There were sounds of stirring in the back of the house. Marisol's parents. Rob glanced that way, then back out the window.
"We'll have to get to her somehow. Find her and get her out of there."
"Get her out," Anna said quietly. It wasn't a question, it was a confirmation.
"We have to," Rob said. "I don't know what she has in mind, but it's not going to work. Not in that house of lunatics. They're dangerous. They'll kill her."
"I came to see you," Kaitlyn said, and moved closer to him.
She could tell he wasn't buying it.
"It's true. Look at me, feel my thoughts. I came here to see you, Gabriel."
She was taking a chance. But she had come to see him, that much was true, and after he'd just saved her life she was genuinely glad to see him. He could sense that much safely. And she was betting he wouldn't search below the surface, because that would mean getting close, letting her sense him. She had the strong feeling he didn't want that.
He was looking at her hard, his gray eyes narrowed against the light. Beautiful north light, slanting around them, making the modest houses look enchanted, making even Gabriel look golden and warm. She could only guess how it made her look.
Gabriel dropped his eyes. His psychic senses had brushed her mind as lightly as a moth's wing. "So you came to see me," he said.
"I've missed you," Kaitlyn said, and that was also true. She'd missed his razor wit and the mocking humor that glinted behind his eyes and his strength in the web. "I want to join you."
It was such a whopping huge lie that she expected to feel the alarms going off in his head. But he'd withdrawn his mental probing and veiled himself. He wouldn't even look at her properly.
"Don't be stupid," Gabriel said, in a voice suddenly gone weak.
Kaitlyn saw her advantage and pounced. "I did. I decided last night. I don't like Mr. Z, but I think some of the things he says are true. We have infinite possibilities-we just need room. Freedom. And we are superior to other people."
Gabriel seemed to have gathered himself. "You don't go in for that stuff."
"Why shouldn't I? I'm tired of running. I want to be with you, and I want power. What's wrong with that?"
His mouth had gone hard. "Nothing's wrong-only you don't believe it."
"Test me." Kaitlyn's heart was pounding with the risk. "Gabriel, I didn't know what we had together until you left. I care about you." This was it, the time to see whether she was true Hollywood material. She stepped even closer to Gabriel, almost touching him. "Believe me."
If he wanted, he could reach into her mind and rip the truth out. Her thin shields wouldn't hold against him.
But he didn't try to probe her brain. He kissed her instead.
Kaitlyn surrendered to the kiss deliberately-she knew she had to, and she felt a flash of triumph.
Small-town girl makes good. A star is born!
Then the triumph was swept away by something much stronger and deeper. Something fierce and joyous-and pure. They were clinging together, he was holding her as hard as she was holding him.
Electricity seemed to arc between them. Everywhere they touched Kaitlyn could feel the sparks. His hand tangled in her hair, and she was frighteningly moved by the tiny tugs, the little pain it caused as his fingers worked. His lips brushed against hers again and again.
An ache was starting inside Kaitlyn. They were together, together, so close, and she wanted to be closer.
A trembling thrill raced through her-and then a flash of light. His fingers were on the nape of her neck.
A flash of light-it was beginning. The sparks becoming a blue-white torrent. In a moment the transfer point would open, and her energy would flood into him.
The ultimate sharing-but she couldn't. Their minds would be open to each other. She would have no shields-he would see everything.
Kaitlyn tried to pull away ... but it didn't work. He was holding her and she couldn't seem to let go of him. She didn't have the will-and in a moment he would see-A garage door roared to life.
Kaitlyn jumped and was saved. Gabriel lifted his head, looking at a house near them. Kaitlyn took the moment to step away.
The world was coming to life around them. It wasn't dawn but daylight. The door to another house was opening; a cat was running up a walkway. No one had noticed the tall boy standing in the street kissing a girl, or the crumpled figure at their feet.
"But they'll see us in a minute," Kaitlyn whispered. "Let's go."
