"They decided to set up special untraceable equipment for it." He picked up a towel and wiped off his face. "Should be ready by tomorrow. You want to go help Sascha instead?"
Brenna shook her head. "She said she doesn't need me till later. Right now, the deer are too traumatized to accept my presence."
"Makes sense. I've got a meeting that way tomorrow - you can hitch a ride with me," he said, slinging the towel around his neck. "I've already got SnowDancer guards sorted and DarkRiver has the whole place under watch, too."
"Trusting the cats, Hawke?" she teased.
He snorted. "Like I said, I'll have my own men there."
Relieved he hadn't stood in her way, she was about to head back to her room when Hawke's phone beeped. Since it was closer to her - on the floor with the sweatshirt he'd stripped off during training - she picked it up and handed it to him. It wasn't her intention to listen in, but he motioned for her to stay.
The conversation was short and ended with Hawke saying, "You've tracked down the pack?" A pause filled with the most lethal anger. "Then do it today. We don't know what else they might have been programmed to do."
"Do what?" Brenna asked after he'd hung up.
"Judd's not going to get back till after dark," he said instead of answering. "He asked me to keep an eye on you."
She concentrated on the first part of his response. "What does he do for you, Hawke?" Her heart was a block of cold stone in her chest.
His face went dangerously neutral. "I don't know if I like your tone of voice." It was a reminder of who he was.
But she knew her status, too. "I'm not a juvenile to be slapped down." She faced off with him, eye to eye. "Answer my question. What do you ask from Judd in exchange for giving sanctuary to the kids?"
His pale eyes iced over. "Judd is a fully trained Psy assassin with experience in covert wet work. I'd be a fool if I didn't utilize his skills."
She choked back a cry. "How can you ask that of him?" An alpha looked after his own. He didn't destroy them. But maybe Hawke didn't consider the Laurens his own. After all, and for reasons she'd never known, he hated the Psy as much as her brothers did.
His face gentled, an unexpected softening of harsh masculine lines. Closing the distance between them, he cupped her cheek. "He is who and what he is, Brenna. If you want something different, you shouldn't be with him."
"He's the only one I want to be with."
"Then accept his beast like you do your own."
Hawke's words wouldn't leave her alone as she went through the day. It was disturbing to think that she might be asking Judd to change when she professed to want him for himself. "But asking him to break Silence is different," she muttered to herself as she scanned the details of another of the job offers Dr. Shah had forwarded her.
If Judd didn't dismantle the conditioning, he'd continue to hurt each time they touched, each time he felt anything for her. How could a relationship survive under that kind of pressure? "No, Brenna, be honest." She sighed and went to the next offer. While everything she'd thought so far was true, there was another truth - she wanted Judd to hold her, to offer her affection...to love her. A selfish need.
What if accepting his beast meant denying the needs of her own?
It made her head ache, especially when she added in the fact that her beast didn't recognize Judd as her mate. The mating bond was conspicuous in its absence. "Enough." Thinking herself to a standstill was not going to help matters. And if she didn't stop thinking about Judd, she'd start to speculate about what it was he was doing today.
Covert wet work.
Her stomach turned. If he came to her with hands dipped in blood, would she accept him? Her fingers trembled. She had no easy answers to that question and that shook her. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to pay attention to the next offer on the list. It was from a corporation named Sierra Tech.
She knew a lot about ST - SnowDancer was the majority shareholder, at sixty percent. DarkRiver held twenty and a human conglomerate named Dekell the other twenty. ST was offering her a great package and her wolf would prefer to work for the pack. Not that all ST employees were wolves. It was considered a plum company to work for by scientists and techs across the globe. The only reason ST had no Psy employees was that it competed directly with several Council-backed labs.
Sierra Tech went to the top of her list, but she hadn't made her decision. Her current frame of mind didn't exactly lend itself to the task. Even when she finished looking over the offers and moved on to repair some small comm malfunctions for packmates, her mind remained chaotic. Lunch and dinner came and went, but she had no answer to her own uncomfortable question.
Would she hold Judd if he came to her after utilizing his skills as an assassin?
She went to bed mentally exhausted but woke after only a few hours of disrupted sleep...because she could smell Judd's scent in her quarters. Getting out of bed still half-asleep, she saw it was four a.m. She walked out wearing the satin slip she used as her nightgown, her feet bare.
"Judd?" For a second, she couldn't locate him. Then her night vision kicked in and she found him seated in an armchair close to the coffee table.
He was watching her, his entire body motionless. It didn't strike her that she should be afraid or even wary. Yawning, she walked over and sat on his lap, curling her body into the armchair. His arms came around her without hesitation, one hand curving around her shoulders, the other sliding to close over the bare skin of her upper thigh.
The sensual contact brought her to full wakefulness. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she nuzzled at his throat. "Are you okay?"