Captain Ryland Miller leaned his head against the wall and closed his
eyes in utter weariness. He could ignore the pain in his head,
the knives shredding his skull. He could ignore the cage he was
in. He could even ignore the fact that sooner or later, he was
going to slip up and his enemies would kill him. But he could
not ignore guilt and anger and frustration rising like a tidal
wave in him as his men suffered the consequences of his decisions.
Kaden, I can't reach Russell Cowlings. Can you?
He had talked his men into the experiment that had landed them
all into laboratory cages in which they now resided in. Good men.
Loyal men. Men who had better wanted to serve their country and
We all made the decision. Kaden responded to his emotions,
the words buzzing inside Ryland's mind. No one has managed
to raise Russell.
Ryland swore softly aloud as he swept a hand over his face,
trying to wipe away the pain speaking telepathically with his
men cost him. The telepathic link between them had grown stronger
as they all worked to build it, but only a few of them could sustain
it for any length of time. Ryland had to supply the bridge, and
his brain, over time, balked at the enormity of such a burden.
Don't touch the sleeping pills they gave you. Suspect any medication. He glanced at the small white pill lying in plain sight on his
end table. He'd like a lab analysis of the contents. Why hadn't
Cowlings listened to him? Had Cowlings accepted the sleeping pill
in the hopes of a brief respite? He had to get the men out. We
have no choice, we must treat this situation as if we are behind
enemy lines. Ryland took a deep breath, let it out slowly.
He no longer felt he had a choice. He had already lost too many
men. His decision would brand them as traitors, deserters, but
it was the only way to save their lives. He had to find a way
for his men to break out of the laboratory.
The Colonel has betrayed us. We have no other choice but to
escape. Gather information and support one another as best you
can. Wait for my word.
He became aware of the disturbance around him, the dark waves
of intense dislike bordering on hatred preceding the group nearing
the cage where he was kept.
Someone is approaching
Ryland lifted his head, abruptly
cutting off telepathic communication to those of his men he could
reach. He remained motionless in the center of his cell,
his every sense flaring out to identify the approaching individuals.
It was a small group this time, Dr. Peter Whitney, Colonel Higgens
and a security guard. It amused Ryland that Whitney and Higgens
insisted on an armed guard accompanying them despite the fact
that he was locked behind both bars and a thick glass barrier.
He was careful to keep his features expressionless as they neared
Ryland lifted his head, his steel gray eyes as cold as ice. Menacing.
He didn't try to hide the danger he represented. They had created
him, they had betrayed him and he wanted them to be afraid. There
was tremendous satisfaction in knowing they were
they had reason to be.
Dr. Peter Whitney led the small group. Whitney, liar, deceiver,
monster-maker. He was the creator of the GhostWalkers. Creator
of what Captain Ryland Miller and his men had become. Ryland stood
up slowly, a deliberate ripple of muscle, a lethal jungle cat
stretching lazily, unsheathing claws as he waited inside his cage.
His icy gaze touched on their faces, lingered, made them uncomfortable.
Graveyard eyes. Eyes of death. He projected the image deliberately,
wanting, even needing them to fear for their lives. Colonel Higgens
looked away, studied the cameras, the security, watched with evident
apprehension as the thick barrier of glass slid away. Although
Ryland remained caged behind heavy bars, Higgens was obviously
uneasy without the barrier, uncertain just how powerful Miller
Ryland steeled himself for the assault on his hearing, his emotions.
The flood of unwanted information he couldn't control. The bombardment
of thoughts and emotions. The disgusting depravity and avarice
that lay behind the masks of those facing him. He kept his features
carefully blank, giving nothing away, not wanting them to know
what it cost him to shield his wide-open mind.
"Good morning, Captain Miller," Peter Whitney said pleasantly.
"How are things this morning with you? Did you sleep at all?"
Ryland watched him without blinking, tempted to try to push through
Whitney's barriers to discover the true character hidden behind
the wall Whitney had in his mind. What secrets were hidden there?
The one person Ryland needed to understand, to read, was protected
by some natural or manmade barrier. None of the other men, not
even Kaden, had managed to penetrate the scientist's mind. They
couldn't get any pertinent data, shielded as Whitney was, but
the heavy swamping waves of guilt were always broadcast loudly.
