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Will didn't even glance at her, or answer right away. It was as though he actually considered her question. He seemed off-kilter since the crash - more than he should have been - but she wasn't sure why. Continuing to stare at the cave ceiling with a vacant look in his eye, Will threaded his fingers behind his head and he laid on his back close to the fire.
After a moment, his blue eyes glanced at her. His pale skin had healed and only a trace of stubble on his jaw marred the smoothness. Will's voice was low and serious when he finally spoke, "Maybe, but it's the only way to ensure we survive." He took a deep breath, adding as he looked away from her, "You and I are linked. Can't you feel it? Do you know what that means?" He pressed his eyes closed and focused on controlling the hammering of his heart. Will knew damn well what it meant.
Kahli shook her head, her bright hair falling over her shoulders, "I'm not sure anymore. Some things I learned about as a child were nothing but legends, while other things seem to be true." Her brow pinched together as she thought about it. The world was different than she thought. Before she met Will, she'd never seen a Bane or even heard of one. In the short time since they fought the wolves at the Empire house, she'd learned that nothing was as she thought. Her world had been filled with hunting and killing Trackers, trying to find any shred of evidence that her mother was still alive. The best scrap of information came from the King, but since he was trying to rip her throat out at the time, Kahli didn't get to ask questions. She considered Will and his question, deciding that there must be more to it - that their linking must have been what was making him act so unusually.
After a moment, Kahli shrugged, adding, "Besides, what I knew was about vampires and you're not one. Not totally. A linking is something that happens between a vampire and the consort. You're not a pure vampire."
His gaze cut to hers. It met and held, making Kahli's stomach twist. The intensity of that look made her shiver inside. She tried not to think anything, not consider how she felt about him.
"It doesn't matter," Will replied. "It's enough. Being Bane doesn't shelter me from the effects of your blood. While it healed and strengthened me, it also connected us. When I came to, I saw you bleeding out on the ice." He sucked in air, but there was never enough - not when he was thinking about Kahli with the massive hole in her neck. Will sat up, and stared into the fire. "I had no choice."
"What are you saying?" Kahli asked.
Will's eyes darted up and met hers. He didn't want to say it, he didn't want her to know, but she had to. If he didn't tell her, she would figure it out at some point anyway. It was impossible to hide. Even now, he could see she sensed something was bothering him, that he wasn't acting the same - and after that - how could he?
"When I tried to heal you nothing worked," Will explained. "I slashed my hand and poured my blood over your wound, but it was too deep. You'd already lost so much blood. I couldn't wake you and your body was so cold, Kahli. I thought I lost you." His voice was barely a whisper by the time he stopped speaking. The sadness in his eyes was palpable. He held her gaze, softly, like he wanted to apologize for so many things, things he couldn't say. He glanced away and said it, "I did what I had to do. I couldn't lose you again."
The golden light from the fire flickered softly as it bathed Will's face in rich tones. She'd never seen him look so haunted. A premonition crept through Kahli, making her skin prickle. Her lips were parted as she listened. Horror filled her veins with ice, creeping up her spine. He did something to her, something he regretted and now they're linked. Is that what he's saying? It can't be.
"What did you do?" she asked, but she already knew. Her revulsion to him, to vampires, to their kind was tantamount in a single act. Her heart pounded, slamming into her ribs as she waited for an answer. When she couldn't take it anymore, she said, "Tell me, Will. Now."
"We're blood bound, Kahli. You fed me your blood to save me. I did the same thing - " he couldn't look at her when he said it, and turned his face back to the fire. "I force-fed you my blood, enough of it to heal the wound and keep you alive."
Kahli knew it. She could feel him, Will's thoughts, brushing against the inside of her mind. It was like a subtle breeze, one that barely lifted a wisp of hair, but could still be felt as it slipped across her skin. Once Kahli recognized the sensation, it didn't matter what she did, she couldn't push him out - she couldn't make it stop.
"That's what this is?" she asked, her finger pointing to her temple. "That's what I feel?"
Will stared into the fire watching the red and gold flames flicker. Kahli got to her feet and stood, moving away from him, horrified. He could feel it. He could feel everything.
"You can feel me? My thoughts?" The statement fell from her lips in a hushed whisper. Her heart was pounding so hard. Could he feel that, too? Did he know how terrified she was right then?
Glancing up at her, Will nodded once. "I can. But it's not one-directional. My thoughts are visible to you, especially if I'm emotionally agitated, like now. It's more than a sensation, Kahli. The blood linked us. I can see your thoughts. Your dreams flicker behind my eyes when you sleep. It's a direct link to your mind, and mine."
