She shook her head. "I'd rather walk out here for a bit. We could go get my pack."
"You're not staying." He released her and took a step back.
She rubbed her hands over her face, wondering exactly how much of a fright she looked - she was not a pretty crier. "Yes, I am."
Those dark brown eyes seemed to darken to pure black. "You have no reason to be out here. I can't do what I'm supposed to if I'm babysitting."
Her eyes felt swollen when she narrowed them. "Good try but you can't make me mad so I'll leave." She suddenly understood something else - the way he made enemies so that no one would even try to get close to him. "I can run the patrols with you."
"This is not up for discussion." A statement so arrogant, it reminded her of Hawke and her brothers. Great. Just great. "I'm putting you in your vehicle and you're driving back to the den."
"Unless you're planning on using mind control, that's not going to happen." She was looking at him when she said that and saw something very dark and very dangerous awaken in those gold-flecked eyes.
"I'm fully capable of doing that." A warning, a threat.
Going with gut instinct, she placed her hand palm down on his chest. "To me?" He didn't speak and that was her answer. "Why do you allow me to cross barriers you don't allow anyone else?" Surely that meant he had feelings for her.
"Enrique was one of my own. And he hurt you."
"Guilt? That's why?" Her stomach dropped.
His fingers closed over her wrist, turning that sick sensation into something hungrier, more sensual. "I don't feel guilt. I don't feel anything." Surrounded by snow and ice, he was a man who appeared the blackest of shadows. Yet his hand was careful on her.
She smiled, confidence reassured. "I'm staying."
"I'm driving you back right now."
"I'll turn the car around the second you leave." Her skin tingled where he held it, his fingers strong, his own skin erotically rough. She wondered how that hand would feel stroking other, softer places. Heat uncurled deep inside her. "Why does my presence bother you so much if you don't feel?"
His hand tightened a fraction before setting her free. "Don't get in my way."
"I wouldn't dare." A complete lie. "Let's go get my things."
He jerked his head toward the cabin. "Go and start the laz-fire. I'll bring your pack."
She was more than willing to let him walk off his temper. And the man had one, even if he wasn't willing to admit it. "The code's four-two-seven-zero." Because it was a pack vehicle, it wasn't keyed to any single individual's thumbprint. "See you when you get back."
He didn't leave until she was safely in the cabin. Watching him walk away, so tall and starkly alone against the snow, made her want to run outside and hug him. Just wrap her heat around him until her warmth melted his cold Psy armor. The problem was, Judd seemed determined to maintain that icy shield.
Shivering though the cabin was well insulated, she turned from the window and went to start the laz-fire. Unlike most clean-air devices, the LAZ energy source had been created not by changelings but by Psy. The reason? Laz technology saved energy and therefore money. The single thing changelings had done to adapt it was to add a holographic enhancer. It turned the efficient but colorless block of a portable laz generator into what appeared to be a perfectly real blaze, albeit one with zero chance of starting a forest fire.
Brenna checked that the generator was sitting in the correct place in the built-in fireplace before flicking it on. Flames burst into golden life, immediately lightening her mood. However, she didn't stay in front of the fire, going to stand at the window instead. Judd needed to know that he wasn't alone, that she was waiting for him.
Maybe he thought she was being disingenuous or that she didn't understand what he was trying to tell her. She understood. She just didn't accept it. Judd wasn't lost to Silence, no matter how much he wanted to be. She knew dominant males, had grown up around them, so she could guess what it must have cost him to stifle his pride and submit to his low rank in the SnowDancer hierarchy. But he'd taken the hit - to protect Marlee and Toby, and even Sienna.
He might think he was beyond redemption, but she knew otherwise.
His body appeared from the trees at that instant, her pack slung over one shoulder. Strong and confident, there was an arrogance to him that said he knew he was too dangerous for any of the forest inhabitants to mess with.
Smiling, she went to open the door. "Hey."
He dropped the pack inside the doorway. "I'm going to run a circuit. Close the door and stay inside until I get back."
She was about to tell him exactly what she thought of the way he was giving her orders when he turned and headed out.
The man was fast. Too fast for a Psy. Then again, she had a feeling Judd Lauren was no ordinary Psy. Kicking the door shut, she opened the pack to retrieve a small piece of malfunctioning comm equipment she'd promised to fix for Drew. Her brother might be infuriatingly overprotective, but he respected her tech skills.
It felt good to pick up her tools again, to feel the rush of mental stimulation as she began doing her kind of surgery.
Judd returned to the cabin after dark to find Brenna sitting on the floor by the laz-fire, tools and computronic parts set out neatly in front of her. She glanced up when he entered, but her smile was absentminded. "Gimme a few minutes, baby."
Putting the use of the term of affection down to her preoccupied state, he hung up his jacket and took off his boots before going into the kitchen area. As he'd thought. She hadn't eaten. Pulling out two of the prepacked meals from the cooler, he put them in the cooking unit. He was trained to go without food for days if necessary, but Brenna needed to get some calories in her. Changelings burned energy faster than Psy. Added to that, she was still recovering from the damage Enrique had done to her body.