"Her talent, Lucan. It's psychometry. She touches an object and can see a bit of its past. That's how she saw her friend's killing."


"She tell anyone about this?" Tegan drawled from his seat at the end of the table.


"No. Only me," Gideon replied. "I'd like to keep it that way--for her own sake and that of our entire race. And that's not all she's seen with her gift."


Both Gen One warriors stared at him now.


"This shit is about to get even worse?" Lucan growled.


"During the attack, there was a sword taken from the university's Art History archives. A sword I'm very familiar with, because it was the one a band of Rogues turned on my young brothers the night they were slaughtered outside our family Darkhaven in London." Gideon cleared his throat, still tasting the smoke that lingered for months after the stable was torched. "Savannah touched this sword too. She saw the Rogues and what they did to my kin. I never gave that damned sword another thought, until now. Until I realized it had surfaced in Boston, some three hundred years later."


Tegan grunted. "Surfaced, only to disappear again."


"That's right. I need to know who has that blade now."


Tegan gave a vague nod, his overlong tawny hair falling over his eyes, but not quite masking the intensity of his gem-green gaze. "You think there's a connection between the sword being here in Boston and the murders of your brothers centuries ago."


"It's a question that needs to be answered," Gideon said. "And I can't do that unless Savannah can identify the Breed male responsible for the attack at the university."


"What about the other victim, the one who survived?" Lucan said. "That's another potential witness who was actually there and lived to tell."


Gideon shook his head. "He's still hospitalized, critical. In the time it takes him to come around enough for some private questioning and the requisite memory scrub afterward, Savannah could have already given me everything I need."


Although Lucan didn't say as much, Gideon could see the suspicion in the Gen One's keen eyes. "You're risking too much, letting yourself get close to this female. She's a Breedmate, Gideon. That might be all right for guys like Con and Rio, but for any of us?" He glanced to Tegan, then back to Gideon. "We're the longest-standing members of this operation now. We're the core. We've each been through enough shit to know that relationships, blood bonds, don't mix well with warfare. Someone always gets hurt in the end."


"I'm not looking for a mate, for fuck's sake." Gideon's reply was sharp, sounding too defensive, even to his own ears. He exhaled a ripe oath. "And I have no intention of hurting her."


"Good," Lucan said. "Then you'll have no problem when I arrange to have one of the Darkhavens meet the female at her apartment and take her into their protective custody while she's being brought up to speed on the Breed and her place in our world."


Gideon bristled, coming up out of his chair to face off with his old friend and the Order's commander. "Trance her and dump her with one of the Boston Darkhaven leaders? Not a chance. She's just a scared, confused kid, Lucan."


"You're not acting like she's just a kid. You're acting like you're responsible for this female. Like you've already got more than a passing interest."


Christ, did he? Gideon wanted to refute the accusation, but the words sat like cold lead in the back of his throat.


He hadn't intended to feel anything for Savannah. He sure as hell didn't expect to feel the sudden, violent spike of possessiveness over her at the mere idea of walking away now, leaving her safety and wellbeing in the care of the Breed's civilian arm.


Nor could he ever have imagined the day when he'd be standing off against Lucan Thorne over any direct command, let alone a command that Gideon knew in his gut was the right call for Lucan to make. For Savannah's sake, if nothing else.


Lucan fixed Gideon with a grim stare. "She's out there right now, walking around with the word vampire on the tip of her tongue. How many people do you think she'll tell before we have the chance to contain her? She told you, for crissake. What if she tells the police next?"


"She won't," Gideon said, wishing he believed it. "I told her I would help her sort everything out. I told her she could trust me."


"Trust you? She just met you," Lucan pointed out. "She's got friends she could tell this tale to, classmates. Family?"


Gideon nodded. "A sister in Louisiana. I don't know about anyone else. But I can find out. I can take care of any loose threads. I want to be the one to explain everything to Savannah. After last night, I owe her that."


Lucan grunted, his expression stony, unconvinced.


Gideon pressed on. "I want to know what the sword that was used to slay my brothers is doing here in Boston. I want to know who has it, and why. I should think the Order would like that answer too, seeing how the son of a bitch in question murdered one human to get it and left another near death."


"We can't leave her out there on her own, Gid. Her knowledge is a threat to the entire Breed nation. It's also a threat to her, if the one who killed her roommate somehow learns there was a witness and turns his sights on Savannah."


Gideon's veins turned to ice at the thought. He would eviscerate any Breed male who so much as touched her with intent to harm. "I'm not about to let anyone hurt her. She needs to be protected."


"Agreed," Lucan said. "But that means day and night, something we can't enforce so long as she's living among the human population. And we sure as hell aren't bringing a civilian female here to the compound." Lucan stared, a tendon ticking in his square jaw. "You want to initiate her about the Breed and our world, fine. I'll give you that. You want to see if her talent can help us ID the bastard who attacked those humans the other night, that's yours too."


Gideon nodded, grateful for the chance and more relieved than he should have been at the prospect of Savannah being entrusted to his care.


Lucan cleared his throat pointedly. "You bring her up to speed. You question her. But you'll do all of this inside the secured shelter of a local Darkhaven. It's the best place for her right now, Gideon. You know that."


He did. But that didn't mean he had to like it.


And he didn't like it.


At the moment, he didn't see any better options.


"I'll make some calls," Lucan said. "This plan goes into motion tonight."


Gideon remained standing, his molars clamped together, fists curled at his sides as the Order's leader left the room. Tegan got up from his chair a moment later. He prowled toward Gideon, studying him with those unreadable eyes. He held something in his hand--a folded piece of paper, torn from the notebook that lay on the table alongside the pen he'd been toying with during the impromptu meeting.


