Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0373836481
Publisher: Signature Select Spotlight
Pub. Date: May 2005


In the gloom of the late night storm, rain pinged on the roof, the wind keened as if in warning, and in Kaylin Dancroft's nightmare, warped branches twisted like arms rising out of the tree trunk in search of prey. In search of her.

She had to wake up.

Had to get out of bed.


Still more than half asleep, she rolled off the mattress, stumbled to the walk-in closet and shut the louvered door. She crouched shivering, teeth chattering, filled with conviction that the evil lurking outside was stalking her.

Terror clawed up her gut. Fear squeezed her throat tight, and she couldn't mutter so much as a yelp. Telling herself she'd only experienced another ugly nightmare and to climb back into bed, her feet might as well have been encased in hardened cement. Wedged in her closet between free will and fate, she couldn't move. Couldn't breathe.

Under the boom of rolling thunder, her window squeaked open. Damp, soggy air and the scent of rain saturated the room.

Oh, God.

Kaylin wasn't having another bad dream. Someone was here. In her room.

She peeked through the cracked closet door. A man's silhouette hovered over her bed. Lightning bolted against the black cumulus clouds, and for a split second Kaylin glimpsed a swarthy shape against the stormy sky.

For a moment, she hesitated, indecisive. Maybe he was meeting a lover and had climbed into the wrong window of the wrong house.

Yeah, right. And she was Zena, Warrior Princess.

No matter how much she wished otherwise, the gun in his hand convinced Kaylin as much as his ominous hulk looming over her bed that he meant business—nasty business. Menacing malevolence clung to him like the stench of foul garbage, signaling a monster without remorse, with no humanity. No soul.

He turned from her tossed-off blanket and vacant pillow to check the bathroom, but still blocked her chance to flee. After assuring himself the bathroom was empty, he trod back to Kaylin's bed and slicked his hand over her bare sheets. Oh, God. He was checking for warmth, assessing how long ago she'd left. Lightning flashed again. With his face in total shadow, enough light glinted to see him raise the finger that had just touched her bed to his mouth for a long lick, an obscene gesture. Shuddering, she prayed he wouldn't find her.

And her prayer was answered. The intruder retreated from Kaylin's bed and padded over to Jenna.

She's not the one you came for. Leave her alone. She's only sixteen, too young to know that evil like you exists in the world.

Twenty-two-year-old Kaylin knew this man had willfully targeted the Dancroft home. And Kaylin. Although she couldn't pin down the specifics of her dream, she'd sensed that he was coming for her—but Dear God—not for Jenna.

This time, God didn't heed Kaylin's prayer. And when the monster pulled a gun from his pocket and nudged Jenna, Kaylin's terror kicked into high gear.

Blissfully asleep, Jenna was unaware of the menace focused on her. Kaylin had to protect her sister, had to stop the predator. But how? He had a gun. Calling out to her parents down the hall could get them all killed.

She had to save Jenna.

Kaylin's fingers fumbled over a shoe box, a tennis racket, a backpack. Damn. Damn. Damn. Where was a golf club or a baseball bat when she needed one? Adrenaline rushing, she settled for an umbrella, clenching it with both hands.

Wait for the right moment.


Wait until he's vulnerable.


He turned his back.


Pulse speeding, palms sweaty, Kaylin slowly and silently shoved open the closet door with her foot. Barefooted, she advanced with quiet steps.

Again he poked Jenna with the gun, but, as usual, Jenna didn't want to wake up. Her sister groaned and turned onto her stomach, one hand flung over her head.

Almost there. One more step.

The man would his arm around Jenna's throat and yanked. She let out a short, muffled curse.

And Kaylin pounced, smashing the umbrella on the arm of the hand holding the gun. Although she had lunged silently, like a wild jungle animal focused on survival, the intruder spun to meet her attack, his mouth spewing hatred. With an upward swing of his arm, he blocked her blow as easily as he'd have brushed off a flea, then slammed her into a wall.

