Sequel to Unspeakable WordsThe Sixth Sense: Book Two
Six months after starting their hunt for a serial killer who is still at large, FBI agents Jerry Lee Parker and John Flynn are partners in every sense. But Jerry has serious doubts about their relationship and whether they would even be together if not for the way Flynn changed after touching a mysterious artifact in a museum.
Flynn hates the extraordinary power bestowed on him by the artifact and wants nothing more than to have a normal life again. Jerry fears that without the unusual connection they forged, Flynn will no longer want or need him. Chasing after a similar artifact takes them back to Flynn's old stomping grounds in Washington D.C., where his newfound abilities uncover long-buried secrets, the kind people would kill to protect. But they aren't the only ones looking for these powerful relics, and what they discover will threaten their relationship—and their lives.
2015 Rainbow Awards Best Gay Paranormal Romance Runner-Up
JERRY BOOKMARKED his place on the Kindle and powered it down, resting it in his lap. He glanced at his watch. They had at least two more hours of flight time. Outside the small window, the sky was unrelieved black, without even the lights of cities below to indicate they were moving. The plane was supposed to land at midnight, East Coast time, which would only be 9:00 p.m. by Jerry’s internal clock. Not bad, for a change. They might even get to bed at a reasonable hour for once. For FBI agents, that was a rarity.
He glanced at Flynn, who sat with his eyes closed, his hands folded over a large, bulky copy of Don Quixote. The earbuds to the iPod screwed firmly into each ear blocked the ambient sound around him and helped mute the internal dialogues only Flynn could hear. He appeared to be asleep, for which Jerry was grateful. If Flynn could sleep on the plane, then he was handling being stuck with so many strangers better than Jerry hoped. The barricades of book and music must be working. There had been a time when the thought of locking Flynn up on a plane for a cross-country flight was unthinkable. Like everything else since Flynn had accidentally developed telepathy, they’d had to work through it. Initially, Flynn couldn’t even leave Jerry’s apartment without nearly having a breakdown. Now, Flynn resembled nothing more than a professional traveler who preferred to be left alone. Which was a good thing. An FBI agent who’d developed a phobia about mass transportation wasn’t going to last long in the field, no matter how outstanding his record was.
Jerry had asked about Don Quixote when the massive tome first appeared. Flynn had merely shrugged and said he’d never read it. Flynn was an enigma at times. An e-reader would have made more sense.
“I like books I can hold,” Flynn had said, and the subject had been dropped.
He couldn’t help but feel a little perverse pride in having a hot boyfriend who read anything besides Sports Illustrated, let alone something like Don Quixote. With Flynn asleep, Jerry could feast his eyes on just how smoking his boyfriend was without having Flynn frown and punch him in the arm. The man was just so damned good-looking. Though if Jerry had been asked to say why, he’d have been hard pressed to put it into words. It might be the way Flynn always looked slightly disreputable, even now, when he was closely shaved and wearing a nice suit. There was an indefinable air of danger and ruthlessness about him. Not for the first time, it occurred to Jerry that Flynn would have made a good James Bond. Unfortunately, Flynn had brayed like a donkey when Jerry’s thoughts had leaked through to him, and Jerry had made a point of keeping that particular image to himself ever since.
Maybe the perpetual bad boy look came from the persistent suggestion of stubble on his face, or the world-weary air with which he wore his suit. It might be the clean lines of his bone structure or the prominence of his Adam’s apple. It could be the irrepressible cowlicks in his dark hair or the odd shape of his ears. Somehow, it all added up to the impression that Flynn was the kind of guy who got his man in the end.
Jerry admired the view a little too long. Or maybe he was a little too appreciative in his thinking. As expected, Flynn opened his eyes and glanced at Jerry. He grabbed hold of one thin, green cable and gave it a sharp tug, popping the earbud out to land on his lap. Hazel eyes, another one of Flynn’s excellent features, narrowed in a glare.
“My ears are not oddly shaped,” he said, looking like a disgruntled little boy. It was another thing Jerry loved about Flynn; he could change from jaded FBI agent to unrepentant schoolboy to sensual lover all in the blink of an eye.
Whatever you say, Legolas. Jerry fired off the mental comeback effortlessly, knowing Flynn would continue the conversation as though he’d said the words aloud. His accompanying grin grew wider as a flush highlighted Flynn’s cheekbones.
Flynn shifted slightly in his seat and looked Jerry squarely in the eye. “What?” Flynn asked with a Spock-like eyebrow before lowering his voice slightly. “You’re not even going to pretend to put that one in the soundproof booth?”
“Nope. I don’t want the booth to be full when I need to store the really important stuff.” Back when all of this had started, Jerry had developed a means of blocking his thoughts from Flynn by putting them in a sort of mental “soundproof booth.” It had been essential for him to screen his thoughts in order to live with and love someone as unusual as John Flynn. Sometimes you had to block your thoughts from your telepathic boyfriend if you wanted to maintain a healthy relationship.
Flynn rolled his eyes before opening his book again. The concentration with which he stared at the page told Jerry Flynn was working hard to maintain his shields, and it was becoming a bit of a strain during the long flight.
Not much longer. We’ll land in Dulles before you know it.
Flynn acknowledged the thought with a silent nod, not looking up from his book.
