Kiss of Snow Page 46

A nod. “He had a perimeter shift, but he’s going to drop by in the morning before he heads home. Not to see either of us, of course.”

Laughing, she watched Lucas tear open the letter, scan it. His own grin faded. “According to this,” he said, “an anonymous benefactor has opened a trust fund worth five million dollars in Naya’s name for her education, the balance to be paid out when she’s twenty-five.”

Sascha let Naya grip her finger as their little cat yawned, settled back down to nap some more. “Mother.”

Placing the letter on the coffee table, Lucas said, “What do you want to do?”

She loved him so much, but it was at moments like this that it struck her how very lucky she was. So many men would’ve rejected the trust fund out of hand, never asking the why of it all. “I’ve come to realize that I don’t know my mother as well as I thought I did.” It had changed her perception of her childhood, forced her to view everything through a different lens. “Let me talk to her.”

“Do you want me to put Naya down?”

“You just want to go cuddle with her.”

He didn’t deny the charge as he took the drowsy newborn from Sascha, his lips curving in the most tender of smiles. Fatherhood suited her panther—though she knew she’d have to watch out for his overprotective tendencies or poor Naya would never go on a single date. A quiet laugh bubbled out of her. It delighted her to think of the future, of all they’d experience together as a family.

Following her mate into the bedroom, she watched as he settled down on the bed with Naya skin to skin on his chest. His hand all but covered her tiny body as he stroked her in that changeling way, bonding with her on the most elemental level. Then he purred, and Naya made a happy little sound of delight, very much a cat in her love of touch.

Sascha laughed at the sight of the two of them so contented and lazy. “Room enough for three?”

Lucas held out his arm, eyes panther-green. “Always and forever.”

He stopped her heart sometimes, this man. “Don’t make me cry. I’m still hormonal.” Cuddling next to him when he smiled, she reached for the cell phone on the bedside table. It took a bare few seconds to send the text message. Nikita answered using Tp an instant later, her reach long enough that she’d hear Sascha’s far weaker telepathic voice.


Mother, we’ve received the letter advising us of the trust fund.

What does that have to do with me?

Her mother lied, Sascha thought, with such effortless ease. Instead of forcing the issue, she said, You know I ’ve given birth?

Your child carries a Russian first name. I expected you to sever all ties with your past.

Sascha had considered that, but she carried the past within her. The echo of it would resonate to her child, if only in the fierceness of the love Sascha felt for her. Lucas and I decided it was important for Nadiya to know both parts of her heritage. The line of Slavic monikers went back to Sascha’s grandfather, while Naya’s middle name had been that of Lucas’s healer mother. Would you like me to e-mail you an image of her?

We cut our familial ties, Sascha. A statement so cold, it was beyond cruel. She means nothing to me.

Once, the words would’ve made her bleed. Now, Sascha saw the truth buried beneath the lie. No, of course not. Because if Nikita acknowledged Nadiya as her grandchild, the baby became a target. Mother, the trust fund—

Is a private matter in which I bear no interest.

A single tear trickled down Sascha’s cheek. All right.

The telepathic connection ended in silence.

“Sascha.” Lucas’s arm curled around her chest to hold her against his side, the tension in him communicating itself through the mating bond. “What did she say?”

“Nothing hurtful.” Turning, she rubbed her face against his chest as she watched Naya’s fragile body rise and fall in innocent sleep. “I’m a mother now, Lucas. I would do anything to keep Naya safe, even if it meant she would hate me for the rest of her life.” Swallowing, she touched a finger to their baby’s plump cheek. “It makes me wonder if that isn’t exactly what Nikita did.”

STILL able to feel the canvas of Sienna’s body against his own the next afternoon, and wondering why the hell he’d given in to his good side and stopped, Hawke finished clearing the decks. He and Kenji had had an interesting conversation with the BlackSea Coalition this morning, and the lieutenant was following up on the details.

In Los Angeles, Jem was doing the same with Aquarius. Shooting back a reply to an e-mail she’d sent, he checked the other things on his mental list. The novice teams were scoping out the warehouse district, Brenna was building the remotes, while Mariska and Judd were going over video footage. Riley had the rotation of soldiers in hand, Indigo and Riaz the newly revised training schedule.