"No, I didn't sleep but I suspect you already know that."
Dr. Whitney nodded. "None of your men are taking their sleeping
meds. I noticed you didn't either. Is there a reason for that,
The chaotic emotions of the group hit Ryland hard as it always
did. In the beginning, it used to drive him to his knees, the
noise in his head so loud and aggravating his brain would rebel,
punishing him for his unnatural abilities. Now he was much more
disciplined. Oh, the pain was still there, like a thousand knives
driving into his head at the first breach of his brain but he
hid the agony behind the façade of icy, menacing calm. And
he was, after all, well trained. His people never revealed weakness
to the enemy.
"Self preservation is always a good reason," he answered,
fighting down the waves of weakness and pain from the battering
of emotions. He kept his features totally expressionless, refusing
to allow them to see the cost.
"What the hell does that mean," Higgens demanded. "What
are you accusing us of now, Miller?"
The door to the laboratory had been left standing open, unusual
for the security-ridden company, and a woman hurried through.
"I'm sorry I'm late, the meeting went longer than expected!"
At once the painful assault of thoughts and emotions lessened,
muted, leaving Ryland able to breathe normally. To think without
pain. The relief was instant and unexpected. Ryland focused on
her immediately realizing she was somehow trapping the more acute
emotions and holding them at bay, almost as if she were a magnet
for them. And she wasn't just any woman. She was so beautiful,
she took his breath away. Ryland could have sworn, when he looked
at her, the ground shifted and moved under his feet. He glanced
at Peter Whitney, caught the man observing his reactions to the
woman's presence very closely.
Ryland's first thought was embarrassment that he had been caught
staring at her. Then he realized Whitney knew the woman had some
kind of psychic ability. She enhanced Ryland's abilities and cleared
out the garbage of stray thoughts and emotions. Did Whitney know
exactly what she did? The doctor was waiting for a reaction so
Ryland refused to give him the satisfaction, keeping his expression
"Captain Miller, I'd like to present my daughter, Lily Whitney.
Dr. Lily Whitney." Peter's gaze never left the Captain's
face. "I've asked her to join us, I hope you don't mind."
The shock couldn't have been more complete. Peter Whitney's daughter?
Ryland let out his breath slowly, shrugged his broad shoulders
casually, another ripple of menace. He didn't feel casual. Everything
inside of him stilled. Calmed. Reached. He studied the woman.
Her eyes were incredible, but wary. Intelligent. Knowledgeable.
As if she recognized him, too, in some elemental way. Her eyes
were a deep startling blue, like the middle of a clear, fresh
pool. A man could lose his mind, his freedom in eyes like hers.
She was average height, not tall, but not exceedingly short. She
had a woman's figure encased in a gray-green suit of some kind
that managed to draw attention to every lush curve. She had walked
with a decided limp, but when he looked her over for damage, he
could see nothing to indicate injury. More than all of that, the
moment he saw her face, the moment she entered the room, his soul
seemed to reach for hers. To recognize hers. His breath stilled
in his body and he could only stare at her.
She was looking back at him and he knew the sight wasn't very
reassuring. At his best, he looked a warrior, at his worst he
looked a savage fighter. There was no way to soften his expression
or lessen the scars on his face or shave off the dark stubble
marring his stubborn jaw line. He was stocky, a fighter's compact
build, carrying most of his weight in his upper body, his chest
and arms, his broad shoulders. His hair was black, thick and curled
when it wasn't kept tight against his skull.
"Captain Miller." Her voice was soothing, gentle, pleasant.
Sexy. A blend of smoke and heat that seared him right through
his belly. "How nice to meet you. My father thought I might
be of some use in the research. I haven't had much time to go
over the data, but I'll be happy to try to help."
He had never reacted to a voice before. The sound seemed to wrap
him up in satin sheets, rubbing and caressing his skin until he
felt himself break out in a sweat. The image was so vivid for
a moment he could only stare at her, imagining her naked body
writhing with pleasure beneath his. In the midst of his struggle
to survive, his physical reaction to her was shocking.
