He’d thought he could leave her, could sacrifice his heart for his pack, but now that the moment had come, man and wolf both rebelled. “No,” he said, going to crouch by her side. “You’re heading down with me.”
“Hawke, you promised you’d listen to me about my ability.” A firm reminder, but the fingers on his jaw were a caress. “I know what I am. I know the destruction I’m capable of—don’t make me kill those I love.”
“You’re able to monitor your power levels, know when you’re about to go critical.” He’d watched her leach off the violence of her ability twice more during the night, the flames seeming to flicker out over the lake itself.
“We can’t gamble on that.”
“You can move closer to the den.” He wasn’t used to losing.
However, Sienna’s iron will was one of the things that had first drawn him to her. “No.” Rising to her knees, she put her hands on his shoulders, no stars in her eyes. “But I won’t go any farther from this point.”
He stared at her, the wolf attempting to dominate her into acquiescence. Even when he said, “Promise?” there was nothing of acceptance in it.
“Cross my heart.”
Hauling her against him, he branded her with his mouth, his lips, his breath before leaving with a single, furious command. “Stay alive.”
WALKER knocked on Lara’s office door that afternoon, wasn’t surprised to find her still dressed in the clothes she’d worn yesterday, black shadows under her eyes. This time, he didn’t berate her for not taking better care of herself. Instead, he drew her into his arms, held her for a long moment before allowing her to pull back. “Eldridge?”
Lara’s gaze was bleak. “The scans detect brain activity, but that means nothing if we can’t figure out a way to wake her. Ashaya and Amara came up with a chemical cocktail, which we shot into her a few hours ago, but so far there’s been no change.”
Walker knew both Judd and Sascha had been attempting to get through the strange shield around Alice’s mind in an effort to nudge her to consciousness on the psychic level. Walker, too, had tried. To no avail. And now—“I have to leave.”
Lara touched him in that wolf way, stroking back his hair, sliding her hand over his pectorals as if to smooth his shirt. “Why?”
He bent toward her, making it easier for her to “pet” him as the wolves called it. “Hawke wants me with the children when they evacuate.” The SnowDancer alpha’s face had been drawn in harsh lines when he returned to the den this morning, but he’d given the order to evacuate with a crisp, clear focus, as he had so many others.
According to Judd, who’d be back to full strength by tonight, surveillance at the South American compound was showing a rising level of activity as Pure Psy’s people began to recover from the virus. The runway would be complete by tomorrow morning, which meant the compound had to be taken out of the equation tonight at the latest, before any of the weapons heavy transports took off.
Everyone agreed the children needed to be gone prior to that. Because once SnowDancer blew the compound, the war began. There was no hope of peace. Both Nikita and Anthony had attempted to reason with Henry in a last-ditch effort to halt hostilities. The other Councilor’s response had been to try to assassinate them on the psychic plane.
“Of course,” Lara said, hand settling on his waist. “You’re the perfect choice—the kids will listen to you and feel safe at the same time.”
Her immediate support of him, made an unexpected warmth uncurl in his abdomen. “Drew’s promised to spy on you for me and report if you’re not eating.”
“The sneak will do it, too.” Her smile faded too soon. “It’s a hard thing to ask of you right now, isn’t it? To leave her?” She wrapped her arms around him.
“Sienna would be the first to tell me to go,” he whispered into the softness of her curls, numbing the pain permeating his chest at the thought of the girl he’d never been able to protect. The only thing he could do for her now was to ensure those she loved were safe. “She’d do anything for Toby and Marlee.”
Lara kissed him, hot and giving and possessive in a way he’d never have expected from her before he’d truly known her. Sliding his hand under her hair, he tilted her head, indulged in the wild sweetness of her for a moment out of time.
“I’ll contact you as soon as we know anything,” she said when they parted, her lips wet, her eyes determined. “We’ll keep working with Alice.”
“I know you will.” A piece of him threatened to shatter, a piece that bore Sienna’s name, the name of a girl who was as much his daughter as Marlee. “Take care of yourself, Lara.” Because she owned a piece of him, too, a broken piece she’d somehow soldered back together and that bore her mark now.
He couldn’t say the words, had spent too long in Silence, but he’d learned other ways to speak. Taking the paperweight she’d knocked off her desk out of his pocket, he put it in her hands. “It’s fixed. As long as you don’t mind more than a few scars.”
Tears in her eyes, she pursed her lips, shook her head . . . and held the paperweight to her heart. “I love you, Walker.”
He left with those words held to the most secret part of him, but rather than joining the evacuation, he went up to where Sienna sat beside a wide, blue lake that mirrored the mountains with such perfection, it seemed there was no sky, only an endless vista of jagged peaks touched with snow. When she flew into his arms, he held her tight. And watched the cold fire of an X lick at her hair, over her spine. She wrenched away, her eyes dry of tears, her voice resolute. “I have to earth.”