HAVING done a half-day shift on perimeter security, Sienna was home in plenty of time to work on an academic project and have dinner with Marlee and Toby. “They’re both in bed,” she told Walker when her uncle walked in the door after a later shift.
Walker shrugged off his jacket to reveal solid shoulders covered in a rough denim shirt. “I’ve got it now.”
Instead of leaving, she heated up a meal, put it on the table. Walker, having ducked into his bedroom to kick off his shoes and wash up, came in as she was placing a glass of water beside his plate. Putting his hand on the back of her head, he leaned down to press his lips to her forehead, much as she’d done with Toby and Marlee. “You’re troubled.”
It almost broke her, the tender way he held her. “It’s nothing.” She couldn’t bear to discuss last night with anyone, to share the painful magic of a dance, a touch that might never be repeated and yet that had branded her. She could still feel the rough kiss of Hawke’s jaw against her temple, his hand so big and warm on her lower back, his chest a hard, muscled wall that flexed against her br**sts.
Drawing back, Walker looked at her with pale green eyes that saw too much, but he didn’t push. Relief a crashing wave inside of her, she said a quick good-bye and shrugged into her own jacket, deciding to go for a walk under the starlit sky. That same sky had been pure midnight when Hawke took her into his arms, as if the universe itself was conspiring to allow them to steal a single hidden moment.
Startled, she turned to see Maria running her way. “Are you off to do your shift?”
A bounce of loose, silky curls as the other novice nodded. “So, you going to tell me what happened with you and Hawke last night?”
“Nothing.” Nothing but a slow, heartbreaking dance that had destroyed her illusions about her ability to get over a man who refused to even consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, there weren’t as many years between them as he believed.
Thankfully, Maria took her words at face value. “You had the early shift, right? Must’ve been hard getting up after staying up so late.”
“It was fine.” There had been no need to get up—she hadn’t slept since returning to the den. “Actually, do you mind if I run down with you? I’m not tired enough to sleep yet.” If she slept, she’d dream, the scent of Hawke haunting her in the soft dark.
“Company’s always welcome.” It was the answer of a wolf.
They ran down in companionable silence to the perimeter section where Maria was taking over from Lake. Breathing hard but not winded, Sienna gave the two of them privacy as they touched each other in that affectionate wolf way—nose to nose, body to body, the kiss an extension of the full-body contact.
Sienna had done her own shift in a different area of den territory, so there were new things to explore here. But still she almost missed it: a pen, gleaming and dark. Guessing it had fallen out of a packmate’s pocket, she picked it up—the pack was scrupulous about ensuring no garbage littered their land. It wasn’t until it was in her hand that she realized the sleek metallic cylinder wasn’t a pen at all but a high-powered torch, an expensive item.
The SnowDancers had a small number of them. Used almost exclusively by non-changeling members of the pack—the wolves’ night vision was better than any illumination the torches could provide—they were logged in and out with meticulous precision. Someone was probably in trouble for losing this. Sliding it into a pocket, she walked over to join Lake as he got ready to return to the den.
Body exhausted enough that there was a chance of a dreamless sleep, she parted with him at the entrance and went to log in the torch . . . to discover each and every one of the pack’s set sitting in the box where they were stored. Hairs rising on the back of her neck, she made a call to Maria. “Can you do me a favor?” she asked when the other woman answered.
“What do you need?”
“Go about a hundred meters east of where Lake was standing when we arrived, tell me what you scent.”
No sounds except for rustling as Maria jogged over. Then, “Psy. I smell Psy.”
HAWKE finished checking out the section where Sienna had found the torch. Like Maria, he immediately caught the harsh metallic scent exuded by some Psy—as if they’d gone so deep into Silence, they’d lost their humanity. Nothing but the most brittle cold remained.
Sienna hadn’t been cold.
Warm and curvy and muscled in a supple feminine way, she’d surprised him with the softness of her. They’d always been antagonists, always fought. To have her so sweet and lush against him had been a gift, walking away pure torture. His wolf didn’t understand why he’d done so—to the animal, she smelled like a mature female. It didn’t comprehend that she was a young girl barely become a woman.
I haven’t been a child since the day they came for me when I was five.
The memory incited a killing rage within him. He’d always known she’d been conditioned into Silence as a child, but until she’d said that, he hadn’t understood the painful depth of what her gift had demanded from her.
She’d never played.
How was that possible? Play was as necessary for a wolf as breathing.
She played with us.
It was the wolf’s voice. Scowling, he went to reject the assertion. Sienna had driven him crazy with her tricks since moving into the den. The party she’d thrown to celebrate her eighteenth birthday had ended up with a lot of na**d wolves freezing their asses off in the lake, their clothes scattered over so many acres, he didn’t ever want to know that the hell they’d been doing.