Kiss of Snow Page 34

He braced one arm on the grassy surface beside her head, his wolf strangely content in spite of the skin hunger that continued to be a constant ache at the back of his mind. “What?” Twining a strand of her hair around his finger, he rubbed it between fingertip and thumb.

“To have a hundred years with someone.” Her voice held such haunted need it shook him. “I never imagined that was possible before I came here.”

“Most folks live at least three decades beyond a hundred,” Hawke said, stepping close enough that one of his thighs brushed hers, “so it’s not unusual.”

Sienna didn’t pull away, the scent of her an unintended caress across his senses. “But together . . . imagine how deeply you’d know someone after all that time, how very complex the love would be between the two of you.”

It was time, he thought, to lay things out into the open. “No hypotheticals, Sienna. Me and you. Is that what you want?”

“I’ve made that pretty clear.” An acerbic reply accompanied by arms folded across her chest.

His wolf liked the bite of her, but he had to be certain she understood the implications of being with him. All of them. Fisting a hand into her hair, he pressed in close until she had to unfold her arms, her hands landing on his waist. “Do you know what it would mean for you if I take you as mine?”

Though her pulse was a frantic beat he wanted to lick, she stood her ground.

“No matter what, I can’t give you the mati—” he began, because he would not lie to her.

“I know,” she interrupted. “I heard . . . I put things together.”

Of course she had, his smart Psy. But that wasn’t the only thing he had to say. “No more flirtations with boys your own age,” he said, gripping that stubborn jaw with his fingers. “No more dancing with any male but me. No more time to learn who you are before you have to hold that personality against mine. No more freedom to explore your sensuality before I own it.”

Right at that moment, face-to-face with the dominant force of his personality, Sienna realized exactly how much Hawke had been holding back, and part of her hesitated. The fact was, while she was intelligent and off the charts when it came to psychic strength, she had no true knowledge of how to deal with males . . . no, with this male. He was the only one who’d sliced through her every shield to impact the very core of her, the part she’d protected with single-minded determination even as the rest of her turned Silent.

“Scared?” Hawke’s smile held no humor. “You should be, baby.” Then he kissed her, and it was no tender exploration, no playful tease. This was the kiss of a man who knew precisely what he wanted and had no compunctions about getting it. Using his grip on her jaw to angle her how he wanted, he nipped at her lower lip hard enough that she gasped, opened her mouth.

Making a deep sound low in his throat, he swept in, tasting her with a proprietary thoroughness that caused a tremor to shiver through her frame. Instead of easing up on the kiss, he pressed deeper into her, letting her feel every hard inch of him as he licked and tasted and demanded. Never had she realized how soft her body was in comparison to his, how much hotter he burned.

It was a lesson, and when it was over, she had kiss-swollen lips, a body so sensitized to his touch that it burned a craving across every inch of her . . . and a sudden awareness that maybe, just maybe, she hadn’t thought this out as well as she’d believed.

Chapter 22

THE GHOST THOUGHT of the uses he could make of a cardinal X, fully cognizant that he was more than capable of double-crossing Judd. Except for one thing—his reason for building the fires of rebellion, for not executing the entire Council in a bloody burst of violence, it held him back, acting as the conscience he didn’t have.

As a result, instead of spending his time strategizing about how to gain control of the rogue X, he dove into the slipstream of the Net, the psychic network created by the minds of millions of Psy across the world, each mind an icy white star on an endless spread of black. The Net existed in every place on the earth, a vast sprawl that had no limits.

In this infinite system ran rivers of data, millions and trillions of pieces of information uploaded each and every day by the minds hooked into the network. It was the biggest data archive on the planet, the storehouse of knowledge for their entire race. The unwary could get buried under the weight of it, but the Ghost was a shark gliding through the slipstream in lethal silence, filtering data with a speed and specificity that was almost preternatural.

Rumors, whispers, conspiracy theories centered around the time and manner of Alice Eldridge’s death, all of it floated to the top of his consciousness as the Net gave up its secrets. None held anything of substance. Either the Arrows had done an immaculate job of wiping Eldridge from the Net, or the data had degraded in the years since her death.

That left him with the Obsidian archive. Created by the NetMind, the neosentience that was the guardian and librarian of the Net, the Obsidian archive was a backup in case the PsyNet ever suffered a catastrophic failure. The Ghost had named it Obsidian because the complexity of data within it made it all but a wall of black. Only a rare few individuals had ever realized the Obsidian archive existed.

