Play of Passion (Psy-Changeling 9) - Page 7

“No problem.” While his position as Hawke’s eyes and ears in the wider pack had him on the road much of the time, he also functioned as a senior-level soldier during the times he was in the den.

Hawke made a note. “Indigo, you good with continuing to coordinate our resources?”

“Yes.” Indigo’s tone was calm, practical, with not the slightest hint of the passionate nature he’d glimpsed for a brief moment last night. “Are you handling the liaison with the leopards?”

Hawke’s scowl had Andrew fighting a grin. “Yeah. Do you know how many juveniles I had to spring from cat territory yesterday? Five,” he said without waiting for an answer. “They’d gotten the bright idea to catch a leopard juvenile in animal form and cover him in blue and silver paint.”

Andrew snorted. “At least they chose the pack’s colors.”

“Yeah, too bad for them that the ‘juvenile’ they caught was actually a full-fledged female soldier who just happens to be slightly smaller in size.”

Indigo’s wince was a hiss of air. “How bad did she slice them up?”

“They’ll live.” Hawke’s wolf was in his eyes, clearly amused. “My punishment was probably worse. I doused the idiots in their own paint and told them they’re not allowed to shift to get rid of it. It washes off in the shower, or it doesn’t come off.”

That, Andrew thought, explained the sheepish-looking teenager he’d seen on the way here, his hair sticking up in stiff blue spikes. “You want me to handle any of that?”

“No.” Hawke shook his head. “Indigo or I will move you around as we see a gap. Riaz will be arriving later today, so we’ll have another lieutenant soon, but he’ll need a few days to rest and get himself up to speed.”

Indigo leaned forward a bare fraction. “I didn’t know he was coming home.”

Andrew’s wolf growled a warning inside his mind at the sign of her interest in the other man. Riaz, he knew, was around Indigo’s age and ranked just below her in the hierarchy. The male had spent most of the past couple of years away from SnowDancer territory, roaming through various parts of the country and the world to gather information; to function as the pack’s business representative when necessary; and more recently, to initiate contact and/or informal alliances with other changeling groups.

But none of that was important to his wolf. What made its fur bristle was one simple, inescapable fact: Riaz and Indigo had once been lovers. His hand clenched on the arm of his chair, his claws slicing out to dig into the leather-synth. He retracted the physical evidence of his emotions before anyone could notice, but there was nothing he could do about the claws slicing at the insides of his skin as the wolf paced, a low growl humming at the back of its throat.

The intensity of his response surprised even him.

“When’d Riaz get back into the country?” While he continued to fight the wolf’s primal urges, Andrew knew without conceit that no one would guess he was having trouble maintaining an even keel—that ability to slide under the radar was a skill he’d had all his life. But he’d truly honed it to perfection in the months following his sister Brenna’s abduction and torture. Riley had had nightmares. Andrew . . . Andrew had run himself into exhaustion every night for weeks. Alone. “Last I heard, he was in Europe.”

“He was,” Hawke said, interrupting the dark wash of memory. “Landed in New York only a few hours ago. Should be in San Francisco by this afternoon.”

“I’ll pick him up,” Indigo volunteered.

Andrew flexed his hand on the side of his chair hidden from Indigo’s view, his claws slicing in and out. “Is that everything?” He needed to escape the intoxication and provocation of Indigo’s scent, get a handle on himself before he did something else stupid.

Hawke shook his head. “I’ve got something I want you two to do.” Settling back, he blew out a breath. “The thing with Joshua? Shouldn’t have happened. And it’s a pack issue, not a case of one or two individuals dropping the ball.”

Andrew relaxed a fraction as his wolf’s protective drive toward the pack overcame its more primitive instincts. “We’ve been so busy with protecting SnowDancer against the Council that we haven’t paid enough attention to the young ones.”

“Drew is right.” Indigo braced her forearms on her thighs, her scowl apparent in the tone of her voice. “We’ve been focusing on training up the older soldiers, the dominants, to the detriment of the other ranks, and that’s not how a healthy pack, how our pack, is supposed to work.” She sounded both angry and frustrated—with herself, Andrew knew. “Why the hell didn’t we notice the problem earlier?”

“Someone did. I told him it wasn’t a priority.”

Startled, Indigo followed Hawke’s gaze to Drew, who shrugged in that fluid way he had. “I should’ve pushed you harder on the point,” he said to their alpha, “but it didn’t seem necessary at the time—and Joshua was shoved over the edge by a highly volatile situation. None of the others are anywhere near that stage. I would’ve made you pay attention if it was that bad.”

Indigo wasn’t used to finding herself out of the loop. It irritated her, but more, it made her wonder exactly how much more she didn’t know about the things Drew did for the pack, for Hawke. Sitting up straight, she folded her arms and pinned him with her gaze. “How is it that you’re so on top of what’s happening with the juveniles?”