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He'd delivered word of the laboratory explosion that killed both Vince and Ackmeyer, along with news of the resulting public uproar to his crew when he and Mira had arrived. Then Doc and Nina had helped Kellan bury their dead while Mira assisted Candice outside for the ceremony. Chaz's grave on the grounds of the old bunker carried the scent of freshly turned earth, mingling with the pungent brine of the damp ocean breeze that rolled in off the cove to where Kellan sat, keeping watch through the night.

From his post on the broad point where the retired fort and gun batteries stood, Kellan stared out at the distant city lights of Boston. The bunker that had been built as a military stronghold during the humans' Civil War, and had survived nearly two hundred years afterward, now felt vulnerable and exposed. The Order could strike at any moment in the dark. In the daylight hours, the base was an easy target for raids by trigger-happy JUSTIS officers.

Kellan didn't know what time it was at the moment - early morning, certainly. But still dark. And so he waited. He watched. Prepared himself for what he had to do to keep Mira and his crew safe.

"Hey." Her soft voice caught him unaware, her movement quiet as she climbed up the side of the mound to join him. "Everyone's sleeping. Were you ever coming back inside?"

"In a while." He extended his arm and she crawled in close beside him. Her body fit so comfortably, her blond head a pleasant weight against his chest, her hair sweet and silky from a recent shower. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, closing his eyes to savor how good it felt simply to hold her under the stars. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "You were great tonight, helping with Candice's wound and the funeral ceremony for Chaz . . . such as it was."

"I only did what needed doing, and as for your friend's funeral, it was a beautiful good-bye you all gave him," she murmured. "Simple but pure. You honored him well, Kellan."

The phrase she used - one reserved for the solemnest occasions in Breed traditions - touched him in a way he couldn't express. Instead, he tipped her chin up on the edge of his hand and kissed her. Not the hungered kind of kiss that they'd been sharing each time they'd connected since her arrival back in his life a few days ago but a kiss shaped by tender caring and gratitude, by profound respect . . . and, yes, love.

He loved this woman.

His woman.

He'd loved her nearly all his life. That feeling had never faded, not in all the time he'd been away from her. And now that he was feeling the power of having Mira close again, having her a part of his world - his heart - he wasn't sure how he would ever find the strength to walk away from her.

But he would have to.

Sooner than he cared to admit.

He didn't want to break their kiss now either, but Mira gently drew back. Her lavender-tinted eyes were gentle but filled with a quiet determination as they lifted to meet his sober gaze.

"We'll find a way through this," she declared, voice steady, as if she were heading into battle. "What happened tonight to Jeremy Ackmeyer - "

"Changes everything, Mouse." He caressed her stubborn jaw, then exhaled deeply, giving a slow shake of his head. "No, that's not right. It changes nothing. An innocent man was killed tonight. Murdered, just as your vision predicted."

"Yes, but not by you, Kellan. You didn't kill him."

He scoffed, low under his breath. "Didn't I? Would he be dead if I hadn't abducted him? My command to take him set this whole thing in motion. My hands are as stained with his death as those of whoever blew up that lab with him and Vince inside."

"But you didn't do it." He could hear her resolve slipping toward desperation. "You're not guilty of murder, Kellan, and you need to let the Order know that. They need to know everything. And they need to know it all now, before things get any more dangerous."

He smoothed a tendril of pale blond hair that stirred in the morning wind. "You're right."

"I am?" She swallowed, going suddenly still in his embrace. "You mean . . . you agree? You'll go with me to explain all of this to Lucan?"

"I will go to him, Mira."

With a small cry, she threw herself at him, arms holding him tight, face buried in the center of his chest, where his heart now labored with a regretful tempo. "I know everything will work out for us, Kellan. This is the only way - "

"Mouse," he said softly, pulling her up so she could see his face. She needed to understand the decision he'd reached. "I'll go to Lucan and the rest of the Order. I will tell them what I've done and why I left without explanation eight years ago. I'll tell them everything. But I will do it on my own terms. And I will do it alone."