Most days, Jerry was completely comfortable around Flynn. After all, he trusted the man with his life. At times it felt as though he could read Flynn’s mind in return, the two of them worked, lived, and loved so closely now. A small whisper of doubt flickered in Jerry’s mind, one that had been cropping up more and more lately. Maybe too close? It was possible to know too much about a person; he knew that. There were times he could see past John Flynn’s gorgeous features and note the small bags under his eyes or the tiny threads of silver just starting to show at his temples. There were times when Jerry resented the fact that Flynn knew everything he was thinking; in contrast, Flynn was often a closed book. These were observations Jerry couldn’t always shut out in time. They were the sort of thoughts everyone had, no matter how much they loved another person. Unkind, ungenerous thoughts that were there and gone before Jerry could register they should be screened.
Jerry really didn’t want to know what the average person on the street was thinking. It had to be appalling, some of the shit Flynn had to filter on a daily basis.
Flynn could be having similar thoughts about him all the time, and Jerry would never know it. Did Flynn ever look at him and wonder what he was doing with a desk-jockey FBI agent with a love of food and a need to work hard to keep it from showing up on his waistline? Did he ever wonder why, after the past six months together, Jerry still thought of him primarily as “Flynn”?
He should ask him about that letter.
Hah. As if. The letter, obviously forwarded several times, had arrived at the apartment that morning, just before they’d left for the airport. Flynn had opened it, scanned it briefly, and tossed it into the trash with a vehement “Fuck, no!”
“Problems?” Jerry had asked, not wanting to pry, but seriously, how could one ignore that?
“High school reunion.” Flynn had curled his upper lip, and the subject had been dropped.
It was unlikely Flynn would have gone to the reunion anyway, but now that he was a telepath? No, Jerry couldn’t see him cheerfully attending the festivities. Like the phone calls from his mother that Flynn would not answer. Flynn seemed to have gone out of his way to avoid anyone he knew from before he became a telepath.
With any luck, however, none of this would matter for much longer. Just last week, they’d had a major breakthrough in what Flynn liked to refer to as The Case of the Missing Alien Artifact. That night, they’d stumbled in from work a few hours earlier, eaten dinner in silence, and Jerry had crashed into bed. Jerry had been in that dead-to-the-world slumber that comes in the first hour or so of falling asleep when Flynn had appeared in his doorway.
Jerry’s nearly perfect memory allowed him to replay the scene as though he was watching a movie.
“Parker, wake up! I’ve found another artifact.”
Jerry had rolled over and squinted at the silhouette framed by the doorway. Flynn stood there in just his briefs, his lean body backlit by the hall light. Why the heck was Flynn waking him in the middle of the night and calling him by his last name, too, as though they were still at work?
This must be what Watson felt like whenever Holmes burst into his room in the middle of the night. Bleary-eyed and stupid with sleep.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Holmes wouldn’t put up with someone stupid. You know that.” Flynn spoke with the air of someone on familiar ground, as well he might. The Holmes/Watson discussion had been going on between them ever since the night they’d first met, though Jerry would have hardly called it friendly banter then. More like jousting. Two dogs testing the boundaries of each other’s territory.
“He would if he was a sick, vain bastard who liked keeping some poor dumb schmuck around to make him look good.”
“Damn, anyone ever tell you you’re really grouchy when you first wake up?”
Only when it’s o’dark thirty, and I’ve only been asleep for a few minutes.
“It’s been longer than that. I know because I heard you snoring all the way in the living room.”
The jubilant note in Flynn’s voice had Jerry sitting up. Flynn’s excitement was almost palpable, hanging in the air between them like an unspoken sentence. He reminded Jerry of a young dog spotting a ball in his master’s hands. It was unthinkable Jerry not throw the ball.
“What did you find?” Watson, too, must have also felt as though he was living with a telepath. Rooming with Holmes had to have been annoying as fuck at times, especially when he was pulling the all-knowing routine. Jerry knew the feeling well.
Instead of answering the perfectly reasonable question, Flynn turned, slapping his thigh as he left Jerry’s line of sight. “Come, Watson! The game’s afoot!”
Jerry groaned as he flipped back the covers. Flynn must have been dying to say that. It was obviously the whole reason for the dramatic announcement from the doorway. Jerry picked up his cell phone from the nightstand to check the time. Four thirty-five a.m. If Flynn hadn’t had such a nice ass, Jerry would kill him.
“I heard that!” Flynn called from the other room.
“You were meant to!” Jerry yelled back, biting back any further snarky replies. Hopefully, they hadn’t made enough noise to wake the neighbors. There was little point in attempting a silent discussion with a telepath if he insisted on bellowing at you from the other side of the apartment.
Oliver flattened his ears when Jerry turned on the bedside lamp. The brown tabby jumped down off the foot of the bed with a thud and scuttled out of the room as Jerry swung his legs off the mattress.
“You’re not getting fed now!” Jerry called after the cat, but he knew it was no good. Any sign of movement this close to their usual wake-up time sent the cats straight for the kitchen, where they demanded food and pointed out with typical feline logic that they might not know when their next meal was coming.
Such was the life of an FBI agent. Broken sleep, long hours at work, and irregular mealtimes. Though most agents didn’t have a telepathic partner. His next thoughts were placed deep within the soundproof booth. Clearly, Flynn was getting his hopes up again—they’d been down this road before—and it was probably all for nothing. Flynn had spent nearly every spare moment over the last six months searching for a way to undo his telepathic gift. Or rather, badgering Jerry to use his superior web-searching skills to do the same. Jerry was surprised Flynn had found something new, something they hadn’t already checked out and discovered to be a dead end. Odds were this would fizzle out as well, and Jerry didn’t like seeing Flynn’s hopes get crushed time after time.
