Hanging up after a few more words, Hawke fired off a quick note to Drew with the new information, then strode to the door. He enjoyed being inside less than even most changelings, but this work was as important to the health of the pack as his more physical protection. So—his lieutenants by his side—he’d learned to do it well.
But, having cleared his desk, and with Indigo more than capable of holding the fort—and Riaz in charge of the security/ search patrols in the mountains today—he surrendered to the wild hunger within and headed out for a run in wolf form. Several early risers among his pack saw him but none broke into his solitude. They all understood that, sometimes, a wolf needed to roam on its own.
However, he’d barely cleared the doorway when he caught a scent that instantly ruffled his fur the wrong way. She smelled like autumn fire and some rich, exotic spice. Far too potent a scent for someone so young, someone from whom he should keep his distance. Instead, he drew the spice-laced air into his lungs and ran at a ground-devouring lope that brought him to a small rise from where he could watch his prey.
Wearing a small pack and carrying what looked like a sleek holographic camera, she walked down the track that would eventually bring her to one of the midway areas in den territory, where he knew she’d parked the car she’d signed out of the garage for her trips to and from DarkRiver land. But it would still take her a couple of hours to reach that spot at her current pace.
When she stopped and raised her face to the dewy morning sunlight, releasing her breath in a long, slow exhale, he went motionless. Her unhidden joy at being in the stark, stunning beauty of the Sierra Nevada sang to him, and it was a dangerous pull. He should step back, should move in the opposite direction.
He turned and angled down through the trees until he appeared on the path beside her instead. Jerking back in surprise, Sienna stared at him with wide eyes. When he did nothing but wait for her, she continued on the trail, shooting him small looks filled with suspicion until it became clear he was intent only on keeping her company.
Then her stride relaxed, and they walked.
It had been over a week since the day Andrew had ambushed Indigo in her bath, and he was feeling cautiously optimistic. The lieutenant wore his scent in her skin and, from what he could tell, wasn’t worried about it. Aware how long it had taken his brother to gain the same concession from Mercy, Andrew allowed himself a little swagger—because that acceptance meant Indy’s wolf was starting to get over its uncertainty when it came to him.
Of course, part of it likely had to do with the fact that the lieutenant was turning out to be as possessive as any male changeling. He wore her scent in his skin, too—along with more than a few marks. And he was very, very happy—no, delighted—with the whole state of affairs, he thought, grinning as he touched the love bite on his neck.
Their packmates, of course, found the whole situation highly entertaining, a welcome break from the constant vigilance of the security patrols in the mountains. The techs had found only three more transmitters after the main sweep, and it was looking like they might have unearthed most if not all of them, but SnowDancer wasn’t about to lower its guard when the Council had dared invade the very heart of the pack’s territory.
Of course, that didn’t mean wolves stopped being wolves.
Andrew dealt with the ribbing with a grin and a shrug, while Indigo scowled. Neither response had any effect on the gossip—or the good-natured advice Andrew began receiving from the women in the pack.
“Give her her space,” a dominant female advised him, “but not too much.”
“Whatever you do, for God’s sake don’t treat her like a girl. She’s a woman.”
“Andrew, I love you, but you’re the most sneaky, cunning wolf I’ve ever known—use it.”
After several days of this, Andrew cornered one of the ladies. “Not that I’m not grateful,” he said, “but why are you all being so helpful?”
That got him a chuckle, the touch of warm, capable hands on his face, and a smacking kiss. “Silly boy. She’s ours and we love her—and we’ve all worried at how hard she rides herself on behalf of the pack. You make her happy.”
The simple words were a revelation.
So he was ready to handle the next stage in their courtship when Indigo invited him to an official family event.
“Dinner with my parents at their place,” she said casually, as if it wasn’t a major deal. “Evie isn’t back yet, but my aunt, Adria, and her lover, Martin, will also be there. They’re flying in from near the Oregon border.”
Having a vague memory of Tarah’s sibling being much younger, he asked, “Are you close to Adria?”
“Yes.” A smile. “She’s nearer to my age than my mother’s.”
Instinct whispered that there was more at play here than a simple familial relationship, but he kept his silence. It would be far easier to get Indy to talk once he’d met her aunt, gained an idea of what it was that had caused Indigo’s wolf to . . . almost shy away at the mention of her name.
As it was, he found himself surprised by the reality of Adria. The physical resemblance between the three women was startling; standing side by side, Tarah, Indigo, and Adria were almost mirror images of each other at different stages of life. But where Tarah was submissive, Adria was dominant. Where Tarah kissed him on the cheek in maternal affection, Adria gave him a narrow-eyed, assessing glare. And where he knew Tarah relied with open contentment on her mate, there was a real push-pull vibe going on between Adria and her lover, Martin.