Kiss of Snow Page 14

“Nothing.” Nothing but a slow, heartbreaking dance that had destroyed her illusions about her ability to get over a man who refused to even consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, there weren’t as many years between them as he believed.

Thankfully, Maria took her words at face value. “You had the early shift, right? Must’ve been hard getting up after staying up so late.”

“It was fine.” There had been no need to get up—she hadn’t slept since returning to the den. “Actually, do you mind if I run down with you? I’m not tired enough to sleep yet.” If she slept, she’d dream, the scent of Hawke haunting her in the soft dark.

“Company’s always welcome.” It was the answer of a wolf.

They ran down in companionable silence to the perimeter section where Maria was taking over from Lake. Breathing hard but not winded, Sienna gave the two of them privacy as they touched each other in that affectionate wolf way—nose to nose, body to body, the kiss an extension of the full-body contact.

Sienna had done her own shift in a different area of den territory, so there were new things to explore here. But still she almost missed it: a pen, gleaming and dark. Guessing it had fallen out of a packmate’s pocket, she picked it up—the pack was scrupulous about ensuring no garbage littered their land. It wasn’t until it was in her hand that she realized the sleek metallic cylinder wasn’t a pen at all but a high-powered torch, an expensive item.

The SnowDancers had a small number of them. Used almost exclusively by non-changeling members of the pack—the wolves’ night vision was better than any illumination the torches could provide—they were logged in and out with meticulous precision. Someone was probably in trouble for losing this. Sliding it into a pocket, she walked over to join Lake as he got ready to return to the den.

Body exhausted enough that there was a chance of a dreamless sleep, she parted with him at the entrance and went to log in the torch . . . to discover each and every one of the pack’s set sitting in the box where they were stored. Hairs rising on the back of her neck, she made a call to Maria. “Can you do me a favor?” she asked when the other woman answered.

“What do you need?”

“Go about a hundred meters east of where Lake was standing when we arrived, tell me what you scent.”

No sounds except for rustling as Maria jogged over. Then, “Psy. I smell Psy.”

HAWKE finished checking out the section where Sienna had found the torch. Like Maria, he immediately caught the harsh metallic scent exuded by some Psy—as if they’d gone so deep into Silence, they’d lost their humanity. Nothing but the most brittle cold remained.

Sienna hadn’t been cold.

Warm and curvy and muscled in a supple feminine way, she’d surprised him with the softness of her. They’d always been antagonists, always fought. To have her so sweet and lush against him had been a gift, walking away pure torture. His wolf didn’t understand why he’d done so—to the animal, she smelled like a mature female. It didn’t comprehend that she was a young girl barely become a woman.

I haven’t been a child since the day they came for me when I was five.

The memory incited a killing rage within him. He’d always known she’d been conditioned into Silence as a child, but until she’d said that, he hadn’t understood the painful depth of what her gift had demanded from her.

She’d never played.

How was that possible? Play was as necessary for a wolf as breathing.

She played with us.

It was the wolf’s voice. Scowling, he went to reject the assertion. Sienna had driven him crazy with her tricks since moving into the den. The party she’d thrown to celebrate her eighteenth birthday had ended up with a lot of naked wolves freezing their asses off in the lake, their clothes scattered over so many acres, he didn’t ever want to know that the hell they’d been doing.

If her intent had been to drive him to the asylum—

“You confirm it?”

He’d scented Riley nearing, didn’t startle. “Yeah. Definitely Psy.”

“Damn.” A harsh exhalation. “They’re really going to do this.”

“Any word from our sources?”

“Lucas spoke to Nikita. She says tensions are increasing in the Council, and it’s out in the open now. Henry and Shoshanna Scott are making it clear they think the two of them should lead. Anyone who argues differently is in their sights.”

“We don’t need to be in the middle of a Psy war.” His duty was to protect his people—the Psy could destroy themselves for all he cared . . . as they’d once almost destroyed SnowDancer.

Riley said, “No,” but his tone brought up another question.

Hawke stared at the pine needle–strewn land in front of him, the ground otherwise clear because of the heavy canopy. “You’re thinking the same thing I am—no way is this going to be contained to the Psy.”