Jerry padded into the living room, yawning and scratching his belly under his T-shirt. A single lamp cast a comforting glow by the couch, where an open book gave evidence to the fact that once again, Flynn had been unable to sleep. He was hunched over the computer by the large window, his back to the room. For once, the just-tumbled-out-of-bed wildness of his hair made perfect sense. Jerry smiled at the sight of Flynn’s dark hair sitting up in startled spikes. It was so… Flynn.
Flynn glanced over his shoulder as Jerry entered the room, and then turned back to the screen with the intensity of a cat watching a mouse hole. “Come look at this.”
The least you could have done was make me some coffee.
“You don’t like my coffee. Are you going to whine all night, or get the fuck over here?”
Phoenix, the orange and white kitten they’d rescued back when Jerry and Flynn first met, murpled a sleepy greeting when Jerry walked over to the desk. She’d obviously been keeping Flynn company on the couch. In the kitchen, Oliver let out a plaintive meow. Flynn shot a glance in the cat’s direction, and Oliver appeared at the doorway, tail flicking in annoyance. Jerry wasn’t quite sure if the telepathy thing worked both ways with animals, but it seemed as though it did. Certainly most animals acted as if they heard something. Whatever “message” Flynn had sent to the older tabby worked, and he stopped begging for food. With a graceful leap, he joined Phoenix on the couch. She groomed the side of his face sympathetically.
This couldn’t have waited another couple of hours? Jerry sighed when he realized his thoughts had slipped past the soundproof barrier again. Fortunately, they were nothing of any significance. It had taken him a while to accept that people simply had random thoughts in reaction to almost everything, and it was impossible to shield Flynn from every little thought that wasn’t completely flattering. So far, Flynn seemed to deal with that just fine.
Or did he? Jerry would never really know. Some days he felt like he had to tiptoe around Flynn’s temper.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass if you think I’m a jerk at times,” Flynn said, cutting to the chase as usual. “Look at this and tell me what you think it is.”
Frowning, Jerry leaned in to peer at the screen, one hand on the top of Flynn’s chair. He couldn’t help but sweep his glance down the long line of Flynn’s back. It was a back he’d come to know quite well over the last half-year. Back, shoulders, ass….
Though not so much of late. Jerry hurried to deep-six his thoughts. The last thing he wanted was for Flynn to pick up on his concerns about their relationship. Reflexively, he expanded on his appreciation of Flynn’s… attributes. Hopefully, that’s all Flynn would pick up this time.
“None of that, mister.” Flynn shot him a look that was just shy of irritated. “Jesus, sometimes you have a one-track mind.”
Can’t blame a guy for looking. Especially when the view is so fine.
Flynn rolled his eyes, but with a small smile. He indicated the screen with a nod of his chin.
The browser was open to a webpage that featured a small metallic-looking box in shades of pewter and blue, with strange geometric designs on the sides. Jerry glanced at the web address. It was listed as being part of the Smithsonian. Just above the address, Jerry saw Flynn’s e-mail tab. Automatically, he noted it was open to a message from Flynn’s former boss at Quantico.
Jerry shoved his reaction to seeing that e-mail address in the soundproof booth. Let Flynn think he was shielding over the artifact on the screen.
“It’s the same, isn’t it?”
Flynn didn’t have to ask. The box was so similar to the artifact they’d encountered before they had to be related. Jerry realized Flynn needed to hear some sort of outside validation, and he opened his mouth to respond.
“You don’t have to humor me.” Flynn’s voice was sharp, like a piece of broken glass unexpectedly encountered. Jerry shoved his mental sigh into the booth. Honestly, sometimes Flynn is so damned prickly….
A fraction of a second too late hiding his feelings; Flynn stiffened in the chair. Pretending not to notice, Jerry spoke as though nothing had happened. “It’s not the exact same artifact, if that’s what you’re asking. This one seems to be significantly smaller, if the photo is anything to go by. The markings are similar, but not identical. I suspect they represent some sort of language. If we get enough examples, I can probably translate it.”
Flynn tore his gaze away from the screen to look up at him, a strange combination of appreciation and doubt on his face. “You really think you can do that?”
Jerry straightened so he could shrug. “It all depends on whether we get enough bits to work with. Those markings look like glyphs of some sort. It’s not just a random pattern.” Jerry ignored his inner voice reminding him of what had happened the last time Flynn got his hopes up. It had taken him days to get out of his black funk when the last lead proved fruitless.
“The original artifact has disappeared. And the pictures that went along with it.”
Jerry knew Flynn wasn’t merely stating the obvious. What he was really saying was they had no record of the markings on the first artifact. “All except for the ones I took with my cell phone. Besides, I handled it on two separate occasions. I could sit down right now and draw the symbols if you wanted me to.”
Flynn’s expression softened briefly, and Jerry got a glimpse of the person he loved so well. “Yeah, I know you could. Hell, you could probably draw the symbols while reciting the Gettysburg Address at the same time.”
“‘Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation—’”
Flynn frowned. “I thought it was four score and twenty years ago.”
“You’re questioning me about a quotation?”
Flynn threw his hands up with a laugh. “No, never, what was I thinking?” Flynn’s real smile came out from behind his defenses, the one that made him look like an absolute goof, which was why Jerry suspected he was so sparing with it. “See. I told you Watson had his uses.”
“You are so delusional if you think you are the Holmes in this partnership.”
“Hey, you were the one who brought Watson into this in the first place.”
