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Shadow game (Chapter Nine)

RYLAND met her at the door, his silver gaze devouring her face, taking in every shadow, noting how pale she was. Without preamble, he pulled her into his arms. Needing her. Needing to feel her against him. Needing to run his hands over her body and assure himself she was unharmed. "Why the hell are you so late? Didn't you think I'd be worried about you? I didn't have the energy for wave communication." He gave her a little shake.

Lily rested against the hard strength of his body, grateful he was alive. His heart was reassuringly steady and his muscles were solid beneath her hands. "I was so worried about you, Ryland. I was held up at the laboratories. I had to talk with General McEntire. He was there when the escape took place and Higgens and Thornton asked me to join them in explaining everything." At that moment she didn't care to reason out why it was so important to her that Ryland was safe, it only mattered that he was. That her world could continue and she could breathe again.

Lily found that her fingers were curled possessively in Ryland's hair. She had to touch him. She wanted to weep with relief. "Arly tells me someone had seizures." I was so afraid for you. She was revealing too much of her feelings but she couldn't stop herself.

"Jeff Hollister. We haven't been able to wake him." He clasped both her hands in his, brought her fingers to the warmth of his mouth, all too aware he wasn't alone with her when he needed to be desperately.

"Do you know whether he was given anything to sleep last night?"

"He was hurting bad. Telepathic communication is difficult at the best of times and he was already worn down. I was trying to sustain the bridge myself for everyone but I…" He trailed off, guilt riding him hard. He had been selfish. He had wanted to dreamwalk. Wanted to comfort Lily. Be with Lily. In using up his energy that way, he had been unable to provide as much for the others.

Lily tightened her fingers around his. "Ryland, you aren't responsible for everyone. You're not."

There was too much compassion in her eyes. Lily could so easily turn him inside out. Just the way she looked at him made him feel different inside. He liked her. He liked being with her, hearing her voice, watching her expressions. She was burrowing into his heart, he could feel her there.

"Sure he is." The voice was deep and edged with humor.

Lily whirled around to face Kaden, ready to battle for Ryland. Kaden was tall and thick with muscle and sinew. A man with cold eyes and the face of a Greek god. And he was grinning at her.

"Just ask him. He thinks he's responsible for the entire world." The flat black eyes swung to taunt Ryland. "And you're making a damn fool out of yourself looking at her all goofy that way. You're making the male gender look bad."

Ryland's eyebrow shot up. "It's an impossibility for me to look goofy at anyone."

"He talks about you all time too, we can't shut him up."

"Do you make it a habit to sneak up on people?" Lily was trying not to laugh. He'd deliberately made her blush. She tried to control the faint color but his hawklike gaze had definitely spotted it. Arly stared at her as if she'd grown two heads. She resisted the desire to kick him in the shins, struggling for serenity instead.

"Yes, ma'am, now that you mention it, I'd have to say that's one of my specialties." Kaden looked unrepentant.

Lily rolled her eyes. "Where did you put Jeff Hollister? I'd like to take a look at him. And did any of you think to bring out those sleeping tablets so I can run an analysis on them?" She fell back on what she knew best. Science. Logic. Knowledge. Anything but men.

"Close your mouth, geek boy," she hissed as she swept past Arly with her head held high. "You're catching flies."

Arly stomped after her, hurrying to catch up. He leaned over to whisper overly loud in her ear. "We didn't raise you to be a little hussy."

Ryland saw her lips curve for just a moment, but she managed to keep a straight face, looking down her patrician nose at him. "I don't know what you thought you saw, but I've been meaning to tell you for some time to use the new insurance plan for glasses. Thick Coke-bottle glasses might be helpful."

"Oh, you'd like me to believe you weren't petting him like a favorite cat. My face turned red watching you. Where'd you learn to behave like that?"

"You know those movies you watch all the time, no one's supposed to know about?" Lily said sweetly. "You accidentally played them on the wrong channel. It's amazing the education one can receive."

Arly kept pace beside her, not even breaking stride. "Do you even know his name? I'm going to tell Rosa."

"Go ahead. I'll tell her about your movie collection."