Color crept up her neck, delicately tinged her cheeks. Her long
lashes fluttered, drifted down and she looked away from him to
her father. "This room is very exposed. Who came up with
the design? I would think it would be a difficult way to live,
even for a short period."
"You mean like a lab rat?" Ryland asked softly, deliberately,
not wanting any of them to think they were fooling him by bringing
in the woman. "Because that's what I am. Dr. Whitney has
his own human rats to play with."
Lily's dark gaze jumped to his face. One eyebrow shot up. "I'm
sorry, Captain Miller, was I misinformed, or did you agree to
volunteer for this assignment?" There was a small challenge
in her voice.
"Captain Miller volunteered, Lily," Peter Whitney said.
"He was unprepared for the brutal results, as was I. I've
been searching for a way to reverse the process but so far, everything
I've tried has failed."
"I don't believe that's the proper way to handle this,"
Colonel Higgens snapped. He glared at Peter Whitney, his bushy
brows drawing together in a frown of disapproval. "Captain
Miller is a soldier. He volunteered for this mission and I must
insist he carry it out to its conclusion. We don't need the process
reversed, we need it perfected."
Ryland had no trouble reading the Colonel's emotions. The man
didn't want Lily Whitney anywhere near Ryland or his men. He wanted
Ryland taken out behind the laboratories and shot. Better yet,
dissected so they could all see what was going on in his brain.
Colonel Higgens was afraid of Ryland Miller and the other men
in the paranormal unit. Anything he feared, Higgens destroyed.
"Colonel Higgens, I don't think you fully understand what
these men are going through, what is happening to their brains,"
Dr. Whitney was pursuing an obviously long standing argument between
them. "We've already lost several men
"They knew the risks," Higgens snapped, glowering at
Miller. "This is an important experiment. We need these men
to perform. The loss of a few men, while tragic, is an acceptable
loss considering the importance of what these men can do."
Ryland didn't look at Higgens. He kept his glittering gaze fixed
on Lily Whitney. But his entire mind reached out. Took hold. Closed
like a vice.
Lily's head snapped up. She gasped out a soft protest. Her gaze
dropped to Captain Miller's hands. She watched his fingers slowly
began to curl as if around a thick throat. She shook her head,
a slight protest.
Higgens coughed. A barking grunt. His mouth hung open as he gasped
for air. Peter Whitney and the young guard both reached for the
Colonel, trying to open his stiff shirt collar, trying to help
him breathe. The Colonel staggered, was caught and lowered to
the floor by the scientist.
Stop it. The voice in Ryland's mind was soft.
Ryland's dark brow shot up and his gleaming gaze met Lily's.
The doctor's daughter was definitely telepathic. She was calm
about it, her gaze steady on his, not in the least intimidated
by the danger emanating from him. She appeared as cool as ice.
He's willing to sacrifice every one of my men. They aren't
expendable. He was just as calm, not for a moment relenting.
He's a moron. No one is willing to sacrifice the men, no one
considers them expendable and he isn't worth branding yourself
Ryland allowed his breath to escape in a soft, controlled
stream, clearing his lungs, clearing his mind. Deliberately he
turned his back on the writhing man and paced across the cell,
his fingers slowly uncurling.
Higgens went into a fit of coughing, tears swimming in his eyes.
He pointed a shaky finger toward Ryland Miller. "He tried
to kill me, you all saw it."
Peter Whitney sighed and walked with heavy footsteps across the
room to the stare at the computer. "I'm tired of the melodrama,
Colonel. There is always a jump on sensors in the computers when
there is a surge of power. There's nothing here at all. Miller
is safely locked in a cage, he didn't do anything at all. Either
you're trying to sabotage my project or you have a personal vendetta
against Captain Miller. In any case, I'm going to write to the
General and insist they send another liaison."
Colonel Higgens swore again. "I'll have no more talk about
reversing the process, Whitney, and you know what I think about
bringing your daughter on board. We don't need another damn bleeding
heart on this project, we need results."
"My security clearance, Colonel Higgens, is of the highest
level and so is my commitment to this project. I don't have the
necessary data at this time, but I can assure I'll put in whatever
time necessary to find the answers needed." Even as she spoke,
Lily was looking at the computer screen.