Special Agent John Flynn might have accidentally become telepathic after touching a strange artifact in a museum as they were investigating a murder, but Jerry Parker had a nearly photographic memory. Together they made an inexplicably excellent investigative team—at least, inexplicable to most people. For Flynn’s safety, they’d decided to keep his gift a secret. There were a number of government agencies that would either want Flynn under their control or dead—after they put him through some pretty unpleasant testing, no doubt.
Although it wasn’t so much a gift as a terrible burden. An unspeakable, unthinkable burden. Jerry couldn’t imagine what it was like to be bombarded with everyone’s thoughts all the time, but he knew Flynn would do anything to be rid of the telepathy. It had been an albatross around Flynn’s neck ever since the night he’d touched that artifact. Hence the early-morning Internet search for anything similar to the object that had bestowed such a curse on him.
Flynn wasn’t the most cheerful of guys as it was. He’d had some serious issues in his past, and as an FBI agent, knew how to keep his secrets. The telepathy had added a whole other level of self-protection and reticence most men couldn’t have handled. Flynn dealt with it by being caustic and abrupt, turning on the charm when it suited him, and hiding behind the Great Wall of Flynn the rest of the time.
Jerry loved him in spite of it. Or maybe because of it. He’d never met anyone he was as attracted to as Flynn. It was rare that he met anyone up to his intellectual weight in a verbal sparring match. Flynn was one of the few people not intimidated by Jerry’s memory, or put off by Jerry’s less-than-perfect people skills. They were a formidable team. Since he and Flynn had become partners—in more ways than one—their combined case clearance rate had gone through the roof.
It didn’t hurt that the sex was hot, either. Say what you like about the downsides of telepathy, when it came to knowing your partner’s needs, it rocked.
Flynn’s expression slipped easily into its usual sardonic mode. “So, you up for a road trip? I’ve got a few loose ends to tie up at Quantico. My old boss wants me to come back and take care of them. You’ve got some leave coming up, right? We could go together.”
So that’s what the e-mail was about. A coil of tension Jerry hadn’t known existed relaxed at Flynn’s words.
“Not that the excuse isn’t very useful, but what could your old boss need that couldn’t possibly be settled in a video conference?”
Flynn gave a little shrug. “You know the Bureau. They like these face-to-face meetings.”
Jerry let that one rest for the moment. Flynn’s old boss had made it clear at the time he was sorry to see Flynn relocate permanently to the West Coast. Jerry didn’t put it past Zimmerman to make a bid for getting Flynn to come back to Quantico. Either way, Jerry couldn’t let Flynn get on an airplane by himself. Trapped for hours on a cross-country flight from San Francisco to DC without any means of support when the weight of everyone’s thoughts around him became overwhelming? No way. Flynn might have adapted to life as a telepath, but he also relied on Jerry to run interference for him. Besides, if Flynn was going to run around touching weird artifacts again, Jerry planned on being there.
Any wistful thoughts he had about the two of them taking a romantic vacation to a tropical beach somewhere were firmly placed in the booth.
“Sure, sounds great. I haven’t been to the Smithsonian since I was a kid.” A thought occurred to him. “Why is this piece turning up now, though? We’ve been combing the Internet for other artifacts ever since the first one went missing.”
That had been an interesting twist in their investigation of the death of the museum curator where the first artifact had been housed. Well, one of the interesting twists. After they’d caught the art forger responsible for her murder, the mysterious artifact had disappeared, along with all the notes and documentation on it.
Flynn raised an eyebrow. “Like the first artifact, this one was part of a private collection until recently. And yes, I think we need to get there before it ‘disappears’ too. You sure you don’t recognize the markings?”
Jerry briefly rolled his eyes. “You forget who you’re talking to here. And no, it’s not a known language, at least not one I’ve ever encountered. That doesn’t mean it’s not a made-up one.”
“Or one from another planet.”
“The Men in Black did not spirit away the first artifact.” There was no use in Jerry trying to hide his exasperation. Flynn already knew he was annoyed. Besides, it was a discussion they’d had many times before concerning the origins and purpose of the original museum piece.
“Strange artifact goes missing after conveying telepathic powers on a human being? I think we have a case here for it being alien.” Flynn spoke with all seriousness, made even more ludicrous by the fact he was arguing for the existence of aliens on Earth while sitting in his underwear. The pallid light of the computer screen cast a bluish glow over his features; Jerry felt like they were in a scene from a B-rated sci-fi movie.
“Thank you, Agent Mulder. I’ll keep that in mind. I should like to point out, however, that we are the Men in Black, and we don’t have it.”
“That we know of. There could be other divisions within the Bureau we don’t have the clearance to know about.” Flynn’s voice was dark with sinister implications. His face suddenly lit with a smile. “Hah, that makes you Scully.”
“Scully was smart and hot. I can live with that.”
“I can live with that, too.” There was something sly and suggestive in Flynn’s smile. “Just don’t dye your hair red.”
Jerry cocked his head. “Not that I would, but why not?”
A faint flush colored Flynn’s cheekbones. “I like your hair the way it is.”
That was probably the closest Flynn had ever come to complimenting him that wasn’t some kind of joke. Jerry shoved all further thoughts along those lines into the booth; Flynn was prickly enough without Jerry implying he wasn’t open with his feelings. Which wasn’t bloody fair, seeing as Jerry couldn’t easily hide his own.