Her expression fell, then hardened with confusion and no small amount of anger. "I need to be with you when you meet them. They need to hear my side of the story."

"When I meet with the Order, it won't be with any expectation that I'll be pardoned in this, Mira. If I were Lucan, I wouldn't see how mercy could possibly be granted. I am the leader of a rebel group. I have broken the law, too many times to count. I have committed conspiracy. And as of right now, I am culpable in the killing of a civilian. A human civilian, Mira." He blew out a low curse. "What do you think will happen when JUSTIS and the GNC hear that? When word leaks out that I - that the rebel leader known as Bowman - am actually Breed, the riots we're seeing tonight will look like a joke, like kids' pranks. There's no way the Order can excuse me without undoing all the strides the Breed has made toward peace with mankind."

"No." Her head swiveled side to side, then more resolutely. "No, I need to be able to vouch for what you tell them. If nothing else works, then I need to be able to throw myself on their mercy and beg them to understand, plead with them to make an exception for you. For me. For us. Kellan, you have to promise me you'll give me that chance - "

"I can't promise you that, Mira. I can't promise to put you through any more hurt or distress than I already have." He took her face between his palms, tenderly smoothing his thumbs over her cheeks and her trembling mouth. "But I will promise you this: I love you. God, I always have. Did you even realize that? All those months and years of trying to push you away when we were young. I was terrified of how much I cared for you. I'd lost so many people I loved, I couldn't bear the idea that if I let myself love you, I might lose you one day too."

"You'll never lose me, Kellan." A soft sob caught in the back of her throat as she reached up to put her hands around his neck. Her pale purple eyes glittered in the moonlight, filled with welling tears. "I don't care what the vision showed you. I won't let you go. I'm yours. I always will be."

"Ah, Mouse." He eased his forehead down against hers, wishing he had her stalwart courage. "You honor me well. Too well."

"I love you," she whispered. "I'll never stop loving you."

She clung to him now, and he held her close. As close as he could gather her to him. And still, it wasn't close enough. It never could be, when it came to his feelings for this extraordinary female.

He didn't want to die. And the last thing he wanted was to leave Mira again - all the worse, to leave her behind once more in true grief and pain. He would do everything in his power to prevent the vision from coming true, but he knew too well the power Mira's gift of Sight possessed. He had seen it predict fate with unerring accuracy. It was a knowledge he couldn't deny now, no matter how much he wanted to believe they'd find a way past the death sentence Lucan was destined to hand down to him.

But they still had the here and now.

They had this moment.

He rose with her, taking her up to her feet with him on the grassy mound atop the bunker. On the easternmost horizon, a thin glow was forming, just the barest edge of dawn. The night had passed and they were still safe. Still together, for now.

And they had hours of daylight in which to deal with decisions neither of them wanted to make.

Until then, Kellan wanted only Mira.

"Come with me," he murmured into her silken hair. "Let me love you for a while."

She slipped her hand into his and they walked, together, back into the sleeping fortress.

Back into the haven of his bed.

Chapter Eighteen

MIRA'S DREAMS WERE VIVID, WRENCHING. NIGHTMARES filled with tears and anguish and loss.

Such unbearable loss.

Kellan . . .

She came awake on a start, her eyelids lifting in the dark silence of a room that smelled of damp stone, distant brine . . . and him.

Thank God, only nightmares.

Kellan was right there with her, both of them naked in his bed. His heart thudded leisurely beneath her cheek, his bare chest warm under her palm. He was there. He was safe.

He stirred beneath her, and Mira held herself very still, not wanting to disturb his sleep after the long vigil he'd kept atop the bunker.

Not to mention the hours of unrushed lovemaking, which must have worn him out as well. Though she wouldn't have imagined it then, when he brought her to shattering orgasm three times, his own release never far behind.