"What's this?" Gideon said as the big Gen One offered the square of note paper to him.


Tegan didn't answer.


He strode out of the war room and headed down the corridor without a word.


The university campus was crowded with students that next day at noontime, people seated in small groups under tall, leafy oaks, eating packed lunches, others playing sports on the broad, green lawns. It seemed practically everyone was taking advantage of a sunny and warm October day. A pretty snapshot of a world that seemed so innocent. So...normal.


Savannah strolled past her chattering, laughing, carefree classmates, her steps hurried on the concrete sidewalk, her arms wrapped tightly around her book bag.


She had just left a meeting with her academic advisor, who'd given her clearance for a short leave of absence from her classes. She was going home soon, leaving in several hours. Although she'd told the advisor she expected to return to class in a couple of weeks, after she dealt with some "personal issues," Savannah wasn't sure there was enough time in the world to come to terms with everything she'd seen over the past few days.


She still wondered if she were somehow losing her mind. Gideon hadn't seemed to think so last night. It had been incredibly sweet of him to check in on her, concerned that she had called in sick from work. His comfort, although totally uninvited and unexpected, had been just what she needed.


His kiss hadn't been half bad either. More like, incredible. She hadn't been prepared for how good it felt to be in his arms, her mouth under his control. If she concentrated, she could still feel the heat of his lips on hers. And her body remembered too, every nerve ending going tingly and warm at just the thought of being wrapped up in him.


If Gideon were a lesser man, he might have used her shaky emotional state to his advantage last night and tried to get into her pants. God knew, after the kiss they shared, she likely wouldn't have needed much convincing to let him take things further.


She had actually dreamt he stayed with her most of the night. But there was no sign of him when she woke up alone this morning in her bed, still dressed in her tank top and jeans.


Would she see him again?


Probably not very likely. She had no idea how to reach him. No idea where he lived, or what he did for a living. She didn't even know his full name. Somehow, since their first chance meeting, he had managed to avoid revealing her a single thing of significance about himself, other than the facts that he was obviously well-read and well-educated.


Not to mention endlessly patient and understanding when it came to hysterical women going off about woo-woo ESP abilities and supernatural creatures that couldn't possibly exist outside slasher films and horror novels.


Gideon had been more than patient or understanding, in fact. He'd been a source of calm for her, more supportive than she ever could have hoped. Some part of her believed him when he said he could help her figure everything out. That he wanted to help her make sense of what she'd told him, even though inwardly he had to suspect she was more than a little touched.


There was a part of her that believed Gideon to be capable of anything he said, anything he promised. He simply projected that air of total, unswerving command. He filled any room he was in, radiated an indefinable power. His intelligent blue eyes told anyone who looked in them that he possessed the wit and experience of a man twice his age.


Just how old was he, anyway?


Savannah had mentally placed him around thirty, but she couldn't be certain. He never did answer when she asked him his age that first night in the library. He seemed too worldly, too wise somehow, to be older than her by just a decade-plus. He had to be much older than she had assumed, yet his face had no lines, no scars or blemishes to betray his years.


And his body...it felt built of solid muscle and strong, unbreakable bone. Ageless, like so much else about him.


And now that she was thinking about it, there was something distantly, oddly familiar about Gideon too. She looked at him and felt a niggling of her senses, as if they'd met somewhere before, impossible though it was.


Despite the enthusiasm of her instincts--or other parts of her anatomy--she was positive the first time she'd ever met Gideon was two nights ago in the Abbey Room of the Boston Public Library. Until two nights ago, he'd been a stranger to her. A stranger who didn't deserve to have her problems, real or imagined, dumped on him.


Which is why, when Amelie called early that morning to tell Savannah she'd purchased a bus ticket home for her and had it waiting at the station for her later that evening, Savannah had agreed it was probably best for her to return to Louisiana for a while.


She had one more appointment to take care of on campus, then she would be going back to her apartment to finish packing. She wished there was a way for her to see Gideon before she left, say goodbye at least. But short of camping out at the library in the hopes that he might show up there again this afternoon, she had no means of locating him before she had to leave for the bus station tonight.


Maybe Mrs. Kennefick knew more about him? She'd worked in the library records room all her adult life; if Gideon was a patron, maybe Mrs. Kennefick could give Savannah his full name or address. It was a place to start, anyway. Savannah could call and ask as soon as she wrapped up at the English department.


The thought put such a current of hope through her veins, Savannah hardly noticed the white Firebird rolling up behind her at a slow crawl on the street parallel to her on the sidewalk. The passenger side window was rolled down, disco music sifting out from the car.


Annoyed, Savannah glanced over, squinting in the sunlight as the driver reduced his speed even more to keep pace with her.


He was the last person she expected to see today. "Professor Keaton?"


"Savannah. How are you?"


"Me?" she asked, incredulous. He braked to a stop and leaned across the seats as she bent and peered to have a closer look at him. "I'm okay, but what about you? What are you doing out of the hospital? I heard you weren't expected to be released for a week or more."


"Been out for the past hour. Thank God for the miracle of modern medicine." His smile seemed weak, not quite reaching his eyes. He appeared pale and wan, his tanned skin kind of waxy against the dark color of his moustache and heavy brows. He looked haggard and exhausted, like a clubber coming off a rough weekend bender.


And no wonder--two nights ago the man had been hauled away unconscious to the ICU. Now he was behind the wheel of his muscle car with Barry White crooning through the speakers. She walked toward the car and leaned down to talk to him through the passenger window. "Are you sure you should be driving this soon? You were almost killed the other night, Professor Keaton. It just seems like after everything you've been through..."

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