Jem didn’t even stop arguing to give Indigo a highly specific nonverbal gesture with one deceptively delicate-looking hand. Kenji echoed the move with such unerring accuracy, it was as if they’d synchronized it across two different parts of the state. Next to Indigo, Riaz mouthed, “Kenji” to Tomás, who shook his head and mouthed, “Jem.” Riaz held up a hand, fingers spread. Tomás nodded, accepting the bet.
Judd said nothing from where he sat two seats to Indigo’s left, but he was relaxed to an extent he’d never have been a year ago, his chair tilted back to lean against the wall and his legs stretched out in front. But no matter his apparently lazy pose, Indigo had no doubts that he’d seen and logged every word that had passed since he entered the room.
Pushing back her own chair, Indigo put her legs up on the table in front of her and raised a hand in a casual wave as Hawke arrived to grab the empty seat on her right. “Now that we’re all here, we can begin.”
“Cut me a break, Indy.” Hawke grinned at the look she shot him, but his next words were pure growl. “I just spent ten minutes explaining to the juveniles why they can’t go around sniffing after the leopard girls without expecting to get their asses kicked by the leopard boys at least once. When the hell is Riley coming back?”
Alexei and Matthias both smiled, slowly and with the wolf in their eyes, while Tomás rocked back and laughed with open amusement, the lean male dimples that creased his cheeks turning his handsome face even more gorgeous. Shaking her head, Indigo reached over to tap Hawke lightly on the cheek with her pen. “You’ll live.” Turning back to the others, she said, “Kenji, cut the foreplay. Report.”
Kenji switched into lieutenant mode so fast, Indigo would’ve gotten whiplash if she hadn’t seen him do the exact same thing before. “Nothing significant to report. We’ve had a few extra Psy move into the region, but our intel says they’re no threat—looks like most came in for a job at a new Psy computronics factory.”
“Any indication the factory is a front for something else?” Hawke asked. “We’ve seen that before.”
“I’ve got my eye on it.” Kenji thrust back strands of his stick-straight black hair. “But everything checks out so far. And it’s one of Nikita Duncan’s—she tends to like to keep her profits separate from her politics.”
Indigo agreed with that assessment, but made a note to have the den’s resident hackers dig deeper into the factory’s files nonetheless. “Tomás, how’s your patch?”
Jem went next. “We’ve had a spike in the murder rate, but it looks to be human-on-human gang violence.”
“You on it?” Hawke tapped a finger restlessly on the arm of his chair.
“We’ve already had a talk with the gangs. They want to make trouble, they don’t do it in our territory.” What was left unsaid was that if they continued, they’d soon find themselves hunted down like so much prey. The pack didn’t hold the largest territory in the country because it played nice. One warning was all you got.
Matthias spoke for the first time, and his deep voice was a pleasure to listen to, resonant and with an almost impossible clarity. “I sent you that note about some weird ship movements. We haven’t been able to pin anything down yet, but I’ll keep you updated.”
Indigo looked at Cooper. “Anything new?”
“I’ve got two female novices who’re showing signs of skill at sharpshooting.”
“Send me their details,” Judd said. “I’ll evaluate them and set up a training schedule.”
“Hey, Coop,” Tomás called out, the devil in his eye. “How’s it going with your pretty little wolf?”
Cooper glanced over, unruffled. “You’ll be the last to know. But the next time you send her flowers, I’m going to come over for a nice friendly visit and shove them where the sun don’t shine.”
Ignoring the suspicious cough that seemed to have affected everyone in the meeting, Indigo pointed at Alexei.
“This sector’s stable,” the young lieutenant said, making a valiant effort to fight a laugh, “though I think we need to organize one of the packwide parties again. I’ve got too many unmated adults in my area and they’re starting to irritate each other.”
The last thing Indigo needed to be thinking about was the sexual hunger of their animals, but she set her jaw and got to it—because fact was, touch-hungry changelings, especially wolves as aggressive as those in SnowDancer, needed an outlet—and if they couldn’t have sex, they’d choose violence. Add in the lack of choice in Alexei’s comparatively small sector and you had a recipe for trouble.
“May,” she said, checking her calendar. “We can have a week-long event in den territory. That’ll give us the flexibility to ensure security doesn’t slip.”
No one had any issues with that, so they moved on.
“The falcons are making use of the flight treaty,” Matthias said toward the end, his thickly lashed eyes dark and intense. “I’ve seen them flying over my sector.”
“Me, too.” Alexei leaned forward, bracing his arms on a glowing cherrywood desk. “Where are we on a possible alliance?”
“I think it’s a real possibility,” Hawke said. “I sent Drew to spend some time with them on the ground a month ago, and his report backs up my instincts.”
“He in the den?” Cooper asked. “It’d be good to hear what he has to say.”