They walked quickly. At the intersection, Kaitlyn looked at him. "Which way to the Institute?"
"You really want to go there?" He looked doubtful, but not contemptuous as before. She'd convinced him.
"I want to be with you."
Gabriel was confused. Confused and vulnerable- there was something fragile in his eyes. "But-I hurt you."
"You didn't want to." Kaitlyn was sure of that suddenly. She'd thought so before, but now she was sure.
"I don't know," he said shortly. "I don't know anything anymore."
"I know. Forget about it." She could tell he was still bewildered, but she figured that was probably good.
The more off" balance, the less he'd be likely to analyze her. She was still dizzy and bewildered herself from that kiss.
Oh, God, what am I getting myself into?
She decided to think about it later.
"Is Joyce still running things?" Joyce Piper was the woman who'd recruited them both last winter- who'd made the Institute seem like a legitimate place. Even now Kaitlyn had a hard time believing she was as bad as Mr. Z.
"If you can call it running things. She's supposed to be in charge, but-well, you'll see."
Kaitlyn felt a surge of victory, suppressed it. He wasn't arguing anymore. He was assuming she'd come, and that they'd let her in.
I'm going to do it, she thought. She suddenly realized that it was wonderful good luck that she was arriving with Gabriel. He was going to help her immeasurably.
As they neared the Institute she thought, stand tall, walk tall. She held her head up. The first time she'd come here she'd been overwhelmed by anxiety. Worry
about her new roommates-would they like her, would they accept her? Now she had much more serious things to worry about, but she had a purpose. She knew she looked cool and confident, almost regal.
She reached into her duffel bag and pulled out Marisol's sunglasses. Put them on, flicked back her hair.
Now I'm ready.
Gabriel glanced at her. "Those new?"
"Well, I don't figure Marisol needs them anymore." She saw him raise his eyebrows at her new hardheartedness.
The Institute was purple. Well, of course she remembered that, but it was still a shock to see how truly purple it was. A wild thrill of homesickness ran through her.
"Come on," Gabriel said, and led her to the door. It was locked. He rattled in exasperation.
"I forgot the key-"
"What about your new talent for breaking and entering?"
But the door opened. Joyce was standing there, her short blond hair slick and wet. She was wearing a pink sweater and leggings.
As always, an aura of energy surrounded her, as if she might suddenly spring into action at any moment.
Her aquamarine eyes were sparkling with life.
"Gabriel, where have-" She broke off, her eyes widening. She'd seen Kaitlyn.
For a moment they just stood and looked at each other. Under her cool exterior, Kaitlyn's heart was pounding. She had to convince Joyce, she had to. But she could feel the waves of suspicion radiating from the blond woman.
Once, Joyce had fooled her, had fooled all of them.
Now it was Kaitlyn's turn. Kait felt just like one of those Federal agents infiltrating the Mafia.
And you know what they do to them, she thought.
"Joyce-" she began, making her voice gentle and persuasive.
Joyce didn't even glance at her. "Gabriel," she said in a grating whisper, "get her the hell out of here."
Kaitlyn stared at Joyce in dismay. There was a buzzing in her ears, and she couldn't speak.
Gabriel saved her. "Wait until you hear what she has to say."
Joyce glanced from one of them to the other. Finally she said, "Did you get the crystal shard?"
