Kiss of Snow Page 10

She’d tried not to listen, not to hear, but she knew Hawke had been seen in the company of the luscious, sexy, and experienced Rosalie both yesterday and today. The wolves’ penchant for gossip being what it was, she also knew conflicting schedules meant he probably hadn’t been to bed with her yet . . . but it wasn’t likely to be long before he did. Perhaps even tonight.

Raw, dark power rippled through her body, gathering in her fingertips. An instant’s loss of control and she’d destroy this wall, collapse the ceiling. Gritting her teeth, she fought the fury that made her an X, a fury that whispered that Rosalie and her ilk were nothing, would crumble to dust in the face of the deadly strength that had once made Sienna so very, very valuable to Ming. It was a horrible thought, and it brought her back.

So did the pain.

Brutal and blinding.

She could still taste the shock that had rippled through Judd’s telepathic touch when they’d first discovered the second intricate level of dissonance programming. But that hidden knife blade of pain had made perfect sense to Sienna—it wasn’t tied to emotion and had nothing to do with Silence except in that the mechanism had been developed as a result of the Protocol. Instead, this level of dissonance only kicked in when her X abilities triggered without her conscious awareness, a blaring warning that she was about to go active.

Now, the spike of agony down her spine had her close to blanking out, white dots floating in her vision. She rode the razor’s edge, allowing the dissonance to dig in its vicious claws until she staggered and brought herself back to her room in the family quarters . . . a room she’d hung with Toby’s graphic art and Marlee’s watercolor paintings.

Nausea curdled her stomach, bile burning the back of her throat. She was moving to throw clothes and personal items into a duffel even as her body continued to tremble with the aftereffects of the dissonance—she had faith in her ability to control her “gift,” but she was still an X. Mistakes happened.

Walker was sitting at the dining table, making notes on a datapad when she came out. “Going somewhere?” Cool green eyes held her to the spot.

“I’m moving to my quarters in the soldiers section on a permanent basis.” Her fingers clenched on the canvas handles of the bag. “I’ll talk to Toby and Marlee tomorrow, explain.” The words hurt coming out, emotion a rock in her throat.

Walker rose to his feet. “They’ll be fine. They understand your position in the pack.” He didn’t ask the question, but she felt compelled to answer anyway. That was the thing with Walker—he wasn’t her father, had never tried to take that role, but he was, to all intents and purposes, the patriarch of the Lauren family.

“I’m emotionally unstable and it’s affecting my psychic control,” she admitted, a cold sweat breaking out along her spine. “If I suffer a shield breach, I don’t want to be anywhere near where I could hurt them.”

“Do you need to return to DarkRiver?”

“No.” Distance wasn’t going to do it any longer—not when she’d be thinking about Hawke the entire time anyway. At least here, she’d know as soon as he took Rosalie to his bed, not spend her days with the possibility eating away at her insides as she waited for it to be confirmed. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Sienna,” Walker said when she was almost to the door, “you’re not alone. Never forget that.”

She nodded, but as she headed down the corridors toward the area of the den set aside for unmated soldiers, she knew the words for a lie. She was alone in a way none of her family could understand.

Sienna Lauren.

Designation: X.

Rating on the Gradient: Cardinal.

She was, in fact, the only cardinal X ever to survive to adulthood according to the records in the PsyNet. Perhaps the only cardinal X ever to have been born. The mutation was rare—so rare that she hadn’t been properly classified until she was five.

She’d almost killed her mother that day.

Dropping the duffel on the bed when she reached her quarters, she shoved the unbearable memory to the darkest recesses of her mind and sat cross-legged on the floor to do mental exercises designed to wrench her abilities back under the strictest control. An hour later, her T-shirt was plastered to her body, her hair sticking to her face, but she’d safely corralled the raging ferocity of her power.

It was as she was stepping out of the shower that she got the call and invite. “I’m in,” she said, because staying here with the gnawing cruelty of her own thoughts was not an option.

Hanging up, she pulled on some panties before beginning to rummage through her clothes—both what she’d carried over in the duffel and the things she’d stored in the closet here, most of them items she rarely wore. First, skintight jeans. They were all but painted onto her body by the time she managed to twist, shimmy, and curse her way into them—she’d never have bought them on her own, but one of the leopards near her own age, Nicki, had dragged her along on a shopping expedition not long ago.

Sienna had glanced down at the plain jeans and gray sweatshirt she’d been wearing at the time. “What’s wrong with the way I dress?”

