he had held on and forced the connection. He had no real talent, yet he had managed the nearly impossible, wanting her to promise to set things right. She felt cold and empty and frightened. And alone.
The warmth stole into her mind first. A steady stream, pushing through her guilt and anguish. It moved through her body, wrapped around her heart.
It took minutes before she recognized she wasn't alone. Something, someone, had gotten through the thick protective walls of the house and, with her in her vulnerable state of grief, had entered her mind. The touch was powerful, stronger than she had ever encountered, and purely masculine. And she knew who it was. Captain Ryland Miller. She would have recognized his touch anywhere.
She wanted to be comforted by him, accept what he was offering, but he had hated her father. Blamed him for the incarceration and deaths of his men. He was a dangerous man. Did he have something to do with her father's murder?
Lily snapped to attention, swiping at the tears on her face, slamming her mind closed, shoring up her walls of resistance as quickly as she could. It hadn't been her father ordering her to break away from him in such a commanding tone. Someone else had shared their link. Someone else had heard every word her father had whispered in her mind. That someone had been strong enough to sever a connection she had been holding, probably saving her in the process, for she didn't have an anchor to hold her while her father was dying in the cold sea. Ryland Miller, the same man who had flooded her with warmth and comfort. The prisoner locked in a cage deep underground in the Donovans laboratories. She should have recognized his voice at once. His arrogant commanding voice. And she should have noticed the moment he had touched her connection with her father.
Until she learned more about what was going on, she couldn't afford telepathic contact with anyone. Not even someone who saved her life. Especially not Ryland Miller, who would have his own agenda and who blamed her father for his present circumstances. Lily shivered and pressed a hand to her aching heart. She had to use her brain and figure out what was happening and who was responsible for murdering her father. Her grief was so strong she could barely think with the pain, but it wouldn't help her. The raw, ugly wound must be pushed aside to allow her brain room to maneuver.
She didn't want to remember the last heated exchange between her father and Ryland Miller but it was impossible to ignore. It hadn't been pleasant. Captain Miller hadn't exactly threatened Peter Whitney, but he didn't have to put it in words. He exuded power and his very demeanor was a threat. It was obvious her father wanted Miller freed, but she simply didn't have enough information to be able to judge who was her enemy. The colonel had obviously disagreed with her father on whatever experiment was being secretly conducted in the Donovans laboratory.
Resolutely Lily sank back and stared into the flames. She couldn't trust anyone in the house or at work, which meant she couldn't admit to knowledge of her father's death. She had never been much of an actress, yet she would be forced to play a part while she kept her promise to her father. She had no evidence that anyone at Donovans was guilty. The police wouldn't believe she had a psychic experience that had connected her to her father as he was dying. What were her options?
Standing up was difficult. She felt as if a great weight was pressing her down and her legs were shaky. She had to clean out the brass kindling bucket. There could be no evidence that anything unusual had happened. She made her way to the nearest bathroom, grateful there were so few people in her huge home. Who could be the traitor her father had warned her of?
Rosa? Beloved Rosa? She couldn't remember a time when Rosa Cabreras wasn't in her life. Always there to comfort, converse, talk about all the things young girls want to talk about. Lily had never missed having a mother because Rosa was always there with her. Rosa lived and worked in the house, was completely devoted to Peter and Lily Whitney. It couldn't be Rosa. Lily dismissed the possibility at once.
John Brimslow? He had been with Peter Whitney even longer than Rosa. His official job was chauffeur, but only because he had insisted on the jaunty cap and wanted to be able to order the cars and care for them as he cared for the estate. He lived and worked his life there on the Whitney estate and had been the closest thing to family and friend that Peter had aside from Lily.
The only other permanent resident living inside the house was Arly Baker. Arly was in his fifties, a tall thin man with a domed head and thick glasses. A true geek, or nerd, as he proudly referred to himself. He kept the estate up-to-date in every type of gadget and gizmo known to man. He was responsible for the security and electronics. He had been Lily's best friend and confidant growing up, the one with whom she chose to. discuss every important idea she had. He had taught her to take things apart and put them back together and helped her build her first computer. Arly was more like her uncle, or brother. Family. It couldn't possibly be Arly.
Lily ran her hands through her thick mass of sable-colored hair, sending the last of her hairpins scattering in all directions. They tumbled to the bright, gleaming tiles to lie all around her. Lily choked back another sob. There was old Heath, seventy if he was a day, still in charge of the grounds, living in his own little cottage in the interior of the forest behind the main house. He had lived on the property his entire life, born and raised and staying on to carry on his father's duties. He was entirely loyal to the family and the estate.
"I hate this, Dad," she whispered. "I hate everything about this. Now I have to suspect people I love of treachery. It makes no sense." For the first time she wished she could read the people in her household. She would try, but in all their years together, she had never done so. Her father had been very careful in his choices for her safety, for her benefit. So that she could live as normal a life as possible.
