Kiss of Snow Page 30

When she looked up, he was watching her with an absolute focus that stole the air from her lungs. “You’re a good playmate,” he said, dipping his head to speak against her lips. “You get to pick the next game.”

Stealing tiny kisses as she stood with her chest pressed to his, she felt the vibration of his growl in every inch of her. “When?” she managed to get out, her nipples hard little points, her breasts so sensitized she wasn’t sure she’d be able to take it if he touched her.

“Tomorrow.” Leaning down, he nuzzled at her, only taking a small bite before rubbing his lips over the spot. “Time to go back.”

“Just a minute more.” Scared this was a dream, she dared to wrap her arms around his neck, stroke her fingers over his nape. He was much taller, but he stayed in position so she could hold him, his breath hot against her skin. Just for a minute.

LARA wasn’t surprised to see Walker in her office that night. He’d come to her the previous evening, too. The part of her that was still bruised had her keeping a wary emotional distance, but that same part held her complex, painful feelings for the quiet Psy male, and they left her unable to ask him to leave—especially when she sensed a subtle difference in him, a lessening in that wall of reserve.

However, not wanting to set herself up for another fall, she’d brought up something she was sure would have him making a fast exit last night. “You never talk about Marlee’s mother.”

To her shock, she’d gotten an answer.

“Her name was Yelene,” he’d said, his expression telling her nothing of his emotions toward the woman who had borne him a child. “We lived together in a family unit, both of us of the opinion that psychologically speaking, it was the most secure way to bring up Marlee and, later, Toby.”

Such a cold rationale on the surface, and yet beneath it was a love that had led him to walk into near-certain death on the slim chance that the children would find sanctuary. “I’m sorry about your sister.” She knew Walker was the eldest of the three siblings, Judd the youngest. Sienna and Toby’s mother had fallen in the middle . . . and died far too soon.

“Kristine was gifted but troubled.”

“I’m glad Toby had you to turn to.” Because Walker, he would’ve understood a child’s pain at the loss, even in Silence.

“I couldn’t protect Sienna”—dark, edgy words—“but I wouldn’t have allowed anyone to seize Toby from us.”

Devastatingly conscious of what it must’ve cost him to see Sienna taken by Ming, she hadn’t asked the question on the tip of her tongue yesterday. Tonight, however, as they sat at the small table in the break room, his long legs encroaching on her space, she couldn’t contain it any longer. “Yelene,” she said. “What was she like?”

“Our genes were a good match.” His big body betrayed nothing of his inner thoughts as he gave her that nonanswer. “It was predicted that we’d create high-Gradient offspring, and Marlee is living proof of the veracity of the geneticists’ predictions.”

Lack of overt body language or not, Lara knew he wanted her to back off. But she had no intention of turning back the clock, of returning their relationship to what it had been before the kiss—when she’d allowed him to dictate the boundaries in that subtle way of his. “You felt something for her, didn’t you?” Every instinct she had urged her to touch him, to connect with him on the most basic level, but Walker hadn’t acceded her those skin privileges, and even if they had had more between them than this strange friendship, he wasn’t the kind of man with whom a woman could demand.

“I was Silent,” he said, his jean-clad leg brushing her own in a rough caress that made her breath catch in spite of her warning not to let herself read too much into his visits, his words. “I felt nothing.”


He put down the coffee she’d made him. “There was no love or affection—not as you feel it. But there was, I believed, a true commitment and loyalty to the family unit. I was wrong.” So cold and final, the statement told her the subject was now off-limits.

It wasn’t Lara’s determination that had her fighting his dominance to say what she did next, but the deepest instincts of her healer’s heart. “She hurt you.”

A tendon pulled taut on his jaw. “She made the most logical choice when the entire family was slated for rehabilitation.” Walker would never forget the day, the minute, he was served the edict and told he had three days to put his affairs, and those of the minors under his care, in order; three days to prepare his daughter and the boy he considered a son to undergo a psychic brainwipe that would turn them into vegetables suitable only for the most menial tasks.

“According to the rehabilitation order, the Lauren line had been judged ‘unstable’ and ‘undesirable.’ ” Kristine’s suicide had been listed as one of the pieces of evidence, but Judd and Walker had always known that to be nothing but a convenient excuse. “Yelene’s name wasn’t on the notice.”

