Kiss of Snow Page 51

Back as stiff as steel, she said, “I’m working,” but then, to his surprise, glanced back. “I heard about Ameline’s miscarriage.” Her expression was solemn.

The memory of his packmate’s silent cries had his wolf wanting to lift its muzzle in a mournful howl. “She’s hurting bad, but she’s strong. So is her mate. They’ll survive this.”

“You sat with her?”

“Yes.” Controlling the impulse to fist his hand in her hair, tug her close until he could breathe in the warm spice of her skin . . . until he could unwind on the deepest level, he focused on the land that was his home. The night was stunning, the velvet sky dotted with diamonds. “Do you wonder if the Council understands why we’d fight to the last breath to hold this?”

“Yes.” Her own face lifted to the sky. “The psychologists will have done a full workup. But they won’t believe you’d refuse to surrender even at the threat of massive casualties.”

“Some things are beyond logic.” Losing their home would rip the heart out of the pack—it wouldn’t matter if they survived. “We both know that.” He stroked his hand down the thick rope of her braid.

She jerked away, the truce over. “You ignored me.”

“Yeah, I did. And I’m not sorry I did it.” Maybe he’d been an ass, but he’d also been right—she had been short-changing herself, had now learned that she could wield and direct the cold fire, choose her targets even at that level of pressure.

“Surprising.” Sarcasm dripped off the single word.

“But,” he added with a growl, “I won’t disregard your views about your own abilities next time.”

Sienna froze at the unexpected statement. “Not much of an apology,” she said, scrambling to reorder her thoughts.

“That’s because I wasn’t apologizing.”

Of course not. “Go away.”

He tugged at her neat braid instead, unraveling it before she realized what he was doing. Gritting her teeth to stop from reacting, she stared out at the hush of the forest as he smoothed out the strands. “You have curls in here,” he murmured from behind her. “Did you braid it while it was damp?”

That sneaky wolf charm was not going to weaken her defenses this time. “I’m working, in case you didn’t hear me the first time.”

Arms sliding around her waist, tugging her back against a warm male chest. “I’ve come to keep you company.”

Reaching back, she pulled her hair out from between them. “I like being alone.”

A quick nip of her ear. “Such a liar.”

Folding her arms, she resisted the urge to kick back at him with a booted foot. “This patch is quiet,” she said. “Lake wanted to run tonight, so I’m standing as sentry.”

Hawke’s arms came up to cross over her chest as he held her impossibly closer, his thighs on either side of hers. “That was one of my first tasks—sentry.” His voice was quiet, full of memory. “The alpha started putting me on watch when I was nine.”

“Nine?” Far too young, according to SnowDancer’s own rules.

Hawke chuckled. “I was making trouble—had too much energy and nowhere for it to go. They tried running me to exhaustion, but I outlasted everyone except Garrick, and the alpha couldn’t spend every day with me.”

Sienna realized she’d relaxed against him, but she was too fascinated by this tiny glimpse into his past to worry. “Were you a good sentry?”

“No,” he said to her surprise. “I couldn’t stop moving long enough to keep watch.” Another laugh. “So Garrick made me a messenger. I ran constantly along the perimeter, taking messages from one sentry to another, spending time with the soldiers, learning from them.” Looking back, he knew half the messages had been created to give him something to do.

“It was the best thing Garrick could have done.” The work had not only provided an outlet for his energy, it had begun to teach him the skills he would need in the future—as well as connecting him to the men and women he would one day be called upon to lead.

“This Garrick was a good alpha?”

Hawke thought of the slender black man who’d appeared about as strong as a willow branch—and who had fought like a gladiator for his pack. “Yes.”

“Oh.” Sienna paused. “I guess . . . no one ever mentions him, so I thought maybe he was a bad person.”

“No.” Hawke forced himself to speak. “They don’t say anything because they don’t want to hurt me.” But it wasn’t fair to the man, the alpha Garrick had been. “Garrick died fighting one of his lieutenants.” The next words were stone fists in his chest. “My father.”

Sienna’s hands came up to close over his. “You said he was abducted, hurt. He was no longer the man you knew.”

Hawke’s mind filled with the memory of the agony on his father’s face as blood poured out of his chest. He’d taken his last breath in his mate’s arms, his hand held by his mortally wounded alpha as their already weak healer tried to save them both.