She returned the kindling bucket to the hearth, positioning it several times to make certain she had it just right. She knew she was being paranoid about it. Who would care if she moved the bucket three inches one way or the other? She was doing trivial things to keep her mind focused and occupied so she wouldn't scream and cry in her sorrow.
What had her father said? He wanted her to promise that she would set it right. What in the world was it? It had been so important to him, but she had no idea what he meant. What was she supposed to set right? And what had he been doing in his private laboratory? And Peter's last wish was for her to set Ryland Miller and his men free. What in the world had he meant about finding the others? What others?
"Lily?" John Brimslow pushed open the door and stuck his head in. "I've paged your father several times but there's no answer. Rosa checked Donovans. He signed out late in the afternoon." There was a worried note in his voice. "Was there a fundraiser or somewhere your father was giving a speech?"
Lily forced a thoughtful frown, though she wanted to burst into tears again and fling herself into his arms for comfort. She dared not look him fully in the eye. He knew her so well. Even with the poor lighting, he would notice her tear-streaked face.
She shook her head. "He was supposed to meet me for dinner at Antonio's. I waited over an hour but he didn't show up. I left the standard message with Antonio should he wander in, that I had given up and come home, but there was nothing else. Did they say if he left with anyone? Maybe he went to dinner with someone from the lab."
"I don't think Rosa asked that."
"Did you look at the planner on his desk?" Her throat ached, raw and painful.
John snorted. "Please, Lily, no one can find anything on your father's desk and if we did, it wouldn't make sense. He has that weird shorthand code he writes in. You're the only one who's going to make sense out of anything on his calendar."
"I'll go look, John. He probably went back to the labs and just isn't picking up. Call the desk and ask if he signed back in." She was proud of herself for sounding so practical. So in control. Not really worried yet, but slightly amused at her father's continual absentmindedness. "And if not, ask if he left with anyone. And you might have them check on that ridiculous car he insists on driving."
Deep inside, she heard weeping and she knew it was her own voice. The sound was frightening in its intensity and she had no idea how she was making it when she was talking with John so naturally.
For one moment she felt the warmth pouring into her again. Surrounding her, caressing her. There were no words, but the feeling was strong. Unity. Comfort. Her emotions were too strong and they were spilling out in spite of her protections.
As she neared the doorway and the chauffeur, Lily deliberately twisted her foot on the priceless Oriental rug on the floor and stumbled. She caught at John Brimslow's jacket to save herself, falling hard enough against him to shake them both.
John steadied her, helping her back to her feet. Lily longed for a flood of information so she could be absolutely certain John was innocent and she would have an ally, but there was nothing whatsoever. John's mind was, as always, even with her trying to read him, protected from the intrusion of hers.
"Are you all right, Lily?"
"I'm just tired. You know how clumsy I can be when I'm tired. Either that or Dad's Oriental rug will have to go." Hard as she tried, she couldn't pull off a smile. She didn't want to think that John could have betrayed her father. She didn't want to think of her father lying at the bottom of the ocean.
The only thing enabling her to walk toward her father's office was that warmth spreading inside of her. Aid from the very stranger who might wish her father dead. She sat at her father's desk and stared at the multitude of papers and the stacks of books without really seeing them. She was holding on to the warmth and courage pouring into her body from that unexpected and unwanted source. Ryland Miller. Was he her enemy? If she hadn't been so carefully protecting herself, she might have learned earlier that her father was in danger. Whoever had planned to kill him may have been in the very room. Whoever had betrayed him lived in her home.
RYLAN D Miller sat down heavily in the one decent chair provided for him. Lily Whitney's grief swamped him, weighed him down like a heavy stone sitting in the middle of his chest so he could barely breathe, her pain a knife through his heart. He felt sweat beading on his skin. Like him, Lily was an enhancer, amplifying emotions already powerful enough to ride the waves of energy between them. Between the two of them, the emotions were nearly uncontrollable.
Peter Whitney had been his one hope. He hadn't trusted the man, but Ryland had worked on the scientist, pushing at his mind to sway him into helping Ryland plan the escape. It had taken tremendous concentration and a great deal of overload to connect all the men telepathically so they could talk in the dead of night. They were waiting for him now, waiting for him to be able to shake off Lily's terrible grief and sorrow. He admired her for the way she was trying to handle her father's death. How could he not? She didn't know whom to turn to, whom to trust, yet he sensed her deep resolve.
Lily. Ryland shook his head. He needed to get to her more than he needed anything else. He wanted to comfort her, find a way to lessen the pain in her, but he was locked up in a cage with a team waiting for his plan. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, centered himself, and sent out the first message.
Kaden, you will go out with the first group. We'll all have to make it out the first time or they'll double the security. All of you will have to be ready. I've worked on the computers and electric locks. I can handle those…