Indigo got to her feet as Judd rose. “Thanks.” She tugged a little uncomfortably on a strap. “Why?”
Judd faded back into the darkness. “Because I was you, once.”
As she shifted on her heel and began to trek to the Serpent Pass, Judd’s words reverberated in her skull. The other lieutenant was Psy, had been an ice-cold bastard when he first joined the pack, as emotionless, as harsh as the rock faces in the Sierra Nevada.
She was changeling. Touch was her lifeblood, and she was tied to the pack by countless threads. There were no similarities between them.
Except . . .
A flicker of memory, of holding back tears after a bad fall because she didn’t want to cry and give her parents something else to worry about. It had been instinct—she’d known they needed all their energy to care for Evie. Loving her sister as Indigo did, that choice, and the ones that came after, weren’t anything she regretted—her independence and strength were qualities she was proud of.
There was nothing wrong with being steel, nothing wrong with being strong. It was expected with men. Just because she was a woman . . . But right when she was working up a good head of steam, she remembered who’d said the words that had begun this tumble of memories and thoughts.
If anyone knew about being ice, about being steel, it was Judd.
Her foot caught on a twisted root and she almost went flying. “Shit.” Steadying herself, she wrenched her focus firmly back to the present. The past and how it had shaped her could all come later. Much later.
Four hours after she began, in a rugged area lightly sprinkled with patches of snow, she caught the first hint of Drew’s scent. Her instinct was to move at a faster clip, catch up to him as soon as possible, but she forced herself to slow down, consider what she was going to say when she reached him.
“Great. Just great, Indigo,” she muttered under her breath, unscrewing the water bottle she’d refilled at a spring a couple of hours earlier and gulping down half of it without pause. Thirst quenched, but mind no more forthcoming, she slid it back into its spot along the side of her pack and began to climb the jagged pathway in front of her. In truth, it wasn’t really a path, more like a rock slide that had solidified over time and that the pack used as stairs when in wolf form.
It wasn’t as straightforward in a human body. Her hands got banged up a little on the sharp edges, and she whacked her knees a couple of times, but she hardly noticed the small hurts as she crested the rise. Because Drew had stopped—on a small plateau bare of snow that would catch direct sunlight when the sun rose, though the area beyond it was thick with trees, their arms reaching into the clouds.
He’d set up a portable laz-fire and unrolled his sleeping bag on top of a groundsheet that would keep the damp from soaking in. It would’ve still been too cold for most humans—probably a lot of changelings, too. But she’d felt Drew’s body against hers, knew he burned white-hot. Taking a deep breath, she made her way down to the campsite.
Above her, the night was a crystalline darkness, the stars as bright as shards of diamond; below her, only silence. Halfway down, she glimpsed Drew’s pack lying against a tree not far from the fire, but there was no sign of the man she’d come to find. It was only when she was almost at the plateau that she heard the gurgle of water in the distance. Shrugging off her own pack along with her jacket, she left them by Drew’s and followed that sound to what turned out to be a stream.
Swollen from the rains and melted snow, it crashed down into a natural pool formed by the long passage of water against rock, where it turned quiescent at last. The pool was black beyond the foam of the falling water, but she didn’t need anything other than the starlight—her eyes went unerringly to the muscled body of the man cutting through the dark surface.
Scrambling down to the side of the pool, she saw the rock where Drew had abandoned his clothes. Sweat soaked her own clothes in spite of the chill air, and she looked longingly at the water. Drew hadn’t noticed her yet, and when he did, she knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. “Hell with it,” she muttered and reached down to pull off her boots.
She’d just taken off her turtleneck and dumped it on the rest of the pile when Drew’s head snapped up out of the water. Their eyes met and it felt as if the universe itself was holding its breath.
Andrew would’ve thought he was hallucinating, except that Indigo’s scent surrounded him on every side, the air currents cruel and capricious. Staring at her standing there so proud and so beautiful—so goddamn beautiful—he had to fight with every ounce of his strength not to power through the water and pull her down so he could slick his hands over her br**sts, claim her mouth with his own.
Continuing to hold his gaze, she reached up and released her hair from its ponytail. The dark mass rippled down her back, over her shoulders. She swept it away, baring the black curves of the bra that shaped her body. Even from this far away, he could tell it was no flimsy, lacy thing. No, it was functional, supported her . . . and cupped her with breathtaking intimacy.
He’d held her when she was naked, even kissed her when she was naked. But no moment had felt as intimate as this. As he watched, his body rock hard with a sudden, furious arousal that made him burn, she reached behind herself and unhooked her bra.
He dove under, deep enough that there was nothing but silence, nothing but darkness, the water gliding over his body in a caress of liquid satin, cold and sweet. Emerging only when his lungs protested, he shoved the hair out of his eyes to see that the shoreline was empty, Indigo’s clothes abandoned beside his.