Ryland was 'reading' her. Whatever was on the screen puzzled her
as much as what her father was saying, but she was willing to
cover for him. She was making it up as she went along. As calm
and as cool as ever. He couldn't remember the last time he had
smiled, but the impulse was there. He kept his back to the group,
not certain he could keep a straight face while she lied to the
Colonel. Lily Whitney had no idea what was going on, her father
had given her very little information and she was simply winging
it. Her dislike of Higgens, compounded with her father's unusual
behavior had left her firmly in Ryland's camp for the moment.
He had no idea what Whitney's game was, but Peter Whitney was
buried deep in the mire. The experiment to enhance psychic ability
and bring together a fighting unit had been his project, his brain-child.
Peter Whitney had been the man to persuade Ryland the experiment
had merit. That his men would be safe and that they would better
serve their country. Ryland couldn't read the doctor as he could
most men, but whatever Whitney was up to, Ryland was certain it
wasn't anything that would benefit him or his men. Donovans Corporation
had a stench about it. If there was one thing Ryland knew for
certain, Donovans was about money and personal profit, not national
"Can you read that code your father uses for his notes?"
Higgens asked Lily Whitney, suddenly losing interest in Ryland.
"Gibberish if you ask me. Why the hell don't you just put
your work in English like a normal human being?" He snapped
the question at Dr. Whitney irritably.
At once the Captain swung around, his gray gaze thoughtful as
it rested on the Colonel. There was something there, something
he couldn't get hold of. It was shifting, moving, ideas formulating
and growing. Higgens' mind seemed a black ravine, twisted and
curved and suddenly cunning.
Lily shrugged. "I grew up reading his codes, of course I
can read it."
Ryland sensed her growing puzzlement as she stared at the combination
of numbers, symbols and letters across the computer screen.
"What the hell are you doing getting into my private computer
files, Frank?" Peter Whitney demanded, glaring at the Colonel.
"When I want you to read a report, I'll have the data organized
and the report will be finished and up to date, neatly typed in
English. You have no business in my computer either here or at
my office. My research on many projects is on my computer and
you have no right invading my privacy. If your people go anywhere
near my work, I'll have you locked out of Donovans so fast you
won't know what hit you."
"This isn't your personal project, Peter." Higgens glowered
at all of them. "This is my project too and as the head of
it, you don't keep secrets from me. You don't make any sense in
Ryland watched Lily Whitney. She remained very quiet, listening,
absorbing information, gathering impressions and soaking it all
up like a sponge. She seemed relaxed, but he was very aware she
had glanced toward her father, waiting for some sign, for a hint
of how to handle the situation. Whitney gave her nothing, didn't
even look at her. Lily hid her frustration very well. She shifted
her gaze back to the computer screen, ignoring the others and
their obviously long-standing argument.
"I want something done about Miller," Higgens said,
acting as if Ryland couldn't hear him.
I'm already dead to him. Ryland whispered the words in
Lily Whitney's mind.
All the better for you and your men. He's pressing my father
hard about pushing this project forward, not terminating it. He
isn't satisfied with the findings and doesn't agree it is dangerous
to all of you. Lily didn't look away from the computer or
give away in any manner that she was communicating with him.
He doesn't know about you. Higgens has no idea you're telepathic. The knowledge burst over him like a light from a prism. Brilliant
and colorful and full of possibilities. Dr. Whitney was hiding
his daughter's abilities from the Colonel. From the Donovans Corporation.
Ryland knew he had ammunition. Information he could use to bargain
with Dr. Whitney. Something that might be used to save his men.
His flare of excitement must have been in his mind because Lily
turned and regarded him with a cool, thoughtful gaze.
Peter Whitney glared at Colonel Higgens, clearly exasperated.
"You want something done? What does that mean, Frank? What
do you have in mind? A lobotomy? Captain Miller has performed
every test we've asked of him. Do you have personal reasons for
disliking the Captain?" Dr. Whitney's voice was a whip of
contempt. "Captain Miller, if you were having an affair with
Colonel Higgens wife, you should have disclosed that information
to me immediately."