The thought of his passion, the pleasure they'd given each other just a short while ago, helped soothe the panicked beat of her heart. It calmed her to recall his words - his tender promise of love - as they'd embraced under the waning starlight in the moments before he'd brought her to his bed.

Kellan loved her. He didn't want to leave her; she knew that. But he would. As he'd told her so gently tonight, when he was ready to surrender to the Order, he would do it alone. He didn't want her there.

And thinking about him facing judgment - and her vision's prophesied outcome - by himself put an icy knot in the bottom of her stom-ach.

She had to work to tamp down her dread, willing herself not to go back to her nightmares of a few moments ago or to the unbearable thoughts of what Kellan had described seeing in her eyes. Although the urge to cling to him now as he slept verged on desperation, Mira was too wired to lie still. Her head was buzzing, her limbs restless, worry nagging at her like tiny fish nibbling at her sanity.

Carefully she extricated herself from Kellan's side and eased her way to the edge of the bed. He sighed and rolled over, his breathing settling into a deeper slumber. Mira rose, unsure what to do or where she could go to shake off the heavy weight of her anxiety. What she needed more than sleep or distraction was answers.

She needed to know what her future held with Kellan. More than anything, she needed some glimmer of hope that they could, somehow, overcome the trouble they were in and find a way to be together.

She shot a glance over her shoulder, toward the foot of the bed. Her eyes lit on the trunk that rested there on the floor. The trunk that held Kellan's grandmother's mirror.

No. It was dangerous even to consider it.

She didn't even know if it would work.

And yet she reached for her empty contact lens case on the night table beside the bed, then her feet were moving her silently across the floor, carrying her to the wooden locker. She crouched down in front of it. Silently lifted the lid.

The silver hand mirror lay facedown on top of a stack of Kellan's shirts. Mira picked it up, her fingertips brushing over the carved design of the Archer family emblem.

She had to try.

She had to know, even if it terrified her to do this, something she'd never attempted before. The worse terror was not knowing, fearing that what Kellan saw might actually be his fate.

If there was any chance that looking into her own unprotected gaze might give her even a slim hope of a future together with Kellan, she would risk anything. She would pay any price to know for certain if he was destined to live . . . or doomed to die.

Mira pivoted, putting her back to the trunk as she kneeled on the floor and removed her contact lenses to their case. The mirror in hand, she closed her eyes and took a steeling breath deep into her lungs.

She could do this.

She had to do this.

She brought the mirror up in front of her face, her eyelids still shuttering her talent. Her heart banged in her chest, so erratic and nervous, so loud in her ears, she half expected Kellan to wake from the sound of it. Her palms were damp, mouth dry as ash.

She had to try.

She had to know.

She lifted her lids and froze at the sight of her face staring back at her in the oval of polished glass. She looked so different without the purple lenses muting the crystalline intensity of her gaze. She hardly recognized herself like this - her features, of course, but lit with an icy fire that seemed ageless, not quite of this world.

Extraordinary, Kellan had said.

Startling, she thought. Unsettling. So unfamiliar, she couldn't . . .

The thought fell away as the clear pools of her irises began to ripple as she looked at them in the mirror, their surface wobbling as if a small pebble had been dropped into a serene lake.

Transfixed, astonished, she couldn't look away.

And then, within the fathomless, colorless depths, an image began to take shape. Several images, shadowed figures, a group seated at the front of a large, high-ceilinged room, a tall, raised bench in front of them, separating the group from the smaller figure that stood before them, awaiting their response.

Even before the images began to take clearer shape, Mira recognized the silhouette of the person standing before the court. She felt the person's trepidation, the bone-deep dread and uncertainty.

She knew, because that person was her.

In the vision, she tried not to tremble as she faced Lucan and the other members of the Global Nations Council seated in judgment on the bench, knowing that they held the power to either save her or destroy her with their decision. Their faces were impassive, without mercy.


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