Kiss of Snow Page 41

Her toes curled. “What do you want to know?”

“Why X?” The kiss of teeth.

Instead of pulling away, she gripped his arm tight. “Some people say it’s from the Latin word exardesco, which means ‘to blaze up.’ ” The words came out husky. “I think ‘rage’ is also another way it can be defined.”

He raised his head, and it was then that she realized what it was she was saying, what it betrayed. No wonder he didn’t want to touch her. Ice in her veins, she straightened and finished the story, because that was the only thing she could do. “It’s said we were once called the burning ones, so the Latin roots would make sense. But I’ve always thought it was because of what we leave behind when we go supernova: nothing.”

Hawke snarled at the self-condemnation in that last word. “Would you call me a monster, Sienna?”

She tried to jerk up and out of his hold. “Of course not.”

He wouldn’t release her. “Yet I’ve killed.”

“In defense of your pack,” she said, her hand gripping his forearm again, her touch satisfying a bone-deep need. “That’s different.”

He regretted none of the blood he’d spilled in defense of those who were his own, but—“It leaves a mark on the soul nonetheless.”

“When I was younger,” she said in a voice so quiet it was near soundless, “my hold on the cold fire erratic at best, Ming would put those he wanted executed in a room with me, and then he’d use every psychic method he had to push me over. It was his way of teaching me control.” A jagged breath. “He made sure they were conscious. The screams . . . I hear them in my sleep, over and over, and over again.”

Hawke clenched his jaw to keep his claws inside his body, knowing that wasn’t what she needed. “That’s on him, baby. Not you. Never you.”

Sienna dipped her head, her hair sliding forward to obscure her face. “People think that after the first kill, it becomes easier. It never does.”

“No.” It struck him then that this wasn’t a conversation he should have been able to have with a nineteen-year-old woman. Yet that made it no less real, made her scars no less deep.

Dipping his head to push back her hair and kiss the throbbing pulse in her neck, he said, “Turn around,” his voice rough with the raw fury of his emotions.

A shiver as she twisted around to face him on her knees. His jacket slipped off, but he put it back around her shoulders, finding a primal satisfaction both in keeping her warm and in having her covered in his scent. “Enough talk of death,” he murmured, sliding his hand under the cool silk of her hair to cup her nape—driven by the wild need to do everything he could to wipe the sadness from her. “Let’s live.” He dropped his eyes to her mouth.

Her lips flushed under his regard, her pulse thudding in a rapid tattoo that drove his wolf insane. “Scared?” He traced the full curves with one fingertip.

“You do bite.”

Smile creasing his cheeks, he gripped her chin, pressing down with his thumb to part her lips, and then he kissed her. No sweet, playful thing this, but a hot, wet demand that had a moan escaping her throat, her body arching against the hard wall of his chest.

He half expected her to shy as she had that night outside the den, but her fingers clenched on his shoulders, her lips generous and sweet under his voracious mouth. “You shouldn’t give me everything I want,” he chided.


“Because it makes me greedy.” Stroking his hand down over her throat to her chest as he claimed her lips again, he curved his hand over the lush swell of one breast.

She froze.

Nipping at her lips, he flicked his thumb across the taut peak he could feel through her thin black sweater, had the satisfaction of shocking a gasp out of her. “Now imagine,” he murmured in her ear before kissing that beautiful throat once more, drinking in the quivering intoxication of her arousal, “what it’ll feel like when I rub your nipples after I’ve stripped you bare.”

Sienna shuddered. “Don’t stop.”

Petting her down from the edge, he took his hand off her body, his lips off her skin, and nudged her until she lay on her back on the earth, his jacket protecting her from the cold. “Is this hurting you?” He’d caught no indication of it, but he had to be sure.

A quick shake of her head. “We disabled that layer of dissonance.”

That layer.

Which meant there were more, but they wouldn’t talk about the subject tonight, because tonight, he wanted to pleasure her, tease her, indulge her. “Pretty, troublesome Sienna,” he whispered, bracing himself beside her on one elbow and stroking his hand under the bottom of her V-neck sweater to lie over the taut smoothness of her abdomen.

Her muscles tensed under his touch, her eyes dark as the night.

“That feels . . .” A trembling breath. “May I touch you?”