Her head burst with hot pain that caused her legs to buckle. She fought to push back to her feet, but her muscles refused to work.

Kaylin's world went black.

Chapter One

Four years later

Shane Lynch eyeballed the woman sitting by herself in the dark movie theater. If she'd glanced his way just once, he would have smiled, flirted, charmingly used one of a dozen pickup lines he'd kept handy for this mission, but Kaylin Dancroft looked neither right, nor left. Her hair had fallen forward and half covered her cheek. Watching her run along Tampa Bay this morning, he had thought it pure golden; now in the light from the screen, he noticed auburn tints, a rich warmth that contrasted with her too-pale cheeks and the dark shadows under her eyes. As the trailers ended and credits for the feature rolled, she stared straight ahead, almost fixated, her don't-approach-me vibes obvious to anyone. To a man with Shane Lynch's extraordinary perceptions, her aura was in shut-down mode, a condition that wasn't just unusual or rare, but unique.

Even if work hadn't required him to get to know Kaylin Dancroft, Shane would have gravitated to her like a collector of rare art to a new-found Renoir. In search of a casual way to meet, he'd tailed her since before dawn when she'd jogged along Tampa Bay, her sneakers tapping a swift staccato on Bayshore Boulevard's sidewalk. Her stride, a sassy sway of trim hips mixed with her own brand of feminine swagger, shook him up and restarted his engines. Until that moment, he hadn't known how much he looked forward to a new challenge. Or how tired he'd become of Middle Eastern countries and suffocating black robes that hid a woman from sight. He hadn't seen bare legs in too long. And Kaylin's were tanned and toned, incredibly shapely. However, great legs and a fine-looking woman alone would have only held his interest for a short time. Shane had known many beautiful women, their auras ranging from quiet green to blazing scarlet. None of them had Kaylin's strength of mind.

Self-contained, Kaylin hadn't given him one opening to approach her with a casual greeting. How did one meet a woman who was so into isolation? All day, she'd hurried from one task to the next. She'd never stopped moving until she entered the movie and sat in her aisle seat.

Apparent exhaustion caused her head to droop. Her eyelids fluttered. As if to counter the sleepiness stealing into her shoulders and softening her stiff posture, she gripped her thighs, her fingertips leaving indentations in her slacks. Still, her chin declined another notch. She jerked in her chair as if throwing one last-ditch effort to avoid slumber before her jaw went slack, her eyes closed for good and she succumbed to sleep, once again, squelching all opportunity to introduce himself.

Like men exhausted from arduous Special Forces training, Kaylin twitched, jerked and spasmed. But she remained oblivious to Schwarzenegger's on-screen entrance in the nude, slumping into deeper sleep.

During REM sleep most minds were exposed, vulnerable, yet while Kaylin slept lightly, even in sleep she kept tight control of her aura. However, not even she could prevent several low-level leaks in the violet end of her spectrum.

Finally. Something Shane could work with.

Until today, he believed he'd already seen every possible aura variation. Shane had worked as chief assistant to the ambassador in Afghanistan, gone undercover and infiltrated cells in Iraq and Kuwait, employing his special talents to alter tempers and passions in positive directions. But Kaylin's aura was different from any he'd encountered. But finally, as she dreamed, she exposed a thin crescent, reminding him of a lunar eclipse, the gray penumbra a muted violet that shadowed the surrounding light.

Kaylin moaned, and the feral, guttural intensity from those coral-glossed lips startled Shane. He wouldn't have thought a slender throat could emit such a splintered cry. A man in the back of the audience hissed for quiet. Someone else cursed. Unaware of the commotion she was causing, Kaylin let out a piercing wail that sliced like a garrote, honed, lethal, unstoppable. Even as he gathered strength to help her, her pent up pain reverberated through him, heightening his desire to help her.

Shane leaned forward until his mouth neared the shell of Kaylin's ear and her citrus fragrance teased his nostrils. He kept his words clipped, his tone easy. "Wake up."

For all the response he received, he might as well have been talking to the violence-prone robot on the screen.

Again, she screamed, this time in a stubby burst that seemed artificially cut off and all the more shocking for ending in an insufferable gurgle. Shane noted the additional shouts of annoyance from the peanut gallery, but his immediate concern was for Kaylin, clearly caught in an unbearable nightmare. As badly as she needed sleep, he had to wake her before the security guard entering through the double doors identified who was causing the disturbance.

By the flickering violets of her aura, Shane knew she'd finally yielded to deeper sleep. He hurdled over the row, took the seat beside her. Lightly, he placed a palm on her shoulder. With a violent wrench, she rejected his touch, pitched forward and let out a full-throated shriek, drawing the guard's attention.

The security guard strode down the aisle, stopped at her row and aimed his flashlight at Kaylin. "What's the problem, ma'am?"

With her fingers now clasping the chair in front of her and her eyes wide open, she appeared to be awake. But she didn't turn her head toward the bright light or alter her expression.

Shane spoke quietly to the uniformed guard. "She's having a nightmare."

The guard's light revealed Kaylin's dilated irises, her too-tight grip and her unnaturally stiff bearing. "More likely, she's on something."

Shane had run into his share of security. This one with his middle-aged hang-over-his belt belly and kind eyes seemed like a guy inclined to take the easiest way out. If Shane could extract Kaylin from the premises, he didn't think the guy would call the cops. But if she shook off Shane a second time, he feared the guard would make a move.

With the swift decisiveness that had earned Shane a Silver Star during his stint in the army and a Presidential commendation after a classified assignment in an African nation that would remain nameless even on official documents, Shane dropped to one knee, scooped her up, gathered her against his chest and strode out of the movie to the applause of the entire audience.

She was thin, and he hadn't expected her to weigh so much. Her delicate facial features and slender body disguised a muscular frame, but her weight was not a problem. Shane had carried full-grown men off battlefields and he'd dragged an injured partner through a muddy rice paddy to safety, but those men had placed their trust in him. Kaylin was a stranger and lifting her into his arms seemed an invasion of her privacy.

She screamed again, and he winced. There was nothing fragile about her voice or the pain the nightmare had brought out.

Striding quickly through the exit and the lighted foyer into the lobby, he noted from her disappearing violet aura that she was rousing slowly from her frightening nightmare. She blinked a few times, tucked her cheek into his shoulder and muttered a few muffled words he couldn't understand. Lifting her hand, she skimmed her palm along his cheek, caressed the line of his jaw, trailed the pads of her fingertips over his shoulder.

"You'll be fine," he murmured.

Finally, she opened her eyes and stared at him, the strength mirrored in the green irises flecked with golden sparks of confusion. Waking in a strange man's arms must be disconcerting. Another woman might have slammed her fists between his shoulder blades or kneed his ribs or screamed hysterically, but she took in the people around them in the brightly lit lobby then focused on him.

"Why are you holding me?"

He chuckled, pleased by her logical question. "You had a bad dream."

"I always have bad dreams. But no one has ever carried me out of the theater before." Taking a deep breath, she stared at him, her perfectly arched eyebrows narrowing. "Please, put me down and tell me what happened."

Casual on the surface, her tone was threaded with steel. He set her on her feet, and with her aura again locked down tight, she gave away nothing. Not even a dim glow from the embers he sensed beneath her caged emotions. Not good. Especially when his goal was to get her to talk.

"You fell asleep, screamed and disturbed the audience." He jerked his chin over his shoulder at the security guard who'd trailed them into the lobby. "I carried you out."

Her lips tightened, then twitched, revealing she was both wary and amused. "Why didn't you just wake me?"

He shrugged and didn't bother to keep the frustration from his voice. "I tried."