Even fewer knew how to access it.

If there was anything to find on Alice Eldridge’s second manuscript, it would be buried in that immense hoard of information. Otherwise, Sienna Lauren was on her own.

Chapter 23

SIENNA CAUGHT HAWKE as he was heading out of the den early the next afternoon. “Wait.” The tense line of her spine told him she’d forgotten nothing from the previous night.

Neither had he. “Talk fast, baby.” It came out curt. Yes, he’d meant to scare her, but to be honest, he hadn’t expected it to work. That it had had irritated his wolf. “I’ve got a meeting.”

“If it’s to do with the attack, you need to hear this.” She walked at a rapid clip beside him as he continued on outside, where he’d left a vehicle.

“I’m listening.”

“What they did, it’s a tactic Ming used to talk about.”

“A quick hit designed to hurt the pack’s morale.” The death of five changelings would’ve been considered a bonus. “I guessed that.” His fury was a cold thing, his wolf thinking with clear-eyed precision.

“No, it’s more.” She almost ran as he lengthened his stride. “It’s the beginning of a war of attrition. They’re not going to come at you full force until they’ve whittled down your numbers through surgical strikes. Because you don’t have an obvious target against which to retaliate, you’ll splinter your forces in an effort to keep up, further fragmenting your strength.”

Catching the assurance in her voice, he came to a stop. “You sound certain.”

“I am.” There was nothing of reserve in her now, only steely eyed conviction. “The fact that whoever was behind this used a stealthcraft rather than telekinetics, when they know changelings have superior senses and might well detect a physical intrusion, tells me their Tks were doing something else.”

“You’re assuming they have telekinetics.”

“Anyone with enough power to mount that kind of op has the pull to have a unit of Tks under his or her command.” She put her hands on her hips. “I want to borrow Brenna for a couple of hours, have her bring up satellite images of certain areas.”

She was a novice soldier, didn’t have the rank to make such a bold demand—but she’d also been the protégée of a Psy most considered the Council’s military mastermind. “How do you plan to figure out where to look?” he asked instead of dismissing the request outright.

She tapped her temple. “Ming was, and probably still is, the best of the best when it comes to martial strategy. No matter who’s running this, I can outthink them if I think like him.”

He took an instant to weigh the variables, almost able to see the impatience flashing in her eyes. That was his girl, he thought, hiding his grin. “You can have Brenna—for half an hour,” he said. “She’s got too many other things on her plate.”

Lines formed between her eyebrows but she nodded. “I’ll narrow things down as much as possible before I go to her—that’ll make it more efficient.”

An hour and a half later, he could still see the white-hot rays of the Sierra sun glinting off the red in her hair as she turned to jog back to the den. The woman in front of him was an altogether different creature, had no fire in her soul. Nikita Duncan had given birth to an empath, then thrown her away. She was as cold as her daughter was full of heart. Even in looks alone, they were poles apart.

Nikita had cool white skin, eyes from Japan, and cutting cheekbones that complemented the razor-straight jet of her hair. Sascha’s skin was colored a warm brown, her hair a curling tumble of soft black, her face softer, more rounded. Both unquestionably beautiful women. Except one had the blood of a reptile, while the other would spill her own to save a stranger.

“How are you, Sascha darling?” he murmured under his breath as Nikita turned to say something to the other Councilor at the table, the enigmatic Anthony Kyriakus—tall, patrician, his black hair silvered at the temples.

Sascha made a rueful face from his left. “About to give birth. That’s what it feels like, anyway.”

Her muttered words made him grin, but he could see that Lucas wasn’t amused. He wondered how big of a fight the two had had today about Sascha’s attendance at this meeting—not that Lucas would’ve taken any chances with really riling her up now that she was so close to her due date. If Hawke had to guess, he’d say the leopard alpha had bitten his tongue even as his animal went insane at the idea of his pregnant mate so close to those who might cause her harm. And for once, Sascha, the empath, seemed clueless.

Moving his lips to her ear, he murmured, “Sweetheart, you know I love you, but you need to get Luc away from here before he loses his mind.”

Sascha froze, stared. Her eyes turned midnight within one blink and the next. “Oh dear,” she whispered. “How did I miss that?”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies