Indigo gave him an easy, dangerous smile. “I know all you have to do is snap your fingers and women throw themselves into your bed—” She held up a hand when he growled. “I’m not saying you use your position, but the fact that you’re alpha, the reason why you’re alpha—your strength, your speed, your sheer dominance—that’s potent stuff. Not to mention your pretty face.”
It was a struggle to keep his focus when the back of his neck burned with the snarling awareness of what was going on not far into the forest. “Thanks for the pep talk.” It came out wolf rough.
“Shut up.” Indigo was one of only two people in the den who could say that to his face and not get herself in seriously deep shit, and she used that knowledge ruthlessly. “I know damn well you could go and scratch that itch right now if you wanted to, but why don’t you think about whether scratching it with just any packmate—even one you like—will have any effect whatsoever.”
KIT halted now that they were out of range of keen changeling hearing—even that of a wolf so close to his animal that his senses were more acute than normal. Because while Kit was happy to prod at Hawke, he also had a healthy respect for the SnowDancer alpha and wasn’t about to push him beyond a certain point.
That fact might’ve annoyed his leopard had it been another dominant male closer to his own age, but just as Kit’s leopard knew its own strength, man and leopard both also knew that Hawke was a predatory changeling male in the prime of his life. The wolf alpha would wipe the floor with Kit without so much as breaking a sweat.
Sienna tugged her hand out of his. “Why did you do that?” Curious, not angry.
“Don’t say my kisses aren’t nice?” He couldn’t resist the tease.
Folding her arms, she pinned him with one of those looks she’d picked up from her mentor, Indigo. “That was the problem, as I seem to recall.”
Kit’s pride winced. Just a little—before his leopard shrugged it off with feline confidence. “Want to try again? It was only one kiss.”
Shadows clouded her expression, turning her gaze to midnight. “Kit, I—” Eyes narrowing as she glimpsed the grin tugging at his lips, she mimed throwing something at his head. “Not funny.”
Laughing, he pulled her body against his with one arm around her neck, deeply conscious that such informal skin privileges came hard for her, that he was one of the few people she trusted in this way—enough to have allowed him to spring a kiss on her. “How could I resist, Sin? You’re so adorable and earnest.”
She elbowed him. Hard. Wincing, he continued to hold her by his side. “So, still no chemistry, huh?” He nuzzled the top of her head with his chin. “Pity. Because you know you’re smoking hot.”
“Also not funny.”
“Wasn’t a lie.” He knew from the slight shake of her head that she thought he was spouting a whole boatload of shit, but the fact was, Sienna was gorgeous—in a way every dominant changeling male in both packs had noticed.
Hers wasn’t a delicate feminine beauty, for all that she was small and fine-boned. No, Sienna carried within her a deep, deep core of strength that had etched itself onto her face. This was a woman who would stand her ground, come what may. And to a predatory changeling male, that was both purest temptation and the most enticing challenge.
He got another intriguing glimpse of that internal strength when she pushed away to face him once more. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“I scented Hawke walking out,” he said, eyes never moving off her . . . so he saw the immediate stiffening of her shoulders, the pinched tightness around the lush curves of her mouth.
When she spoke, her voice held a husky undertone that stroked over his senses like rough silk. “Did he see us?”
“Yes.” Leaning against an old lodgepole pine, the trunk clear of branches high up into the canopy, he hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans, thinking again that chemistry was a bitch. But disappointing as it was that there were no fireworks between him and Sienna—oh, there’d been sparks, sure, but not enough to satisfy either one of them—he had the rock solid feeling that their friendship was here to stay. And Kit took care of his friends. “Don’t look at me that way.”
Arms crossed over her chest once more, she pinned him with an angry stare. “You know I don’t like to play games.”
Yes, he did. Sienna was smart on a whole different level than the majority of people, but she’d also spent most of her life in Silence. The conditioning designed to suppress her feelings, her very heart, had left her with huge gaps in her emotional education—which was why she needed friends to watch her back, especially now. “There are games, and then there are strategic moves.” He shook his head when she would have spoken. “Predatory changelings are possessive; it’s part of the package. Alphas take that to an entirely new level.”
“That doesn’t apply here.” A hard angle to her jaw, those arms so defensively folded. But she didn’t try to pretend she didn’t know what he was talking about. “He doesn’t see me as an adult female, not in that way.”
“Hence my helping hand . . . or lips, as the case may be.” Walking over, he tugged on her braid because not touching someone he cared about was incomprehensible to his leopard. “Trust me, kitten. I know when a man wants to rip my head off.” Followed by various other parts of his anatomy. “Hawke was ready to make leopard mincemeat of my insides and feed it to those feral wolves who follow him around like he’s their alpha, too.”