She laughed, her tone, throaty and low, and she surprised him yet again by her seeming acceptance of his explanation. Shane had been out of the country so long that he'd forgotten the effect of a sophisticated, confident and successful American woman on his appreciative senses. The memory of carrying her, the feel of her trim thighs under his arm, her slender waist beneath his hands as he'd set her down, her hand reaching to touch his face before she slowly focused intrigued him. But it was her aura that fascinated him.

"Kaylin Dancroft." She offered her hand, her tone friendly. Her grip was firm, the nails bit down to the quick, but smooth and straight and polished, as if she'd tried to repair the damage. "Thank you for getting me out of there."

"Shane Lynch, and you're welcome." Sensing the cool composure she'd wrapped around herself as a self-defense mechanism to keep him at a distance, he tried his charming smile. "Why don't we go next door for pizza, ice cream or coffee?" he spoke softly, his voice inviting, allowing his interest to come through. If he remembered correctly, a woman usually responded by reciprocating with a brightening of the eyes, a luminous smile, or by letting him know that she was unavailable. Kaylin did neither.

Cocking her head, she drank him in with a lingering appraisal, examining him from the cut of his hair, to his casual sport coat and open-necked shirt to his ultra comfy but slightly scuffed loafers, without revealing a clue to her thoughts. Shane rarely came across a civilian so good at hiding her feelings.

"Coffee sounds good," she accepted, but with a measure of reserve that told him he had opened a mere sliver in her armor. If he'd ever seen a woman who needed to relax, it was Kaylin, and as he searched for a topic that wouldn't alarm her, he shoved soothing calm her way.

Shane had the advantage of knowing Kaylin's background, thanks to her father. General Dancroft had briefed him last week when he'd requested Shane's help. Apparently, Kaylin had good reason to shut down. She'd been through hell since Jenna's kidnapping. Wary of hypnotists, doctors, psychics and strangers, who poked and prodded her memory in an attempt to make her recall the kidnapper's identity, Kaylin would likely oppose cooperating with a man who specialized in reading auras and transferring emotion. So her father had insisted that Shane approach her covertly and earn her trust before they attempted to reconstruct the image of the kidnapper's face together.

Privately, Shane had questioned if deception was the right way to go. Gaining her trust by lying seemed like a bad tactic. Yet, Shane didn't want to second-guess the wily general who'd been known before his retirement as a brilliant strategist. He'd agreed to Dancroft's plan—with the understanding that he could alter it as he saw fit.

Giving a firm nod to the security guard to signal the situation was under control, Shane led Kaylin out of the theater's lobby and into the shop next door. The rich scent of coffee enveloped them, and the Rolling Stones played on the speakers. The only other customer lounged in the back, drinking coffee and using the wireless Internet service. While hoping the aroma of a myriad of exotic coffees, related accessories and equipment for sale as well as the pastries and confections enticingly displayed would reassure Kaylin, Shane appreciated the smooth marketing angle.

It was good to be back in the States with all the comforts of a modern society, instead of some third-world country where luxury goods were unheard of and necessities were always in short supply. And working with an interesting woman instead of infiltrating hardened terrorist groups was a bonus long overdue.

He ordered a cappuccino and she the espresso con panna. After taking a booth, he savored the first rich sip and noted her fingers tightly clutching her hot cup. She neither relaxed nor chattered to fill the silence with small talk.

After allowing the caffeine to kick into his veins, Shane tapped into more of his calm, then wrapped her in a soothing cloud of relaxation, sympathy and compassion, and she rewarded his effort with a pink flickering flame in her aura. Like a survivalist dependent upon that fire for heat and warmth, he tended that pink with care, feeding it with dry twigs of tranquil energy.

"How long since you last slept?" he asked.

"78 hours." When he raised a skeptical eyebrow, she added, "My record is 96. I'll reach the walking-zombie stage soon. So please don't hold that against me." She plucked a napkin from the holder and dabbed at her lip. "Enough about me. Tell me about yourself."

She'd told him almost nothing about herself, but he let it go, sensing if he pushed too soon, she'd shut down again. "What do you want to know?"

She eyed him a bit warily. "You came to the movie alone?"

"Yes." Habit kept him from saying more. He didn't want to spook her by admitting he'd gone to the movie for the express purpose of meeting her. Then he realized that even if she wasn't digging for information to satisfy her curiosity, he might help his cause and get her to relax by giving her some personal details. "I'm not currently seeing anyone. I've never married. Guess I haven't stayed in one place long enough."

"And your family?" Her eyes bored into his, and he caught on quickly to what was important to her by how her question honed in on family, not what he did for a living.

"There's just me," he said, "and my sister Eileen." And their sordid family history.

He didn't let himself dwell on what might have been. Now was not the time to think about Peggy Robards. He shoved down hard on the churning anger that filled his gut every time he recalled her rejection of his marriage proposal. She hadn't wanted to marry a man who'd inherited such a violent nature and he shouldn't blame her. If he hadn't learned to control himself most of the time, he'd have probably ended up on death row—like his father. The bastard. Shane hoped he rotted in hell. Death had been too good for the son of a bitch who had abused his mother and Shane for years.

He shouldn't blame Peggy for her unwillingness to take a chance on him, but he did. Yes, he'd lost control. Yes, he'd used more force than he should have, but he'd had good reasons—at least in his mind.

Fortunately for Shane, his sister Eileen trusted him, even with her children. And that gave Shane hope. If Eileen could trust him, surely another woman could, too.

Although Shane knew Kaylin was single and free, he pretended otherwise. "What about yourself? You with anyone?"

She shook her head and shot him a wry grin. "Most men are more frightened of my nightmares than I am."

With another woman he might have suggested that she was welcome to share his apartment, his bedroom, his sheets—and he'd awaken her if necessary, then make her forget her nightmare. But he didn't tease Kaylin. Although she was talking to him about personal things, score one for him, Shane's legendary charm was far from chipping away at her solid walls. Besides, he had too much compassion for what she'd gone through after the loss of her sister to make light of her nightmares.

"You have these nightmares often?" He kept his voice casual, but sensing that she wouldn't be honest with a stranger unless he maintained a balm of security wrapped around her, he sent out soothing calm and extra sympathy.

She shrugged and licked a dab of whipped cream from her lip. "Sometimes," she said, her words slow and hesitant, and he nudged his compassion up a notch to encourage her, "I go for months without a dream. Sometimes I can't close my eyes without . . ."

The pink that had brightened, suddenly faded. Shane refused to let her ability to open up to him wither, not after she'd begun to be honest. He packed encouragement and tranquility around her, nurturing the flickers that brightened and multiplied. "Can't close your eyes without . . . what?"

"Dreaming." She shook her head. "I don't usually talk to strangers about . . . Tonight was especially bad."

He softened his tone, didn't let up his mental soothing. "What did you dream?"

Shadows in her eyes, she stared into her coffee so long he wondered if she would answer. Finally, she raised her pain-filled gaze and he wished he could take her into his arms. Instead, he forced himself to patience and sent more psychic empathy her way.

In contrast to her visible pain, her voice was strong. "Four years ago while I was home from college on spring break, my sister Jenna was kidnapped. She was never found."

"You were close?"

"She was much younger than me and we were nothing alike, but yeah, we were . . . friends. I'm the typical first child, the one who wanted the parents' approval and played by the rules, but Jenna's middle name should have been rebel. She loved life, feared nothing and raised hell. She adored bad boys and fast cars. She experimented with alcohol and cigarettes and weed . . . yet, I admired her spirit of adventure, her zest to live every moment, and she envied my dedication." Her voice filled with fondness. "We shared everything and I tried to keep her out of trouble. The one time she needed me . . . really needed me . . . I didn't come through."

"What do you mean?" He kept his tone non-judgmental and pushed comfort her way, but knew he might cut the edge to her pain, but the wound was still to raw for him to heal. Shane often took missions where he felt sympathy for the people he helped, but Kaylin's quiet strength combined with her suffering tugged at his heart, and he hoped he could lessen her pain.

"Jenna's kidnapper was coming for me that night. But when I hid, he took her instead."

"Sounds like survivor's guilt."

"So over a half-dozen shrinks have told me. Too bad they don't have a clue how to cure it." Disgust smoked up her voice. She sipped her coffee and stared over his shoulder, but he could still see the agony in her eyes.

He couldn't let her remain silent, especially now that he understood that keeping her past bottled up was her natural inclination. As an expert at persuasion, Shane drew upon his talents, again infusing her pink auras with encouragement.

"Why did you hide from the kidnapper? Did you hear him coming?"

"I dreamed it." She thrummed her fingers on the table top. "You see, my dreams aren't normal. Mine come true."

"YOUR DREAMS COME true." Shane repeated Kaylin's words as if deciding if he liked the flavor. There was no doubt in his tone, no snide patronization, just acceptance and a compassion that she rarely saw in others. He spoke without the skepticism she'd come to expect from people and maybe that's why she found talking to him so easy. Still, she couldn't believe she was opening up to a total stranger. Shane was effecting her oddly and she didn't understand why she wanted to talk about such personal things. Perhaps it was simply because he was a stranger and she'd kept her fears and thoughts contained for so long that at the first sympathetic ear, she'd opened up. Or maybe she'd spoken so freely because he had no ulterior motive. She could speak to him like a stranger on an airplane, knowing she wouldn't see him again.

She had no idea how he could accept such a preposterous phenomenon as her clairvoyance without knowing more than she'd told him. From the moment she'd opened her eyes and seen him, he'd seemed so concrete, so much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy that she'd just enjoyed the moment, relaxed in his support.

What woman wouldn't? She swallowed a grin of pleasure at the memory of him cradling her easily against his powerful chest. After a tough day at the real estate office where she'd lost what would have been a lucrative listing to another saleswoman, then finally convinced a home seller that the current buyer's market required him to repair his roof in order for her to sell his home, she'd gone to the movies to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and ended up with her very own action movie hero. Shane might have that larger than life demeanor but he also seemed gentle, considerate. And if he had trouble swallowing her claim of clairvoyance, he had the impeccable control not to show it. His gray eyes seemed open, warm and compassionate.

On the surface, Shane appeared a man's man with muscles and chiseled bones, honed edges in all the right places. He seemed the kind who judged one a friend or a foe with little room between. So when he followed up with another question, she was pleased to hear genuine curiosity, not skepticism, in his tone.

"Have your dreams always come true?"

"For as long as I can remember." Although she couldn't recall the last time she'd admitted her clairvoyance, it felt good to air her secret, the relief like lancing a boil.

His eyebrows narrowed. "You sound as though you don't appreciate your gift."

"Gift?" She snorted. "It's more a curse."

"I don't understand."

Of course he didn't, but his lack of comprehension didn't surprise her. It was his seeming belief in her clairvoyance that brought her up short. Kaylin's job kept her around many people, but the nature of real estate entailed a steady stream of buyers and sellers, none of whom she got to know well. Her job suited her. She liked the freedom to set her own hours. She liked the contact with people—people who never knew her well enough to know she was different. People who would have thought she was crazy if she'd told them what she'd just spilled to Shane.

Yet, he believed her.

She didn't know why, but he did, and his belief in her must be what had allowed her to set aside her normal wariness of strangers. At the most primitive level of her psyche, Kaylin recognized Shane had an edge that made him see or accept what others didn't or couldn't. Something elemental was allowing her to overcome her customary suspicions. Something she couldn't nail down. Something that she found damn attractive. Almost irresistible.

