Kiss of Snow Page 20

A genuinely startled glance. “I don’t know. But it’s funny how my hair fits, isn’t it?”

Fire hidden in darkness. Yes, her hair fit. “Tell me about your abilities.”

“You already know.”

“Not from you.” Judd had given him the low-down, instructed him on what to do if Sienna ever went critical and the others in the LaurenNet were incapacitated. His wolf snarled. Hawke had made some ruthless decisions in his time, but he didn’t know if he had it in him to cause her that kind of hurt, the kind that would slam her into immediate unconsciousness.

There was a long silence from the woman by his side. As the minutes passed, he began to hear faint rustling in the undergrowth, nocturnal creatures starting to go about their business again after the brutal blast of Sienna’s power. “They call it cold fire . . . X-fire,” she said at last. “It can burn things to ash . . . bodies to ash, within microseconds.”

He heard old pain in her words. “Were you a child?”

A rough nod, but she jerked away from his touch, refusing comfort. Her voice, when it came, told him they wouldn’t be talking about her childhood pain. It was coated in frost, but he heard the tremor beneath. “The cold fire is the first wave. The power has the capacity to build until it reaches—”

Another silence, his heartbeat synchronizing with her own.

“Synergy, it’s called synergy. If I ever reach synergy—” A sharp inhalation. “There’s a reason they call us living, breathing weapons.” Turning to him for the first time since she’d begun to speak, she shot him a piercing look. “You don’t have to worry about the pack being in danger. It does sometimes scare me that I’ll lose control,” she said with raw honesty, “but that means I spend even more time strengthening my shields. We also have a failsafe set in place just in case.”

Understanding that that failsafe might well be a lethal one, he said, “Do you really think I’d let you go that easily?”

An implacable glance from eyes that were suddenly decades older than him. “I’m not yours to let go.”


FROM: Alice <[email protected] /* */ >

TO: Dad <[email protected] /* */ >

DATE: November 18th, 1971 at 10:32am

SUBJECT: re: re: re: JA Article

Dear Dad,

Thank you for your last e-mail. Yes, you’re right. What I’m doing, it may one day help the Xs. That’s what I must cling to as things get harder.

This is just a quick note as I’m in Paris, about to head out to meet one of my volunteers. He’s a fascinating boy—intelligent, witty, and far too calm for his age. I’ve noticed that with all the Xs I’ve met in person. I hate to write this, to recognize the reason behind it, but it’s as if they live their lives in fast-forward, growing old before they’ve ever been young.

I’ll write again after the meeting.



Chapter 14

IT WAS LATE afternoon, with both Toby and Marlee involved in after-school activities, when Walker cornered Lara in the break room of the infirmary, shutting the door behind himself.

Having obviously scented him as he neared, she leaned against the counter, arms folded. “Yes?” Her eyes, a tawny shade of brown that reminded him of a fox’s bright gaze, held nothing but professional interest. “Is someone hurt?”

He echoed her position against the door, making an unexpected discovery—he’d gotten used to the way Lara had looked at him until the day on the cliff. It caused a strange, sharp sensation in his chest to no longer see that indefinable something in her gaze. “How was your date?” he asked, not certain why he felt compelled to ask.

Lara’s smile was a sultry curve of her lips. “Kieran knows how to make a woman feel good.”

An icy calm came over Walker’s mind, cold intent spearing through his veins. He was a telepath trained to work with children, his touch subtle, but he measured at 7.8 on the Gradient. It meant he had the capacity to kill without leaving a mark. “He’s younger than you.” Too weak and green to ensure Lara came to no harm, regardless of where her vocation might take her.

Lara shrugged, her full breasts pushing against the rust-colored fabric of the V-neck sweater that shaped itself to the curves of her body. “Not by much.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Turning, she began to prepare coffee with swift, sure movements of those capable hands he’d seen care for so many in the den. “I won’t argue he’s a little immature, but aren’t most men in their early twenties?”

Walker knew she’d given him her back very much deliberately, the rebuff no less pointed for all it was silent. However, the only orders Walker had ever followed were the ones that meant his family would be safe. “He has no idea who you are.” Even at thirty, Lara was young, very young, to be the healer assigned to the den.