Ryland laughed softly. "You two sound like bickering siblings."

"She's always been jealous of my superior intellect," Arly explained.

Lily tossed her head. "Ha! The only thing I've ever been jealous of is your skinny body."

Ryland pushed open the door to the injured man's room. Although Lily had had the room outfitted with blue lights, they had been dimmed and it was difficult to see Jeff Hollister at first. Lying so still, his face pale and his hair platinum blond, he looked like a wax statue. She heard the CD playing soft strains of music over the sound of the rain; even with the thick walls of the house, this was needed to provide a soothing respite for the men.

"Jeff is from San Diego, California. He's a champion surfer," Ryland said, leaning down to pat the man's shoulder. "He talks like an idiot, mostly slang, but has a high IQ and a degree from MIT. His family would be devastated if anything happened to him. His mother sends him cookies every month and he gets letters from every brother and sister he has."

Lily was watching the way Ryland's large hands, scarred from numerous fights, were so gentle on Jeff Hollister's shoulder. The lump in her throat grew. Ryland would be just as devastated as Jeff Hollister's family if she couldn't find a way to save him.

"You'll have to let me examine him. Rosa, my housekeeper, is a nurse and if necessary, I can call in a doctor who would be discreet."

Arly cleared his throat. "Lily, you can't bring Rosa in here. She can't know about this. She's… strange."

"She's not strange," Lily defended immediately. "She just doesn't believe in experiments." She frowned at Arly.

"I wasn't saying anything against her, hon," Arly said, touching her shoulder in a brief gesture of solidarity. "You know the way Rosa always talked about her family-very religious."

Lily leaned into him just for a moment, then bent to examine Hollister.

Ryland shook his head. "We can't chance bringing a doctor here. If he needs medical care beyond what you can give him, we'll take him elsewhere. I won't compromise your safety any more than we already have."

Lily glanced up at his face, and noted the glint of steel in his eyes. The absolute resolve. The regret that flickered across his face and was gone.

"Fine. Who witnessed what happened to him?"

"That would be me, ma'am." The voice came out of the darkest corner of the room and nearly made Lily jump out of her skin. She whirled around to see a large man stirring, slowly standing until it seemed a giant was in the room with her. He was tall and heavily muscled, with chestnut hair that gleamed red in the faint light from the lamp. She was shocked at how silent he was as he crossed the room to reach her side. "Ian McGillicuddy, ma'am. Remember me?"

How could she forget? She had read his profile before going to see him but nothing could prepare her for the sheer power radiating from him. His eyes were a dark brown, piercing and intelligent. He moved with a speed and silence that seemed impossible for such a big man. "Yes, of course. I'm glad you're safe, Mr. McGillicuddy."

From somewhere in the darkness there was a humorous snort at her formal use of his name. Lily realized the men were all keeping vigil over their fallen comrade.

"Call me Ian, ma'am. I don't want to have to give any of these boys a lesson in manners."

She looked up at him, at the amusement dancing in his dark eyes. "No, I guess we can't have that. Call me Lily and I'll drop the 'mister.' You want to describe everything you can remember about his condition?"

"He was very pale. Jeff was always outdoors and he had a tan that never went away. We've been locked up and I haven't seen him, but it was a shock to see him so white. He was sweating and he felt clammy to me. He said his head felt like it was going to explode. He kept touching the back of his head when he said it. I could tell he was afraid, and Jeff is fearless. He's one of those kamikaze types that just goes for broke."

"Did he say whether or not he took a sleeping pill?"

Ian shook his head. "No, but he said he just wanted to sleep to escape the pain and dreaming of sand, surf, and home was better than knowing you were dying of a brain bleed. He was worried about slowing us down and kept telling me to leave him."

"Did any of you take a sleeping pill?" Lily asked.

"Hell no, ma'am." A tall man with dark skin and black eyes stepped out of the shadows. "The captain said not to touch anything and we didn't."

"You're Tucker Addison." She remembered his profile. He had served in an antiterrorist unit and had earned several medals. "I need to look at his neck and the back of his head. Would you mind helping Ian roll him gently over?"

