He nodded and cautiously moved closer to the pair, closing his eyes, recalling the meditation exercises he hadn’t practiced in years. Connections to his physical self dropped away. His mind soared. He’d forgotten the heady sensations of freedom. Petty concerns seemed far away and insignificant. With difficulty, Jake turned his attention to the inhabitants of the barn.
Before she slammed down her shields, Jake connected with Marnie, noting her surprise at the speed and ease at which he’d managed psychic communications again. He remembered the pleasure he’d felt communicating this way with her, and how much harder it could be with others.
Elusive, ephemeral thoughts and desires passed through her mind. Jake looked away, afraid to hope, but more afraid to have her see the hope in his eyes.
He touched the consciousness of the stallion first, feeling the strength of character and nobility of purpose. The mare’s gaiety and sense of humor caught his fancy. He found himself eager to spend more time with both of them.
“I thank you all for your gracious offer of aid in helping us to cross your lands in safety. Be assured that I consider myself in your debt.” Jake felt his control slipping as the Unicorns accepted his gratitude and expressed pleasure in furthering their acquaintance. They, too, looked forward to future talks.
As Jake drifted away, he again felt Marnie’s presence, surprised at the pleasure and fondness he detected there. This would be something to ponder later…alone.
Returning to himself abruptly, he staggered and shook his head. Wincing he put his fingertips on his temples rubbing at the spikes of pain. “I’d forgotten about this part.”
Marnie grabbed his arm to steady him and remarked, “If you had kept in practice, it wouldn’t be like this.”
Jake stiffened. “There didn’t seem to be much reason to,” he answered steadily.
Stung, Marnie withdrew quickly, touching her fingertips to her lips. She backed away a step, her eyes wide. Jake watched thoughts chase across her face—wonder, fear, confusion—before she wiped away all emotion.
He wanted to reach for her, even had his hand partially extended, but she turned away and returned to grooming the Unicorns. He glided closer, nearly touching her. Ceasing her grooming efforts, she swung to face him.
He reached for her again. This time she didn’t pull away. Raising his hand to her face, he brushed aside loose tendrils to stroke her cheek. “You’re even lovelier than I remembered.”
She remained motionless, expressionless, staring into his face, oblivious to the stroking of his hand and the scrutiny of his searching, roaming eyes. The path his gaze took eventually crossed with hers and locked. For countless moments and a split second, an eternity and an instant, they met on a level that mapped beyond the physical, but nowhere in reality.
“I thought that I’d imagined your beauty and grace. I thought that the attraction would disappear like the dream that it had seemed to be,” he didn’t say.
"I thought that I'd never see you again," she never answered.
She opened her mouth to speak, then frowned and turned away to groom the Unicorns once more. “We leave at daylight, even if the Little Princess is not here.”