“She has a tendency to buy into other companies,” Sienna said, “rather than building herself. But . . . wait a second.”
Brenna came on the line. “Your pretty baby is running a search.”
“I’m casually walking over to where she can’t hear us.”
“To ask you if you’re courting her properly. Really, Hawke, a girl deserves flowers at least.”
“I don’t do flowers.” And right now, the whole courtship thing was in the air. As last night had shown with inescapable clarity, she was nowhere near ready to handle the truth of him. The thought had his hand clenching on the phone.
“It’s not hard,” Brenna muttered. “Call up a florist, buy a bouquet.”
Hawke’s wolf liked her too much to be annoyed. “Let me talk to her, brat. I have to get back to my meeting.”
“In a second. First—how’s my pretty baby?”
Hawke glanced over to see Judd listening to something Vaughn was saying, his head angled toward the ground, a frown on his face. Unusual for the former assassin. “Flirting with a jaguar.”
“You’re not funny, mister,” Brenna said before the phone passed hands and Sienna came back on the line.
“You’ll have to confirm this,” she said, “but it looks like Tatiana is still the sole owner of a sculpture that stands in the middle of a small park in Cambridge, England.”
“Yes, Ming found that odd, too, so he had me research it as part of my training. It was commissioned by a Smythe a hundred years ago, after the deal that led to their fortune. I don’t know if it’s the kind of thing you’re looking for . . .”
“I might even kiss you for it. All over.” Hanging up to her sucked-in breath, he walked back to the others. “I have a target for Tatiana.” As for Sienna, he’d give her a bit more time, but . . . he was a wolf. Who the hell said he had to play it civilized? She was his. She would learn to deal with him.
RECOVERED FROM COMPUTER 2(A) TAGS: PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, FATHER, ACTION REQUIRED AND COMPLETED3
FROM: Alice <[email protected]
TO: Dad <[email protected]
DATE: April 14th, 1973 at 10:32pm
SUBJECT: re: re: re: hello
Yes, my last e-mail did make no sense. I’m afraid I was giddy from the possible discovery. However, as you know from my phone call to Mother, my theory will be difficult to prove without bringing others into the equation, people who may not have the best interests of the Xs at heart. If only I was in the PsyNet, I could see for myself.
WALKER WALKED INTO the infirmary the night after the attack to find Lara coming out of Elias’s room. “How is he?”
The deep purple shadows under her eyes when she met his gaze betrayed how little she’d rested since waking from her nap the previous night. “Good. Healing. I have to wait for his body to recover from this session before I can carry on. He’ll be here for a while yet.”
Seeing Lucy examining the readout on the panel in Riordan’s room, he held out his hand. “Come with me, Lara. You need to have a break.”
“No, I can’t—”
He took her hand, halting her words midstream. “Either you walk out with me,” he said, keeping his tone calm though his words were nothing reasonable, “or I’ll take a leaf out of Hawke’s book and carry you out.” That situation, too, was something he had his eye on, but it wasn’t time for him to say his piece. Not yet.
Lara’s mouth fell open. “You wouldn’t.”
He waited, let her eyes scan his face, see the truth.
Cheeks flushing a dull red beneath that deep tan skin, she said, “You would.” A small tug as she tried to free her hand, failed. “I need to tell Lucy.”
“She’s seen.” Then he began walking, pulling Lara along.
She made a small growling sound he’d never before heard from her. “I’m a wolf, not a dog.”
“You’d treat a pet better than you treat yourself.”
Neither of them said another word until they were some distance from the den, beside a waterfall that froze in the winter months but was at present a roaring spray.
Releasing his grip on her, he pointed to a rocky ledge. “Sit before you fall down.”
“Argh!” She slammed fisted hands against his chest. “Would you like me to shift and wag my tail while I’m at it?” Anger turned her tawny eyes dark, thinned the soft invitation of her mouth.
“No,” he said, grabbing her wrists, her bones delicate under his touch. “I’d like you to permit me to take care of you.” It was a raw craving, this need he had to ensure she wasn’t hurting herself. He didn’t understand it, had never felt its like.
Lara shook her head. “I can’t do this.” Breath hitching, she pushed against him. “You can be my friend, Walker. But you don’t have any other rights—you didn’t want them.”
“Lara,” he began, continuing to maintain his grip, but she shook her head again.
“You were honest with me, so I’ll be honest with you. The kind of rights you want, the kind you’re trying to claim? They’re intimate rights.” Wet shimmered in the expressive depths of her eyes. “I can’t give them to you. They belong to the man with whom I’ll build a life, have children.”