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“I am not in the business of selling eternity, Doctor,” Genaro said. “There’s no profit in immortality. Whatever is responsible for Lawson’s third rebirth, I want it identified and eradicated from the transerum. You will report on this only to me; is that understood?”

Kirchner looked as if he wanted to argue with him, but in the end he nodded and went back to his work.

Genaro stopped by the isolation room, where the acquisition lay in a chemically induced coma. He came several times during the week to inspect the condition of the body, which was being kept in peak condition by the physical therapists on staff. That and the complex network of equipment surrounding the bed would keep the body alive and healthy indefinitely.

He’d ordered Kirchner to remove the bandages from the lower half of the battered face, and the bruises and cuts around the nose and mouth were slowly healing. Extensive cosmetic work still had to be performed, but that could wait until they were prepared to bring the body back to consciousness.

Because the acquisition had no mind, it wasn’t a person anymore, and was referred to only in terms used for laboratory specimens. It allowed his people to work without unnecessary sentiment or attachment, but the day would soon come when the body would again become a person, and would need a new name.

It was like being God, Genaro thought, and creating the first man.

“Adam,” he said to the body. “That is what we’ll call you.”

He turned and left the room, unaware that under the bandages, the eyes of the body moved beneath their lids, as if watching something no one else could see.

The place in the country Matthias drove to was a bed-and-breakfast located in a farming district near the border of Tennessee. He didn’t stop along the way, but she was glad he didn’t. Watching Savannah disappear in the rearview mirror was like waking up from a sad dream. They didn’t talk during the drive, either, but after the encounter with Lawson and the revelation of Matthias’s ability, Jessa felt almost numb. Discussing anything would have been beyond her, and he must have sensed that.

Matthias came around the car to help her out, and kept an arm around her waist as he walked with her to meet the older couple who had emerged from the inn.

“Jessa, these are my friends, Sarah and Paul Clark.” He turned to the couple. “I am sorry we woke you so early.”

“Nonsense, Gaven,” the woman said, reaching for him with open arms. She had black hair streaked with silver and features that reminded Jessa of her favorite language teacher in school. Her smile turned wry as she turned to Jessa. “Welcome to Clarks’ Bed-and-Breakfast.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Jessa kept her hands in her pockets.

The tall, stoop-shouldered man nodded to Jessa. His expression was more reserved, but he had kind eyes and shook hands with Matthias with enthusiasm. “Good to see you, Matt.” He looked past them. “No one on the road for twenty miles.”

Jessa looked back. She could see almost a mile down the road, but then the asphalt disappeared over a sloping hill.

“My husband was an eagle in his past life,” Sarah joked.

Jessa glanced at Matthias. “They’re like us.” He nodded, and she eyed Sarah’s hair a second time. The couple appeared too old to be Kyndred, and yet their voices sounded very young.

“She’s very intuitive, Gaven,” Sarah said. “I guess this isn’t necessary.” The air around her seemed to split in half, sweeping away the image of the older couple, leaving two strangers in its place: a plain-faced, skinny woman with strawberry blond hair, and a dark-skinned, wide-bodied man with a shaved skull and eyes that were the color of ripe cantaloupe. For a moment she thought he was blind, until she saw the pinpoints of his pupils, which were tightly constricted. Both appeared to be in their late twenties.

“My wife likes to play dress-up.” Paul’s oddly colored eyes shifted as he studied Jessa’s face. “Sarah is also very tactile, so you should tell her.”

She drew back a little. “You can see what I’m thinking?”

“I can see the tension in your facial muscles increase whenever ability is mentioned.” He smiled. “You’ve also discreetly avoided touching us.”

She’d never admitted her ability to anyone but the Takyn. For a moment she struggled with the words. “When I touch someone, I have a vision and see the things they’ve done that were wrong, or made them feel guilty. Whether they want me to or not. Exactly when, where, and how it happened.”

Rather than look repelled, Paul smiled. “I’d better tell you the story about that car I boosted when I was sixteen, and the time Sarah dressed up as Cindy Crawford for our anniversary.”

“It’s all right, Jessa.” Sarah chuckled at her expression. “We don’t keep secrets from each other, and now that you’re here, we can’t. Come inside now so I can feed you two.”

