Wild Embrace

Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh Read Free Book Online

Book: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nalini Singh
pierced his Silence. “What did you dream?”
    â€œPsy don’t dream.”
    â€œThat’s not what I asked.”
    The pause was long and heavy. “This situation awakens memories of the disaster when I was a boy. It’s having an impact on my sleeping patterns.”
    She was so used to seeing him as remote, untouched by the pain and chaos of life, that his admission shook her, made her question everything she thought she knew. Not sure what to do, she’d opened her mouth to say something—she didn’t know what—when he lay back down.
    â€œYou should return to sleep,” he said. “The work is by no means complete.”
    Hearing the finality of his tone, she did lie down, but then thought again of the way he’d pushed into her space, saw in that permission to push into his. “How old were you?” she asked quietly. “When it happened.”
    A long silence, his breathing even enough that she might’ve believed him asleep if she hadn’t been able to sense the conscious life of him, the force of it a pulse against her skin. Rather than asking again, she gave him the time to think, to decide what to share. After all, they both had their secrets.
    â€œFour,” he said at last. “My conditioning was fragile.”
    Conditioning.
Tazia turned that word around in her head, considered its meaning.
    For the longest time, she’d believed that Psy came out of the womb emotionless, that this was who they were as a people—as a tiger was fierce and a snake sinuous. A simple fact of nature. Only after leaving her village had she begun to hear different whispers, begun to hear that the Psy did this to themselves. Then she’d found that old history book and her suspicions had been confirmed.
    â€œIt must’ve been a terrifying experience,” she said, her voice soft in the total darkness. “You lost your whole family?”
    â€œMy mother was my custodial parent. I lost her, and a sibling. An elder brother.”
    Having turned to face his back, Tazia thought about reaching out and touching him as she might a fellow human in pain, but Stefan was Psy. He rarely initiated any physical contact. She didn’t know much about the process of conditioning a person to be Silent, but logic told her it would fail in the face of constant physical contact.
    And she didn’t want him to feel any more pain, this extraordinary man who helped others even when providing that help pushed him back into memories of the most heartbreaking loss. Her eyes burned.
Four years old.
His grief and confusion would’ve been incalculable.
    So she kept her distance, said, “I’m sorry for your hurt.”
    He didn’t answer, and she didn’t force herself any deeper into him. But that night, she slept with an ear open for Stefan’s breathing, and when he stopped again, she said, “Stefan,” until he snapped out of it.
    They didn’t speak otherwise.

Chapter 5
    It was two days later, all known survivors rescued, that the villagers began the cleanup operation. Tazia continued to fix anything and everything she could. Stefan, meanwhile, was needed as much as he’d ever been, the large structures that had collapsed impossible to shift otherwise. Heavy equipment was coming, but the roads to the village were treacherous, and several trucks had already broken down.
    The good news was that the water tankers had arrived on schedule. “There’s more than enough drinking water, especially since it looks like the well will be fully operational soon,” she told Stefan late that afternoon, after he stopped working before nightfall for once.
    The only reason he’d stopped was because a piece of debris had fallen on him, causing significant bruising to his torso. He’d have been out there minutes afterward regardless, but thankfully one of the volunteer medics had told him to rest and keep his muscles from stiffening up,

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