It cost him, but he didn’t leave until the healers pronounced that the injured had been stabilized enough that he could take a break. He headed straight for the woman who was the beating heart of him. The tent Drew had rigged over Sienna’s unconscious body was empty, their packmates having left when they sensed his approach.
It was as if she’d been waiting for him.
“No.” It was a whisper so quiet, even most changelings wouldn’t have heard it. But Sienna was Hawke’s, had always been his, whether she’d known it or not, whether he’d accepted it or not.
“Yes,” he murmured, dipping his finger in a bottle of water and rubbing it over her lips. “Yes.”
A shake of her head, but her lips parted, searching for more. He trickled some into her mouth, making low, deep sounds of encouragement in his throat. “Come on now. Open those pretty eyes for me.”
He didn’t know what she meant by that, but driven by his wolf, he leaned down to nip at her lower lip. “Hawke,” he said. “That’s the word you need to be saying.”
Lines formed between her eyebrows.
“Hawke,” he repeated, squeezing her hip. “Hawke.”
“Hawke.” It was a sleepy murmur as her eyes flickered open. That cardinal gaze displayed a wild burst of unadulterated happiness for one stunning instant before it was wiped away by shocked horror as she scrambled up into a sitting position. “What did you do?” A mental door slammed shut with such force it shot pinpricks of light behind his eyelids.
Snarling, he gripped her jaw, “Don’t you dare try to block me.” His wolf began to batter at the wall it couldn’t see but could feel, tied as they were by the mating bond, a bond that would never allow that kind of distance.
The barrier broke in an avalanche of emotion, tangling them up until he could sense her in every part of him. Taking in a shuddering breath, he clasped her head between his hands and said, “Try that again and I’ll paddle you.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t you talk to me like that.”
The laugh came from somewhere deep inside him. “Good morning to you, too, sunshine.” Then he kissed her. And kept on kissing her until she bit down hard on his lower lip. “What?” he growled.
The gasp gave him the impetus to rein himself back. “Judd said your family is okay.” Hawke hadn’t asked too much more, especially when the former Arrow told him what Alice Eldridge had said before lapsing back into the same comalike state she’d been in since entering the den.
REMEMBERING the wrenching sensation that had torn at her before she lost consciousness, Sienna closed her eyes and stepped out into what should’ve been the LaurenNet.
She blinked, shook her head.
“Sienna.” Lips on her jaw.
She thrust a hand into his hair. “Stop distracting me.” Yet she turned her face toward his, taking just a little more in spite of the dread that knotted up her throat—and giving, too. He was changeling, touch essential to his happiness. “The LaurenNet is gone.”
His head snapped up. “What?”
“Shh.” She touched psychic fingers to the sparkling wolf-blue and flamehued rope that connected her to Hawke—oh, God—but tempting as it was to focus on the beauty and terror of it, she moved on, spreading her psychic senses.
She found Judd first, linked as he was to Hawke. Bonded to him was a mind Sienna was used to seeing in the LaurenNet, though it wasn’t Psy—Brenna. Judd was also connected in a wholly different way to another mind she recognized: Walker. She, too, was connected to both Judd and Walker, and all three of them had direct links to Toby and Marlee.
However, those weren’t the only minds in this web.
Nine other minds, strong and wild in a way she couldn’t explain speared out from the central core that was Hawke, spokes on a wheel. A tenth mind was held closer to his own in a more protective way. All were fortified by natural shields it would take savage force to pierce—a stab of pain, of memory—and not a single one was Psy. A number of other minds connected outward from the spokes.
“I can see Lara, see your lieutenants,” she whispered, amazed by how “messy” this network was, so many intertwined and crisscrossing connections. “Indigo . . . I know her. She’s sparks and strength and life. And Drew, bonded to her so deep and strong.” Her heart smiled. “That must be Cooper’s mate.” Ever here, he was protective, her mind tucked close to his.
“Riley. I know him, too.” He was the calm in the midst of the storm, the rock on which every one of them depended. “Strange,” she whispered, seeing how the most powerful bond Riley had disappeared into nowhere. “Mercy.”
Strong, slightly rough fingers on her jaw. “Everyone is safe?”
“Yes.” She touched psychic fingers to the bond that was Lara’s. It wasn’t like the others, and she knew on an intuitive level that the tie between alpha and healer had its own set of rules, as would the links between the lieutenants and the healers bonded to them. So complex. So glorious.
Opening her eyes, she met those of a wolf. The LaurenNet, she thought, had held Judd even after Hawke blood-bonded him, because the neo-sentience within the familial network had known they couldn’t survive without him. But what Hawke had done on the battlefield had tipped the balance—and tied as the family was to one another, Judd and Sienna had wrenched everyone into the SnowDancer Web.