Finding Lara, he got an update on everyone who’d been injured in the attack. Simran was almost recovered and resting at home, as was Riordan. Elias, however, remained in the infirmary. “I almost broke a scanner over his head today,” Lara muttered. “Never knew it would be Eli who drove me to drink.”

Hawke grinned. “So he’s on the way to being healed?”

“Yes.” A faint smile. “I have to keep him here because his new skin is so fragile, but he’ll walk out with no scars in less than a week.”

“You do good work, Lara.” He kissed her on the cheek, then popped in to see Riley.

“No one else needs you today,” the lieutenant said and pointed to the door. “Take advantage of it while you can.”

Doing exactly that, Hawke went tracking his favorite prey. “Toby,” he said, catching the young boy as he ran outside with a soccer ball in his arms, school having let out half an hour earlier. “Have you seen Sienna?”

Toby shook his head, his hair—not yet as dark a red as Sienna’s—getting into his eyes. Hawke narrowed his own eyes. “When was the last time you had a haircut?”

Pushing back the strands, Toby shifted from foot to foot, his face flaming a shade perilously close to that of his hair. “Um . . .”

“Toby.” Never before had Hawke needed to use that tone with the preteen who was so well-behaved, it left his wolf a bit bemused.

“I don’t like scissors,” Toby blurted out. “Near my head, I mean.”

“Walker’s okay with this?” The Psy male wasn’t the type to let things slide.

“Sienna kind of got me out of it.”

That, Hawke understood. Sienna was fierce in her protectiveness when it came to Toby. Maybe too much so. Hawke understood taking care of those who were his own, but he also understood that a boy needed to explore and be proud of his own strength. “Come on, you’re having a haircut today,” he said, shifting his priorities because no matter the searing depth of his need to see Sienna, this young member of his pack needed him. “How can you get anything done if you can’t see?”

Toby dragged his feet, but he obeyed. Hawke had him dump the soccer ball in the backseat of the truck as he started it up.

“Where are we going?”

“To see Sascha.” His wolf’s curiosity about the baby was too strong for him to wait any longer, and he knew the empath would be happy to tidy up Toby’s hair.

Except Toby went stiff at the idea, the scent of his distress slapping against Hawke. Stopping the truck at once, he reached out to rub the kid’s down-bent head. “What’s the matter?”

“I like Sascha. A lot.”

“I know.” That’s why he’d figured the whole haircut deal would go down better with the empath’s help.

Fisted hands on tense thighs. “I don’t want her to think I’m a baby.”

Oh. “Same with Riley?” The kid worshipped the lieutenant, who treated him like a much younger brother.

Toby’s nod was hard and fast.

“Hmm. In that case, I’ll have to do it.” Driving to park the car deeper in their territory—and aware of Toby gaping at him—he had the boy get out, then rummaged around in the storage well until he found a pair of scissors in the first-aid kit. When Toby gulped, he pointed to the bed of the truck and said, “Sit.”

The boy clambered up onto the tailgate, legs hanging off the edge and words tumbling out at high speed. “My mom used to use Tp to make me sleep when I had a haircut. I never liked it.”

Happy to hear that the fear was a harmless remnant of childhood, not based on hidden trauma, he said, “We’re not using the sedatives in the first-aid kit, so forget about it.”

Toby’s face fell. “Those look really sharp.”

Reaching up, Hawke snipped off a bit of his own hair to test the blades. “Yeah, should do the trick.”

“Uh-oh.” Huge cardinal eyes. “You shouldn’t have done that.”


“ ’Cause every time you cut your hair, Sienna gets mad.”

His wolf pricked up its ears. “Yeah?” He stepped closer.

Toby froze.

“Okay,” Hawke said, having had enough experience with pups to understand logic wouldn’t help right now, “close your eyes and scream as loud as you can.”


“Just do it.”

Toby took a deep breath, scrunched his eyes closed . . . and screamed.

Wincing at the earsplitting volley of sound, Hawke snipped off the boy’s far too long bangs in one cut, making sure not to touch the metallic blades to the kid’s skin. “Not bad.” It wasn’t crooked in any case.

Toby’s eyes snapped open. “Did you do it?”

Hawke handed him his hair. “What do you think?”

“I don’t think anyone else will let me scream.” A pensive statement.

“Well, as long as you don’t mind looking like a prison escapee, I can do it.”

“Okay.” Toby beamed.

“How about the bottom?”

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