“So,” Judd said, “what’re you going to do?”
“What I have been doing,” Andrew said, his wolf growling in feral agreement. “I’m not about to let her ignore me just because I don’t fit neatly into the box she has marked out for the man she’ll take as her own.” He wanted to use the word mate, but that had a very specific meaning for changelings.
And though it hurt him to admit it, there was no mating dance between him and Indigo, no compulsion from the wild heart of their natures that would—if nothing else—tug her inexorably to him, make her pay attention. No, all he had was his stubborn determination . . . and his heart.
Judd sighed. “That’s not your strength.”
“You’re giving me dating advice?” Andrew was dumbfounded.
“I’m mated,” Judd pointed out with a cool arrogance that almost hid the laughter in his voice. “You can’t even get the woman you want into bed. I’d listen if I were you.”
Andrew gave him the finger, but his wolf pricked up its ears. “Yeah, so?”
“Sienna,” Judd said in an abrupt change of subject, “is slow to take to people, suspicious of everyone’s motives. She’s had to become that way to protect herself, but she lets you hold her. Do you understand how big a deal that is for her?”
Judd had almost intervened the first time he’d seen Drew pull Sienna into a hug. He’d thought his niece was being forced. But then, right before he’d turned Drew’s bones into so much shrapnel, he’d seen Sienna’s arms go around the wolf male’s waist, her face lift up to his with a tiny smile of welcome.
The sight had literally stopped him in his tracks.
“Yeah,” Drew now said, a tenderness in his voice that was most usually apparent when he spoke to his sister. “I knew she was hurting. Hell, I probably understand what she’s going through in one particular area of her life better than anyone.”
Judd didn’t pursue that avenue of thought—trouble was brewing there, but they had time yet. Tonight, he’d focus on Drew. “How did you get Sienna to trust you?”
“How?” A shrug Judd sensed more than saw, the moon eclipsed by the rain-heavy clouds. “I talked to her.”
“And bribed her with a dozen deluxe cupcakes, each with its own weight in frosting.” Judd could still remember how the three cousins—Sienna, Toby, and Walker’s daughter, Marlee—had sat around and gobbled up the sweet concoctions. “There wasn’t even a crumb left by the end of the day, and I’m pretty sure Sienna and the kids were in sugar comas.”
Drew’s laughter was warmth in the darkness. “I saw her eyeing a photo of them in a magazine. It was just a way to get into her good graces.”
“Same with painting pink daisies on the door of the vehicle she most often uses to drive to DarkRiver territory?”
“It was water paint,” Drew said, clearly unrepentant, “barely took her a minute to wipe it away.” A grin. “She only got mad when she found out I’d painted her rucksack, too.”
Judd couldn’t help it. He laughed. It was still new to him, that sound, the feel of it. But he liked laughing, liked the bubbles of joy in his bloodstream, the feel of his chest muscles flexing in a way that had once been wholly unfamiliar. “You’re an idiot, Drew.”
A low growl colored the air. “My sister might be a sucker for your face, but that doesn’t mean I’ll hold my punches.”
“I’ll ask the question again—how did you get Sienna to trust you?”
Obviously irritated at the repetition, Drew threw a pebble into the water, picked up another. “Indigo would say I charmed her into—Oh.” Still holding the pebble, he stared at Judd. “I am an idiot.”
Having left Drew to plot the next step in his courtship of Indigo, Judd went home to kiss his mate and promise her he’d be home in a couple of hours. Brenna tugged down his head, rubbed her nose affectionately against his. “You’ll be careful.” It was an order.
“Nothing dangerous tonight,” he murmured, stroking his hands down her back, stunned as always by the delicate strength of her—such power in so small a frame. “Are you planning to wear one of those lacy things to sleep in?”
“I don’t know why I bother.” A smile against his lips, her wolf dancing in her eyes. “They never stay on long.”
“I like them.” He most especially liked peeling them off her inch by slow inch.
A husky laugh. “Then don’t be too late.”
Properly motivated to complete his errand and return to her arms, he made his way down into the night-cloaked streets of San Francisco, and from there, to the peaceful hush of the place Father Xavier Perez called both his vocation and his home. Xavier was waiting for him in the otherwise empty confines of the simple Second Reformation church, and Judd’s light mood transformed into concern as he came close enough to see the lines of strain on the other man’s normally serene countenance.
“Xavier,” he said, meeting the man of God in the center of the aisle, right below the peak of the roof, “what is it?”
“What I tell you now, you cannot share with our mutual friend.” Xavier’s eyes were troubled but resolute. “It’s not that I don’t trust him . . .”
“But the Ghost has his own agenda.” Judd, too, was worried about the powerful Psy rebel who was the third part of their triumvirate. The Ghost was connected to, and loyal to, the PsyNet. But the growing darkness in that very Net seemed to be in danger of corroding what remained of the other man’s soul. And if the Ghost snapped . . . A chill snaked its way up Judd’s spine. “I will not tell him.”