Lily's dark eyebrows shot up. Ryland could feel the sudden amusement
in her mind. Her laughter was soft and inviting, but her features
gave nothing of her inner thoughts away. Well? Are you a Romeo?
There was something peaceful and serene about Lily, something
that spilled over into the air around them. His second-in-command,
Kaden was like that, calming the terrible static and tuning the
frequencies so that they were clear and sharp and able to be used
by all the men regardless of talent. Surely her father hadn't
experimented on his own daughter. The idea sickened him.
"Laugh all you want, Peter," the Colonel snapped, "but
you won't be laughing when lawsuits are filed against Donovans
Corporation and the United States government is after you for
botching the job."
Ryland ignored the arguing men. He had never been so drawn to
a woman, to any individual, but he wanted Lily to remain in the
room. He needed her to remain in the room. And he didn't
want her to be a part of the conspiracy that was threatening his
life. She seemed unaware of it, but her father was certainly one
of the puppet masters.
My father is no puppet master. Her voice was indignant
and faintly haughty, a princess to an inferior being.
You don't even know what the hell is going on so how do you
know what he is or isn't? He was rougher than he intended
but Lily took it well, ignoring him to frown at the computer monitor.
She didn't speak to her father, but he sensed her movement toward
him, a slight exchange between them. It was more felt than seen,
and Ryland sensed her puzzlement deepen. Her father gave her no
clue, instead, led Colonel Higgens toward the door.
"Are you coming, Lily?" Dr. Whitney asked, pausing just
inside the hall.
"I want to look things over here, sir," she said, indicating
the computer, "and it will give Captain Miller a chance to
fill me in on where he is in this."
Higgens swung around. "I don't think it's a good idea for
you to stay alone with him. He's a dangerous man."
She looked as cool as ever, her dark brow a perfect arch. Lily
stared down her aristocratic nose at the Colonel. "You didn't
insure the premises were secure, Colonel?"
Colonel Higgens swore again and stomped out of the room. As Lily's
father started out of the room, she cleared her throat softly.
"I think it best we discuss this project in a more thorough
way if you want my input, sir."
Dr. Whitney glanced at her, his features impassive. "I'll
meet you at Antonios for dinner, we can go over everything after
we eat. I want your own impressions."
Ryland didn't hear a hint of sarcasm, but it was there in her
mind. She was angry with her father but he couldn't read why.
That part of her mind was closed off to him, hidden behind a thick,
high wall she had erected to keep him out.
"Go over my notes, Lily, and see what you make of the process.
Maybe you'll see something I didn't. I want a fresh perspective.
Colonel Higgens might be right. There may be a way to continue
without reversing what we've done." Peter Whitney refused
to meet his daughter's direct gaze.
"Do I need to leave an armed guard in this room with my daughter,
Ryland studied the face of the man who had opened the floodgates
of his brain to receive far too much stimuli. He could detect
no evil, only a genuine concern. "I'm no threat to the innocent,
"That's good enough for me." Without looking at his
daughter, the doctor left the room, closing the door to the laboratory
Ryland was so aware of Lily, he actually felt the breath leave
her lungs in a slow exhale as the door to the laboratory closed
and the lock snicked quietly into place. He waited a heartbeat.
Two. "Aren't you afraid of me?" Ryland asked, testing
his voice with her. It came out more husky than he would have
liked. He had never had much luck with women and Lily Whitney
was out of his class.
She didn't look at him, but continued to stare at the symbols
on the screen. "Why should I be? I'm not Colonel Higgens."
"Even the lab techs are afraid of me."
"Because you want them to be and you're projecting, deliberately
enhancing their own fears." Her voice indicated a mild interest
in their conversation, her mind mulling over the data on the screen.
"How long have you been here?"
He swung around, stalked to the bars and gripped them. "They're
bringing you on board and you don't even know how long my men
and I've been locked up in this hellhole?"