Kahli's face blanched. "Linked us?" Will nodded. The pit of her stomach felt hollow. Kahli wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling them tighter to make the panic stop. There was no way being linked to Will was ideal, but there was another vampire she was concerned about, "And the King? Are we linked the same way?"
"Not unless you drank his blood."
Relief washed over her and the death-grip on her arms loosened a little. Kahli leaned forward slightly, taking a breath, and shook her head saying, "Thank, God."
"Indeed," Will replied. He stood and walked over to her, stopping just out of reach. "However, you have to realize, that had to be the King's intention. If your blood wasn't so powerful, they would have consumed more. That's what I couldn't tell you before. The first drops the magistrate consumed nearly had fatal side-effects. They weren't used to human blood like yours. You nearly killed them, which is why I'm concerned about the King. He drank from you, didn't he? I mean, he didn't just rip open your throat and not taste you, right?"
Kahli's stomach twisted when she thought about it. "The King was hard to resist. I couldn't think around him. It felt like I was drugged." A flush reddened her cheeks. Will was watching her, but she couldn't look at him as she said it. "He bit me, and I let him."
She pressed her lips together hard, her gaze vacant like she was reliving the nightmare, and she was. The images and sensations blazed brilliantly in her mind, making her shiver in response. Kahli smoothed her hands over her arms, trying to chase away the fear. She stared into space as she spoke, "For a second, I was able to think. I don't know why. I realized what was happening and that if I didn't do something..." she sucked in a breath and looked up at him. "I stabbed him, Will. The King wasn't at my neck for very long, but he did drink from me - way more than a drop."
After everything that had happened, she didn't want to second-guess Will, but they were connected now and it didn't make her feel more secure. It made her feel vulnerable. He knew exactly what she was thinking. He could sense her thoughts and had access to everything inside of her mind. It wasn't something she wanted with anyone. Ever. It was too much. There was no time to process things, no time to react to what had happened. They'd both been so close to death. While losing Will wasn't an option, she didn't mean for this to happen, either. It was partly her fault that they were linked. Kahli wondered if Will could sense her apprehension mingling with the cold fear in the pit of her stomach. It was trying to creep up her throat and choke her. Her fingers clamped down onto her forearms harder, trying to contain the panic that was rapidly growing.
Will placed his hands on her arms, and looked down into her eyes. His voice, earnest, pleading almost, "I won't hurt you. I promise."
Kahli's chest tightened. He knew what she was thinking. "Why can't I read your thoughts so easily? I feel you there, inside of me," she lifted a hand, pressing her fingers to her temple and looked up at him, "but your thoughts are muddled. I can feel them, like breath on my skin, but there's no meaning - just feelings without words."
"I can control the link a little a bit. While you slept, I had time to figure out how to seal off my thoughts. As long as I control it, you won't hear my musings, like I hear yours." As he said it, Kahli started to twist out of his grip, but he held onto her. "Please, don't look at me like that. I didn't do this on purpose. I couldn't lose you. I did it to save you. Please, you have to trust me on that."
"You're asking me to trust you - completely and totally - but you've shut me out of your head, meanwhile you can rummage through mine whenever you like?" They were nose to nose, Will's fingers tightly gripping her arms, holding her in place.
"It's not like that."
"Then, what's it like? Because it's like that for me" She looked into his face, breathless. Her heart pounded like she'd been running, and was unable to catch her breath, "Will, how am I supposed to trust you? Normally, trust is earned. Things and thoughts are shared. Friends confide in each other. There's no way for me to do that with you. You just know everything. It gives you power that I don't have. It's not a friendship anymore. I don't know what it is, but the linking has changed things. You can see a million things that can paralyze me. How do I know you won't use them against me?"
His voice was beseeching, "Trust me like you did before. Nothing's changed with that."
"You're wrong!" she said. "Everything has changed. You know everything about me and I know next to nothing about you." Pressing her eyes closed, she snapped her mouth shut and looked away. The tension in her arms kept her muscles corded tight, but she no longer tried to pull out of his grip. There was something about having his hands on her that she liked. She could feel his strength, his desire to protect her, but Kahli couldn't get past the link. A one-sided extension of trust wasn't a friendship. She would have never told him some of the things she knew he could see. Her heart constricted like a hand was squeezing it in her chest.
"What do you want me to do? Kahli, I'll do it. Anything." Will looked at her smooth skin, as she tried to get control over her emotions. They pounded into him. He knew how much she wanted to run away from him. He could feel it.