“Oh, Toby.” Going to her knees, she embraced him tight. “We won’t permit her to handle this alone. We’re pack.”
A small hand brushed over her own as Marlee patted Toby’s back. “Don’t be sad, Toby. Hawke won’t bite her very hard for running away.”
Toby’s eyes went huge as he drew back from the hug . . . and then he started laughing, turning to wrap one arm around his grinning cousin’s neck to tug her to his side.
From the mouths, Lara thought, her own lips twitching, of babes.
SWEAT was trickling down Sienna’s back, her face, pasting tendrils of hair to her temples when she crested the rise and found herself two meters from a very pissed off wolf. “No,” she whispered. “You can’t be here.” In the hours since she’d left the den, she’d realized that there was no way to turn back the psychic clock, no way to escape the inevitable. The only thing she could do was make sure she didn’t take anyone else with her. “Go back.”
The wolf snarled, lips peeled back to display razor-sharp canines.
It was difficult to stand her ground when all she wanted to do was go to her knees, wrap her arms around him, and ask him to make it alright. But even Hawke couldn’t fix this, fix her. “I’m close to a lethal breach,” she said, breath coming in ragged gasps. “You have to leave.”
His response was to pace around her in a slow, predatory sweep. Dropping her pack, she swigged from the bottle of water she’d refilled at a stream an hour ago. “Stop trying to intimidate me and listen, you stubborn wolf!”
Pale eyes dared her to continue.
She folded her arms. “I’m not being melodramatic or a diva or a child.” The time alone in the wide-open spaces of the Sierra had given her room to breathe, quiet the nascent panic to cold reason. “My power is amplifying at an exponential rate. I could go active at any time—in the bedroom, at the infirmary, in the nursery.”
Hawke walked over to stand right in front of her, his ears pricked, his body motionless. She wasn’t surprised in the least when he shifted in a storm of light and color. When it passed, he towered over her, his anger as feral as it had been in wolf form. “You. Left. Me.”
It was the last thing she’d expected him to say. “It was for the best.” He had her scrambling backward before she realized it. Her back hit a tree trunk. “I’m dangerous. I—” His mouth on her own, his hand gripping her at the nape as his body pinned her against the tree.
She should’ve resisted, but how was she supposed to exercise restraint when he was everything she had ever wanted?
Time, she had time enough to love him. Rising on tiptoe, she gripped at his waist as she met him kiss for kiss, breath for breath.
When he reached down and ripped open the button-fly of her cargo pants, she kicked them off after toeing off her boots. Her panties were in shreds an instant later. She shifted her grip to his shoulders as he lifted her up, wrapping her legs around his waist. And shuddered, her every nerve sparking with near-painful need as he claimed her with a single primal thrust.
But even wild with possessive fury and animal need, he remembered to brace one arm around her lower back, the other around her shoulders, so she didn’t get pounded into the rough bark of the tree. Then he took her, kissing her with such ferocious demand that she could do nothing but give him everything he wanted.
“You left me.” A husky accusation against her ear.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Fisting her hand in his hair, she kissed him in ragged apology—she couldn’t say she wouldn’t do it again. That choice had been taken out of her hands the instant she’d been born an X. “Love me.”
THEY sat in the silver-green shade of the tree afterward, its branches shimmering in the sunlight. Sienna had managed to knot the top of her cargos across her hips, though they hung precariously low, while Hawke sat unashamedly naked, with her in his lap. His chin lay on her hair, one muscular arm around her shoulders, his free hand heavy on her thigh.
Head on his shoulder, she traced her fingers through the soft hairs on his chest. “I thought I’d beaten it. I thought I’d be the X who survived, but I was just fooling myself. I should’ve looked more carefully, should’ve realized—”
“You had no one to teach you,” he said with changeling fierceness. “You’re doing the best you can in a wilderness no one knows how to navigate.”
“I never said,” Sienna murmured, “but part of me always thought we’d find Alice Eldridge’s book on X-Psy and that it would have all the answers. Stupid, isn’t it? But I guess even an X can believe in fairy tales.” Her hand fisted against him. “I can’t go back. I’m not safe.” Never would be safe.
“Then we stay up here.” An absolute statement.
She’d never felt so cherished, so wanted, but she allowed herself only a moment to revel in the joy of it. “No. The pack needs you.”
Hawke’s hand slid up to her hip. “Pack is built on the bonds of family, of mating, of love. You come first. You always will.”
Tears burned at the backs of her eyes. “You are their heart, Hawke.” Especially now, with Henry and his fanatics about to launch an assault.
“As you’re mine.” Reaching up to stroke the tangled mess he’d made of her hair, he released a breath. “When Rissa died, part of me broke. Even at ten, I knew I wasn’t just losing my best friend, I was losing part of myself.”