Kiss of Snow Page 59

Tristan had been a lone wolf before he mated, but afterward, he’d preferred to remain near his mate, had grumbled about being away. Beyond the primal draw of the mating bond, his parents had loved each other and their son. Hawke had grown up petted and secure of his place in the world, but not spoiled, not with a lieutenant for a father. At four years of age, he remembered thinking, That’s who I want to be when I grow up.

“My mother,” he continued, despite the rock of memory crushing his chest, “felt something through the mating bond on the second day, so Garrick sent out a search party. By the time they found him”—found his strong, proud father—“he’d been missing a week, and it appeared he’d had a bad fall. He recovered from the wounds fast enough, but he came back . . . damaged.” The only time Tristan had touched his son after his return from the mountains was as he lay bleeding to death on the snow. “He attacked Garrick two weeks later.”

Sienna’s hand spread out over his heart, as if she would shield him. “They programmed him to assassinate your alpha.”

“Yes. He was the final one taken.” That knowledge had maddened him as a boy—until he understood that his father had been a dominant, a protector, would’ve never wanted anyone else to suffer in his place. “There’d been trouble in the pack on and off for over two years. Pack members acting erratic, constant fights that led to deaths, men getting violent against their women.” To this day, the idea of it agitated his wolf. “That isn’t who we are, who we ever were.”

“No.” Sienna lifted up her head, such intense empathy on her face that it seemed impossible she’d once been Silent. “It had to do with the experiment, didn’t it?”

He tightened his arms around her. “They wanted to see if they could erode the bonds that held a changeling pack together by pressing on ‘key factors’ until the pack imploded.” The bastards had broken juveniles as well as adults, poisoned so many good men and women.

“It was designed by a small fringe group of scientists.” In the end, that was what had saved SnowDancer, because the survivors had been able to cut off the head of the evil before the data was passed on to the higher echelons. “They weren’t Council, but they felt free to treat us like lab animals because the Council at the time made it clear that that’s what they considered us.”

Sienna wrapped her arms around him in the fiercest of embraces.

Widening his stance, he tucked her impossibly closer. “My father, he went out saying ‘fuck you’ to the bastards.” A grim smile. “During the fight, when another one of the turned tried to shoot Garrick, he shifted to take the bullet.” It had been too late though, the alpha’s injuries severe enough that their already weak healer had been unable to save him.

Sienna shook her head against him. “He must’ve been extraordinarily strong to fight the compulsion enough to do that.”

“Yes.” His father had clawed back his honor at the very end and, in so doing, taught Hawke to never, ever surrender.

“I am so proud of you.” Tristan’s final words to his son as Hawke knelt beside him on the bloodstained snow, his hand gripping his father’s in angry desperation.

Then, as blood continued to pulse out of his chest, Tristan had met his mate’s tender kiss, whispered, “Until the next life, my love.”

“My mother, Aren, simply couldn’t function after he died. She tried so hard, but one day, she went to sleep and didn’t wake up.” Always for him, the joy he’d felt in his parents’ arms would be forever bound with echoes of pain, of loss.

Sienna, this Psy who’d lost her own mother, rose up on tiptoe and wrapped her arms around his neck in silent comfort, her cheeks tear-wet against his own when he bent to meet her halfway. Hawke had never cried for the loss of his parents. Not as a boy. Not as a man. Now, as he buried his face in a fall of silk as dark as midnight rubies, the wolf raised its head in a silent, mournful howl.

WALKER closed the door to the medical storage room behind himself and glanced down the packed rows. According to Lucy, Lara was in here somewhere.

“Walker?” A tumble of corkscrew curls as she leaned out from where she appeared to be sitting on the floor. “Is that coffee I smell?”

Wanting to smile at the greed in her voice, when smiling remained an act that didn’t come naturally to him, he went down on one knee beside her. “What are you doing?”

“Inventory,” she said with a groan, leaning her head against his chest. “I want to double-check we have all the essential supplies since we have a fraction more room to breathe.”

He passed her the coffee, watched her drink. As always, it caused an inexplicable sensation in his chest to know that he was caring for her. “Enough?”

She nodded. “Thanks.”

