Kiss of Snow Page 15

Laughter in her mind, pure delight. Their baby knew its daddy.

“You look more beautiful every day,” he murmured in her ear, his breath warm, his body so sensually familiar.

Sascha ran her hand up over his shoulder to close around his nape. “Charm me some more.”

A chuckle, wicked words that made her toes curl. “Dorian’s ready to drive you home,” he finally said. “But maybe I should come instead.”

“I’ll never get any work done then.” Unable to resist that look in his panther-green eyes, she pulled him forward to claim a single deep kiss. “Now, behave.”

Laughing, he put one hand on her lower back and walked her down to the elevator. “I want to have a sentinel meeting tonight to discuss the security issues. You up for it?”

“I’ll order the pizza.” Nuzzling her face against his neck when he stopped to press the down arrow, she heard a couple of wolf whistles at her back.

Lucas grinned. “How’s our little princess?”

He’d asked her not to tell him the sex of their child, but he was convinced it was a girl. “The baby—which may or may not be a girl,” she teased, “is quite active and interested in the world this morning.” Their child had an inquisitive mind. “High level of psychic activity.”

Lucas waited until they were inside the elevator to say, “Any idea what type?”

“Strong telepathy,” Sascha said, “but hard to know other than that. I’ll have a chat with the Shine medic, see if he has any ideas about how best to measure the baby’s psychic abilities.” The Psy race, focused as it was on “purebred” Psy, didn’t have the protocols in place to deal with a child who would carry its father’s wild changeling blood intermingled with Sascha’s own.

Shine, on the other hand, was made up of the descendants of Psy who’d defected from the Net at the inception of Silence and intermarried/mated with the human and changeling populations. “I’ll need to make certain I teach our child the correct shielding procedures.” Her heart ached with a sudden, potent rush of emotion. She’d never expected to be a mother, having decided long ago that she wouldn’t sentence a child to the same half life she’d lived in the Net. Then Lucas had appeared in her life. You are my heart.

He wasn’t a telepath, but their mating bond had grown even deeper during the pregnancy, and she knew he heard her. Turning, he took her into his arms. The words he whispered were raw, rough, the love words of an alpha to his mate. Lucas could charm, but this was who he was at the core, and she adored him. “Come home early tonight,” she said against his mouth when they parted.

Kisses on her closed eyelids, her nose, the corners of her lips. “Anything you want.”

A couple of hours later, her body and soul were still humming in bone-deep contentment when someone knocked on the cabin door. The sole reason Sascha didn’t send out an immediate alert was that she recognized the mental signature of the man on the other side. Opening it, she smiled. “Why do you live to aggravate my security?”

Judd Lauren glanced over his shoulder to where a scowling DarkRiver soldier had materialized out of the trees. “It’s good to keep them on their toes. Can you talk?” he asked after she waved the sentry away.

Knowing the reason for the unexpected visit, she nodded at the outdoor furniture situated neatly under the eaves of the cabin. “Let’s sit outside.” Another man’s scent inside the house would infuriate Lucas’s panther right now. While Sascha had no problem confronting her mate when he got too overprotective, she also understood he was a predatory changeling male driven by the most primal instincts—expecting him to act human would be to ask him to deny an integral part of himself. “So,” she said after bringing out a pot of vanilla-scented tea and taking a seat, “the Eldridge book.”

Expressionless brown eyes met her own, but Sascha had felt Judd Lauren’s heart, knew the former Arrow had the capacity to feel, to love with violent intensity. “Are you any closer to locating it?” he asked now.

“No.” The second Eldridge manuscript, meant to be the result of a research project on X-Psy, was half myth, half legend. Both DarkRiver and SnowDancer were working every single Psy contact they had to discover the truth of it, because if it existed, it might contain clues that would help Sienna learn how to handle her abilities—as Alice Eldridge’s first book had done for Sascha.

But, Sascha thought, cupping her hands around the porcelain teacup, though she hadn’t known it at the time, she’d never been as alone as Sienna. Dormant they might be, but there were thousands of E-Psy in the Net. There were no other cardinal X-Psy. “How is she?”

Judd took a sip of his tea, made a startlingly male face—somehow, she didn’t expect that kind of thing from a former assassin—and put it right back down. “She’s maintaining,” he said. “The issue right now isn’t with her psychic control, it’s with her emotional stability.”

