Karley rose fast, her indecision obvious. They’d been married for three years, and hiding his fear from her was impossible. “It can’t be done,” she said, touching his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“All I need is a quiet room,” he said pointedly, and Peri flinched. But that was a good sign, even as he sensed the memories in her tumbling over themselves. “I can’t leave her like this, and I can’t fragment everything she worked so hard to uncover. But I can get the information and keep her sane.”
His jaw clenched at the pity in his ex-wife’s eyes. “It’s one or the other. She’s not Summer. You can’t save her.”
Silas’s gut twisted as Peri picked up on his sudden grief and moaned. “Summer is gone,” Silas said. “I know I can do both. Are you going to help me or not?”
Brow furrowed, Karley strode to the fireplace. She took a drink, ice clinking. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said, angry at herself as she gave in. “You can stay until morning. Then you’re gone, whether she’s conscious or not. Sane or dead. You understand? So you’d better impress the hell out of me and fix this, Doctor.”
His breath came fast and he dropped to a kneel to gather Peri to him. She was so light, hardly there, and he found his feet with a new determination even as his fear shook itself and became that much stronger. “Thank you,” he said, and Peri’s eyes opened, scanning the ceiling before she choked and closed them. The fear of being left alone shocked through him—Peri’s emotion was resonating in him.
“Upstairs,” Karley was saying over her shoulder as she walked to the stairway between the living room and kitchen. “You don’t happen to know her safe place, do you?”
He tried to smile when Peri’s wandering, unseeing eyes found his, and his hope leapt when she clutched at his arm. “Don’t leave me alone,” she slurred.
It was a clear, coherent thought, and his heart soared as he followed Karley. “Thank God you’re still here,” he whispered, eyes on hers. “It’s going to be okay. I won’t leave you until there’s somewhere safe beyond the confusion.”
Her breath came in a heave. Tears were spilling from her as she nodded, and her eyes closed again as if the sights and colors hurt. “Please hurry.”
“She’s still cognizant,” Silas whispered as Karley opened a door at the top of the stairs, and he watched Peri’s face for any sign of pain when he lowered her gently to the bed. Her long lashes rested on her pale cheeks, making her look lost among the faded colors of the room. Gently he brushed back her black hair making stark lines on the white pillow, and she shook, feeling it. “I need coffee. Can you get me some coffee?”
Karley nodded, lips pursed in disapproval as she left and shut the door behind her.
“Silas!” Peri cried out at the soft click, and he took her hand as he knelt beside the bed to put his face near hers. Her eyes opened, but he knew she wasn’t seeing him. She was seeing Jack, and an unknown horror sheened her eyes as she moaned and closed them. She was sliding back into the chaos of memories Silas had unearthed.
There was no way to separate them, but he didn’t have to. Steeling himself against the grief and betrayal, he opened his mind again, reliving everything with her, studying it in detail as she cried, shaking between the covers. But he wouldn’t let her relive them alone, and as he shuffled and aligned, piecing everything together by using the fall of shadows and tiny details that she’d never focused on, he realized how he was going to hide her twin memories in plain sight. When he was done, she’d be able to rest her mind from the horror in the scent of polish, the darkness of the beams, the glint of the Juke’sBox, and the almost-subliminal hum of the bar’s gaming lounge.
Slowly he shifted the memory of Jack dying, blurring it until the only thing that mattered was the shine on the floor. He tweaked Peri’s savage rage while shooting Jack, down to the glint of light on a nearby shot glass. He blurred the voices until the hum of the floor cleaner was all she heard. Allen restraining her as she sold her memory for the chance to kill Jack became less important than the pinch of her boot, something she’d never noticed.
He fragmented what he could, but the twin lines were there still, muted until they and the incongruities they fostered wouldn’t be noticed, blurring everything into a monochrome that would let her sleep.
And finally, she found it.
Shaking from the effort, Silas opened his eyes. For a long moment he studied her slender fingers twined in his. Delicate, but strong, he thought as he looked at his blocky knuckles beside hers. He listened to her breathe, thinking the smooth sound was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. But everything he’d done would last only until her intuition picked away at it. She was too smart to allow such deception, even when she knew it was to save her life.
But that was not what pained him, even as she slept exhausted before him. As he’d sifted through her thoughts, aligning and hiding them, he saw within her that Allen might be right. She’d willingly become what they needed for this task, but she liked who she was, the power she held. Tricking death and walking away to a fast car and cocktails at thirty-four thousand feet had addicted her to the high of being bulletproof, to the point where she might not abandon it when the task was finished. The elegance and grace she wrapped herself in was a mask to hide the ugly truth. She’d become that which was needed, perhaps too thoroughly to come back from.