At first the wall of cold fire, it had touched the enemy alone, but now it changed shape, became a wave that rippled outward in both directions, growing ever closer to the injured and bleeding SnowDancers.
Ignoring the pain of shattered eardrums barely begun to heal thanks to his strength as alpha, he screamed, “Sienna!” as he ran to her, even knowing she couldn’t hear him inside the inferno that consumed her, until it poured out of her eyes, her mouth, her every pore and every cell. The cold burn of it hit him a meter from the quickly creeping edge.
He knew she’d told him not to do it, that the X-fire would kill him the same as anyone else if she wasn’t in conscious control. But he had to stop her, had to save her. If she took the life of even one SnowDancer and survived to witness what she’d done, it would break her.
“Baby, you better be in there!” Running back, he got a racing start and jumped through the flames, expecting to fry. Instead, he slammed into her body, his arms going around her, but she didn’t go down—as if the cold fire had rooted her to the earth.
Her eyes, those eyes filled with red and gold, so stunning, so lethal, seemed to see him for a second, and he was almost certain he heard, Forgive me, deep inside his head before a dark, endless something grabbed his mind, punching through with such savage force that it brought him to his knees.
Shoving aside the throbbing pain as the shock of the impact vibrated through his body, he raised his head and looked out through the wall of X-fire, saw the flames lick out and over his people at a speed not even a wolf could outrun.
It spread, a crackling wave of wild color over the injured, over those that stood guard, over the sentries and into the forest, going endlessly in every direction until his people were consumed by it. Until they burned up in it, so fast and hard that there were no screams. Only a terrible, endless silence.
“No, Sienna, no,” he said, rising to hold her to him in a futile attempt to get through to the woman behind the vast dark of ravenous power. She’d come to save them, but what was inside of her, it had broken free, and now she killed the very pack she’d wanted to protect. His wolf knew what he had to do, but he couldn’t snap her neck, couldn’t erase her.
God help him, he couldn’t, not even to save SnowDancer.
A minute, an eternity later, the flames blinked out, and Sienna sagged in his arms.
“Sienna.” He was shocked by how very light she was, how very fragile. “Don’t you dare leave me.”
When he raised his head, he looked first toward the Pure Psy side, unable to bear what he’d glimpse on the other. Everything—the enemy, the trees, the grass, the rocks—was gone, smears of ash barely visible even to his night vision. Agonizing pain in his heart, he turned. And saw. “Oh, baby, I understand.” So smart, his Sienna, so aware that his wolf would know each and every one of his people, feral wolves included. “There’s no need for forgiveness, you hear me?”
Her eyes flickered open for an instant, and they weren’t the night-sky of a cardinal. They were a startling, amazing gold untouched by crimson. “A hundred years,” she whispered. “That would’ve been nice, don’t you think?”
“This isn’t over yet.”
“The LaurenNet link remains protected,” she said, and he had the impression she was talking to herself. “Strange. But it doesn’t matter.” Gold melting to blue in her eyes, she pushed him hard without warning, ending up sprawled on the earth. “I love you.” Blue flame licked up that wild tangle of ruby red, the scent of burnt hair sharp and acrid.
Man and wolf both realized what she intended to do, said, FUCK NO!
Using the doorway she’d opened when she punched into his mind, the wolf shoved wild changeling energy into her, bowing her back, snapping her eyes open again, and shutting off that lethal blue flame. “What have you done?” A question filled with horror as the violent snap of the mating bond brought him to his knees beside her.
IN the middle of a San Francisco street under siege from two Pure Psy units, Judd clutched his head. “No,” he whispered, and then there was no more thought.
HOURS away, in a protected safe zone in the middle of a different mountain range, Walker Lauren’s mind went blank as something crashed into him so hard, he didn’t even have a chance to alert the other guardians. The childre—
Meters away, Toby lay slumped on a tabletop, while Marlee crumpled off her chair and to the floor.
IN the den, the command center was thrown into chaos as Brenna fell where she stood. “Judd!” Mariska yelled, slamming to her knees beside Brenna’s limp body. “Find out if anything’s happened to Judd!”
HAWKE allowed Lara to heal him first after it was all over, because without him, she would collapse under the weight of the injured.
“Where’s Sienna?” she asked him after she finished healing the remaining damage to his eardrums.
His wolf hated the answer he had to give, the choice he’d had to make. “I had Drew take her up to the lake in the mountains. She’s unconscious.” He didn’t know what other mated pairs saw through the bond, but he saw rippling crimson and gold, their bond so raw and new it was a painful ache.
Right now, the X-fire was a placid pool, the battle had drained Sienna at such a deep level. But it would grow again—colder, stronger, more voracious. When it did, the bond would give him enough warning that he’d be able to take his mate deep into the lake, far, far below the surface. Where he’d hold her as the cold fire consumed them both, its destructive fury dampened by the water. The stone walls of the den, far thicker and stronger than the rocks Sienna had neutralized, and reinforced with titanium plates in places, would protect the pack if the water and the distance weren’t enough.