Dark Hunger

Page 35

Jessa had enough experience to know what was happening. Her physical attraction to Matthias grew stronger every day; her body responded to him more often on a purely feminine level. The fact that he could touch her without triggering the shadowlight removed the primary obstacle that had kept her celibate since her ability had changed, and the needs that had remained sullenly dormant for so long were now wide-awake and demanding more.

Every touch, no matter how brief or casual, had always been an ordeal for her. Now Matthias had changed all that, turning any physical contact into a kind of furtive aphrodisiac.

She didn’t understand why she was so strongly attracted to a man about whom she knew so little. She still couldn’t place his accent, or the strange formality of his English. He didn’t speak like someone who had trouble understanding the meaning or the grammar; he spoke as if he came from a completely different world. His habits—eating with his fingers, rolling paper instead of folding it, and the way he sometimes watched with full concentration as Rowan used the food processor or the can opener—also made him seem out of step with the real world. And why would a grown man read, much less enjoy, children’s books?

Then there was his relationship with Rowan, who was certainly more than his housekeeper. Jessa had first suspected the girl might be his lover, but Matthias showed her nothing more than a decidedly paternal brand of affection. She never caught them in an intimate moment, and while they might have been sneaking into each other’s rooms every night, why would they hide it?

To keep herself occupied with something other than these perplexing observations and Matthias, Jessa spent hours on the computer checking through the contents of the hard drive for any files on the Takyn. To her disappointment she found nothing stored on the system but the files Matthias had shown her on GenHance, some Asian card games, and the service provider program they were using to gain access to the Internet.

She didn’t want to rely on what Matthias had shown her, so Jessa began checking news sites and researching GenHance’s business activities since the corporation had been founded in the late eighties. While GenHance had a sterling reputation, very little real information existed about Jonah Genaro and his company. Most of what was published by the media was taken mainly from press releases issued by Genaro’s own public relations department. Part of this was due to the fact that Genaro owned GenHance outright and, despite its size and diversity, had never offered up shares to be publicly traded. That made the corporation one of the largest privately held businesses in the world.

An old profile written by Forbes about Genaro, whom they identified as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, filled in a few blanks.

“Genaro inherited ninety billion dollars from his Italian grandparents,” she told Matthias one night over dinner. “Originally it was left to his parents, but they died in a car wreck in New York when he was sixteen. Their will specified that the family money was to be divided equally among their brothers and sisters and their children, but every other member of the Genaro family died in a boating accident three years later. They took the family yacht to sail over to one of their homes in Greece, but the engines exploded on the way there. No one radioed for help, so the boat burned and sank before anyone could get to them.”

“He probably had them killed,” Rowan put in as she finished clearing her plate.

The girl ate twice as fast as she and Matthias did, Jessa had noticed, and would sit with her hand or sometimes her arm curled around her plate, as if she expected it to be taken away from her. Rowan seemed to have some sort of love-hate relationship with food that bewildered Jessa, yet the girl was never stingy with the meals she prepared, and in fact often nagged her to eat more. Rowan looked up, caught Jessa watching her, and scowled.

“The article said he was in his first year at Oxford when the yacht accident happened,” Jessa said quickly.

“He would not have bloodied his own hands,” Matthias said. “He would have hired someone to do it.”

“How would a nineteen-year-old kid even know how to arrange having his entire family killed?” Jessa asked him. “Never mind trying to do it long-distance from England.”

“He had ninety billion damn good reasons to try,” Rowan replied. “I bet he practiced with his parents first.”

“But he was an only child.” Jessa didn’t want to defend the man who had probably framed her for murder, but she couldn’t accept that Genaro could be so cold-blooded—not with his own family. “He must have loved them.”

“The only things Genaro loves are wealth and power,” Matthias advised her. “He will never have enough to redeem his name.”

“What does his name have to do with it?” Jessa asked, but he merely gave her one of his enigmatic looks before he rose and left the kitchen. Irritated, she turned to Rowan. “I don’t suppose you can tell me what he means.”

“Don’t believe everything you read in Forbes,” was all the girl would tell her.