A slow smile curved across Flynn’s face. God, he was beautiful. The reflected light from the computer highlighted his early-morning stubble and cast an eerie pallor into his hazel eyes. Jerry clearly recalled the day they’d met, and how Flynn had looked when Jerry picked him up from the airport. The fading sunlight had bathed him in a golden glow then, but he had looked much the same as he did now. Walled-off. Untouchable. Gorgeous. Eminently fuckable.
“You know when you start shouting ‘soundproof booth,’ it’s obvious you’re thinking of me.”
This, too, was a conversation they’d had before.
“Yes, but you don’t know what I’m thinking.” Jerry infused his voice with the sort of smugness he usually saved for annoying coworkers. The creation of the booth had been his idea, back in the early days when he’d desperately needed to keep Flynn from knowing his every thought. In particular, how hot he found Flynn and how much he wanted to get into Flynn’s pants. At least that hadn’t changed.
“When you look at me like I’m ice cream on a hot summer day, and you need to lick me before I melt, it pretty much gives the show away, telepathy or not.” Now who was the smug bastard? And to make it worse, he stretched exaggeratedly, the bluish light gleaming off his muscles as his chest expanded. He might as well have a neon sign over his head that said “Look at me”—what with the way his chest hair drew the eye down in a straight line toward the cock bulging in his navy briefs. He was openly smirking as he lowered his arms again. Oh yeah. He was hot and he knew it.
“You’re free to fill in the blanks any way you want. Just like the rest of us mere mortals do.”
Flynn scrunched his nose at that one. Jerry didn’t bother hiding the fact that he found Flynn’s expressions—when he chose to use them, that was—adorable. Preferable to the Blank Wall, that’s for sure.
Flynn narrowed his eyes, and lifted the corner of his mouth in a slight grimace. “Well, seeing as there’s nothing else we can do at the moment, and we’re up anyway, how about we go back to bed and I fuck your brains out?” He dropped his chin to look up at Jerry through the heavy fringe of dark hair that fell over his brow, and Jerry was suddenly reminded of a satyr. It might have been the fact that Flynn’s ears were slightly pointed at the tips, or maybe it was the decidedly wicked look in his eyes. Whatever it was, it was definitely primal and Pan-like.
Jerry’s dick jerked upward at the suggestion, and his ass clenched involuntarily. Hell, yes. There was no one else on Earth who could make Jerry forget, for a little while, all the things he’d seen in his life. There was no way in hell he was going to think about how rare it had been for Flynn to initiate sex these last few weeks. He slam-dunked the thoughts into the booth even as they occurred to him. Don’t spoil this.
Flynn stood up, a distinctly sympathetic smile brushing his lips. Instead of pulling Jerry in for one of Flynn’s rough and tumble kisses, he folded Jerry into his arms, and the two of them stood there in a full-body hug. Jerry turned his nose into Flynn’s neck and took a deep breath, inhaling the familiar scent. I am one lucky sonofabitch, he thought, deliberately broadcasting the thought for Flynn to hear. A sense of well-being dropped over him like a blanket warm from the dryer. He smiled when Flynn pressed against him. The hard length of Flynn’s cock was evident.
Oh yeah. Definitely worth being woken up early.
He’d followed Flynn into the bedroom without another word.
Jerry blinked, suddenly aware of the background noise around him on the airplane. It had been a long time since he’d gone so deep into one of his memories. It had to be the rhythmic hum of the engines and the long flight that had lulled him into deep memory access. Clearing his throat and shifting uncomfortably, he shot a quick glance at Flynn, who was still engrossed in his book. Thank goodness for that. Bad enough Jerry had zoned out—and he blushed at the thought of anyone, even Flynn, listening in on his recollections of what had followed—this wasn’t the time or place. He knew damned well his emotions and thoughts could overwhelm Flynn if he wasn’t careful. Though a part of him grinned at the notion it might be possible to trigger an orgasm in both of them from Jerry’s thoughts alone. Huh, that was something they’d have to try sometime….
The corner of Flynn’s mouth twitched upward in one of his half-smiles as he bumped his knee against Jerry’s, the closest he’d get to a PDA, Jerry knew. He glanced up at Jerry with a sly expression that suddenly froze. He jerked the other earbud loose.
“What is it?” Crap. Had Flynn picked up on his X-rated memories just the same? Jerry frowned and opened his mouth to speak, only to snap his lips shut when Flynn made a quick, silencing movement with his hand. Flynn took on that peculiar stillness that reminded Jerry of a Doberman alerting to a prowler. It usually meant Flynn was picking up on something, and for him to focus so completely on it meant it was something bad.
Flynn pressed his lips together in a firm line and pinched Jerry’s arm, expressing his desire that Jerry shut up as clearly as if he’d spoken.
Chagrined, Jerry stuffed his thoughts in the soundproof booth and waited. Jerry had always thought of himself as a logical and thoughtful person, but ten minutes in the presence of a telepath, and he’d discovered his internal monologue was more disjointed and far-flung than he’d realized. They’d discovered early on that Flynn could hear Jerry’s thoughts more strongly than anyone else’s. Jerry suspected it was because he’d been there at the museum the night Flynn touched the strange artifact and Flynn had somehow imprinted on him as the first person in the vicinity when the telepathy made itself known.
It was a theory, anyway.
He concentrated on keeping his thoughts contained within their imaginary barrier. It was something he could do easily now. In a way, it was kind of like meditation. Finding the booth was easy; staying in it was not. His thoughts were starting to wander when Flynn took out a pen and flipped to the beginning of his book. There, on a blank page, he wrote: The scruffy guy in 15-A is planning something.
Jerry had to squint at Flynn’s handwriting to make it out. What?
