Riaz grinned, and his next words were good-natured. “She ran me to the f**king ground.”
“You should do it with Judd next time,” Indigo said, a tiny frown between her brows as she looked away from Andrew. “He can do weird things with his speed—and he never slips on the climb.”
Indigo shook her head.
“Might have to take him on, then.” Glancing at his watch, the male lieutenant met Indigo’s eyes. “I’m starving. You want to grab dinner together after we shower?”
Time froze. Indigo glanced at Andrew for a fleeting second, and he saw her decision in her eyes before she turned to Riaz. “Yeah, that sounds good.”
Indigo looked up after she accepted Riaz’s offer, expecting to meet Drew’s angry gaze, but he was gone, having melted into the crowd of packmates who’d come out to see her and Riaz run the course. Her stomach turned heavy, as if it was full of rocks—though she told herself she’d made the right decision.
Whatever it was that had blazed between her and Drew, it wouldn’t have lasted—and more, it would’ve hurt them both in the process. Better to nip it in the bud, to focus on a relationship that had the possibility of going somewhere. Except that she found herself looking for Drew again, her wolf pacing this way and that.
There was no sign of him.
At that instant, she knew he wouldn’t ever slip another note under her door. Because Andrew Liam Kincaid might be charming, he might laugh with ease and tease with smiling joy, but he was also a dominant male. He had pride in spades.
That pride would not allow him to approach her again when she’d openly—publicly—made another choice.
There would be no more presents of fossils or bribes of sweet desserts, no more ambushing kisses, no more challenges, no more Drew. The rocks in her gut turning to blocks of ice, she took a step toward the den, intent on following his fading scent.
“That was great!” A packmate slapped her on the back. “I knew you were fast, but that was something else.”
There was no way to make a graceful exit, not with everyone around her—and she didn’t know what she’d say to Drew if she caught up with him. Because her decision was the right one. It was.
Having just watched Riaz and Indigo drive off for their dinner, Andrew slung a light backpack over his shoulder and walked to Hawke’s office. His alpha was marking something on the territorial map hung on one of the stone walls. “Drew,” he said, shooting a penetrating look over his shoulder, “what is it?”
“I need tonight and tomorrow off.” The words were forced out past the violent emotions still choking his throat.
Hawke frowned. “We’re already going to be down a few people with Eli and Yuki taking Sakura to Disneyland tomorrow. Sing-Liu and D’Arn headed out an hour ago to visit her parents for a couple of days.”
“One night, one day,” Andrew repeated. It was all he trusted himself to say.
Hawke’s pale blue eyes drilled into him, tiny lines flaring out at the corners. “Go,” his alpha finally said. “And if you need Pack, don’t be a dipshit and try to hack it alone. Call me.”
Pack was One. Pack was family.
Andrew knew that, but right now, he wanted to be alone. It f**king hurt that Indigo had chosen someone else over him. But he’d have shrugged that off and continued to court her, to challenge Riaz for the right to her, if he hadn’t seen that glowing expression on her face during the run, heard her laughter after it.
Riaz made her happy.
Really, truly happy, with none of the worry or anger that colored her relationship with Andrew.
And though the knowledge had his wolf clawing violently at the inside of his skin, Andrew would slit his own throat before he did anything to savage her happiness—as would inevitably happen if he saw her touch the other male. So he had to get out of here, find some way to gain control over the violence of his emotions, burn off the rage until he was in no danger of using his abilities as the pack’s tracker to spill SnowDancer blood.
Most people tended to forget that the tracker was also trained to kill the rogues he tracked. Andrew never did. It was why he hadn’t shifted, didn’t intend to shift until he had a handle on himself—he didn’t trust what he might do once he gave in to the much more primal mindset of the wolf.
Leaving Hawke’s office without another word, he walked down the tunnels with his head bent, not inviting conversation.
He didn’t count on Ben.
The five-year-old barreled around the corner and wrapped his baby-soft arms around Andrew’s legs. “Drew!” A shining face lifted up to his, absolute trust in those dark, button brown eyes.
Andrew could no more squelch that joy than he could cut Indy out of his heart. “Mr. Ben.” Bending, he picked the sweet-natured boy up and turned him upside down.
Ben’s delighted laughter attracted the attention of passing packmates, made smiles break out on their faces. Andrew smiled, too, but his heart was too bruised to make it real. Turning Ben right side up, he settled the boy on his arm, his eyes on Ben’s soft fleece pajamas. “Did you escape bedtime?” He began heading toward Ben’s home.
A nod, one arm companionably around his neck. “You’re taking me back.”
A sigh, then he snuggled his head into the curve of Andrew’s neck, sitting patiently until they reached the open doorway of his home. “Knock, knock,” Andrew said. “I have an escapee to return.”
Ben’s mother walked out, shaking her head. “Slippery little monkey. I thought you were in bed.” Taking Ben, she sent Andrew a smile as bright and open as her son’s. “Thanks for bringing my little man back.”