"I just wanted to say thank you, Dr. Whitney, for letting us set up a command post and camp here in your home." His hands, as he assisted Ian in turning over Jeff Hollister, were incredibly gentle. He handled the man as if he were a baby.

Lily bent over Jeff Hollister, running her fingers over his skull. His breathing was normal, his pulse steady. His skin was cooler than normal, and the pulse beat hard in his temple, but he appeared to be asleep. She gently pushed the hair from his neck and examined his skin. She couldn't see any visible signs of swelling or outward ruptures. Then the pads of her fingers found the scars: Jeff definitely had receptors behind his ears.

Lily hissed out a swear word as she straightened. "Was he taken to the clinic recently? Had someone other than me visited with him alone?" She was furious. Furious. Her fingers curled into a tight fist. Her father had a lot to answer for.

Ryland stepped up quickly and ran his fingers around Jeff's skull, finding the same scars, feeling his way behind the man's ears. A muscle jerked in his jaw as he stepped back.

Tucker and Ian carefully laid Jeff Hollister back on the sheets. "What is it? What did you find?" Ian asked.

Ryland reached out, and right there, in front of all his men, began to uncurl Lily's fingers. "Jeff was complaining of severe headaches and a couple of days ago they took him to the clinic and supposedly treated him. Jeff said the headaches came back worse than before. He stopped using any form of telepathy. We carried him on the wave to keep him in the loop but told him not to respond unless it was imperative." Ryland carried her hand to his mouth, breathed warm air into the center of her palm. "What is it, Lily? What do you think happened here?"

She pulled away from him abruptly, paced across the room, not appearing to notice as men scattered out of her way. Ryland started to protest but Arly shook his head slightly, indicating the need for silence.

Ryland watched her, the quick, restless movements of her body, the frown on her face. She was far away from them, computing data. While she was busy he took the time to examine his men, running his fingers carefully over every head, searching for telltale scars. He even checked his own head. When he found everyone else was clean, he breathed a small sigh of relief.

"I need to know his talents. What can he do?" Lily asked.

"Jeff can move objects. You have keys to the jailhouse, don't leave them hanging around because he can lift them as sweet as you please," Tucker said. "And he can do the mojo thing."

Startled, Lily blinked, focused on Tucker. "I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the mojo thing."

Tucker shrugged. "He can levitate."

"No, he can't," Ian denied quickly. "No one can really do that. It's a party trick or something and he just likes to gloat."

"He can levitate?" Lily looked to Ryland for confirmation. "How in the world does he do that? And how does that fit in with your abilities?" She had watched the earlier videotapes of the young girls. None of them had ever achieved levitation and she hadn't considered the possibility, or what it could be used for. "What, he just floats in the air?"

"A few inches from the ground. If he hits any higher, it hurts his head. He gets migraines for days," Ryland explained. "Some of the abilities aren't worth the effort needed to use them."

"How much actual practice did all of you put into using your talents?" Lily asked.

It was Kaden who answered. "We trained together as a military unit for several months while Dr. Whitney, your father, put us through a battery of tests. We began training as a psychic team under military conditions. I was a member of the Special Forces-in fact, I went through training with Ryland-but now I'm a civilian, a homicide detective in the police force. I met the criteria, spoke at length with Ryland, and decided to join. Once our abilities were strengthened, we worked well together for some time." He looked at the others for confirmation.

"About three, four months," Ian agreed. "It was amazing. We could do all sorts of things. Talk about a high."

"But were you given exercises to do to shield yourselves from unwanted information and emotion," Lily persisted.

"At first we were doing a tremendous amount of mental exercises but then Colonel Higgens demanded quicker results. He wanted us out on training missions, pitting us against nonpsychic teams," Kaden explained.

"Unfortunately, we wanted the action. Sitting around a little room with wires on our heads was boring," Ryland said. "Your father warned us it was too soon. There were several meetings and in the end, we all compromised. We spent three days out in the field and two with electrodes recording our every move."

Lily paced across the room again. Ryland was beginning to recognize the pent-up emotion in her quick steps. She probably didn't realize she was angry, but her body betrayed the depths of her emotions. "I can't believe he would allow you to get away with that. He knew better than to compromise on safety, especially when he had earlier data."