Flynn made a disgruntled face and wrote the next sentence larger. It was clear he was answering Jerry’s question as well as his unspoken complaint about Flynn’s handwriting.
I don’t know what. He’s planning to take the plane down. I don’t know how, but he has it on him.
He underscored the word “down” several times, the nib of his pen tearing the paper.
Jerry’s heart sank as though it was on a free fall in an elevator shaft. A moment of incipient panic threatened to overtake him. When he met Flynn’s gaze, he saw how his own emotions were threatening to overwhelm Flynn, so he forced himself to take a deep breath. What do we do?
Flynn took up the pen again. Go to the lavatory. Make an excuse to hang out back there until you see him make a move. I’ll distract him while you come up from—
Flynn broke off his sentence with a wobble of the pen. He lifted it from the paper, holding it in mid-air with a stupefied look on his face before writing a single word in large capital letters.
“Fuck!” Jerry said aloud, causing the woman across the aisle to shoot him a dirty look. Flynn quickly shut his book. Jerry exchanged a long look with him. The young woman on the far side of Flynn was deep in her own book; she never looked up.
Flynn gave him a little nod. Jerry tucked the Kindle in the seat pocket in front of him, knowing he wouldn’t forget it was there but praying they would be leaving the plane in one piece. He replaced the seatback tray and turned the little knob that held it closed, his pulse pounding in his ears with each deliberate, ordinary movement. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he stood up in stages, having to duck to avoid hitting his head on the overhead bins. Easing out into the aisle, he swayed a bit as the plane bumped through a patch of turbulence. He made his way toward the nearest lavatory, gliding his hand along the bins for balance, taking casual note of the seat numbers and the passengers as he walked. Sweat gathered in his armpits and around the collar of his jacket. A few moments earlier, he’d been thinking about asking the flight attendant for a blanket.
It was a large plane, as they were flying straight through from San Francisco to Dulles. It was a hell of a long flight, but better than lots of layovers. Odd to think that Jerry had been looking forward to disembarking on time, to making an early night of it. Maybe they still would.
If they were lucky.
When they’d boarded the flight hours earlier, Jerry’s biggest concern had been whether or not Flynn would be able to handle being trapped in close confinement with so many people, with no way to get away from the constant barrage of thoughts. His fears seemed almost laughable now. His brain went on autopilot, supplying him with the information he needed as though he was reading off his iPhone.
Sarin. Odorless and colorless, sarin was an organophosphate poison. It was in the same class of chemicals used as nerve gas during both world wars. It worked by inhibiting the enzyme necessary for normal muscle and red blood cell function, among other things. An exposed person would literally drown on dry land as fluid poured into the lungs uncontrollably, or they would be dropped in their tracks by the violent vomiting and abdominal cramping. Even a tiny amount could be fatal. It was five hundred times more lethal than cyanide.
It was the perfect weapon for terrorists.
Unbidden, the image of John Singer Sargent’s painting, Gassed, appeared in his mind as though he were standing in front of it at the Imperial War Museum in London. At the center of the painting was a line of blinded soldiers being guided to a field hospital, walking past rows of bodies lying in piles around them.
He ruthlessly shut the door on the vision of the painting. The best way to ensure they made it out of this alive was to stay focused. He glanced at the occupant of 15-A in passing. The man put all his senses on high alert. He had a thin, wispy beard and wore sunglasses, even though night had fallen. Dressed in a ratty gray hoodie, he had both hands shoved into the pouch in the front. No iPod. No book or computer or any form of entertainment for the long flight. If he looked up at Jerry when he passed, Jerry couldn’t tell.
The hair on the back of Jerry’s neck rose. There was something not right about this guy. The woman sitting next to him was making herself as small as possible, leaning away from the shared armrest. Whatever it was about him, she’d picked up on it, too, unlike the passenger on the other side of the woman. He was sleeping, his head resting between the seat and window, his mouth open in a faint snore.
Jerry let his glance flick over the occupants of row fifteen without lingering and kept moving toward the lavatory. There was someone inside the cubicle; Jerry exchanged polite smiles with the young mother and the grubby toddler waiting in line.
Good. More reason to hang back, waiting to see what would happen next. Not for the first time, he wished the telepathy worked both ways. It’d be nice to know what Flynn was thinking right now, and how they were going to contain this mess without anyone getting hurt.
From his position in the aisle, Jerry could see neither 15-A nor Flynn, though he would notice if either of them stood up. He rested one hand overhead and tried to hide his impatience. The indicator finally switched from “occupied” to “vacant,” and the door opened. The older man who came out squeezed past the mother and child, and jostled his way past Jerry, too, in order to head back to the front of the plane. Jerry watched anxiously, concerned the old man would be in the way if something came down. For all he knew, the guy in 15-A was waiting for just such an opportunity.
The mother herded her child into the lavatory, turning as she shut the door so they both would fit in the narrow space. A flight attendant, carrying a blanket to a passenger at the rear of the plane, waited for the old man to sit down before making her way toward Jerry. She paused beside him. “There’s another toilet farther back if you’d prefer.”
Her smile was bright and perky. Her nametag read “Susan.” Jerry debated whether to alert her to the onboard threat and decided against it. The risk that she would be unable to conceal her knowledge enough to act naturally was too great. They didn’t want to tip off 15-A before he was ready to make his move. Flynn would know when that was. Jerry just needed to wait for his signal.
“Thanks,” Jerry said to Susan. “I can wait.”