She turned her head, tendrils of hair swinging around her face,
loose from the tight twist at the back of her head. Her hair,
even in the muted blue light of the room was shiny and gleamed
at him. "I don't know anything at all about this experiment,
Captain. Not one small fact. This compound is the highest security
clearance this corporation has and while I have clearance, this
is not my field of expertise. Dr. Whitney, my father, asked me
to consult and I was cleared to do so. Do you have a problem with
He studied the classic beauty of her face. High cheekbones, long
lashes, a lush mouth, they didn't come like this unless they were
born rich and privileged. "You probably have an underpaid
maid whose name you can't even remember, who picks up your clothes
when you throw them on your bedroom floor."
That bought him her entire attention. She moved away from the
computer, crossed the distance to his cage in a slow, unhurried
walk that drew his attention to her limp. Even with her limp she
had a flowing grace. She made every cell in his body instantly
aware he was male and she was female.
Lily tilted her chin at him. "I guess you were brought up
without manners, Captain Miller. I don't actually throw my clothes
on the bedroom floor. I hang them in the closet." Her gaze
flicked past him to rest briefly on the clothes strewn on the
For the first time that he could remember, Ryland was embarrassed.
He was making an ass out of himself. Even her damn high heels
were classy. Sexy, but classy.
A small smile curved her mouth. "You're making a total ass out of yourself," she pointed out, "but fortunately
for you, I'm in a forgiving mood. We elitists learn that at an
early age when they put that silver spoon in our mouths."
Ryland was ashamed. He might have grown up on the wrong side of
the tracks in the proverbial trailer trash park, but his mother
would have boxed his ears for being so rude. "I'm sorry,
there's no excuse."
"No, there isn't. There's never an excuse for rudeness."
Lily paced across the distance of his cage, an unhurried examination
of the length of his prison. "Who designed your quarters?"
"They constructed several cages quickly when they decided
we were too powerful and posed too much danger as a group."
His men had been separated and scattered throughout the facility.
He knew the isolation was telling on them. Continual poking and
prodding was wearing and he worried that he could not keep them
together. He had lost men already, he was not about to lose any
of the others.
The cell had been specially designed out of fear of reprisal.
He knew his time was limited, the fear had been growing for weeks
now. They had erected the thick bullet-proof barrier of glass
around his cell believing that it would keep him from communicating
with his men.
He had volunteered for the assignment and he had talked the other
men into it. Now they were imprisoned, studied and probed and
used for everything but the original premise. Several of the men
were dead and had been taken apart like insects to "study
and understand". Ryland had to get the others out before
anything else happened to them. He knew Higgens had termination
in mind for the stronger ones. Ryland was certain it would come
in the form of accidents, but it would come eventually if he didn't
find a way to free his men. Higgens had his own agenda, wanting
to use the men for personal gain that had nothing what-so-ever
to do with the military and the country he was supposed to serve.
Higgens was afraid of what he couldn't control. Ryland wasn't
about to lose his men to a traitor. His men were his responsibility.
He was more careful, speaking matter-of-factly this time, trying
to keep the accusations, the blame he put squarely on her father's
shoulders from spilling over into his thoughts, in case she was
reading him. Her eyelashes were ridiculously long, a heavy fringe
he found fascinating. He caught himself staring, unable to be
anything but a crass idiot. In the midst of being caught like
a rat in a trap, with his men in danger, he was making a fool
of himself over a woman. A woman who very well might be his enemy.
"Your men are all in similar cages? I wasn't given that information."
Her voice was strictly neutral, but she didn't like it. He could
feel the outrage she was striving to suppress.
"I haven't seem them in weeks. They don't allow us to communicate."
He indicated the computer screen. "That's a constant source
of irritation to Higgens. I bet his people have tried to break
your father's code, even used the computer, but they must not
have been able to do it. Can you really read it?"
She hesitated briefly. It was almost unnoticeable, but he sensed
the sudden stillness in her and his hawk-like gaze didn't leave
her face. "My father has always written in codes. I see in
mathematical patterns and it was a kind of game when I was a little
girl. He changed the code often to give me something to work on.
" she hesitated, as if weighing her options
carefully. She was deciding how honest to be with him. He wanted
the truth and silently willed her to give it to him.
Lily was quiet for a moment more, her large eyes fixed steadily
on his, then her soft mouth firmed. Her chin went up a miniscule
notch but he was watching her every expression, every nuance and
he was aware of it, aware of what it cost her to tell him. "My
mind requires continual stimulation. I don't know how else to
explain it. Without working on something complex, I run into problems."
