Kiss of Snow Page 42

LARA tracked Walker down the morning after Sienna and Judd left the den with such stealth, she’d never have known they were gone if she hadn’t gotten up before dawn to check up on Elias and glimpsed them slipping out. When she’d confronted Hawke, pointing out that she ranked as high as a lieutenant, he’d told her what was going on.

Now, she pushed open the door to the small workspace she knew Walker had commandeered in an isolated section of the den. His tools lay neatly along a bench he’d built with his hands, while the man himself stood at another bench, sanding the edges of a rocking chair so delicate and graceful, she knew it was meant for a young girl. “Did you build that for Marlee?”

He looked up, taking off and placing his safety glasses aside. “No. It’s a gift for Sakura.”

It was a kind thing to do for the little girl whose father was not yet totally recovered, the type of thing Walker did so often without fanfare or any expectation of kindness in return. “I brought you something.” Steeling her shoulders, she crossed the space between them to place a mug of coffee and a plate of buttered toast on the bench. It was what he preferred for breakfast. She knew that because she noticed everything about Walker Lauren.

Putting aside the sander, he dusted off his hands and picked up a piece of toast. Neither of them spoke until he’d finished. “They’re both skilled individuals,” he said at last. “There’s no reason for anything to go wrong.”

The knot in her stomach unfurled at the realization that he wasn’t going to make this hard. She was the one who’d walked way . . . but she’d regretted her decision every hour since. She’d missed him. No other man came close to creating the depth of feeling in her that Walker did with a simple look, a simple word.

Faced with that indisputable conclusion, she’d canceled all future dates. It wasn’t fair. Not to her and not to the males.

Instead, she’d looked hard at her relationship with Walker—not just what he’d said to her, but what he’d done. Quiet, reserved Walker Lauren, who rarely spoke to anyone, had come to her night after night, trusted her with things she was becoming certain no one else knew. Not only that, but he’d cared for her in that same quiet way. Maybe the words were the truth and his actions an inadvertent lie, but Lara had made the decision to see this through to the end.

Never did she want to look back and wonder. Because he mattered. So much. Enough that she was willing to take the biggest risk of her life and continue this friendship that was nothing so simple. “You’ll worry all the same though,” she said. “He’s your baby brother, and she might as well be your daughter.”

Pale green eyes widened the tiniest fraction. “Judd would be startled to hear himself described in such a way.”

Laughing at the unusual show of emotion, she stole a sip of his coffee before passing it over. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”

“Agreed.” He took a long drink before placing the mug beside the plate and reaching to cup her jaw. “You’re more rested.”

Her skin burned where he touched it. “Yes.”

“I’m glad.” Running his thumb over her chin, he dropped his hand. “Talk to me.”

As he worked, she did exactly that, keeping his mind from dwelling on the truth that two people he loved were in danger. When he touched her now and then, whether it was an accidental brush or a deliberate act as he helped her perch up on the bench, she quelled the urge to demand more.

This man, he was worth waiting for.


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

TO: Dad <[email protected] /* */ >

DATE: March 2nd, 1974 at 10:18pm

SUBJECT: <no subject>

Dear Dad,

My empathic connection came through. He confirmed my hypothesis, though he tells me that in all four cases, it was near impossible to spot and he did so only because he knew what to search for—and even then, he had to spend considerable time studying the target minds on the PsyNet.

My tentative conclusion from this is that it must relate in some way to the Xs’ rating on the Gradient. Unfortunately, I have no Xs beyond 4.2 on the Gradient in my project, so there is no way to prove that.

However, I’ve decided to continue on—see if I can design a test to prove or disprove the second part of my theory. Of course, the Ethics Committee will take forever giving their approval since it’ll involve live volunteers. In the meantime, I plan to continue with my historical research.

I loved visiting the dig. I miss you both already.



Chapter 29

WE HAVE SOMETHING important to finish when you get back.

Lying flat on the earth on a moonless, starless night far from home, the air thin, the mountains unfamiliar, Sienna kept Hawke’s final words close. He’d kissed her. Held her. Shared an important part of his past. Not only that, but he’d sent her on this mission, accepting that she wasn’t just another young soldier, but an X-Psy honed in the coldest fire.

Finally, he saw her.

We were two of the lucky ones—we found each other early.

