Whispers in the Dark
KGI - 4
For Telisa, who was a fan of the KGI series even before she knew I was the one who wrote it
Sometimes writing is very solitary, but in the end, I’m always reminded of some very special people who go the extra mile to help make my books the best they can be. Valerie and Natalie, you have my utmost appreciation for always dropping everything to read for me. Lillie, not only do you read, but you reread and read again. And you give awesome book talk, not to mention all the spoilers you provide me. I don’t have adequate words to express my gratitude to you all.
Research can be daunting and overwhelming, and separating good and accurate information from the pack isn’t always easy. My sincerest thanks to my sources who are only too happy to discuss fun stuff like our mutual love of guns and things that go “boom.” Not to mention the helicopters and our love of New Mexico and Colorado. Your help is invaluable, and any errors are solely my own.
To my editor and the team of copyeditors and proofreaders who work hard to make sure my book is the best it can be. Thank you. Any errors, typos, or issues with continuity are strictly mine.
As many people as I have to thank and acknowledge, it’s you, the reader, who I owe the most to. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love most: write emotional stories of love and family and life. You’ve made it possible for the KGI series to continue and for me to be able to continue the stories of the Kelly family. I sincerely hope I’m able to do them justice for you.
SHEA Peterson’s eyelids flew open as she came instantly and fully awake. Her breath escaped in soft pants as agony crushed through her body. She went tense and her fingers curled into the tangled sheets at her sides.
She heard him again. Felt his despair in black, suffocating waves. She closed her eyes as his pain mingled with hers, lacing intricate patterns through her veins until they were merged, she a part of him.
Tonight more than any other time she felt his will to live dissolve. She felt his shame. The thought that he was a coward and didn’t deserve to die with honor.
Tears burned her eyelids. How long had she felt him suffer in silence? His strength had always amazed her, and now she could feel it crumbling under the weight of his despair. She hurt with him. She hurt for him.
She could no longer remain still. She could no longer remain silent despite the awful risk to herself and her sister, Grace. She couldn’t turn her back on this man. Not when his need was so great.
She drew in a deep breath, afraid and yet determined. She closed her eyes and reached out, following the trail of pain until she became hyperaware of the hell that he lived in.
The smell was pungent. She sucked in her breath as the scent of blood, dirt, sweat and death filtered through her nostrils.
Her instinct was to flee this place, break the link between her and the suffering man. Fear lodged in her throat, and pain was raw, sawing over her nerves.
In the distance, cries, grunts, muttered curses, a foreign language indecipherable to her. The man put a hand to his head. He knew something was different but he put it off as evidence of a losing battle for his sanity.
She huddled there, completely still in his mind, cautiously examining the surroundings through his senses.
He was imprisoned. A soldier. She caught fleeting images as they flashed through his head. His capture. The endless days of torture, starvation and misery.
He sat in a corner, his face in his hands, feelings of loathing and rage firing relentlessly through his brain. He hated his weakness, hated that he wanted to die. Hated that he wasn’t able to help the others who suffered with him.
He thought of his family. They brought comfort to him and yet he worried what his disappearance was doing to his parents and to his brothers. He thought constantly of his twin. Joe.
His name floated in Shea’s mind, spelled out in a flash of color before gradually fading away.
No one had come for him in two days. He felt a mixture of relief and dread because he knew that his reprieve would soon be over and he would suffer terribly once again. He wasn’t sure he had the strength to survive more. And he hated the weakness that made him question whether he preferred death to his continued existence. Caged like an animal.
He’d never felt so alone in his life.
Tears slipped down Shea’s cheeks, and she knew she could no longer be silent, no longer pretend she wasn’t connected to this man.
You aren’t alone. I’m here.
He went still, his head coming up as he stared through the piercing darkness. Despite his weakness and his broken-down spirit, the warrior within him immediately came to life. His muscles tensed and he turned, his nostrils flaring as if to scent the intruder.
“Who’s there,” he uttered in a cracked, hoarse voice.
Shhh. You don’t want to alert the others. Talk to me in this way. With your mind. If you think it, I will hear you.
“Jesus,” he whispered. “It’s finally happened. I’ve finally lost my goddamn mind.”
A chill stole over his body and he hunched farther down, wrapping his arms around his legs and rocking back and forth. He buried his face against his knees and closed his eyes. Weariness and sadness crept over him. And acceptance of his fate.
No. You mustn’t give up. I’m with you. I won’t leave you.
“Who are you?” he muttered, not picking up his head from his knees.
Why do you persist in talking? They’ll hear you. Don’t do anything to draw their attention.
It doesn’t matter whether I draw their attention or not.
The weary thought drifted into her mind, and the knot grew in her throat at the resignation so heavy in his consciousness.
You’re not alone. She pushed the thought at him again. More forcefully this time. Then she cradled him against her, imagined her arms sliding around him to give him what comfort she could.
She stroked her hands over his body and murmured soothing, nonsensical words in his ear. She pressed a kiss to his brow, ignoring the smell of sweat and blood surrounding them.
She didn’t know this man, but she could no more deny him comfort than she could deny anyone who suffered so much.
What she was about to do was dangerous. But how could she not do what she could to give him relief when she had the ability to help him just for a while?
She merged more fully with him, sent herself inside his very soul. She bit her lip to control the cry of agony as his pain swamped over her, through her. His pain became her own.
Tears ran freely down her cheeks as the full extent of his suffering blew over her like a scorching wildfire. It took all her strength and concentration to maintain the link between them.
What are you doing?
His quiet question was full of bewilderment. She could sense his disbelief, even as his body relaxed in brief respite from the discomfort tearing at him. He thought this was some bizarre dream that was a manifestation of his growing insanity. He thought she was a coping mechanism. Something his shattered mind had conjured as a way to cope with his horrific reality.
It took her a long moment before she was able to respond. She lay on her bed, shaking, her nerve endings shooting little jolts of fire through her body as she absorbed the pain from him.
Are you there?
There was hope in the uncertain question. She saw his battle between truth and hallucination and then his acceptance that he didn’t care. No matter whether she was real or not, he desperately hung on to the notion that he was no longer isolated.
Her voice was fainter in his mind now, and he frowned even as he raised his head and stretched his arms above and then around him.
What did you do?
She didn’t respond. It took all her strength to maintain the bond between them, but she could still feel it fading.
What did you do? His question became more strident. She felt a surge of strength through his body as he tested his arms, his hands and then his legs. How could you have done it? Who are you?
I’ll return to you. Her thought was a mere whisper in his mind now. I won’t leave you alone to face this. I swear it.
She caught traces of his frustration just before she let go and retreated from his mind. For a long while, she lay on the bed gasping and shuddering as she tried to process the waves of pain, both physical and mental.
She rolled to her side, pulling her knees to her chest in a manner reminiscent of his own posture in his filthy, dark cell. She rested her forehead on her knees and sucked in breath after breath until finally the pain began to recede.
Her cheeks were damp. The tendrils of hair over her ears were wet from her tears. She staggered to her feet and walked clumsily toward the bathroom, where she splashed cold water on her face.
Who was he? Why was she drawn to him? Why had she heard him amid the millions of other cries in the night? Her gift was so random. Her fist pounded down on the sink. She couldn’t control it. Not like the people who hunted her and her sister wanted.