A falcon lay a little to the left. It was alive. Good enough. Hawke turned back to those who were his own and knelt down beside them. The wolf didn't turn to look at him, all its attention focused on the fallen leopard. When Hawke went to check the leopard for injuries, he moved slowly, ensuring the wolf knew he didn't intend to do harm. Even so, the wolf stood ready to strike, those amber eyes watching Hawke's every move.
That was when Hawke noticed the wolf's left back leg was broken. He didn't tell the male to sit. Instead, he focused on finding the leopard's injuries. The most dangerous one was obvious the instant he looked at the downed feline's side. A massive gash split the black and gold of her soot-covered fur, probably caused by flying debris.
Hawke swore and pulled off his T-shirt to stop the blood flow. He could've helped the wolf, but sharing strength with a leopard was beyond his abilities. It agitated the alpha wolf inside him - this leopard, this woman, was Pack. He had to help her. "Hold on, Mercy," he murmured, shoving a hand into his pocket to close around his cell phone.
It proved unnecessary.
Lucas ran out of the smoky haze that very instant, followed by Tamsyn. Behind Tammy and Luc, he saw two other falcons land and shift. In normal circumstances, they'd be dead for having invaded another predator's territory, but Hawke knew they'd likely been coming in early for the meeting at the Glade.
"Lara had to stay at the hospital," Tammy said in a quick-fire report. "One of your young men is having a bad reaction to the tranquilizer they used." A glance at the wolf who stood in silent watch. "Can you take care of Riley?"
"He won't let me," Hawke informed her. "Not until Mercy's okay."
"Men," Tamsyn muttered but she was already removing his wadded-up T-shirt and checking the wound. "It's bad, but she's a fighter. Come on, Merce." Putting her hands over the wound, she closed her eyes.
Hawke could feel the healing energy emanating from her, though her energy was unfamiliar - feline. Healers calmed everyone when they began working; however, the injured wolf stood guard, ears raised, but mouth closed. Watching. Waiting. If anyone made a wrong move, that unfortunate individual would find their jugular sliced clean through.
Riley was in no way rational right now.
Placing one hand on Mercy's head beside Hawke's, and the other on Tammy's shoulder, Lucas frowned. "Sascha's got her, I think."
Hawke knew Luc and Sascha had a strong connection, but he hadn't realized it was telepathic to a degree. A twinge of envy uncurled in his gut. Like the leopards, changeling wolves mated for life. He'd never had that chance - the girl who would've grown into a woman he adored had died decades ago. And now his wolf walked alone.
It was as well, he thought, that Riley had mated. They needed a strong male-female bond at the top of the leadership structure. It would center the pack, anchor it. Now he felt the strength of that mating bond flow into Tammy, and through her, back into Mercy. Changeling healers fixed things with touch, but the energy had to come from somewhere. Riley nudged at Mercy's nose with his own, touching her with one careful paw.
That was when Hawke felt something tug at him. Similar to when Lara drew power during a complicated healing. He glanced at Tamsyn. "You feel that?"
A distracted nod. "It's from Riley."
No, Hawke thought, it wasn't. It was coming from him, too. And that meant Riley and Mercy had completed the mating. His gaze met Lucas's.
"You can't have her," the leopard alpha said, as if he'd read Hawke's mind.
Their eyes clashed, alpha to alpha, wolf to leopard. The air stilled.
"Fight over her later," Tammy hissed, her voice a lacerating whip. "Come on, Mercy, wake the hell up."
But she didn't. No matter how many times the wolf tried to nuzzle her back to consciousness.
The Councilors didn't bother to have a full meeting to deal with the Alliance issue. They simply agreed on a course of action and dispatched squads to take care of it. If the Alliance wanted a war, they'd get a war.
But the chairman had miscalculated on one crucial point. The Council chose stealth, not public violence. With the recent surge of hostile behavior by Psy, overt bloodshed would've run counter to their attempts to calm the populace. Instead, things were taken care of with such subtlety, it was impossible to prove Psy involvement.
And the Psy didn't kill everyone. Instead, minds were scanned and dossiers built. The one called "the chairman" had escaped the net, but three of those at the top of the food chain had been tracked and eliminated. The others would be found sooner or later. The worker bees had been left alone . . . with their memories of what had happened intact. Their leadership had abandoned them to take the heat, knowing the assassins would come.
The Psy had had a century to learn the cold logic of demoralizing the enemy.
Now, the paramilitary arm of the Alliance was crumbling from within.
Lucas and Hawke stood looking down at the badly injured male prone on the hospital bed. "What the f**k happened, Adam?"
"I got shot out of the sky. Like a damn plane." Ignoring the myriad other wounds that marked his body, the tall, heavily muscled man stared at his shattered wing, having remained in half-shift form to allow the wing to set properly. "Fuck, that's going to take weeks to heal."
"Only reason you're not dead," Hawke pointed out, "is because you're alpha in waiting."
"Wing leader," Adam corrected, an odd catch in his voice. "It's you four-legged beasts who have alphas."
"Insulting us?" Hawke drawled, though his mood was anything but buoyant.