"I couldn't find it," Gabriel answered without any discernible pause. "They have it hidden someplace else.But what difference does it make?""What dif- " Joyce clamped her lips together and threw a glance behind her, as if worried she'd be overheard. "The difference is that he's going to be here tonight, wanting it.""Look, are you going to let us in or not?"Joyce let out a stifled breath, turned her gem-hard eyes on Kaitlyn again. She gazed for a long moment, then she abruptly reached out and snatched the sunglasses from Kaitlyn's face. Kait was startled but wouldn't show it; she returned the aquamarine gaze steadily."All right," Joyce said at last. "Come in. But this had better be good.""It's good if you want another clairvoyant," Gabriel said once they were in the living room. "You know Frost isn't very good."Joyce sat down, one trim pink leg crossed over the other. "You've got to be kidding," she said shortly."I want to join you," Kaitlyn said. The buzzing was gone from her ears; she could speak in cool, nonchalant tones."I'm sure!" Joyce said. Her tone was sarcastic."Would I bring her here if it wasn't true?" Gabriel asked. He flashed one of his brilliant, unsettling smiles.Before Joyce could reply he added, "I've looked into her mind. She's sincere. So why don't we just cut the bull? I'm hungry.""Why would she want to join us?" Joyce demanded. She looked shaken by Gabriel's conviction.Kaitlyn went through her speech about believing Mr. Z's theories about psychics and supreme power.She was getting good at it by now. And, she was finding, it was fairly easy to sell it to people who wanted power themselves. It was a motivation they could understand.At the end of the oration Joyce bit her lip. "I don't know. What about the others? Your friends.""What about them?" Kaitlyn said coldly."You were involved with Rob Kessler. Don't deny it."Kaitlyn could feel Gabriel waiting for the answer, too. "We broke up," she said. She wished, suddenly, that she had thought more about this part of the story. "I was interested in Gabriel and that made him furious. Besides," she added with happy inspiration, "he likes Anna."She had no idea what made her say it, but it had an unexpected effect on both Joyce and Gabriel.Joyce's eyebrows went up, but some of the tightness went out of her mouth. Gabriel hissed in a sharp breath-like someone about to say, I knew it all the time.Kaitlyn was startled. She hadn't meant that. Rob had never given any sign-and neither had Anna-or at least she didn't think so. ...And she couldn't think about it now. She had to stay firmly in the moment. She fixed her eyes on Joyce, who was looking torn."Look," Kait said. "This is straight up. I wouldn't come here if I wasn't serious-I wouldn't put my dad in that much danger." She held Joyce's gaze. "Because you guys can do things to him, right? I wouldn't risk that." In fact, it wasn't something she had realized until a little while ago. Mr. Z's psychics could attack over any distance, and if they found out the truth about Kait, he'd be an obvious target. Now it was too late to turn back-the only way to protect her dad was to make her act good."Hmm. But you went all the way to Canada to fight us.""Sure. I went to the Fellowship and found it was a crock. They can't even help themselves, much less anyone else. And-it's not that I don't care about Rob and the others anymore, but I can't stick with them when they're going to lose. I want to be on the winning side.""You and Lydia," Joyce said, grimly amused. It was another hit; Kait could tell. "Well, if nothing else I suppose we can use you as a hostage," Joyce murmured."In that case, can we get some breakfast?" Gabriel asked, not waiting to see what Kaitlyn's reaction would be."Right," Joyce said briefly, handing Kaitlyn the sunglasses. "Nobody else is up yet. Get it yourselves."A little different from the cheerful-homemaker attitude you had before, Kaitlyn thought, not bothering to shield it from Gabriel. He grinned.The kitchen was different. Dirty, for one thing; there were dishes in the sink and Coke cans spilling out of the wastebasket. A cardboard box full of sloppily shut take-out containers was on the counter.Chinese food, Kaitlyn saw. Joyce never let us have take-out Chinese. And those boxes of Frosted Flakes and Captain Crunch in the pantry-what had happened to Joyce's health food kick? An act?"I told you she wasn't exactly running things anymore," Gabriel said under his breath, slanting a quirky glance at her.Oh. Kaitlyn shrugged and poured herself a bowl of Captain Crunch.When they