Sascha read between the lines. “Maybe I should have a talk with her.” Sienna had become very much a part of Sascha’s family in the time she’d spent in DarkRiver, and Sascha wanted to see for herself how the other cardinal was handling things with a man as dominant and as strong as Sascha’s own mate. A man whose heart carried so many scars that Sascha would’ve warned Sienna away . . . except that Sienna bore her own.

Judd’s fingers curled into a fist on the table, and for a moment, Sascha thought he might betray the emotions that had to be tearing at his heart, but all he said was, “I’ll bring her down tonight.”

Reassured by the knowledge that he’d confide in Brenna even if he spoke to no one else, she put down her own cup. “I’m hardly an invalid.” He was as bad as a leopard. “I’ll drive up with Lucas.”

“He isn’t liable to permit you that far from the heart of DarkRiver territory. Give the man some peace.”

“Judd! No wonder you fit in so well with the wolves.” Laughing, she decided it might actually be better for Sienna to have a break from the den. “Fine, we’ll do it your way.”

As the former Arrow melted into the forest, on his way to see a small boy who’d been born with the same gift that made Judd so lethal, Sascha poured another cup of tea and considered the mysterious Eldridge manuscript. She, Faith, and Ashaya had all exhausted their sources, to no avail. She’d even chanced trusting the director of Shine with the question—but Dev’s people hadn’t had an X in the original group of defectors and knew close to nothing about them.

As far as the mainstream world was concerned, there was no such thing as an X-Psy.

MID-AFTERNOON the day after Sienna had alerted them to the Psy incursion, Hawke crouched in a sun-drenched corner of a small clearing ringed by ancient sequoias with roots the thickness of a grown man’s body and dotted with a myriad wild blooms adapted to the cold mountain climate. “Hey, Rissa.”

The only reply was silence. But it was a peaceful silence. As this place was peaceful, a haven whenever he needed one. And today, he needed it desperately.

“They all think,” he said, clearing away a few stray leaves to uncover a delicate patch of wildflowers the shade of the sky at noon, “that I’m being stubborn without reason. They don’t understand I’m protecting her.” He was brutally attracted to Sienna. That much, he’d admitted to himself if no one else. But the cruel fact was, he could give her little beyond a physical relationship. “I gave my heart to you a long time ago.”

Theresa had been five years old when she died in an avalanche. He’d been ten. Too young to love her the way a man loves a woman, or even the way a boy loves a girl. But the wolf had understood from the moment they met who she was to him, who she would become—his mate.

They’d been best friends since that instant, the connection between them a bright, shining thread, their relationship full of laughter and a delight that was beyond innocent. It had been nothing like the tumultuous nature of the craving that raked him with blade-sharp claws anytime he was in Sienna’s vicinity. The scent of her alone could send his wolf insane, the taste of her a lingering, maddening spice on his tongue.

“Wolves only mate once, Rissa,” he said, using the old childhood pet name he’d been responsible for coining. “Everyone knows that.”

But we never mated.

The voice he heard in his mind when he thought of Theresa was never that of the child she’d been, but of the woman she would’ve become. A woman full of warmth and gentleness, a woman who wouldn’t have been a soldier but a maternal female, part of the beating heart of the pack.

“Doesn’t matter,” he murmured, refusing to give up a truth that had shaped so much of his life. “You were my mate. We would’ve mated when we grew old enough.”

The wind whispered through the trees, through his hair. It was a touch he’d felt a thousand times over the years, and always, it had left him centered and calm. Today, however, as he rose to his feet and walked away from the final resting place of the girl who would’ve owned his heart as a woman, he felt strangely dissatisfied, off-kilter.

It wasn’t a sensation either man or wolf enjoyed.

SIENNA was ready to head down to DarkRiver territory with Judd around eight that evening. Seeing Riordan as she left her quarters, she lifted a hand. “Hi.”

“Hey.” He stopped a few feet away, shifting from foot to foot and avoiding her gaze. “You okay? Hawke was pretty pissed when he came down to Wild the other night.”

“You know he wouldn’t hurt any of us.” She made no attempt to hide her shock that he’d even asked the question, it was so incomprehensible.

Riordan colored, looked up. “Uh, yeah. That’s not what I was talking about.”

Sienna stared.

“Jeez, Sin he made it clear you were his.”

A punch of memory—a hard male body holding her close enough to kiss, his voice an intimate roughness against her senses, his hands so big and hot on her skin. “No,” she forced out, “there’s nothing there.” He wouldn’t permit there to be.

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