Inside the large, well-equipped kitchen Sarah expertly prepared a hot breakfast of pecan-studded pancakes, sliced peaches, and fragrant chamomile tea. She happily accepted Jessa’s offer to set the table while Matthias told Paul about Drew Riordan being exposed, Rowan’s trip to Atlanta, and the terrifying encounter with Lawson.

“You’ll need to go to the farm, Matt,” Jessa heard Paul say. “Sarah and I will drive you all out tomorrow.”

“Where is the farm?” she asked Sarah.

“It’s a place Gaven owns in central Tennessee. He spends time there every spring and summer, grows organic produce, and gets away from all that.” She made a vague gesture toward the north. “When Paul and I met him, we’d just lost everything—GenHance seized our costume business, called in the note on our house, cleaned out our accounts, and had us both charged with income tax evasion. If Paul hadn’t seen them coming, they probably would have gotten us, too.”

“How did you end up here?”

“Matthias didn’t tell you? He owns this place.” Her eyes twinkled. “He has about two hundred different properties all over the country. He asked us if we’d like to run an inn, and since Paul and I like people, and we’ve always dreamed of having a little country house, it seemed perfect.”

“I’m not the first one he’s brought here,” Jessa guessed.

“He brings us others from time to time. The ones who are almost ready to relocate and take up new identities. It gives them a little break before they have to become someone else.” Sarah handed her a platter with three tall stacks of pancakes. “Serve yourself first, or the guys won’t leave you a crumb.”

Over pancakes Sarah told them some funny stories about some of their guests. Jessa winced as she heard about the newlyweds who had gone for a nature walk, succumbed to a moment of passion, and ended up with a case of poison ivy in the worst possible places. Paul contributed his tale of the New York executive who had been grimly determined to ride one of their horses and have photos taken to show his friends back in the city, at least until he slid off the back of the horse and sprained his tailbone.

Matthias excused himself from the table so that he could use the Clarks’ phone to contact Rowan, leaving Jessa alone with the couple.

Jessa wanted to ask Sarah more details about her life and her ability, but didn’t quite know how. She’d spent so many years hiding her own that she had no idea how to even initiate such a conversation.

Once more Paul saw her anxiety. “I think Jessa would like to hear about something other than our fun with the guests.”

She gave him a grateful look. “Other than Matthias and Rowan, I’ve never met others like me in person. I have so many questions. Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Paul told her. “Ask away.”

“How did you two meet each other?”

Sarah grimaced. “It was pretty typical of how people like us usually hook up. Paul and I met through a social group for single adults searching for their biological parents. We hit it off, compared notes, and found out we had a lot in common.”

“Sarah and I were probably born in Chicago,” Paul put in. “That’s where we were both adopted as infants. Most of the records were lost, but we know the Catholic Church was involved in placing us. We also made sure we weren’t related before we got romantically involved.”

“Thank heavens for mail-away DNA tests,” Sarah said.

“We both went to good families and had normal childhoods, at least until I was hit by a car when I was twelve, and Sarah contracted meningitis when she was sixteen. We both should have died, but instead we came back, better than new.” He gestured toward his face. “My eyes used to be brown. The doctors thought the brain hemorrhaging caused the change in the color of my irises.” He glanced at his wife. “Sarah did better. She kept her ability a secret from everyone.”

“It wasn’t hard,” she said, and the air wavered around her as her image blurred and changed into that of a wide-eyed, stocky man in a white lab coat. “This doctor was the only one who ever caught me dressing up,” he said in Sarah’s voice, “and he quit drinking the same day.” The air parted, restoring her to her normal appearance.

Jessa had watched the transformation more closely this time. “You don’t actually change shape.”

“I wish I could. I’d definitely do something about this mug of mine.” She patted her angular cheek. “What we think I do is alter the light around me so what you see is how I want to appear to you. I can also cast an illusion that changes the appearance of anyone within five feet of me, which is how I can do this.” The air around the table wavered, and suddenly Jessa saw two Sarahs sitting at the table. She laughed as she looked down at herself and saw that she had been changed into a Sarah clone as well.

“That is amazing,” she said.

“It’s just a brain trick,” Sarah said, dispelling the illusion. “It doesn’t fool Paul, because he can see the shifts in light intensity whenever I dress up. I need the light, too; I can’t use my ability in complete darkness. Also, my body stays the same. So while you may see Paris Hilton”—she changed into an exact twin of the famous socialite—“what you get is still plain old Sarah Clark.” She dropped the illusion.

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