Putting the mug on a shelf above her, he fought the compulsion to thrust his hands into the silken warmth of her curls, pull her close. Lara was changeling, and changelings needed touch, needed sensual contact. The incident with Kieran had made him realize he didn’t want any other man looking after Lara in that arena either.

“Walker?” Lara lifted a questioning eyebrow.

“Are you dating anyone right now?”

She went immobile. “No.” Her answer hung in the air.

“I want those rights, Lara.” If she said no, Walker had the sudden realization that he wouldn’t back off like a civilized man.

He saw from the way she sucked in a breath that she understood the reference. “You already have most of those rights as my friend. What would change?”

He was no wolf, but he didn’t need to be to understand the challenge from her changeling heart. It was instinct to drop his head, to tug at her hair and arch her neck, to take her lips with his own. He’d never kissed a woman before Lara—such things were simply not done in the PsyNet. He found, however, that he understood the mechanics of it quite well even after a single prior experience.

Lara’s lips were soft under his, and they parted on a gasp when he ran his tongue along the seam. She tasted of a sweet femininity that was already tied to his thoughts of her, but there was a hint of something darker beneath, a deep vein of sensuality. It made him hunger. If, he thought, he planned to be selfish and keep her all to himself in spite of the fact that he wasn’t in any way good enough for her, he might as well indulge.

Tugging her more firmly against him, he stroked his tongue to hers, felt her hands clench against his chest, her body strain against his own. He repeated the act, wanting to incite further caresses from her. This time, Lara moaned, a low, pleasure-drenched sound that made his erection tighten to a near-painful level.

When she pushed at him, he frowned but released her. Seeing she needed to gasp in a breath, he allowed her a moment, then took her mouth again. No wonder changelings and humans were so greedy with this act. It created the most decadent sensations, especially with Lara’s fine-boned jaw under his fingertips, the little sounds she made in her throat humming over his skin.

She pushed again, and he would’ve stopped only long enough to allow her to draw in air again except that she put her fingers over his mouth. “Walker, stop.”

He went motionless. “No?”

“No, I mean, yes. Wait.” Shoving her hands through her hair, Lara took several rough breaths in an effort to get her mind back into gear. “I need to know exactly what you’re asking for, what you’re offering,” she said. “No blurred lines.”

“A permanent, exclusive relationship,” he said without an instant’s pause, his eyes locked on her. “Me and you.”

“You have to be sure.” She was so vulnerable to him that he could destroy her. “This isn’t something we can come back from.”

“I’m certain.” An implacable look. “Do you need time to come to a decision?”

It would’ve been smarter to say yes, to allow them both to cool off. But she was a predatory changeling wolf with a man she’d craved for so long, a man who was offering himself to her in a way dominant men rarely did. She tugged him down with her hands in his shirt.

His mouth took control within seconds.

There was no knowing how long he might have kept on tasting her if there hadn’t been a knock at the door, a yelled-out request for assistance. Her lips were wet when they parted, her breath coming in jerky gasps, his eyes translucent green in the low light inside the storeroom.

“What kind of flowers do you like?”

“Amaryllis,” Lara had said in response to that out-of-the-blue question, and now, only hours later, what did she have on her desk but a vase of glorious blooms red as velvet cake and as luxuriant.

Swinging past the office, Lucy backtracked, whistled. “The quiet ones always have the best surprises up their sleeves.”

Quiet. Yes, Walker was quiet. He was also a very fast learner. Her fingers lifted to her lips, dropped guiltily when she saw the clock and figured out she’d been mooning over the flowers for ten minutes. But she couldn’t resist one last touch.

Walker had kissed her.

Walker had sent her flowers.

Walker was courting her.


She jumped as his voice came to life behind her, and knocked a crystal paperweight to the floor. The green and blue spiral, which Ava had brought back from New Zealand, smashed into at least five different pieces. “Damn.”

“I startled you. I apologize.” Hunkering down, he began to pick up the fragments.

Her hand went to his shoulder without her conscious volition, spreading on the flex of muscle. “I should’ve scented you but”—his head lifting, the look in his eyes stealing her breath—“the flowers are so beautiful. I was distracted.”

All the pieces in his hand, he rose. “I can fix this for you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, her wolf quivering with impatience to know why he’d come. “Once broken, some things can’t be fixed. I’d rather you spend that time with me.”

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