“Is she going to be okay?” Howard addressed Silas worriedly.
“I don’t know,” Silas said grimly. But as Peri tried to remember how to move her lungs in order to breathe, she doubted if okay was anything she would ever be again.
Silas watched Peri breathe, amazed her mind was still fighting even as it was fraying right before him. Both timelines held information they needed: who’d betrayed her and how deep the corruption went. He had fragmented almost nothing, believing he could hold it all until he had the entire two lines. But the memories had come too fast and adhered too quickly—and though the two timelines weren’t yet coherent, she had them both now. The more they fell into place, the more unstable she’d become. She was trembling, full into a memory overdraft, which was a nice way of saying he’d screwed up, leaving her mind to destroy itself.
“Turn left,” Silas whispered, his voice just louder than the car’s engine. They’d been interrupted, and he didn’t know what to destroy, what to fix. And she was in agony. Damn you, Allen. I blame you. “It’s the third one up. Stone walkway,” he said.
“I see it,” Taf said, and Silas held Peri closer to minimize the jostling as Taf drove them through the high-end subdivision. He could feel Peri’s thoughts circling as she tried to organize the memories he’d unearthed. Her pain and betrayal resonated in him as if they were his own. It was the pain that was keeping her sane right now, the desire for revenge. She couldn’t allow others to believe they wouldn’t be held accountable for what they’d done. But it was only a matter of time until Peri got everything in the right place. Grief wouldn’t be a strong enough emotion to hold her together then.
“Peri?” he whispered when he realized her shaking had stopped. “Stay with me.”
“Is she okay?” Howard said from up front, and her eyelids flickered.
“No.” Silas’s voice was ragged as his thumb brushed the hair from her cheek. “Peri, can you hear me?”
Her breath came in as a wheezing, pained sound, and he fastened on it. She could hear him, even lost in the twin timelines her mind was stuck on. If he could mute them both to where the present was stronger than the past, he might be able to stave off the inevitable. But for how long? “Hang on,” he whispered, seeing Karley’s two-story home, gray in the snow and porch lights. “Concentrate on what you hear. I’m not letting you go.”
His heart leapt when her narrow chin quivered. She’d heard him, and he held her tighter. My God, she was stronger than he’d ever given her credit for.
“Drop me at the curb,” Silas said, scooting to the door with Peri still in his arms. “I don’t want a second tire track in the drive. Ditch the car and come back. Karley will be more likely to let me in if you’re not with me.”
What am I doing, bringing Peri here? But he had no choice, ex-wife or not.
“Silas …,” Howard protested, even as he got out to help.
The sudden cold was bitter. Lurching, he got out with her in his arms, her weight hardly anything. Pale and fragile-looking, she opened her eyes, but he could tell she wasn’t seeing the gray and white snow above them.
“Stay with Taf,” Silas said, and Howard reluctantly dropped back. “Karley will help me. She doesn’t like me, but she’ll help me, if only to tell me how stupid I am.”
“You’re sure about this?”
He nodded, his desperation growing. Not knowing what to do, he started up the steep drive, staying within the tire track to minimize evidence of his presence. Howard got back into the car, but they didn’t drive away, and Silas frowned as he used his elbow to ring the doorbell. She had to be home. There was only one set of tracks in the light snow.
“I can fix this, Peri,” he whispered. “Hang on just a little more. I’ll make it go away.” His fear began to shift to anger. Jack had used her, used her love to blind her, the very man who’d once held her sanity and soul. She’d been right to shoot him.
Her eyes fluttered, unseeing as the door swung in and light spilled over them.
“Karley,” Silas said to the late-thirties woman standing in the glow from inside the cavernous, ostentatious house. She was still dressed from an early dinner out, lipstick faded from the glass of whatever she’d been drinking, heels off, purse on the table by the door. Frowning, she put a manicured hand on her cocked hip, showing off her legs under her professional suit dress. Her brown hair was pulled back in a clip that made her look both severe and elegant. “I need your help,” Silas said when Karley leaned to look past him to the car running at the curb.
“Of course you do,” she said, eyes coming back to Peri.
“They’re not staying,” Silas added, and Karley laughed bitterly.
“Neither are you. Opti has already been here looking for you. I’m not doing this again.”
“This isn’t about me!” he said as the door began to close. “I tried to defragment something and it got out of control. We were interrupted, and she’s in overdraft. I can’t take her to Emergency. Opti wants to wipe her, and she’s got the end to this buried in her mind. It’s not too late to pull her out. I just need a quiet room.”
Guilt kept his eyes firmly on hers. He’d learned the knack of lying to the women he loved early on. There had to be a way to save both Peri and the memories she held. He just didn’t know how to do it yet.