Wolves who lost their mates never mated again. It was once, and it was for life. Did it matter? Yes. Maybe it was selfish, but she wanted Hawke to be hers, to see home in her eyes as she saw it in his.


Thoughts switching to martial mode at the psychic alarm, she rose up out of the grass after ensuring the area was clear and made her way on silent feet to the first target. She’d been good at this as Ming’s trainee, but she’d become even better in the years since. With Ming, she’d relied as much as possible on her psychic abilities, while in SnowDancer, she’d had to maintain iron control over those same abilities.

That discipline came in use tonight.

She was invisible to the psychic senses of the guards. She knew that because Judd had tested her shields—and been surprised enough by their efficacy to ask her how she’d done it. When she’d shown him, he’d remodulated his own shields to match hers.

It wasn’t simply because of your X status that Ming took you as his protégée.

Corralling the whisper of memory, she completed her task and crossed over to the shadow of the second warehouse to duck into a small recess. A second later, she froze as the sentry turned the corner to head toward her, right on schedule. At least here, she didn’t have to worry about being betrayed by her scent; changelings had a real advantage there.

It struck her that that might be why Ming was trying to track her. Because though she hadn’t said so to anyone yet, gut instinct kept circling around to the suspicion that it was Ming who’d been behind the four Tks on SnowDancer land, not Henry. Henry had no reason to recognize the distinctive psychic signature of an X. Ming, however, would only need to take a single look at any report to know. He’d consider her a treasure trove of information about the SnowDancers. Which she was.


Moving at the internal command, she slipped out as the sentry disappeared from sight once more, laid the second charge, and was hidden behind another building before he returned. She wanted to telepath Judd, check he was safe, but they’d decided on telepathic silence except in an emergency.

Being able to detect telepathic communications in progress was so close to impossible that most people accepted it as such. But there were a rare few Psy who could pick up the faint psychic energy exuded during the act. Oddly enough, she’d had her first experience of it with a non-Psy. Lucas apparently had Psy DNA in his ancestry and could always detect psychic activity in his vicinity, telepathic and otherwise.

Sector 7 complete.

With that mental note, she shifted to sector 8. Judd had sectors 1 through 6, all more heavily trafficked than the sectors he’d assigned her. It made sense, since he could teleport in and out—plus, he’d been an Arrow. Sienna knew her own strengths. She also knew that Judd could snap her neck and she’d never see it coming.


HAWKE decided to get the hell out of the surveillance room when eventempered Brenna almost snarled, “They’re maintaining radio silence. We won’t hear anything unless they’re in trouble.”

Realizing he was agitating her wolf, he touched the back of his hand to her cheek and got out of her way, knowing she’d contact him the instant she had something to report. But there was no way he could sit and wait—shifting into wolf form, he headed out into the cold, clear night. As he ran, greeting his packmates in passing, he considered the information Cooper had sent through earlier that day.

“I’ve got rumors of weapons moving down into the wider Bay Area.” The lieutenant’s jaw had been a brutal line. “They’ve learned, Hawke. They’re dodging our regular traps—it fucking frustrates me that we haven’t been able to find or halt a shipment.”

It frustrated Hawke, too, but part of him had always known this day would come. It wasn’t just the people the Council had lost to the changelings, it was what those defections had done to the perceived power of the Council and of the packs. SnowDancer and DarkRiver were no longer seen as dumb animals but as serious threats.

Switching direction after passing through Sing-Liu’s patch, the human soldier calling out a hello, Hawke crossed the border into DarkRiver territory. The two packs had free passage over each other’s land, but still, it felt different being away from his own. He was spotted at once since he’d made no attempt to conceal his presence.

To his surprise, the leopard male who saw him signaled for him to stop. Sides heaving from the run though he could go for miles yet without pausing, Hawke walked to stand a couple of feet from the man. The wolf recognized this male’s scent, identified it as that of Sentinel Clay Bennett.

“I tried to call you earlier,” Clay said in lieu of a greeting. “The Rats found something.”

Hawke cocked his head.

“Weapons components in the city’s storm water system, so no way to know their exact origin. But,” he added, “Rats were able to use a map of the system to figure out that the pieces must’ve come from somewhere around SoMa. Maybe one of the old converted warehouses that have been shut up for maintenance.”

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