Lesson one—don’t piss off your controller. Trouble staggered up from where Avery had thrown her, certain her backside would be black and blue in the morning. Not from the impact, but the rage she could feel burning through her, generated by Avery. It promised they’d have an intense workout—a very intense workout—and Avery had only started.
“I said focus.”
She wanted to stick her tongue out, but the juvenile act would certainly be rewarded with another trip to the hard floor. She staggered to her feet and put her fists up. “I was focusing.”
“Not enough,” he said, projecting his thoughts to her.
“Stop that. I’m sick of you being in my head. For once, talk like a normal person.”
“I told you to use telepathy, and we’re not normal. Were linked and expected to use that link.”
“Gods! You fucking piss me off.”
The band tightened around her head, dropping her to her knees and wrenching the rebellion right out of her. “Don’t bring that filth to my temple,” he growled.
“Ease up. I was kidding.” Trouble placed a hand to her forehead and rubbed. The pressure released.
Avery had this thing about bodies and temples, and it hadn’t taken her long to learn he worshipped his. The man didn’t eat anything unhealthy, he exercised several times a day, and he didn’t like cursing. It wasn’t that he was religious—he wasn’t. There were just some things he couldn’t abide and cursing was one of them. Gods, she’d give anything to know the story behind that. A killer with manners—who’d have known?
“I told you, I don’t have a sense of humor.”
“I thought you said to use telepathy?” Trouble couldn’t help goading him. She’d take her digs, when she could, but not without cost. Sometimes it was worth it—sometimes she should have left well enough alone. This time, she was feeling lucky, or perhaps it was his anger fueling her recklessness.
“I’m running out of patience, Devoe. When I start talking, it’s time for you to shut up and focus.”
Trouble dropped to her side, sucking in a deep breath. “Alright, I get it. I need to be a good little girl or you’re going to spank my a…”
“Don’t say it.”
Trouble clamped her mouth shut, knowing pushing it any further could make for a more miserable day. Avery would make sure she paid for her attitude.
And oh the many ways he could make her pay. Who thought EOD training would include long distance running, which he claimed was to build endurance for working on planets with a weak atmosphere, or strong gravity—or martial arts, since EOD was considered a primary target for anyone who didn’t want their bomb disarmed—or telepathy, designed to make her insane?
“It won’t make you insane if you learn how to use it, and the only way you’re going to learn, is to use it.”
“Oh, you read thoughts too. Swell.”
“I don’t have to read your thoughts, Devoe, when you project them at me like that. Conversation—over. Focus.”
“Aye, sir.” Crushing pressure filled her head and she rolled to her hands and knees, using all her willpower to avoid crying out. Okay, she shouldn’t have pushed. Sometimes her mouth—brain, ran away from her.
Trouble climbed to her feet and braced her hands on her knees, doing her best to catch her breath.
“Put up your guard.”
Back to verbal commands. Fantastic. What was it he said? When he started talking it was time for her to shut up and do what he told her? Prick. She lifted her chin and glared at the bane of her existence. That’s when he caught her with a roundhouse kick to her jaw, sending her flying back to the hard floor with a loud oomph. Trouble blinked and stared at the ceiling, stunned, with little stars circling her head. The room did the wave and she blinked again, bringing it back into focus. Ouch.
She turned her head and Avery lay flat on his back, staring at the ceiling as she had been. Not without cost. Every lesson was a lesson for Avery too. Looking at his pain brought a smile to her face. Served him right.
“How’d that feel, big guy?”
“Wonderful.” He drew his knees to his chest and snapped to his feet. Avery cocked his head from side-to-side, cracking his neck in the process. “Get up.”
“Can we give it a break and practice basket weaving or something?”
Trouble climbed to her feet. “I hate you.”
“Okay. Now focus some of that into your attack and quit being a Sally.”
“First, tell me why we have to be linked if it makes us so vulnerable?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Don’t you get it? It’s the LOP’s way of ensuring our cooperation. You’re linked to me because of your crime—running. I’m linked to you because of my crime—mutiny. The punishment was designed to fit the offense. You can’t run no matter how bad you want, and if I don’t keep you alive and under control, I die. So suck it up princess and put your guard up. This is going to hurt me as much as it does you.”