"Earlier data?" Kaden echoed.

Lily stopped in her tracks as if she'd forgotten they were in the room with her.

Arly deliberately turned the attention away from the subject. "That's what you get for talking to yourself all the time. You think you're having a conversation with yourself."

Lily made a rude noise, easily following his lead. "Does anyone know if Hollister can dreamwalk?" She studiously avoided Ryland's gleaming eyes.

There was a small silence while the men exchanged looks. "Dreamwalking is considered weird mojo just like levitation," Kaden said. He looked around the room, his gaze piercing the darkness. "It's a useless talent."

Ryland shrugged. "Dr. Whitney-the senior Dr. Whitney- said entering into a dream with another person could be dangerous and discouraged us from exploring it."

"You've tried it?" Kaden asked. "You should have told me, Ryland. You know the number one rule is to always have an anchor. Whitney drilled that into us. You drilled that into us."

"Taik about weird mojo," Tucker murmured.

Ryland sighed. "I discovered I could do it by accident. I talked to Dr. Whitney and he was adamant that it was too dangerous to bother with. At the time I asked him if any of the others could walk in dreams and he said one or two." He looked around the room. "Has anyone else tried it?"

There was a faint movement in the corner on the far side of the room. All eyes turned to confront the man sitting silently in the deepest shadows. She had the impression of darkness and raw strength. Of something lethal stirring dangerously. She tried to see his features, but the dim light from the lamp couldn't quite reach him.

"Nico?" Ryland prompted. "Are you able to walk in dreams?"

"I have always been able to walk in dreams." The voice matched the image, sending a shiver of fear trailing down Lily's spine. She knew who he was. Nicolas Trevane. Born and raised on a reservation until his tenth year. Lived another ten years in Japan. A sniper for the military with more medals than she could count and more kills than she wanted to know about. She remembered his eyes tracking her as he sat perfectly still in the center of his cage. Even behind bars he had unnerved her, giving the distinct impression of a dangerous predator simply waiting his chance.

"My father said 'one or two' others. If Ryland and Mr. Trevane can both walk in dreams, and no one else is admitting to it, there's a possibility that Mr. Hollister can also walk in dreams," Lily mused aloud. She was already moving toward the door, pushing her way through the group of men.

"Lily," Ryland said sharply, "where are you going?"

She stopped, surprise blossoming. "I'm sorry-watch him, his pulse is strong and he's breathing normally. I need to do a little research. I don't want to chance trying to wake him if it isn't safe. So let him be, just watch him closely."

Ryland went out the door with her, following her down the hall. "Talk to me, Lily-what's going on with him? What do you suspect?"

"I think someone may have pulsed electricity into his brain, delivering a concentrated surge on a small spot." She walked quickly, her mind turning over the various possibilities. "I have to have more information to make any kind of a logical assessment, but I've had my suspicions. Brain bleeds are a side effect, although rare."

Ryland caught her arm, halting her progress, forcing her to face him. "Stop a minute and explain this to me. I'm sorry I'm not keeping up here, but if you think someone is shocking my men, giving them some kind of electric lobotomy, I think it's important for me to know." Ryland gave her a little shake. "What have they done to my men?"

"I don't honestly know, Ryland. I have a few suspicions but what's the point in making unfounded accusations?"

"Where are you going?" His silver eyes were glittering with a turbulence that suggested a storm was brewing just beneath the surface.

Lily waited a heartbeat before answering, disturbed by his tone. "I just told you, I need more information. I intend to consult my father's notes." She tried to keep annoyance out of her voice, acknowledging he had every right to be upset over further potential threats to his men. She knew she was often abrupt and clipped when her mind was elsewhere. Arly reminded her often enough and had pointed out the same behavior in her father.

Ryland's palm curled around the nape of her neck and he drew her close against his hard strength. "I'd like some sort of explanation whether it's technical or not. I'm not a complete idiot, Lily, and I have the right to assess the threat to the men."