He caught the flash of pain in her eyes, fleeting but there. Dr.
Peter Whitney was one of the richest men in the world. All the
money might have given his daughter every confidence, but it didn't
take away the fact that she was a freak
.a freak like he
was. Like his men were. What her father had made them into. GhostWalkers,
waiting for death to strike them down.
"So tell me this, Lily Whitney, if that code is real, why
can't the computer crack it?" Ryland lowered his voice so
that anyone listening wouldn't hear his question, but he kept
his glittering gaze fixed on hers, refusing to allow her to look
away from him.
Lily's expression didn't change. She looked as serene as always.
She looked impossibly elegant even there in the laboratory. She
looked so far out of his reach his heart hurt. "I said he
always wrote in code, I didn't say this one made any sense to
me. I haven't had a chance to work with it yet."
Her mind was closed so completely to him that he knew she was
lying. He arched a dark brow at her. "Really. Well you'll
have to put in for overtime because no one seems to be able to
read how your father managed to enhance our psychic abilities.
And they sure can't figure out how to make it go away."
She reached out, gracefully, almost casually, naturally, to grip
the edge of a desk. The knuckles on her hand turned white. "He
enhanced your natural abilities?" Her mind immediately began
to turn that bit of information over and over as if it were the
piece of a jigsaw puzzle and she was finding the proper fit.
"He really let you walk in here blind, didn't he?" Ryland
challenged. "We were asked to take special tests
She held up her hand. "Who was asked and who asked you?"
"Most of my men are special forces. The men in the various
branches were asked to be tested for psychic ability. There was
a certain criteria to be met along with the abilities. An age
range, combat training, working under pressure conditions, ability
to function for long periods of time cut off from the chain of
command. Loyalty factors, the list was endless but surprisingly
enough, we had quite a few takers. The military issued a special
invite for volunteers. From what I understand law enforcement
branches did the same. They were looking for an elitist group."
"And this was how long ago?"
"The first I heard of the idea, was nearly four years ago.
I've been here at Donovans laboratory for a year now, but all
the recruits that made it into the unit, including me, trained
together at another facility. As far as I know we were always
kept together. They wanted us to form a tight unit. We trained
in techniques using psychic abilities in combat. The idea was
a strike force that could get in and out unseen. We could be used
against the drug cartels, terrorists, even an enemy army. We've
been at it for over three years."
"A wild idea. And this is whose baby?"
"Your father's. He thought it up, convinced the powers that
be that it could be done and convinced me and the rest of the
men that it would make the world a better place." There was
a wealth of bitterness in Ryland Miller's voice.
"Obviously something went wrong."
"Greed went wrong. Donovans has the government contract.
Peter Whitney practically owns this company. I guess he just doesn't
have enough money with the million or two in his bank account."
She waited a heartbeat. Two. "I doubt my father needs any
more money, Captain Miller. The amount he gives to charities each
year would feed a state. You don't know anything about him so
I suggest you reserve your opinion until all the facts are in.
And for the record, it's a billion or two or more. This corporation
could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn't change his lifestyle
one bit." Her voice didn't raise in the least, but it smoldered
with heat and intensity.
Ryland sighed. Her vivid gaze hadn't wavered an inch. "We
have no contact with our people. All communication to the outside
must go through your father or the Colonel. We have no say in
what is happening to us at all. One of my men died a couple of
months ago and they lied about how he died. He died of a direct
result from this experiment and the enhancement of his abilities,
his brain couldn't handle the overload, the constant battering.
They claimed it was an accident in the field. That's when we were
cut off from all command and separated. We've been in isolation
since that time." Miller regarded her with dark, angry eyes,
daring her to call him a liar. "And it wasn't the first death,
but by God, it's going to be the last."
Lily pushed a hand through her perfectly smooth hair, the first
real sign of agitation. The action scattered pins and left long
strands falling in a cloud around her face. She was silent, allowing
her brain to process the information, even as she was rejecting
the accusations and implications about her father.
"Do you know precisely what killed the man in your unit?