were finished eating, Joyce said, "Right, go upstairs and get yourself cleaned up. You can go in Lydia's room for now-then we'll see about further arrangements when he comes tonight."Kaitlyn was surprised. "Lydia's living here?""I told you," Gabriel said. "Under her father's thumb."As she and Gabriel reached the landing, Kait said, "Which room do you have now?""The same as before." He indicated the best room in the house, the big one that had cable hookup and a balcony. Then he gave her an evil glance. "Want to share it with me? You can use the Jacuzzi. And the king-size bed.""I think Joyce would put her foot down about that," Kaitlyn said.She didn't know which room was Lydia's, but she knocked lightly on the door of the room she used to share with Anna. Then she looked in.Lydia, small in an oversize T-shirt, was just getting out of bed. She saw Kaitlyn and squeaked. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for an exit, then she took a sideways step toward the bathroom door.Kaitlyn chuckled. In a way, it was a relief to see someone more scared than she was. "What's the hurry?"she said, feeling lazy and dangerous. Like Gabriel.Lydia seemed to be paralyzed. She wriggled a little, like a worm on a hook, then she blurted, "He made me do it. I didn't want to leave you in Canada.""Oh, Lydia, you're such a liar. You did it for the same reason I did. You wanted to be on the winning side."Lydia's cat-tilted green eyes opened even wider. She was a pretty little thing, with a pale and delicate face and a heavy shock of black hair. Or she would have been pretty if she hadn't always looked so guilty and slinking, Kait thought."The same reason you did?" Lydia breathed. "You mean-Father brought you here-?""I came on my own, to join you guys," Kaitlyn said firmly. "Joyce said I could share this room." She swung her duffel bag over the twin bed that wasn't rumpled, and dropped it with a thump.She'd expected Lydia to look awed or understanding. Instead, Lydia looked as if she thought Kait was crazy."You came on your own ..." Then she stopped and shook her head. "Well, you're right about one thing,"she said. "My father is going to win. He always wins." She looked away, lip curling.Kaitlyn eyed her thoughtfully. "Lydia, how come you're at the Institute? You're not psychic-are you?"Lydia shrugged vaguely. "My father wanted me here. So Joyce could watch me, I think."And you didn't really answer the question, Kaitlyn thought. Gabriel had said that if Kait had picked up the red-haired man's thoughts, either she or the red-haired man must be slightly telepathic. But Kaitlyn had been able to tell how Joyce felt about her, and now she was getting strong feelings from Lydia. It wasn't that she could tell exactly what they were thinking; more that she could get a sense of their general mood.So I'm a telepath? It was a weird and unsettling thought. Telepathy in the web didn't count; Gabriel had hooked them together. But to sense other people's feelings was something new.Like just now she could tell that Lydia had a lot on her mind-which meant she might be induced to talk."So what's it like around here?" Kaitlyn asked casually.Lydia's lip curled farther, but she just shrugged again and said, "Have you met the others?""No. Well, I mean, I've seen their astral forms before, on the way to Canada.""You'll probably like those better than their real forms.""Well, why don't you introduce me?" Kait suggested. She wasn't really as interested in the dark psychics as in the routine around here-something that might give her an idea where Mr. Z kept the crystal. But any information would be helpful, and she figured it was better to be aggressive in meeting Mr. Z's new students. She didn't want them to think she was afraid of them."You want to see them?" Lydia was afraid of them."Yeah, come on, show me the psychic psychos." Kaitlyn kept her tone light and was rewarded with a faint, admiring grin. "Let's tour the zoo."In the hallway, they nearly ran into Joyce. She glanced at them and then knocked briskly at the door of what had once been the common room for Kait's group. Without waiting for an answer, she threw the door open."Everybody up! Renny, you have to get to school; Mac, we start testing in ten minutes. If you want any breakfast, you'd better move it."She moved on, to yell at another door. "Bri! School! Frost! Testing!"Kaitlyn, with a clear view of the first room, had to keep herself from gasping.Oh, my God, I don't believe it.The room was now a bedroom-sort of. Like a bedroom from a flophouse, Kaitlyn thought. No, worse.