She smiled, barely concealing her shrug. Jerry watched her go. What he would do if she came back when the toilet was available, he wasn’t sure. He’d think of something.
Fortunately, the mother and child took a long time, which gave Jerry time to think. 15-A had to be intent on suicide as well as mass murder; no one would release sarin on a plane unless they planned to die as well. Mentally, Jerry began ticking off the character traits they would likely find on his profile: a social misfit, recently lost his job or his girlfriend or both, a history of depression or drug and alcohol abuse, a strong narcissistic streak and anger that the world could not recognize his worth. With it, the certainty he would not survive the attack but secure in the knowledge his name would live on in infamy. Dying was of no consequence. He had likely rehearsed his plan in such detail he could execute it without hesitation. With a cold deliberation that seemed almost detached.
Too bad he wasn’t counting on Flynn. Well, who would expect a telepath to thwart your plans? Jerry smiled. 15-A was in for a big surprise. He rubbed sweaty palms against his thighs and took a deep, calming breath to steady himself. He and Flynn had this covered.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Susan making her way back up the aisle. 15-A stood up. Flynn rose as well. Jerry waited until Flynn was standing in the aisle before he cut in front of Susan and blocked her access to the front of the plane. He opened his jacket and flashed his badge; her pupils dilated with alarm and she stopped as though he’d pulled out a gun. He made a small gesture with his fingers, meant to make her wait, but convey the need for silence as well.
Jerry returned his attention to the tableau unfolding in the aisle. Flynn was making his way casually toward Jerry; he yawned, taking his time. 15-A hesitated; Jerry could see he had stepped into the aisle but was thinking of sitting down again. Just then, the door to the toilet opened and the toddler came out into the aisle. Picking up on the tension, the child immediately started to wail.
15-A snapped like a wire stretched beyond its tensile strength. Whipping off his sunglasses, he reached into the pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a glass vial. Holding it high over his head for everyone to see, he shouted, “Everybody stay where you are!”
People glanced up and turned around in their seats, startled and immediately alarmed. 15-A looked around sharply, making sure no one was trying to rush him. Several people had were halfway out of their seats to see what was going on; Jerry knew they were remembering United Flight 93.
15-A moved his hand in a broad semicircle so everyone could see the vial tucked in his palm. “I have sarin!” he announced. “If anyone moves, I break the vial. Someone make that kid shut up!”
His last directive was aimed at the young mother. He shot her a wild-eyed glance as he snarled his demand. She fell to her knees and folded her child in her arms, trying to hush the cries.
Someone screamed, which only agitated 15-A further. He whirled in the direction of the woman who had cried out. “Shut up!” He pointed the vial at her, his eyes bulging as he yelled. Flecks of spittle flew from his mouth.
“Everyone stay calm.” Flynn put out his hands in a placating manner, but whether it was intended for 15-A or the passengers, Jerry couldn’t tell. He heard the stress in Flynn’s voice. Jerry sensed the flight attendant standing just behind his shoulder. Behind the two of them, someone was chanting “Oh my God” over and over again. The growing panic of the passengers was like the change in pressure before a summer storm. It radiated in the narrow space of the aircraft. There was another tension as well, the coiled muscles and grim determination of several people prepared to act. If Jerry could feel it, then it had to be suffocating Flynn.
Flynn! Focus on me!
He was too late. He saw Flynn press the heel of his hand against his eye, and knew if he were close enough, he could have seen the uncontrollable tic developing there. Flynn stood rigidly, obviously trying to shield himself. He was one step away from a complete meltdown—like that first night when he’d touched the artifact, and Jerry had mistakenly tried to take him to the ER.
The young woman in their row who had been reading suddenly stood up, her head ducked low like a bull about to charge.
Her action caught the attention of 15-A. “Nobody move!” He lifted the vial over his head again, threatening to hurl it down so he could crush it underfoot. All eyes were drawn to the bottle in his hand. Inside, a milky fluid jostled with the movement.
Jerry stared along with everyone else. Hell’s bells. That wasn’t sarin.
What a fucking idiot. A sense of indignant fury swept over Jerry, and he strode forward while 15-A had his back turned to look at the young woman behind Flynn.
“Give me that,” he snapped, letting his irritation show. He grasped the terrorist by the wrist and twisted his arm sideways and down, snatching the vial out of his hand when the fingers opened involuntarily.
15-A startled like a spooky horse, nostrils flaring and pupils wide. He made a feeble attempt to wrest the vial back from Jerry, but Jerry was livid now.
“Sarin? Sarin? This isn’t sarin, you loser.” He spared a quick glance at the vial, which contained a cloudy white substance suspended in a solution. When he shook it in front of 15-A’s face, it reminded him a bit of a snow globe. Tiny flakes floated in a miniature snowstorm and slowly sank to the bottom of the vial again. “You call this sarin? Sarin, my ass. Let me guess, you made it yourself, right?”
Jerry pressed in with a sneer as he questioned 15-A; his anger intimidated the man. Deprived of his weapon, 15-A wilted, looking less like a potential terrorist and more like a delusional wing nut. The other passengers began to murmur in an ugly fashion, fear changing to fury in a slow boil.
Flynn stood stock still in the aisle, obviously paralyzed by the emotions roiling around him. He looked as distressed as 15-A, and Jerry knew he was only moments away from a full-blown panic attack.
Oh, shit. This wasn’t good. Jerry shot a sharp glance at Flynn. Snap out of it, John!
