Shaking off the brutal images, he shifted on his heel to find himself facing Lara. “You must’ve come down before the shops opened,” he said, looking at the bags she had in hand.
“I’m in a bad mood,” she said. “I decided to work it off by spending money, but I hate everything I’ve bought. Who needs a stupid yellow dress anyway? Not someone with my skin tone.” That skin, a natural dark tan stroked with gold in this light, scrunched up as she made a face.
“I think you’ll look gorgeous in yellow.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, cuddling her smaller body to his. Like most people in the den, he tended to forget she wasn’t that much older than he was, she was so competent. But today she looked unbearably young. “This bad mood have anything to do with—”
“Don’t go there,” she warned, even as she slid her own arm around his waist, the soft black of her corkscrew curls glinting with sparks of red. “And I won’t hassle you about Indigo.”
He froze. “How the hell do you healers pull that shit?”
“Trade secret.” A hint of a smile, those high cheekbones giving her eyes an almost feline appearance as she glanced up. “How come she’s so mad at you?” she asked with a blunt honesty that reminded him of Ben, the pup the healer often babysat for her friend Ava.
She scrunched her nose at him. “You going to do anything about it?”
Andrew thought of the plan he’d hatched late last night. “Oh, yeah, I’m going to do something about it.” And the lieutenant would never see it coming.
Having said good-bye to her mother a few minutes earlier, Indigo found Hawke and they sat down to coordinate the pack’s resources. “We have a lieutenant meeting later today,” she said toward the end.
“I remember.” Rising from his desk, he folded his arms, unfolded them, then shoved his hands through his hair, hair that echoed the stunning color of his pelt in wolf form. Right now, that wolf was riding him hard.
“Want to go for a run?” she asked, feeling more than a little twitchy herself. “We could both use it.”
The fact that Hawke didn’t even bother to pretend he didn’t need to let the wolf roam told her more than anything else. “Wolf or human?” he asked, his voice shifting in a way that made it clear the wolf was already in charge. His eyes, too, shimmered in the most subtle of ways—the wolf watching her from a human face.
“Human wolf,” she said, “it’s harder to maintain.”
By the time they cleared the den, her wolf was at the forefront of her mind. She was still physically human, but her thought processes were no longer those of the cool, collected lieutenant. They were of the wolf who lived in her soul—of her body, only her eyes would’ve reflected the change. Though as they began to run, she felt her claws pricking at the insides of her skin and decided to let them slice through.
They ran side by side, getting out of the White Zone and into the thick darkness of the forest beyond, the trees whipping by in a blur of rich green and—as they began to climb higher—the occasional splash of snowy white. She was damn fast, but she knew Hawke could’ve outstripped her. It wasn’t simply that he was alpha—though that played a part in it. Her own wolf didn’t want to outstrip him, would’ve been confused if it could. But a larger part of it was that he was naturally faster.
But she was making him work for it, and that was what was important. It was a lieutenant’s job to challenge her alpha when necessary—as it was an alpha’s job to look after his pack. So Indigo ran them both to the edge of exhaustion, flying over fallen rocks and old trees, branches grazing her arms and threatening to slap her face, the wind a crisp knife across her skin.
Her wolf gloried in the rush of speed, the pump of blood, the wild pleasure of running with a packmate. It was only when they reached the top of a ridge, when there was only silence around them, the pack lands spread out below in a sea of white, green, and lake blue, that the wolf sighed and halted. Hawke stood with his hands on his knees beside her, chest heaving and face gleaming with sweat.
Glancing at him, she saw his wolf grinning back at her, the shimmering ice of his eyes filled with fierce joy. She grinned back, allowing herself to collapse onto her back on the snow-dusted grass, the chill a welcome kiss against her heated skin. The sky was a gorgeous crystalline blue overhead, Hawke’s eyes a curious and much paler hue as he looked down at her, his head angled in a way that was simply not human.
She snapped her teeth at him.
It made him laugh, relax, and lie down beside her, their arms companionably tangled. “So,” he said, his voice holding the edge of a growl.
“So,” she replied, her own wolf prowling contentedly inside her skin.
Shifting, Hawke raised himself on his elbow before leaning down to nip at her lower lip in a quick, sharp bite.
With those amazing eyes, and that gorgeous mane of silver-gold, many women would’ve taken what he’d done as a sensual invitation. She was wolf. She knew that coming from her alpha, it was very much the opposite.
Rubbing at her lip, she scowled. “What did I do?” Because it had been a rebuke. A playful one, sure, but a rebuke nonetheless.
Hawke tapped her on the nose with his index finger. “My wolf can sense that yours is in trouble. Why didn’t you come to me?”
“It’s nothing,” she said, pushing him away with a growl when he would’ve used his teeth on her a second time. Yes, he was alpha, but she was a dominant female. “Correction—it is something, but it’s not anything I need your help to manage.” Drew was her problem, and she would get a handle on the situation.