His cock, already rock hard, turned excruciating at the polite question. That was when he realized he didn’t have the patience to play with her, to ease her into the storm of his sexuality. Not today, when his wolf had been pushed to the edge by what she’d shared, the decision he’d made.

More, Sienna needed to rest, to preserve her strength for the op.

Groaning, he kissed her hard and wild, then rolled up to his feet, dragging a bewildered Sienna up with him. Unable to stop himself, he cupped her face, took her mouth again with possessive heat. “We’ll finish this”—another kiss—“later.” A bite on her lower lip. “After you get back.” With that, he bent, grabbed his jacket, and put it around her.

He wasn’t ready for the kiss she laid on him.

Son of a bitch.

His hands clenched on her hips, one step away from pulling her up and against the hard ridge of his cock. From there, it’d be about two seconds before he had her sweater shoved up to her neck, her bra ripped off so he could feast on her breasts. Another five—maybe ten because he had a feeling he’d be greedy about her breasts—before she was pinned naked to the nearest tree.

Wrenching away from the enticement of her, he stalked to the edge of the rise, but he was still too close, the autumn and spice of her lingering in his mouth, in the air, on his skin. Teeth gritted, he scrambled down the slope to the lake and walked to the water’s edge to throw the frigid liquid on his face. Christ!

His wolf, though not normally bothered by the cold, didn’t care for the shock, but it was in control by the time Sienna joined him. He pointed a finger toward her. “Behave—unless you want to be naked and under me in about five seconds flat.” Or maybe the wolf wasn’t in control.

She blinked, swallowed, shook her head. “I don’t think I’m quite ready.”

Neither did he. Which was why he had trickles of icy water rolling down his neck as he got to his feet. “Do you like the lake?” Not the most subtle change in the direction of the conversation, but he wasn’t exactly Mr. Smooth right then.

“Yes.” She fell into step beside him. “It’s peaceful.”

“I used to play down here with my friends all the time as a child.” Rissa had loved jumping in the water in wolf form.

“Did you love her very much?” Quiet, quiet words.

Though she’d voiced the question, he could tell from the way she held herself, her face wiped of expression, that she expected him to tell her it was none of her business. It was what he’d have done, had it been any other person of her rank. Except it wasn’t any other person asking this. It was the woman he’d kissed senseless a minute ago, the woman he was sending into a potentially lethal situation tomorrow, the woman who’d had a hold on him since the instant their eyes collided in that dark green glade the day of her defection.

“We were children,” he began, voice husky with memory. “I only knew her for three years.” They’d spent those three years in each other’s constant company. “We were two of the lucky ones—we found each other early.”

“How did you know?” There was a deep, haunting curiosity in her face, in her words. “That she was your mate.”

“I knew.” It was a resonance of the soul, a hunger of the heart, a sweet welcome home he’d missed every day since her death. “I was five years old when she was born and seven when we met. I remember walking along the corridors with my mother the first time I saw her.

“Later, my mother told me that all of a sudden, I just turned down a hallway and began running.” She’d always laughed as she told that story, his gifted, fey mother with her sea green eyes and wild tumble of hair. “She was so startled that she decided to let me be, see what was so interesting. Until I ran into the nursery.”

“Was Tarah the nursery supervisor then?” she asked, naming Indigo’s mother.

“No, and Evie hadn’t even been born.” He couldn’t believe that so many years had passed . . . that Rissa had been gone all that time. “My mother was sure I’d gotten myself in big trouble for interrupting naptime, especially when she found me laughing with a toddler with thick black curls and brown eyes.”

He would never forget the wonder that had bloomed inside him when Rissa smiled at him. Mine. A crystal-clear thought. As a child, he’d had no understanding of the depth to which that feeling would one day grow—back then, it had been a simple, primal possessiveness. “The healer at the time told me that that was the earliest she’d ever known for a changeling to find his mate.” Some people took years to awaken to each other; Drew and Indigo were the perfect example.

“That’s so beautiful.” Sienna’s words sang with wonder. “She lived the majority of her life knowing she would never be alone, that someone would catch her whenever she fell.”

Hawke hadn’t ever considered it in that light, so that Rissa’s short life was touched only with joy not sorrow. “Thank you.” Feeling the most furious tenderness in his heart for this woman who bore so many scars on her soul, he stroked his hand over the heavy silk of her hair. “Stay safe. We have something important to finish when you get back.”

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