Lily let her breath out slowly, took his face between her hands. "If I gave you the impression that I didn't think you could understand, I apologize. I have a tendency to get lost in my work and forget what's going on around me. For that matter, anyone or anything around me."

Ryland simply bent his head to hers and took possession of her mouth. Time stood still. The walls fell away as he whirled her out of the boundaries of the world and into the stars. Her arms circled his neck, her body molding immediately to his.

"I always thought," Arly said loudly, coming up behind them, "that making out in a hallway was the kind of thing teenagers do."

Ryland took his time, making a thorough job of kissing Lily. When he reluctantly lifted his head, his gaze shifted to Arly. "Interesting point of view, but in my opinion, kissing Lily anywhere, anytime is a must."

Lily made a face at Arly as she moved past him toward the long winding staircase that led to the lower stories. "I wouldn't know, Arly, never having gone to school as a teenager and never having kissed in hallways."

Ryland kept pace with her. "For someone without the necessary experience I'd still have to rate you excellent at kissing in hallways."

"Thank you," Lily replied demurely. "I'm certain I could have done much better had Arly given me a few more minutes."

"Oh, no, you were fine," Ryland reassured her. "I was just reminding you I was around. Hallway or not, I wanted you to remember my existence."

Lily laughed softly, but her smile was already fading as she turned to hurry down the stairs.

Ryland watched the distant look return to her face and sighed. Arly shook his head. "She's brilliant, you know. She's like a machine if you feed her data. There are very few people in the world who can do that."

Ryland nodded his agreement but his frown remained. "It's a little hard on a man's ego."

"She's someone special, Miller. Different in ways you can't imagine. And she's chosen you." Arly looked the man up and down. Took in the battered, scarred hands, evidence of fights, the muscular, stocky body and rough-hewn face. "Aside from the fact that you're probably on the FBI's most wanted list, do you have any other qualifications I might want to know about?"

"Qualifications?" Ryland echoed. "Are you asking me in a roundabout way my intentions?"

"Not yet." Arly was honest. "First I wanted to find out if I even want you to state your intentions. I haven't decided. I might still throw you out."

"I see. You have something against the military?"

"Aside from the fact that you're probably an adrenaline junkie or you wouldn't have gone anywhere near the Special Forces or Dr. Whitney and his crazy experiment? Or that guys like you wind up dead because you never learn enough is enough? Or that you go through women like water?" Arly indicated Ryland's hands with his chin. "And that you've probably seen the inside of more than one jail because you get in fights."

Ryland whistled softly. "Tell me what you really think, don't spare my feelings."

"I had no intention of sparing your feelings. Lily is like a daughter to me. She's my family. You'll find the members of this household love her and will go to any lengths to protect her. And she's rich beyond your wildest dreams. She doesn't need a gold digger trying to waltz in and sweep her off her feet with a few practiced kisses."

"Now you're getting on very thin ice," Ryland warned. "I don't have any desire for Lily's money. As far as I'm concerned she can give it away to charity. I'm perfectly capable of providing for us."

Arly's eyebrow shot up. "You're arrogant on top of everything else. Great. That's going to mesh really well with her delightful personality." He was silent for a few steps, obviously debating how to say his piece. "Lily isn't like everyone else, Miller. She has special needs and her brain requires constant information to work on. Without it, she doesn't do well. Just as your men all will require special circumstances in their choice of homes and work environment, so does Lily. I'm telling you this because when all's said and done, I think you really are sincere and she's so damned stubborn I couldn't persuade her away from you if she's made up her mind."

"I know she's going to require care."

"Not care, Miller. This house. These walls. People like me around her, who don't drain her energy and batter her day and night with unwanted emotion. She thrives because her father saw to it that she would. You can't take her away from here for very long."

"She said there were others. They would be women now, what about them? How did they survive without the benefits of Whitney's money and his protected environment?" Ryland asked curiously.

Arly swallowed several times before replying. Finally he shook his head helplessly. "I have no idea about any other women. I look after Lily and that's all I can handle."