She found herself wanting to explain, wanting him to understand. For once she didn't overanalyze the connection they seemed to share and went with her gut. "When I was eight, I dreamed that my puppy had gotten loose. As a result, for weeks, I didn't let that dog out of my sight. When a neighbor accidentally left open our back door and the dog escaped, I cried and cried that I'd failed to protect him."

"Did he get struck by a car?"

She shook her head. "That's what I feared, but that night he finally returned home safe and sound. But because of my dream, I'd spent weeks worrying over him . . . for nothing."

"Does that happen a lot?"

"The dreams are never clear. I get haunting flashes, distorted images and have no way of knowing what the dreams mean. The most frustrating thing is how little control I have. When I was about six-years-old, I dreamed about a drowning. I saw thrashing, arms slipping under the water, then a body floating, face down, on the surface. But I never saw the child's face."

"You knew him?" Sympathy oozed from his tone, but no pity. Pity would have stopped her because she hated that worse than the people who didn't believe her. Or her mother's belief that her clairvoyance came from some evil part of her.

She saw only reassuring interest in Shane's eyes. According to all the shrinks she'd seen, talking was supposed to be help her survivor's guilt, yet despite the difficulty she had finding people who could converse rationally about an irrational subject, she didn't understand her almost compelling need to spill her story. "The following week I learned that a neighbor, Bobby Becker, had drowned. I became hysterical—because I'd seen his death—but not enough of the details to warn him."

"You were a child . . ."

She sighed. "It never gets easier. Too many of my visions turn out correctly for me to ignore them. The bad ones haunt me, as well as the harmless ones. The timing is always a bitch."

"The timing?"

"The most frustrating part of my clairvoyance isn't most people's inability to believe me, it's when they do."

"You're losing me."

"Last year, I dreamed that my friend Leslie would break her arm in a car crash. So, of course, I cautioned her not to drive, and she didn't for a week. Two days after she began again, a drunk driver smashed into her, and she broke her arm."

"You envisioned the crash, but not the date." He caught on quickly.

"Yeah. Leslie couldn't give up driving for a lifetime. So not only is my foreknowledge useless, the inability to change what I see is more a curse than a gift."

She'd already opened up more to Shane than any man she'd ever met. The late hour and the lack of other customers made the conversation intimate and easy. And perhaps she knew that Shane wasn't going to remain in her life since she'd never dreamed of him.

Talking about her dreams usually bothered her as much as having them. Her dreams often left her with a depressing awareness that she didn't have much control over her life. Besides fighting her constant dread of the inevitable, Kaylin also had to cope with the draining physical aftereffects of her dreams. Violent headaches and dizzying nausea, plus a punishing weariness as if she hadn't slept at all. But strangely, talking about her dreams to Shane eased the tension in her gut, the knots in her shoulders, the ache in her heart for the sister she missed so much.

"And tonight? What did you dream?" Shane asked, revealing a sharp memory that she'd never answered his earlier question.

"I saw Jenna's face and her breath on a window. It was raining outside and dark. Car headlights flashed by. I saw no road signs. No trees. Nothing to indicate her location. And it may have been a memory from seven years ago, or four. In the dark, I couldn't tell her age. But I still hope we'll find her."

She rubbed her brow, willing to suffer the extreme aftereffects of a nightmare—if she could only dream the right clues. She'd never give up hope that Jenna was still alive unless she found evidence to the contrary.

"Are you hurting now?"

She liked the way he asked the question with sympathy, yet without pity. She hadn't told him about the physical suffering after her nightmares. Perhaps, he'd seen her rubbing her temple. If so, Shane was damn observant. She turned her coffee mug in circles. "You woke me before I suffered any ill effects. After I dream, I often feel ill."

"You've always had . . ."

"Always. That's why I don't like to sleep," she admitted, her tone bleak. "It's my fate . . . and my curse."