He’d gone home to discuss the situation with her, to lay out the plans he and Judd had put in place, both of them having seen the writing on the wall when the extent of Sienna’s powers became clear. Add in Judd’s telekinetic strength and Walker’s telepathy, as well as Marlee’s and Toby’s nascent abilities, and the Lauren family had become a threat that needed to be neutralized.

“She was packing her bags when I walked in.” At first, he’d believed she was preparing for a defection attempt. To this day, he didn’t know what had stopped him from sharing their plans—perhaps some part of him had always understood that though Yelene had carried Marlee in her womb, their child was only a collection of cells to her . . . a replaceable entity. “When she saw me, she said point-blank that she didn’t intend for her genes to die out alongside mine.”

Lara’s pupils dilated, taking over those tawny irises. “I can’t understand.” Disbelieving bewilderment. “I never will. All I can do is . . .” She put her hand on the table, palm up.

A silent offer of surcease.

Walker had learned to touch since his defection, learned to hug, to give pats on the back or a squeeze on the shoulder. But he’d never touched a woman for no reason except that it would soothe something jagged in him to do so. Lara’s fingers began to curl when he didn’t move, her hand starting to slide away.

His fingers closed around her wrist before he was aware of moving his hand, his thumb on the fluttering beat of her pulse. Her skin was so soft, stirring fantasies of what it would be like to explore the skin of her breasts, her inner thighs. Softer still, he thought, she’d be softer still in those places.

“I’m not Yelene,” she said, a quiet strength to her that had compelled him from the first. “I won’t ever walk away from those who are mine.”

No, that wasn’t the way she was built. But—“Yelene has nothing to do with this.”

“Liar.” A whisper that put him on notice that she wasn’t about to back off. “What she did hurt you on a level you won’t accept, and that hurt continues to drive the decisions you make about women, about relationships.”

“The old bonds,” he said, holding that tawny gaze so she would know he told her the utter truth, “the love for the children, they survived Yelene, survived the defection. But the rest of me is damaged.” In spite of his need for her, he wouldn’t lie . . . even though he knew his words would push her into the arms of one of the other men drawn to the warm glow of her spirit.

His mind went cold with anger, but he wrenched it back, knowing he had no right to the emotion. “I was too long in Silence.”

Lara shook her head, something in her expression he couldn’t read, fine lines around her mouth, fanning out from the corners of her eyes. “You’ve formed new bonds of loyalty, of trust, with packmates. We’re . . . friends.”

“Yes.” He rubbed his thumb over her pulse, wanted to touch his lips to the spot. Physical hunger wasn’t the problem, but Lara wasn’t a woman for whom that would ever be enough. She was a healer, built for family, for laughing children, and a mate who knew how to love with the same fierce depth of heart as she’d love him. “I don’t appear to have the capacity to feel anything deeper.” Maybe the scar tissue was too thick, or maybe a critical aspect of his emotional psyche had been broken beyond repair, but there was a wall inside him that nothing could penetrate.

Not even Lara.


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

TO: Dad <[email protected] /* */ >

DATE: April 10th, 1973 at 11:44pm

SUBJECT: re: hello


I’m so excited! Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I may have found the most extraordinary correlation. It began when I was able to track down the descendants of a woman named Jena Akim, an X-Psy who lived in the sixteenth century and was part of a high-Gradient family. The information on her and her family is more legend than fact, but if true, it might be the answer.

What is crucial is that unlike most Xs, who are put into specialized training as soon as they begin to show their X tendencies, Jena was never separated from her family unit. That of course is the key and why this has been missed so far. Perhaps it might even be that it is hidden or less visible in weaker Gradient minds—but I can’t draw any conclusions until I’m able to confirm if my theory is correct.

If so, it cannot be coincidence—my studies show that the rules of the psychic plane are multi-layered and textured, so complex that even the Psy don’t have a handle on them, but, and this is critical, there are rules.



Chapter 20

SIENNA OPENED THE door the night after the kiss to find Hawke waiting, his hand braced on the doorjamb.

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