The petite honey blonde’s response had been a despairing shake of the head. “It says you’re two hundred and counting.”

Sometimes, Sienna felt exactly that, but that day, she’d given in to Nicki and gone wild. Kit had whistled the first time he’d seen her in the jeans, while Cory had fallen to his knees, hand over his heart. Sienna hadn’t yet worn them around the wolves . . . around Hawke, but her pride wouldn’t allow her to sit in her room while he put those strong hands all over another woman.

Her own hands fisted. No. No. No.

He wasn’t hers, had made it clear in a hundred different ways that he didn’t want to be hers. Fine.

Jeans on, she clipped on a red satin bra edged with white lace—one that plumped up her chest in a way that had had her arguing with Nicki in the dressing room. “I can’t wear this. It’s like I’m advertising!”

“Sweetie, if I had ta-tas like that, I’d advertise, too.” Nicki had looked down at her own smaller breasts with a mournful sigh.

“Jase seems to like yours fine.”

A peach-colored blush. “Now, tops. Come on.”

Sienna pulled out one of the resulting purchases and slipped it on. A black shirt with long sleeves, it fit snug to her body and made it unmistakable that she had curves. The buttons were snaps of pounded metal, the only other decoration two tiny black pockets with the same type of buttons above her breasts. While she didn’t usually wear things that followed her shape with such caressing closeness, she had to admit she liked the way the shirt made her feel.


Then there were the boots. Slick and black, they encased her legs to the knees, the heels wickedly spiked.

Her cell phone beeped as she was zipping up the second boot. “Hello.”

“Sin, it’s Evie. You ready?”

“Almost.” She paused. “We are getting dressed up, right?”

“Of course! I’m wearing my silver dress.”

Evie’s enthusiasm had Sienna setting her jaw, determination arcing through her veins. “That dress will get you arrested.”

Her best friend laughed. “You know you’d bail me out. See you in ten!”

Hanging up, Sienna quickly put in her special contacts, hiding the night-sky gaze that betrayed her identity, then pulled her hair back into a tight ponytail. She’d spoken to Indigo and her own family about her hair, and everyone had agreed the unusual color was no longer an issue, it had changed so much since she’d joined the den. Added to the fact that her friends had taken to calling her “Sin,” plus the contacts, it turned her into someone Ming LeBon wouldn’t even consider worthy of his attention.

That done, she pulled out the cosmetics case Judd’s mate, Brenna, had given her, making up her eyes in a “smoky” way she’d learned from Indigo. Nicki had liked the effect so much, she’d asked Sienna to teach her. That had felt good—being able to share such an innocent thing with a friend. It had made her feel young, not the old woman she’d been since the day she first understood why Ming LeBon wanted her by his side, his own personal monster on a psychic leash.

“Stop,” she ordered the brown-eyed woman in the mirror. “Not tonight. Be young and carefree tonight. Dance, drink, and laugh.” With that, she slicked on poppy red lip color, grabbed a small purse, and stepped out.

“Oh, Jesus Christ, thank you God.”

Startled by the masculine exclamation, she looked up to find herself facing Riordan, a novice soldier a year older than her. “Are you coming out with us?” she asked, closing her door.

“If I wasn’t, I damn well would be now.” He offered her his arm, bare below the short sleeves of a stone gray shirt that looked good on his muscular frame. “Paint yourself to my side, Sin. Real close. I think I feel a chill coming on.”

Shaking her head, she began to walk down the hall, her heels clicking on the floor. A few seconds later, she realized he was trailing behind her. “What’s the holdup?” Glancing back, she caught him red-handed. “Are you staring at my butt?”

Riordan didn’t bother to pretend innocence, his deep brown eyes full of wicked appreciation. “Hey, it’s a nice butt. And those jeans, oh, mama.”

It was exactly the confidence boost she needed. If Hawke refused to acknowledge the pulse of attraction between them—though she’d waited years to grow old enough for him, years where she’d blocked her ears to the gossip about who he was with and when—then she wasn’t going to take it lying down. “Pick your tongue up off the floor, and let’s go. Evie, Tai, and Cadence are probably already in the garage.”

She was proven right. But they weren’t the only ones. Maria was there, too, along with her boyfriend, Lake.

“Hey,” the other woman said, a tentative smile on her face. “I wanted to say sorry. It sucks that you got a worse punishment than me.”

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