“Was your father the only one?”


“Your mother . . . she lost her mate.”

He never spoke of his laughing, gifted mother and what it had done to her to lose her mate, not to anyone. “There’s Lake, coming up now,” he said instead of answering her question. “I think we should go for a run.” A high pitched whistle and Lake raised his hand to signal he understood.

When Hawke shifted to face Sienna, he saw her eyes had turned to midnight. “You’re good at keeping a distance between you and a lover, aren’t you, Hawke?”

He curved a hand over the column of her throat, stroked. “I haven’t exactly been keeping my distance from you.”

“There’s more than one kind of distance.” Not saying anything further, she took a black hair tie out of her pocket and pulled her hair into a sleek ponytail.

Her words disturbed both man and wolf, but his past wasn’t why he’d tracked her down. “Come on, Lake’s almost to us.” Loping down the slope, he waited for her to catch up. They ran the watch at a moderate speed, which allowed them to take in their surroundings, confirm everything was as it should be. “Your need to purge the cold fire,” he said, wanting to get that out of the way, “was that because of my touch?”

“No,” she said at once. “I was aware it was building—just made a miscalculation as to how close I was to critical.”

Hawke thought of Judd’s revelation, placed it against Sienna’s will. He knew where he was putting his money. “You fully recovered?”


“Good.” Deciding to set the issue aside for tonight, he asked, “Who’s your preferred partner on watch?” It wasn’t a question from alpha to soldier, but man to woman. He wanted to simply be with her on this beautiful night, her voice brushing against his skin as they passed under the moon shadow of forest giants.

“You won’t believe me, but Maria.” Sienna ducked under a branch, leaving a strand of ruby red behind.

He liked that she’d inadvertently marked their territory. “You’re right, I don’t believe you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “Until the fight, we worked well together. We’ve actually kind of become friends since then.”

“Yeah, I remember your buddies from Wild.”

Ignoring his snarl, she pointed out a fleeing rabbit. “Lake is very serious—too much like me. I think we become too quiet together.”

Hawke could see how that could happen. Sienna needed a wolf who was willing to play. Though of course, wolves weren’t the only predators in this region. “Seen that leopard cub lately?”

“If you’re talking about Kit, yes. I had lunch with him today.”

He felt claws pricking at the insides of his skin as they came to a halt on top of another rise that allowed them to look out over the territory. “Lunch.”

Most women would’ve either bristled or frozen at his not-so-subtle attempt at intimidation. Sienna showed how shockingly well she knew him by ambushing him with an unexpected bite on his lower lip as he bent to demand more information. She was gone before he could retaliate.

His wolf bowed its back in pleasure, happy to play with her at any time and delighted she’d initiated this game. Catching up to her, he shot her a look that promised revenge. Her response was pure cool-eyed Psy . . . except for the laughter hidden in that cardinal gaze. He was about to tug her to him, taste the laughter, when he heard something that had his wolf coming to a dead stop.

STOPPING at once when Hawke went motionless, Sienna shoved her amusement to the back of her consciousness. “What do you sense?” She kept her voice subvocal, in a range she could only just hear herself.

Not answering, Hawke angled his head to the left, narrowed his eyes, then arched his neck.

The eerie beauty of the howl electrified every tiny hair on her body. It seemed impossible that it was coming from a human throat, and yet she could see the reality of it in the corded strength of his neck. Responding howls came back to them over the air currents as the last echoes of Hawke’s warning—and she’d learned enough about wolf harmonics to have figured out that that’s exactly what it had been—died out.

“Let’s go.” Hawke set what was a brutal pace for her, leading them away from the perimeter.

He sent up another howl maybe thirty seconds into the run, waited only long enough to get a response from each of the sentries. But a bare minute after they’d begun to run again, he slammed her body to the ground, in the hollow created by the roots of a centuries-old tree, covered it with his own, and said, “Hands over your ears.”

Stuttering blasts of noise sounded an instant later. She tried to turn, see where the bullets were hitting, but Hawke’s body was too heavy, keeping her pinned. Hands over her ears as he’d ordered, she stayed in position and hoped with everything in her that Lake and the others in the strike zone had gotten under cover before the attack.

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