Rather than sneaking out of her room and searching the tunnels again, Jessa continued looking for evidence under the guise of constantly getting lost. She knew Rowan and Matthias were taking turns watching her through some sort of security system at night, but neither of them seemed to notice how often she took a wrong turn during the day. Her pretense allowed her to discover a great deal about her surroundings. What she thought were dead ends to the tunnels were actually old steel doors that extended into recesses in the concrete walls. From the look of them, Jessa guessed they were fire doors. She noted them as she explored, drawing a mental map of the tunnels, until she found the one she was sure concealed the tunnel that had led to the hatch that led to the surface and freedom.

The discoveries she made during her waking hours kept her quiet and watchful, but each night her caution seemed to evaporate as soon as she fell asleep.

Since the first night, Jessa had been dreaming vividly, always finding herself with Matthias in some familiar place: her apartment, her office, her favorite restaurant. Once, she was whisked off to the pool at her apartment complex, where she dreamed she was making laps with Matthias beside her, keeping pace.

In the dreams his presence never disturbed her; in fact, she behaved as if she had invited him into them. During the pool dream they swam together in sync from one end to the other, and when she suspected he was holding back she kicked off the last wall with all her energy and raced him to the deep end.

He surfaced at the same time she did, but rather than touch the wall he pulled her into his arms. “You cheat.”

“I won.” She twined her arms around his neck. “How did you learn to be such a strong swimmer?”

“When I was a boy I fell off my horse into a river, and I did not wish to drown.” He treaded the water easily as he maneuvered her into a corner. “You are like a fish.”

She grinned. “You’d better be referring to my ability to swim.”

“You are all sleek and shining when you are wet.” He parted his legs to bring her closer, and their bodies pressed together. “You move like the river. Like the rain.”

Jessa felt his hands on her waist and curled her hands over his broad shoulders. “Why do I keep dreaming of you like this? As if you were always with me.”

“Perhaps part of me was.” He glanced down. “I want to kiss your mouth.”

He often told her of his desire for her, but he never did more than touch her or hold her in his arms. It made her heart ache as much as her body.

“None of this is real,” she whispered. “You can do anything you want.”

“I will wait,” he told her, pressing his forehead to hers, “until you want me when you wake.”

“Don’t wait.” Jessa closed her eyes. “Please don’t.”

And then she woke, and Rowan was there, standing over her, not looking angry or indignant.

“Queenie.” The girl tugged on her sleeve. “Come on, it’s just a dream.”

Disoriented from being wrenched from the intimate moment with Matthias, Jessa blindly pushed at her, making contact with only her denim-covered hip, and then snatched her hand away. “I’m sorry.” She knew the girl disliked being touched, and suspected it had to do with something other than Jessa’s ability.

“No problem.” Rowan looked shaken as she backed away. “We all get bad dreams, right?” Before Jessa could reply, she hurried out of the room.

What happened to you? Jessa thought as she stared after her, and then covered her face with her hands. What is happening to me?

Jessa’s first real opportunity to escape came after she had been with them for a week. After breakfast she washed dishes and then went to take her morning shower, but turned around and went back to the kitchen to ask Rowan if she had any facial moisturizer she could use. As she drew close to the open door, she heard Matthias and Rowan talking, and stayed out of sight.

“Tomorrow go topside and get the supplies we need,” Matthias was saying. “I will stay with her. She does not have to be watched every moment now. She has stayed in her room every night this week.”

“Yeah, we’re all such good pals now, aren’t we?” Rowan sounded disgusted. “Did it ever occur to you that she’s been staying in her room only so we’d stop watching her at night? Which we have, so it worked great.”

“Jessa could not know that.”

“Okay, maybe she doesn’t now,” the girl said, “but she will the first time she sneaks out after hours. She wants you to trust her and confide in her, and she’ll keep up the nice act until you do. For Christ’s sake, Matt, I like her, too, but remember who you’re dealing with. The woman made her living informing on people.”

“We need Jessa’s ability to see the truth,” he told her. “Unless we convince her to work with us, share information, and help us to find the others, we will never get to the Kyndred before GenHance does.”

Rowan made a rude sound. “You’re living in a dreamworld, boss. That girl’s never going to tell us a damn thing.”

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