Kiss of Snow Page 26

Hawke stroked the wolf at his side, a beautiful creature of deepest black . . . the same shade as the much larger changeling wolf who prowled out to join the circle of watchers. Riaz. The SnowDancer lieutenant stared unblinking at the trespassers with eyes a startling shade akin to ancient gold.

“Depends what you define as sanctuary.” Hawke’s tone was easy, as if this was an everyday conversation. “I’m sure they no longer feel any pain . . . no longer feel anything.”

“Are you saying they’re dead?”

A faint smile. “Now, if I said that, I’d be admitting to murder.” He angled his head toward the woman, and Judd knew the wolf was assessing the truth of her. “Our legal team would frown on that.” Then he did something Judd would have never expected.

Throwing back his head, he howled—the sound eerily beautiful, seeming to come from a wolf’s throat, not a human’s. The wolves around him, wild and changeling, reacted in a split second, forelegs bunching as they launched themselves at the intruders. Only someone who’d been watching with utmost care would’ve seen that their lunge would have them streaming around the woman.

The Psy weren’t paying that kind of close attention. But the woman didn’t clamp her hand around her belly, didn’t try to shield her womb, didn’t attempt to protect her body in any way. Instead, she, like the others, slammed out a hand in a telekinetic thrust that shoved the wolves back . . . and teleported out.

At a speed that meant each had done their own personal teleport.

Judd hissed out a breath. There was no chance of four teleport-capable Tk-Psy—all of whom would’ve been pulled into the Council superstructure as youths—deciding to defect at the same time. No chance. It would provoke too much attention, incite too massive a search. No Council operative would make that mistake—and all four of the intruders had been standing in a battle-ready stance that revealed their training.

“Clear!” one of the SnowDancers called out, holding up a gadget Brenna and the other techs had put together to detect any surveillance devices in their territory.

Only then did Judd step out of concealment. “Somebody suspects we’re still alive.”

Hawke, having crouched down to stroke, touch, and play with the wild wolves that swarmed over him, now rose. “Our demonstration should put that rumor to rest.”

“Especially when it happens to be so close to the truth.”

Hawke’s grin was that of the wolf, amused and dangerous. “You’re lucky I was feeling mellow the day the five of you turned up in our territory.”

Judd knew now that Marlee and Toby had never been in any danger—the wolves balked at harming any child, even one who might be a threat. It was their Achilles’ heel, one the Council could not be allowed to discover, because they were fully capable of breeding and sending in child operatives. “Let me talk to my contacts, see if I can get an idea of who might’ve been behind the fishing expedition.”

“A Councilor has a hand in it somewhere with all those Tks.”

“There is a second option.”

When Hawke turned to him in question, he said, “I didn’t recognize them, but it’s possible they were recruited into the squad after I left.” Arrows didn’t turn against their own, but Judd had defected and, in so doing, broken the covenant. “They might be hunting me.” Feeling a wolf brush against him as he finished speaking, he glanced down at Riaz, who’d wandered over from the other side of the clearing. “Yes?”

But the lieutenant was only interested in Hawke, walking over to sniff at the alpha. Judd was certain he saw the black wolf grin before Hawke warned him off with a low growl. Judd didn’t have changeling senses but he had a brain. Still, he made no comment. Not yet.

IT was late when Hawke returned to the den. He should’ve gone to bed, but instead he tracked a certain scent through the corridors until he located Sienna in the same training room where he’d watched her once before. This, the thing between him and Sienna, he didn’t know where it was going, and yeah, his guilt at claiming her when he had so little to offer continued to be a claw raking his gut—but as proven by his inability to keep his distance, ignoring it was no longer an option.

As for the guilt? Turned out it stood no chance against the piercing pleasure he derived from being in her presence. Locking the door behind himself now, he sat down on a bench to savor the sight of her moving with such lithe grace. “Couldn’t sleep?” he asked when she saw him and halted.

She pushed a flyaway tendril out of her eyes. “I was worried.” A statement without sophistication, stark in its honesty. “I wanted to telepath Judd, but I knew he wouldn’t tell me anything without authorization.”

Protecting his own was instinct, but this was her life—a life she’d fought for from the start. He wasn’t about to handicap her by leaving her blind to a possible threat.