And is there the same danger to the rest of you?" She asked
the question very quietly, her voice so low it was almost in his
mind rather than aloud.
Ryland answered in the same soft voice, taking no chances the
unseen guards would overhear the conversation. "His brain
was wide open, assaulted by everyone and everything he came into
contact with. He couldn't shut it off anymore. We can function
together as a group because a couple of the men are like you.
They draw the noise and raw emotion away from the rest of us.
Then we're powerful and we work. But without that magnet
he broke off and shrugged. "It's like pieces of glass or
razor blades slashing at the brain. He snapped, seizures, brain
bleeds, you name it. It wasn't a pretty sight and I sure didn't
like the glimpse of our future. Neither did any of the other men
in the unit."
Lily pressed her fingers to her temple and for just a moment,
Ryland caught the impression of throbbing pain. His face darkened,
gray eyes narrowing. "Come here." He had an actual physical
reaction to her being in pain. The muscles in his belly knotted,
hard and aching. Everything protective and male in him rose up
and flooded him with an overwhelming need to ease her discomfort.
Her enormous blue eyes instantly became wary. "I don't touch
"Because you don't want to know what they're really like
inside, do you? You feel it too." He was horrified to think
her father may have experimented on her too. How long have
you been telepathic? More than that, he didn't want to think
about never touching her. Never feeling her skin beneath his fingers,
her mouth crushed to his. The image was so vivid he could almost
taste her. Even her hair begged to be touched, a thick mass of
shiny silk just asking for his fingers to toss away the rest of
the pins and free it for his inspection.
Lily shrugged easily but a faint blush stole along her high cheekbones. All of my life. And yes, it can be uncomfortable knowing other
people's darkest secrets. I've learned to live within certain
boundaries. Maybe my father became interested in psychic phenomenon
because he wished to help me. For whatever reason, I can assure
you, it had nothing to do with personal financial gain. She
let out a slow breath. "How terrible for you, the loss of any of your men. You must be very close. I hope I can find
a way to help all of you."
Ryland sensed her sincerity. He was suspicious of her father in
spite of her protests. Is Dr. Whitney psychic? He knew
he'd been broadcasting his sexual fantasies a little too strongly
but she was unshaken, handling the intensity of the chemistry
between them easily. And he knew the chemistry was on both sides.
He had a sudden desire to really shake her up, get past her cool
demeanor just once and see if fire burned beneath the ice. It
was a hell of a thing in the middle of the mess he was in.
Lily shook her head as she answered him. "We've conducted
many experiments and have connected telepathically a few times
under extreme conditions, but it was sustained completely on my
side. I must have inherited the talent through my mother.
"When you touch him, can you read him?" Ryland asked
curiously in a low voice. He decided men were not all that far
from the caves. His attraction to her was raw and hot and beyond
any experience he'd ever had. He was unable to control his body's
reaction to her. And she knew it. Unlike Ryland, she appeared
to be cool and unaffected, while he was shaken to his very core.
She carried on their conversation as if he weren't a firestorm
burning out of control. As if his blood wasn't boiling and his
body hard as rock and in desperate need. As if she didn't even
"Rarely. He is one of those people who have natural barriers.
I think it's because he believes so strongly in psychic talent
where most people don't. Being aware of it all the time, he's
probably built up a natural wall. I've found many people have
barriers to varying degrees. Some seem impossible to get past
and others are flimsy. What about you? Have you found the same
thing? You're a very strong telepathic."
"Come here to me."
Her cool blue gaze drifted over him. Dismissed him.
"I don't think so, Captain Miller, I have far too much work
"You're being a coward." He said it softly, his hungry
gaze on her face.
She lifted her chin at him and gave him her haughty princess look.
"I don't have time for your little games, Captain Miller.
Whatever you think is going on here, is not."
His gaze dropped to her mouth. She had a perfect mouth. "Yes
"It was interesting meeting you," Lily said and turned
away from him, walking without haste away from him. As cool as
Ryland didn't protest, instead watched her leave him without a
single backward glance. He willed her to look back, but she didn't.
And she didn't replace the glass barrier around his cage, leaving
it for the guards.