Falls Church, Virginia
Establishing a telepathic link with his sister, Ray Burton brought the tiered lecture hall into focus. Aurora fidgeted, obviously sensing his uninvited presence. Ray ignored the sunny salon physically surrounding him and concentrated on the images forming within his mind.
Is there something wrong with your video phone? she grumbled. I can stream her image to you.
And have Delano go off on me again? Ray shuddered. I don't think so. Delano had been furious when he'd opened last month's phone bill. Ever practical Delano hadn't seen the humor in the exorbitant charges. Look from side to side. Give me some perspective.
Despite her mental objection, Aurora swept the room with an assessing stare. She sat halfway up in the auditorium and slightly right of center. A perfect vantage point, but where was the subject of his curiosity?
Is she often late?
Nope. Laughter chimed through Aurora's tone. She must have known you were coming.
Before Ray could respond to her smartass remark, the door at the far end of the hall swung open.
Aurora closed her eyes.
That's not funny! Ray gave her the mental equivalent of a shake. Her lids lifted. A tall, broad-shouldered man walked across the room and set a stack of folders on the table centered in the presentation area. Ray groaned. Who the hell is he?
He's a grad student, used to play football, but wasn't good enough to turn pro. Now he's Professor Lamar's assistant.
Ray snorted. I never would have guessed.
Do you think she has him do more than grade papers?
Tension knotted Ray's gut at the thought. He had yet to meet Chelsea Lamar, but every instinct he possessed told him she was the one.
Yeah, Sam was certain too and look how that turned out. At this intensity, their telepathic link transmitted thoughts and emotions as well as images. If he tried to conceal his thoughts, Aurora would realize her comment upset him, so he let her feel his frustration, his restlessness. You better leave the final decision to Delano. He's still capable of thinking with his head.
As much as he hated to admit it, Aurora was right. He couldn't afford to be rash and reckless, even if those were his primary personality traits.
The door swung open again and Chelsea strode into the lecture hall. Ray's heartbeat accelerated and blood rushed to his groin. Aurora's description hadn't begun to do Chelsea justice. Her tailored slacks draped stylishly over curvaceous hips and an ivory silk blouse showcased her full breasts.
Damn. Why didn't you tell me she was so delectable?
I'm not much of a judge when it comes to female delectability.
He took control of Aurora's gaze and admired Chelsea's lush breasts. He could detect a lacy bra beneath the sheer silk and the faintest shadow of her nipples.
Cut it out! What if someone catches me staring at her boobs?
Ray eased off, focusing on Chelsea's heart-shaped face. Framed by sleek golden brown hair, her smooth skin glowed with a rosy blush. Slim nose, wide, thick-lashed gray-green eyes, each feature complemented the others.
"Sorry I'm late. My car died out on the Beltway." Her well modulated voice played over Ray's senses, caressing him, arousing him.
"Hello." Sam, Ray's brother, shook his chair, disrupting his concentration. "Is anybody in there?"
Ray eased out of Aurora's mind and the spacious salon refocused. His chair faced the massive windows looking out over the backyard. For generations the Burton family had occupied this house. Their unique needs made privacy necessary, not just preferable.
"Where were you just now?" Sam asked.
"Sneaking a peek at Chelsea Lamar."
A smile bowed Sam's lips. "Then you're thinking about doing it? Has Delano agreed?"
"Delano has no idea what I'm up to, and I have no intention of telling him."
"What?" Sam's incredulous expression made Ray laugh. "You have to tell him. Don't be ridiculous."
Ray stood and raked a hand through his hair. "He's been unapproachable since the debacle with Thane and Kelly. Not that he was especially congenial before."
"No one blames him for what happened. He tried to warn us. We wouldn't listen." Sam shook his head. Late afternoon sunlight shone in his wavy blond hair. "Convince him to conduct a Discernment. If I'd accepted --"
"He won't do it. He hasn't accessed any of his abilities since Thane went into seclusion. That's why my plan is our only hope."
"You're crazy. No, he'll go crazy. You can't spring this on him."
"You should see her, Sam. She's perfect. I'm not wasting this opportunity because Delano is in a snit."
Sam shook his head, scrubbing his chin with his hand. "There has to be a better way."
"Maybe. And maybe I'll turn gray waiting for Delano to pull his head out of his ass. My flight for Chimera leaves tomorrow morning. Delano will just have to deal."