She sucked in a breath as he started giving her the rundown, her face going pale under those intriguing freckles she’d gained during the summer months. “Me,” she whispered. “I’ve given us away.”

He was already rising to cup her jaw, run his finger over the softness of her skin. “No one would have recognized you,” he said, thinking she was worried about her visits to Wild, the city. “Hell, I hardly recognized you.”

“No.” A violent shake of her head, her eyes gone midnight. “When I ‘earth’ the X-fire, it causes a psychic shockwave. They’d have to be close to feel it—”

“But,” he said, seeing the lethal point she was trying to make, “Henry Scott’s men have been lurking on the fringes and maybe even in interior sections of den territory for months.”

She gave a jagged nod. “I’m sorry. I should’ve realized—”

He stopped her with a finger on her lips. “Even if they did catch something, it must’ve only been the barest hint, or they’d have been a lot more certain tonight.”

“They’ll come back.” She spoke against his touch, and it was instinct to trace those full lips, to indulge himself that much though he knew he couldn’t allow himself to go any further. Not tonight. Not when she was so shocked and vulnerable.

“Then,” he said, drawing in her scent, “we’ll take care of them.” He rubbed the rough pad of his thumb over her lower lip, deeply satisfied to hear her breath catch. “Can you mute the release of your power in any way?”

“Yes.” Hot breath against his skin, the thudding beat of her pulse a caress that had his body going rigid in want. “I’ll go deep into SnowDancer territory, places I know are under heavy guard and highly unlikely to be compromised.”

“Good.” It was beyond tempting to bite the flushed curves of her mouth, but he resisted and said, “What were you reading when I came in earlier? I saw the reader on the bed.”

Sienna had been sick to her stomach when she’d realized her actions might’ve brought danger to her whole family, but now, a wholly different sensation skittered within her abdomen. “Shouldn’t we,” she said against that thumb that continued to tease her until it felt as if her lips were connected in a direct line to the damp heat between her legs, “discuss the security issue?”

“Nothing more to discuss yet.” Wolf eyes looking out of a human face, his body so close her own brushed against the implacable strength of him with every breath.

When he moved that tormenting touch away from her lips to close his hand over the sensitive column of her throat, she shuddered. “A physics text.” Part of her said she was letting him have too much control of the situation, but the rest of her waited in strained anticipation to see what he would do next.

“Hmm.” Reaching back, he undid her braid, sliding the dark mass over one shoulder so it tumbled over her breast. “You’re getting straight A’s.”

Surprise cut through the desire so heavy in her limbs, in her blood. “How did you know?”

A slow smile. “Because I know your brain never stops working.”

She didn’t know how to take that. “Are you making fun of me?”

Sliding both hands down to her waist, he said, “No,” and stroked his hands up, back down again. “I like how smart you are.”

It was an unexpected compliment, one that meant far more to her than the most flowery of words. “I like your mind, too,” she whispered as her arms rose of their own volition to wrap around his neck. He was too tall for that, so she curved her hand around the side of his neck, the shift of muscle and tendon a stark intimacy under her palm. “Your thought processes fascinate me.” He could be so icily rational, and yet the wolf was always there, primal and untamed.

“Then we’re equal.” Cupping her nape with one hand, he moved the other to her lower back. And somehow, they were dancing, though the only music was the thudding pulse of her heart, the rough caress of his breath.

JUDD managed to get in touch with the Ghost around three that morning, the other man agreeing to meet him an hour later in the murky confines of an abandoned building project. Black plastic fluttered in the night winds, the solid skeleton of the house providing an illusion of permanence. “You’ve been hard to track down of late,” Judd said to the rebel who was so close to the Net, Judd worried its madness was starting to seep into the Ghost’s brain.

Face hidden in the gloom, the Ghost leaned back against one of the supporting beams. “You asked me once what my reason was for doing this.”

“This” being their combined efforts to topple the Council . . . though no longer Silence. The question had become more complex than that. As evidenced by the second level of dissonance in Sienna’s brain, some Psy needed Silence, or some aspect of it, on a basic level. “Are you ready to share?”

The only thing the Ghost had admitted to date was that there was at least one individual in the Net who had some value to him, one person he did not want dead. That was the solitary thing that kept him from annihilating the entire Council, an act that would cause a psychic shockwave and destabilize the Net, killing millions.

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