They had to hurry down the stairs and through the maze of corridors to catch Lily. She had halted at the door to her father's office. Lily punched in the code to unlock it and hesitated, looking around carefully. "Are you certain no cameras were placed in this area, Arly? And you did a sweep of my father's office again, didn't you?"

"A few hours ago, after the day help went home," Arly admitted. "That's where we're most vulnerable. We need the staff, but they aren't necessarily loyal to the estate. It won't matter how much we pay them, if they're offered more, they'll give out information and maybe even go so far as to snoop in the areas off limits or drop little listening devices."

"I've set up a command post on the third floor," Ryland said. "We mapped out several escape routes, going up to the roof and down to the tunnels. Thanks for the motion detectors, Arly. Those certainly make the men feel more secure."

"You can't leave the parameters I gave you," Arly cautioned. "We can't guarantee safety if you do. Lily tells me she's going to work with you and the others to prepare all of you for the outside environment and hopefully minimize the risks of complications. In the meantime, you'll have to realize the day staff is our greatest security risk."

Lily stepped back to allow the two men to precede her into the office. She wanted to ensure the door was locked. Arly had changed the security code on the off chance another intruder might get into the house.

"I'm going to monitor the house from my rooms," Arly announced. "Will you be all right?" He pointedly ignored Ryland to ask the question of Lily.

"I think Captain Miller knows all sorts of hand-to-hand things," she quipped.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Arly said. In a rare show of affection he leaned down to kiss her cheek. "You aren't wearing your watch. And you're looking tired. Maybe you ought to sleep for a few hours before getting involved in your research, Lily."

"This can't wait, Arly, but thank you for worrying. I'll go to bed as soon as I can and I'll sleep all day."

"And wear your watch."

Lily hugged his thin body close to her. "Don't worry about me, Arly."

Ryland watched the older man go. "He's a tough guy when it comes to you. He gave me the second degree. I had the feeling he might turn me in himself if he thought I was up to no good." He watched with interest as Lily went to the grandfather clock and did something he couldn't see with the hour hand. To his astonishment the front of the clock moved forward to reveal a hidden chamber in the wall. Then he found himself staring at an opening in the floor.

"Does the house have many of these rooms?" He followed her down the steep, narrow staircase. His shoulders brushed the walls on either side.

"Well, if you mean are there passageways, yes, and hidden rooms, but there is no evidence of this stairway. It's sandwiched between two of the basements' walls. It leads beneath the basements underground and I don't believe it was in the blueprints, so my father's laboratory is very secret. He has up-to-date equipment in it along with an entire library of documentation on his earlier experiment as well as with you and your men."

"Explain to me about the electricity pulses, Lily. I need to understand what Jeff is up against." Ryland stared around the laboratory, amazed at the meticulous detailing of Peter Whitney's private lab. He shouldn't have been. Research was Whitney's life and he had the money to indulge his needs, but the equipment could only have been found in the best research centers.

"The entire idea of brain bleeds as a side effect bothers me," Lily said as she began to scan dates on the neat collection of disks. "Everyone seems to accept it as normal but it isn't. It would be incredibly rare. Seizures would have to be massive and continuous to cause the bleeds. And what's bringing the seizures on? Prolonged exposure to highly emotional waves of energy? Using telepathy without an anchor, or a safeguard? That could happen, the brain is overtaxed, too much garbage getting in, but it would more likely produce severe migraines. I've been functioning for years overstimulated by emotions and unwanted information. Yes, I get migraines and it's very draining but I don't seize and I don't have brain bleeds."

"I still don't know what that means. We've lost two men to brain hemorrhages; at least that's what we were told happened to them."

Lily inserted a disk into the computer. "My father tried using small pulses of electricity to stimulate brain activity in his initial experiments. He surgically planted electrodes directly on the areas he wanted enhanced. The microelectrodes recorded action generated by individual neurons. The electrical signals were amplified, filtered, and could be displayed visually and even converted to sounds through an audiometer."

"He was watching the brain waves react?" Ryland watched the data flashing over the screen at a rate he couldn't follow but even while talking, Lily seemed to be computing it. He watched the expressions chasing across her face, interest, a frown, a slight pause as she shook her head, then more data.

