Archangel's Heart(169)

By: Nalini Singh

Her back stiffening where she crouched in front of the exposed inner machinery of the lift, she glanced up at Stefan. “Can’t you wear a bell or something?”


Of course he didn’t have a sense of humor. Psy never did. She still couldn’t get her mind around the fact that two powerful cardinal Psy, including a gifted foreseer, had recently defected into a changeling pack. How could that possibly work? Changelings were as primal as Psy were cerebral. Like Stefan with his remote gaze and cool words.

“The tube is busted,” she told him. “I missed the last equipment request, so we’ll have to wait till next month.”

“Is it urgent?”

She considered it, aware Stefan was a teleport-capable telekinetic. He could bring in emergency equipment in the space of mere minutes if not seconds, his mind reaching across vast distances in a way she could barely comprehend, but the unspoken rule was that the rest of the station personnel didn’t ask him for anything that wasn’t critical. Everyone knew that if Alaris sprang a fatal pressure leak, they’d need every last ounce of Stefan’s abilities to get them to the surface.

“The other lift is still functional,” she said, hooking her spanner into her tool belt and tapping in the code that meant the computer would bypass this lift until she recorded it as being back online. “We can survive a month.”

He nodded, his dark brown hair military short. Since he wasn’t part of the Psy race’s armed forces, she thought it was because he had curls; Psy hated anything that was out of control. When he continued to loom over her, she rubbed her hands on her thighs and stood up. That didn’t exactly even things out since he was so much taller, but it made her feel better.

He reached out and gripped a lock of hair that had escaped her ponytail. “Grease.”

Rolling her eyes, she pulled it out of his grasp. “Was there anything else you wanted?”

“It appears I made a mistake last month in telling you no letter or package would come.”

Pain in her heart, her throat. “No, I needed to hear that.”

“However, instead of having you snap at everyone for two days a month, you’re now so quiet that people are becoming concerned.”

Tazia remembered how Andres had been poking at her this morning, trying to make her smile with those silly jokes of his. But he was her friend. Stefan was nothing. “I’m not Psy,” she said point-blank. “I can’t ignore hurt or forget that my family hates me.”

He didn’t flinch. “You knew that before. What changed?”

“You took away my hope.”

There was a small silence that seemed to reverberate with a thousand unspoken things. For a single instant captured in time, she thought she saw a fracture in his icy composure, a hint of something unexpected in those eyes she’d always thought were beautiful despite their coldness.

Then a tool fell off Tazia’s belt and she bent to grab it off the floor. By the time she rose, Stefan was gone. Just as well, she thought, though there was a strange hollowness in her stomach. She wasn’t some bug under a microscope for him to study. She was a flesh-and-blood human being with hopes and dreams and emotions. Maybe those emotions made her heart heavy with sorrow and her soul hurt, but she would never choose to erase them in the way of Stefan’s people.

What use was it to have such power if you saw no beauty in a child’s smile or in the sea’s turbulent moods? If you didn’t understand friendship or laughter? No, she’d rather feel, even if it hurt so much she could hardly breathe through it at times.

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