Unlike most packs, SnowDancer had more than one healer spread throughout its vast territory, each blood-bonded to a SnowDancer lieutenant to permit a type of power transference unique to changelings. Though several had decades on Lara, who was blood-bonded directly to Hawke, she held their unqualified trust and respect. Her healing abilities were unparalleled, but more, she had the will and the heart to handle the most dominant members of the pack without flinching. That woman deserved a man as strong, not a callow youth.

“Really, Walker,” Lara said, facing him with coffee cup in hand, several of her curls having escaped the bun at the base of her neck to kiss her face. “You’d think I was going to mate with Kieran.” Blowing a breath across the hot surface of her drink, she stepped forward, her smile so shallow, it cut like a scalpel. “I need to check on a patient.”

He had the feeling she was lying to him, but he couldn’t be certain, so he permitted her to pass, the warm elegance of her scent stroking over him as she left. She was halfway to the patient rooms when she glanced back and caught him with that fox-brown gaze. “Sometimes,” she said, “it’s just about sex.”

SIENNA had the afternoon free, but after completing the coursework for an advanced physics class she was taking through the online branch of a major university, she decided to head out to the White Zone and volunteer to assist with the after-school activities. As she walked, she tried to keep her mind on dry academic facts, but it was impossible not to think of the emotional storm and dark beauty of the previous night.

The moss-laden grotto Hawke had led her to after the cold burn of her ability had encased her in violent flame had been alive with night-blooming wildflowers, the small pond at the center so tranquil and clear as to be a mirror. Her soul had filled with wonder as she touched her fingertips to a delicate bloom, her heart aching with the realization that he was giving her a gift, giving her a piece of himself he’d never shown to another.

It had threatened to break her. Because no matter how drawn he was to her, no matter how potent the tug between them, Hawke had a will of iron. That will would have him shredding her to bloody pieces tonight as he put his hands on another woman. As he kissed her. More.

“Sinna!” Ben skidded to a halt at her feet not far into the White Zone, breaking the agonizing loop of thought. “Hi!” He threw his arms wide.

Going down on her haunches, she cuddled him tight, whispering, “Do you want me to do up your shoelace?” in his ear.

A furtive nod.

Smiling at the male pride that wouldn’t let Ben admit the need for help to the other kids, she did up the dangling lace, then rose to her feet to find herself being called upon to referee a game of hide-and-seek. Drew tracked her down there ten minutes later. “Hello, sugarpie.” Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he tugged her into the warmth of his body even as she scowled at the ridiculous pet name he’d given her after discovering—and feeding—her addiction to sweets.

“Temper, temper.” A finger tapping her nose. “Play nice or I won’t give you the pecan-and-nougat candy bar somebody really loves.”

In spite of the pain wracking her insides, it was impossible not to smile at this man who’d claimed her as a sister, who’d laughed, tricked, and teased his way into her life. “I thought you were in Arizona with the falcons.”

“Got back a couple of hours ago.” He slid the candy bar into her pocket.

Leaning into him, she sniffed, loud and obvious. “Hmm, freshly showered. What did you do when you got back?”

Drew gave her a wicked, wicked smile that creased his cheeks with lean male dimples. “Well now, I’ll just leave that to your imagination, Ms. Sienna Lauren.”

Laughter bubbled out of her, pumping through the giant bruise that was her heart. “You like being mated.” He’d always been one of the most easygoing people in the den, but there was a fierce happiness to him now, his adoration of Indigo open.

“Yep.” He lifted a finger to his lips when a little girl poked her head around the bush where she was hiding. She ducked back. “I’ve come to give you some sage advice, being as I’m so much older and wiser.”

“Says the man who once stole Indigo’s phone and recorded himself howling her name as the ringtone.”

His responding words were unexpectedly serious. “I had the same problem as you.”

Sienna went to snap back a reply but closed her mouth partway. “Yes . . . you did.” Drew was only four years younger than Indigo, but he didn’t occupy the same place in the hierarchy. It had made his courtship of the lieutenant difficult.

“I didn’t give up.”

Stung, she pulled away. “I’m not giving up.” She’d asked Hawke to be with her, been rejected with such finality she was still bleeding inside.

“I dunno, sweetheart.” Drew rubbed his jaw, his gaze astute for all that his comment was a lazy drawl. “From where I’m standing, it sure as hell looks like you’re giving Rosalie and Hawke the green light.”

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