"And listening to them. Neurons have characteristic patterns of activity which can be both visualized and heard." She murmured the information absently, peering more closely at the screen.

"Damn it, Lily! Are you telling me we have something planted in our brains along with everything else done to us? No one agreed to that." He rubbed his throbbing temples, fury swirling in his gut.

"Jeff Hollister has evidence of surgery. But I can't imagine Dad repeating such a terrible mistake-one of the rare side effects he found long ago was brain bleeds and he determined it wasn't worth the results."

"So you think we all have these things implanted?" He couldn't help rubbing his hands over his head again and again searching for scars. The idea sickened him.

Lily shook her head. "It's a complex procedure. They would have had to fit him with a headframe which they'd attach to his skull and to a table. It has to be done with the patient awake, so he would have known it was being done. A computer is used for the exact imaging. It's very precise, Ryland, someone would have to know what they were doing."

Ryland swore again under his breath, pacing away and then back to her.

"If someone were arranging accidents or trying to make the psychic experiment appear a failure, they could have done something to any of you in the surgery unit at Donovans. They're certainly equipped for it."

"What? Sabotage?" Ryland swept a hand through his hair. "Damn them."

Lily shrugged. "Most of the time this type of conspiracy involves money. Or politics. If it could be made to look as if all of you were at risk on the outside, and you couldn't be used for military purposes, but in truth, the enhancement worked without too many complications, the information could easily be sold to a foreign nation."

"How would someone know about electrodes in the head causing brain bleeds? I didn't know," Ryland admitted. "If Higgens is behind this, how would he know?"

" Thornton would know." At his puzzled frown she explained. "The president of Donovans. A few years ago doctors began research on a project using deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease. The idea certainly has merit and other researchers were very interested to see what else the process might be used for. Thornton and I had a long discussion about it a few months ago. I remember because he was so interested in the procedure and its uses. And if Dad mentioned he'd thought of it and dismissed the idea as too dangerous, that might have triggered interest right there if they were looking for a way to sabotage the experiment."

She sounded so fascinated it annoyed him. "Damn it, Lily, is there a possibility we have electrodes in our brains and we can't feel them? And if we do, how are they messing with us?"

"There would be evidence, Ryland. Also, Dad stated absolutely he wouldn't risk repeating the problems associated with the first experiment, even though now he would be able to map a target site with pinpoint accuracy." She looked at him. "The autopsy report was done at Donovans and Dad didn't believe it. He suspected someone was tampering with you and your men, but he wasn't certain. Look at this, Ryland." She peered at the screen. "Dad tried repeatedly to speak to General Ranier, in fact, had several conversations with his aide, apparently recorded on Dad's side, so the tapes are here somewhere. Ranier never called him back. Dad sent four letters and various emails to him and not one was answered." She tapped the computer. "It's all right here in his journals. General Ranier is a family friend. I had no idea Dad tried to contact him so often."

Ryland paced across the floor, swearing under his breath. Lily was swaying with exhaustion, the dark circles under her eyes more pronounced than ever. He wanted to gather her into his arms and hold her to him. Carry her to her bed and curve his body around hers protectively. His hands came down on her shoulders in a soothing massage. "You need to lie down for a while, Lily. You should go to bed. If Jeff is safe for the time being, then you should just get some sleep."

"I am tired," she admitted. "I just have a few more things to look at here and then I'll check on Jeff one more time."

"How would they deliver the electricity?" Ryland asked curiously.

She scanned the third disk quickly, stopping twice to silently absorb the more technical material. "If it was legitimate, you'd wear a small power pack, much like a pacemaker. You'd switch it on yourself. It's magnetic. The smallest pulse possible for results would be delivered. None of you have a power pack so if it happened to Jeff, the electrodes were placed without his real knowledge or consent of what they were doing and then he would have been subjected to a magnetic high frequency delivered by an outside source. I'm hypothesizing, Ryland, I'm not certain how or even if it could be done for certain."

"Why? What would be the point of doing that to him?"

"To kill him of course." Lily shut down the computer. "Come on. Let's go check on him. It's been a long night."

He took her hand. "And a longer day," he agreed.

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