"When they tried to get rid of violence," Tamsyn said, shifting over to sit beside Sascha, one arm around her shoulders, "they also got rid of one of their most precious gifts."
Lucas walked out to the front yard, Nate and Dorian by his side. Vaughn and Clay were hidden in the shadows and Mercy was prowling the treetops behind the SnowDancers.
Hawke stood in the yard flanked by two wolves Lucas knew to be his lieutenants. Indigo was a stunningly beautiful female with the cold eyes of a snow wolf. Tall and slender, she was undoubtedly deadly. Riley was a solid-looking male who appeared to move slow. It was an illusion. He could take down a fully grown wolf in about three seconds flat. Without changing form.
"Why are you here?" Lucas asked.
Hawke walked forward, leaving his lieutenants behind. Lucas did the same. Two alphas meeting in neutral territory. Except it wasn't. This was a DarkRiver safe house. The wolves shouldn't have set foot near it without a damn good reason. He'd accepted Hawke's previous intrusion because the alpha had come alone. Bringing others was a sign of aggression.
"We want to talk to your Psy," Hawke said without prelude.
Lucas felt fury ripple through him. "No."
"I trust you, cat, but I don't trust any of the Psy." Hawke's eyes held bloodlust. "I won't let the lives of my people hang in the hands of one of those creatures without meeting her for myself. This is the fourth day since Brenna was taken - we have only two days before he kills. And you're asking us to wait."
"If you trust me, why do you need to see her?"
"Wouldn't you do the same if the situations were reversed? What if it was Rina in the hands of that monster?" His entire face went unnaturally calm. "We're not here to pick a fight so you might want to tell the cat up in the trees to stay back."
Lucas wasn't surprised Hawke had picked up Mercy's scent - the man hadn't become alpha of a lethal pack by being weak. Neither had Lucas. "Mercy's not the one you should be worried about."
"Damn it to hell, Lucas. Don't break our alliance over a f**king, worthless Psy. They're nothing - "
Lucas slammed a fist into Hawke's jaw. Hard. The wolf went down. Growls echoed around the yard as sentinels and lieutenants crouched down for battle.
Standing over the fallen wolf, Lucas forced himself not to bare his teeth. "She's mine. Think about that the next time you open your big mouth."
Getting up, Hawke slashed his hand down. Indigo and Riley straightened from their crouch. "Hell, Lucas. You could've told me you'd really mated to her." He rubbed at his bruised jaw and winced. "You have a right like a damn freight train."
"You shouldn't be here."
"I was the one who brought you your Psy safe and sound."
Lucas stared at the other alpha and even through the protective rage running through him, he knew Hawke was right. He did have a right to meet the woman he was being asked to entrust with the life of one of his people. Riley, too, must need assurance that his sister's life was in safe hands. "Do all your wolves know about this place?"
"No. Just like not all your leopards know the location of our tunnels." It was a reminder that Lucas and his sentinels had tracked down the SnowDancers' main hideout.
Since the start, their alliance had been cool and distanced, two predators circling each other, not quite sure when the other would bite. It was time to take the next step, to build strength the Psy would truly fear. "I'm going to invite you into this home."
They'd always done their talking out in the open, away from their personal places. Though it had never been said, they both knew it was so that those places wouldn't be tainted by violence if blood was spilled. Theirs was a fragile trust and it was no longer enough. With his invitation, he'd not only accepted, but expanded, the offer that had been hinted at when Hawke's lieutenants had treated DarkRiver juveniles as their own.
Ice-blue eyes looked at him without blinking. "That's a good deal of trust."
"Don't make me regret it." He held out his arm.
The other alpha clasped it at the elbow and they went toward each other in the hard embrace of two hunters. When they drew back, Lucas turned to head toward the safe house. Hawke followed with his lieutenants stalking behind him.
"Free passage," Hawke said as they walked. It was clear enough to be heard by the other changelings.
Lucas thought about the war that might break out, thought about the safety of his people. And then he thought about what they would want, what he had no right to deny them. They were predators but they were also human in a way the Psy would never be. "Free passage."
With those two simple words each, they'd turned their alliance into a blood bond. They'd given each other's packs free passage in all of their respective territories, the right to come and go without any of the current stipulations. But that wasn't the important part.
As of now, the wolves would come to the aid of the leopards and the leopards would die for the wolves.
No matter what the fight.
Once inside the house, the lieutenants and sentinels placed themselves in a protective circle, watching each other and their alphas. They might now be blood allies but complete trust would take time.
"Dorian." Lucas gave the other man the signal to fetch Sascha. Everything in him wanted to take care of it himself, wanted to protect her every step of the way. But he couldn't leave his people alone with the wolves, or betray his driving need, need which was this raw only at the final stage of mating.
Hawke couldn't be allowed to guess that the mating dance was incomplete. It wouldn't damage their alliance but it would probably make the other alpha back off from placing any faith in Sascha.