“Later, my mother told me that all of a sudden, I just turned down a hallway and began running.” She’d always laughed as she told that story, his gifted, fey mother with her sea green eyes and wild tumble of hair. “She was so startled that she decided to let me be, see what was so interesting. Until I ran into the nursery.”
“Was Tarah the nursery supervisor then?” she asked, naming Indigo’s mother.
“No, and Evie hadn’t even been born.” He couldn’t believe that so many years had passed . . . that Rissa had been gone all that time. “My mother was sure I’d gotten myself in big trouble for interrupting naptime, especially when she found me laughing with a toddler with thick black curls and brown eyes.”
He would never forget the wonder that had bloomed inside him when Rissa smiled at him. Mine. A crystal-clear thought. As a child, he’d had no understanding of the depth to which that feeling would one day grow—back then, it had been a simple, primal possessiveness. “The healer at the time told me that that was the earliest she’d ever known for a changeling to find his mate.” Some people took years to awaken to each other; Drew and Indigo were the perfect example.
“That’s so beautiful.” Sienna’s words sang with wonder. “She lived the majority of her life knowing she would never be alone, that someone would catch her whenever she fell.”
Hawke hadn’t ever considered it in that light, so that Rissa’s short life was touched only with joy not sorrow. “Thank you.” Feeling the most furious tenderness in his heart for this woman who bore so many scars on her soul, he stroked his hand over the heavy silk of her hair. “Stay safe. We have something important to finish when you get back.”
LARA tracked Walker down the morning after Sienna and Judd left the den with such stealth, she’d never have known they were gone if she hadn’t gotten up before dawn to check up on Elias and glimpsed them slipping out. When she’d confronted Hawke, pointing out that she ranked as high as a lieutenant, he’d told her what was going on.
Now, she pushed open the door to the small workspace she knew Walker had commandeered in an isolated section of the den. His tools lay neatly along a bench he’d built with his hands, while the man himself stood at another bench, sanding the edges of a rocking chair so delicate and graceful, she knew it was meant for a young girl. “Did you build that for Marlee?”
He looked up, taking off and placing his safety glasses aside. “No. It’s a gift for Sakura.”
It was a kind thing to do for the little girl whose father was not yet totally recovered, the type of thing Walker did so often without fanfare or any expectation of kindness in return. “I brought you something.” Steeling her shoulders, she crossed the space between them to place a mug of coffee and a plate of buttered toast on the bench. It was what he preferred for breakfast. She knew that because she noticed everything about Walker Lauren.
Putting aside the sander, he dusted off his hands and picked up a piece of toast. Neither of them spoke until he’d finished. “They’re both skilled individuals,” he said at last. “There’s no reason for anything to go wrong.”
The knot in her stomach unfurled at the realization that he wasn’t going to make this hard. She was the one who’d walked way . . . but she’d regretted her decision every hour since. She’d missed him. No other man came close to creating the depth of feeling in her that Walker did with a simple look, a simple word.
Faced with that indisputable conclusion, she’d canceled all future dates. It wasn’t fair. Not to her and not to the males.
Instead, she’d looked hard at her relationship with Walker—not just what he’d said to her, but what he’d done. Quiet, reserved Walker Lauren, who rarely spoke to anyone, had come to her night after night, trusted her with things she was becoming certain no one else knew. Not only that, but he’d cared for her in that same quiet way. Maybe the words were the truth and his actions an inadvertent lie, but Lara had made the decision to see this through to the end.
Never did she want to look back and wonder. Because he mattered. So much. Enough that she was willing to take the biggest risk of her life and continue this friendship that was nothing so simple. “You’ll worry all the same though,” she said. “He’s your baby brother, and she might as well be your daughter.”
Pale green eyes widened the tiniest fraction. “Judd would be startled to hear himself described in such a way.”
Laughing at the unusual show of emotion, she stole a sip of his coffee before passing it over. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“Agreed.” He took a long drink before placing the mug beside the plate and reaching to cup her jaw. “You’re more rested.”
Her skin burned where he touched it. “Yes.”
“I’m glad.” Running his thumb over her chin, he dropped his hand. “Talk to me.”
As he worked, she did exactly that, keeping his mind from dwelling on the truth that two people he loved were in danger. When he touched her now and then, whether it was an accidental brush or a deliberate act as he helped her perch up on the bench, she quelled the urge to demand more.
This man, he was worth waiting for.
RECOVERED FROM COMPUTER 2(A) TAGS: PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, FATHER, ACTION NOT REQUIRED5
FROM: Alice <[email protected]
TO: Dad <[email protected]
DATE: March 2nd, 1974 at 10:18pm