“Like Max pointed out,” he said, naming Nikita’s human security chief, “this region’s already seen as interlinked. No matter what, they won’t leave us be.” A shrug. “And fact is, we’ve bitten back and bitten hard. I think at least part of the Council has decided we have too much power to be allowed to continue as we are.”

Hawke knew that. He also understood that Nikita and Anthony were the lesser of two evils, but it still pissed him off that the pack had been forced to work with a couple of Councilors. “Let’s increase the security patrols around the boundary. Don’t worry too much about the border with DarkRiver, but we need to let them know the Psy might be sniffing around even though it looks like they’re focused on us.”

Riley nodded, his gaze thoughtful. Hawke waited for the lieutenant to speak. Riley and Indigo were the solid foundation on which he stood—Riley had been there since before Hawke became alpha at fifteen. At the time, Hawke had had the strength of the remaining lieutenants around him, but he’d gone most often to the level-headed teenager who was his best friend. Indigo, a little younger, had entered the picture a few years later but had become Hawke’s left arm as Riley was his right. They’d pulled Hawke back from the edge more than once, pushed him when necessary, and offered support without question. It was a gift, one he never took for granted.

“I’m going to ask Kenji and Alexei to fine-tune our strategic plan,” Riley said. “The fact it appears they’re running physical reconnaissance in our territory argues for a rapid escalation. We need to be ready.”

Hawke nodded. The two lieutenants had the best tactical minds in the pack. “Use Drew as well. He might be able to pinpoint areas of vulnerability we might otherwise miss.” The SnowDancer tracker wasn’t only Hawke’s eyes and ears among the most vulnerable in the pack; he’d also become a clearinghouse for all kinds of information.

“I’ll grab him for the comm-conference with Kenji and Alexei tomorrow,” Riley said, then glanced at Hawke. “I hear you went dancing last night.”

The words made every muscle in his body go tight, but he kept his tone even. “I’ve had a talk with the young males and so has Lucas. That kind of bullshit won’t be tolerated.” A little posturing between young dominants was expected and accepted. Hard physical violence? No.


“Rock solid. This isn’t about that—it’s because of you and Mercy.” Everyone was still trying to work out the rules for the whole interpack dating thing, juveniles and older adults included. Add in testosterone and you got last night. “Not that I don’t appreciate you stealing us a leopard sentinel.”

Riley didn’t smile at the familiar joke, perceptive eyes trained on Hawke. “Why did José call you and not Lucas if both groups were making trouble?”

“José switches between us. Luc gets the next postmidnight call.”

A silence filled only with the rustle of the trees as a stiff wind blew through the canopy.

“You need to talk about it?” Riley asked after the forest had gone quiet again.

“Nothing to talk about.”

Riley’s nickname wasn’t The Wall for nothing. “You’ve never been one to ignore a problem.”

“Not a problem.”

“Then why does the gym log show you there half the night, every night?”

Hawke growled low in his throat. “Keeping tabs on me?”

“It’s my job.” Riley’s temper remained even. “I let you go lone wolf up in the mountains, but if you think I’ll watch you self-destruct, you don’t know me.”

Hawke’s wolf snarled, but he and Riley had too much history between them for him to shrug off the concern—and what it meant. “Can you cover for me tomorrow afternoon?”

“You don’t have to ask.” That the other man didn’t question Hawke about what it was he was planning to do, told him exactly how well his lieutenant knew him.

Chapter 11

SASCHA RUBBED THE hard mound of her pregnant belly and stared at the jar of Moreno cherry jam. “No. Absolutely not,” she said to the child in her womb.

The baby wiggled, its emotions sparking of hunger.

Groaning, she picked up the jar, unscrewed it, and spooned up the jam. It should’ve tasted far too sweet, far too rich. Instead, it was ambrosia on her tongue. Unable to stifle a moan of greedy pleasure, she leaned against the counter in the staff kitchen at DarkRiver HQ and licked the spoon. It was tempting to eat a second spoonful, but in spite of the baby’s ravenous urgings, she closed the lid and put the jam away. It’s not good for you, she told her child. We already had chocolate-cherry ice cream.

“You missed a spot.” Lucas crooked a finger from the doorway.

Leaving the spoon in the dishwasher, she walked over. “Did I?”

“Hmm.” He leaned over to lick up the jam with a quick, catlike flick of his tongue, his hand stroking with gentle possessiveness over her abdomen. “Mmm, cherries.”

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