“You don’t have to say anything.” Judd’s voice was calm and clear in the snow-laced chill of the night. “I’ve seen the way you look at the lieutenant. So has Brenna.”
“Fuck.” The pack, with its loving teasing, could do more harm than good right now, when Indigo was so determined to draw a line in the sand between them. “Is it that bloody obvious?”
“No.” Judd waited until Andrew began to walk again to continue. “However, we are . . . family.” Emotion—being open with it—was still difficult for Judd. But not only had Drew once stood in the path of a bullet that had been aimed at the woman who was Judd’s heart, the wolf male had used his considerable charm to bring a smile to Sienna’s face.
For those two things alone, Judd would’ve owed him. But even before Drew started interacting with Sienna and the other Lauren children, he and Judd had also forged a cautious kind of friendship—built on their shared love for Brenna. “Brenna worries about you.”
Drew gave a startled laugh. “What? I’m not Riley. I don’t take responsibility for the world’s ills.” It was said with open affection for the brother Judd knew had all but raised both Drew and Brenna.
Using a slight amount of Tk, Judd absently braced a water-logged branch that had been about to break off right above their heads. “I think Mercy might be trying to cure him of that.”
A minute . . . two, of silence. Except it wasn’t silent. He’d been an assassin, knew how to move without sending a ripple through the air currents, thought he’d been familiar with the quiet dark of night. But Brenna, his mate, had shown him her night, her silence, and it was an amazing, beautiful world.
The rustle of a rabbit as it caught their scent and froze.
The dull thud of that branch falling to the earth.
The soft touch of rain-heavy air against his face.
Small things that filled the silence, the dark, until it wasn’t bleak, but a serene wonderland.
“Indigo thinks Riaz—or someone like Riaz,” Drew said at last, his voice taut, strained, “will be right for her. I can see it clear as day.”
“None of them know her, not like I do.”
Judd angled his body left, taking them down a slight slope that would lead eventually to one of the lakes that dotted the Sierra. Most in the higher altitudes, especially in the central and southern areas, remained locked in ice, but this one was liquid, its waters rippling under moonlight as the clouds parted. “But do you truly know her, Drew?”
Andrew felt his shoulders go stiff, his wolf baring its teeth in instinctive response, but he respected Judd’s intelligence enough to rein it back. “Are you saying I don’t?”
“I’m saying that from what Brenna’s noted, you’ve had a crush on Indigo since you were a very young man.” Judd held up a hand when Andrew would’ve interrupted. “I’m not questioning what you feel; I’m not telling you that you’re wrong. I’m simply asking you to examine your own emotions,” he said with implacable logic. “Ask yourself if it’s Indigo you want, or a mirage of her you’ve built up in your mind.”
With that, Judd jogged down the final steep part of the incline to the pebbled edge of the lake. Andrew followed with far less grace, for all that he was changeling. His mind was misfiring, his body not quite under his control. It felt as if his world had just been skewed on its axis.
A few feet away, the lake lapped with placid regularity over the smooth water-shaped pebbles, in stark contrast to his own disordered state. Swearing under his breath, he ripped off his sweatshirt and went for his boots.
Judd walked away without a word, taking a path along the curving edge of the dark spread of water.
Stripping down to his skin, Andrew looked up at the moon, his wolf confused, floundering. The bright sphere, its face covered by clouds an instant later, could give him no answers, and the more he thought, the more he tangled himself up in the sticky confusion of a thousand cobwebs. Shrugging off the cutting bite of the wind, he strode in through the shallows and dived.
The shock of it tore the air from his lungs, froze the blood in his veins . . . and returned clarity to his mind.
Indigo snapping at him because he’d been messing around during training.
Indigo allowing him to cuddle into her because she thought he needed the touch of Pack.
Indigo pissy on a short trip they’d taken to Los Angeles.
Indigo laughing with Mercy as the two of them teased Riley.
Indigo calm and smart as she advised Hawke against a planned maneuver.
Indigo whooping with glee as they finished scaling one of the tougher climbs they’d attempted.
Indigo teeth-grittingly obstinate as she arrowed toward the man she thought was right for her.
Wiping the water from his face, he sucked in a breath of the bracing air and yelled out to the night, “I know every part of her, warts and all! And I still adore her!” He began to head back to shore without waiting for an answer. Even his tough changeling body couldn’t handle water this icy for long.
A towel was waiting for him by his discarded clothes. He grinned. Having a telekinetic as a friend did come in handy sometimes. Wiping himself off with rough strokes that got his blood pumping, he rubbed at his hair then pulled on his clothes. He was sitting on the rocky shore, the towel around his neck, when Judd returned to his side. The other man took a seat beside him, his movements so quiet that if Andrew hadn’t scented him, he’d never have known there was anyone beside him.