Flynn jerked as though he’d been slapped, his face reddening as he moved forward. He pulled his badge out of the inner pocket of his coat and held it up in front of him in a slow half circle so everyone could see it. “Everyone remain in your seats and stay calm.”
Several people were in the aisles now, their hostility a palpable force now that the suspect was subdued.
“Who the fuck do you think you are, asshole?” A large, red-faced man from first class tried to brush past the female passenger and Flynn, intent on giving 15-A a piece of his mind, or worse.
“Hey, watch it!” The young woman bristled, already primed for a fight. She pushed First Class into Flynn.
Jerry almost left 15-A to intervene. Almost. His breath caught when he saw the contact jolt through Flynn. Every instinct told him to protect his partner. Flynn was obviously staggering under the combined weight of the adrenaline rush of everyone onboard. The reactions of the passengers could easily get out of hand now. He saw the black fury in Flynn’s face harden into an iron-will resolve to maintain control.
“Take your seat, mister. You too, miss.” When Flynn spoke in that tone, people listened. The passengers didn’t look happy about it, but they obeyed. Jerry redirected his attention to his prisoner.
“I need plastic restraints—get them now!” Jerry barked his command at the flight attendant beside him. He turned back to 15-A. “You. FBI. Turn around. Hands on the overhead bin.” He took 15-A by the collar and spun him to face the seats.
Flustered, the flight attendant turned toward the rear of the plane and headed for a compartment near the lavatory. As she hurried to comply with Jerry’s request, she spoke loudly to the passengers.
“Everyone, please stay in your seats. The situation is under control.” She quickly returned with the restraints, her hands shaking as she handed them over.
Jerry refrained from handling 15-A too roughly lest the other passengers join in. Anger coursed through his veins, however, thumping into his muscles, causing a tremor in his hands. Flynn stood in the aisle with an air of authority that kept people in their seats, but he made no move to help Jerry. He probably couldn’t just yet. Up in first class, the other flight attendant was on the intercom, presumably speaking with the flight crew. He spared no more than a quick glance to make sure Flynn was okay. His full focus had to be on the prisoner.
15-A cringed a little at the antagonism of the passengers around him. He made no effort to resist as Jerry frisked him. 15-A stank with sour sweat. Jerry almost hated touching him.
Finally, Flynn moved in to flank the prisoner from the other side.
You okay? Jerry continued to pat down 15-A and removed a set of keys from his pockets. Without his sunglasses, 15-A flinched in the light, blinking red-rimmed eyes like a laboratory rat.
Flynn held out his hand for the keys, his expression a rigid mask. Right. Still struggling for control. Jerry pictured himself giving Flynn a small pat on the shoulder, knowing he would pick up on the image. To his dismay, Flynn flinched and jerked back.
Jerry left him alone and concentrated on safely securing the prisoner’s hands with the plastic cuffs. He pushed 15-A down in his seat with his hands behind him. Jerry tightened the seatbelt around the would-be terrorist, not caring that he probably was uncomfortable.
“This is the pilot.” The voice over the intercom was stern, like the voice of God. “All passengers are to take their seats immediately. Do not interfere with the federal agents onboard. Passengers are to remain seated with their seatbelts fastened until we land. Anyone who disobeys this directive will be subject to fines and criminal charges.”
It’s okay. Jerry was quick to reassure Flynn, whose face was dark with thunderclouds of anger. We got the bastard and no one got hurt. You did it. You’re a fucking hero, man.
The walls closed down on Flynn’s expression with an almost audible clang of steel on concrete. For once, Jerry was glad the telepathy wasn’t a two-way street.
As I stated at the end of my review of book one in Sarah Madison's ‘The Sixth Sense’ series, I was really (desperately, actually) hoping for more of Jerry and John. Such complex, and fascinating men, and then with the introduction of John's telepathy after touching the artifact at the museum - well, fascinating grew into a whole lot more. And it's not just the characters that keep me turning the pages, the author weaves a delicious tale of mystery in amongst the struggles these two men have attempting to work together and have a relationship. Delicious, I tell you!
I can't begin to imagine being in a relationship with someone who can read my mind. It's a good thing that Jerry has created the "soundproof booth" in his head where he can block his thoughts from John. Let's face it, we all have random thoughts that run through our mind at any given time, and sometimes they're not nice, or politically correct, or polite. Those are the things Jerry has to hide from John - his frustrations over John never revealing what's going on in his own mind, and his fears about Jerry just being an experiment in homosexuality for John considering how close their minds became after John touched the artifact. It's been six months and John is still desperately trying to rid himself of this ability.
"Sometimes, Jerry wished they could go back to the beginning again. Not exactly start over, but find whatever it was that wasn’t right and fix it. The worst part was wondering if it was something he’d thought that had put this tension into their relationship."
And, once again, the very talented Sarah Madison has thrown a huge, HUGE, twist into the story arc, one that I totally wasn't expecting. Oh, I'm completely blown away and wondering how in the world this is going to play out. No, no, no, Sarah, I'm warning you - my guys had better be okay, or at least, as okay as they can ever be. *grins*
Wow. I'm left reeling and stunned by the revelations. The author has really outdone herself in this installment. For Jerry and John to both get such a newfound appreciation of the other and to literally walk a mile in their shoes was amazing. But for John to finally get closure on his little sister's murder that happened when John was only thirteen? Incredible relief and a lessening of so much of John's heartache almost made me cry.
Luckily for me, I already have the third book so I can jump straight into more of these FBI agents’ adventures! Thank you, Sarah, I loved everything about it!
NOTE: This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
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