He’d been so angry at her—always pushing his buttons, that girl. But then he’d taken her into his arms, and all that anger had blazed into a darker, hotly possessive need that had urged him to bend his head, bite down on the throbbing pulse in her neck, leave a mark.
God, that shirt. One tug and those snaps would’ve come apart, revealing the gold-kissed cream of her skin. He’d wanted to taste her, stroke her, pet her. Simply holding her, simply dancing with her, had driven his wolf half to madness . . . but he would have shredded anyone who’d dared interrupt that slow dance stolen in the silken shadows of night.
“Your pelt,” a lazy voice drawled as he walked into the clearing around Lucas’s home, “would make a nice coat for my mate.”
Giving Vaughn a desultory finger where the amber-haired sentinel stood in the shade of a large juniper tree, its trunk a rich reddish brown, Hawke said, “I can scent Luc—he inside?” He nodded at the cabin below another large tree, an unoccupied aerie perched in its branches.
“Yep. Don’t even think about going in.”
“Do I look like I’ve had a lobotomy?” Lucas’s mate, Sascha, was heavily pregnant. As a result, the leopard alpha’s protective tendencies had moved into the lethal range. “I’ll wait here. He’ll scent me soon enough.”
Lucas exited the cabin on the heels of that statement. “Sascha’s sleeping,” he said, angling his head toward the forest. “Vaughn.”
“I won’t take my eye off the place.”
“How is she?” Hawke asked as they stepped deeper into the dappled sunshine filtering through the canopy.
“Ready to give birth.” A chuckle. “Unfortunately, the baby is comfortable right where he or she is.”
“You still don’t know the gender?” Hawke wouldn’t have had the selfcontrol to hold out—and yeah, it hurt like a bitch to know he’d never have the chance to test that theory, but that didn’t dim his joy for the leopard alpha. “If I ask Sascha, will she tell me?”
“Try it.” A feral grin that was all teeth. “So, fill me in on these weapons shipments your people have detected.”
Hawke gave him a quick rundown. “My gut says the Scotts—everything points to them—are going to mount an assault this time. Full-out, open.”
“Not surprising, given that they and the others have tried covert ops a number of times and failed.” Lucas halted on the moss-covered verge beside a small, clear stream. “Sascha spoke to her mother—there’s definite Pure Psy activity in the city, but they’re being very careful. They’re well aware that not only are they not welcome, but that the last operative ended up with his brains leaking out his ears after Nikita found him out.”
Hawke didn’t like Nikita Duncan, but he could appreciate the woman’s efficiency in taking care of a threat. “That’ll make them harder to pinpoint.”
“Rats are spread out across the city. Smallest sign of a Pure Psy base and we’ll know.” The leopard alpha glanced at Hawke. “Are you planning on moving your vulnerable out?”
“Not at this stage.” Hawke had already discussed it with his lieutenants. “There’s no overt threat yet, and we’re wolves, Luc.” Evacuating their home on such flimsy grounds would demoralize any predatory changeling, dominant or not. “If and when there is a credible threat, that’s when we’ll evacuate the noncombatants.” The escape plans had been drafted long ago, could be put into motion within an hour, and the entire den cleared of their vulnerable within four. It would take far longer than that for any invader to break through SnowDancer’s first line of defense.
Lucas’s eyes gleamed cat-green in the muted light of the forest. “We made the same decision. I want Mercy to liaise with Riley to coordinate our evacuation plans. Work for you?”
“Do it. I think we should give WindHaven a heads-up, too.” The falcons could provide air support if necessary. “I’ll have Drew talk to them,” he said when Luc nodded.
“I hear your boy’s been out to the Canyon.”
“Falcons love Drew—I think he even had an indecent proposal or three.”
Lucas’s head turned toward the cabin. “Indigo know?”
“I didn’t want bloodshed.” Hawke fell in step with the other alpha as he began to head back. “Sascha awake?”
A pang of envy uncurled in Hawke’s gut. He wondered what it would be like to be connected to a person with such intimacy. Yes, he was alpha, linked to his lieutenants and, to a lesser extent, to the rest of his pack. But it wasn’t the same. None of them were his.
A rush of memory, a sleek feminine body pressed against his own, the scent of wild spice in his every breath as the rapid tattoo of her pulse sang a sirensong to his dominant nature. The wolf whispered that she could be his, only his, until possessive hunger pulsed through him, turning his muscles rigid.
He parted with Lucas at the clearing, digging his claws into his palms to cut through the compulsion. The scent of blood licked into the air, and he let it overwhelm the burn of sexual need for the moment. It wouldn’t last, he was fully aware of that. If he knew what was good for him, for his pack, he’d finish what he’d started a couple of days ago and take a lover. A lover who knew the score, who wouldn’t look at him in the morning with eyes bruised with the knowledge that he’d given her all he could.
There was nothing else left in him.