Judd’s fingers curled into a fist on the table, and for a moment, Sascha thought he might betray the emotions that had to be tearing at his heart, but all he said was, “I’ll bring her down tonight.”
Reassured by the knowledge that he’d confide in Brenna even if he spoke to no one else, she put down her own cup. “I’m hardly an invalid.” He was as bad as a leopard. “I’ll drive up with Lucas.”
“He isn’t liable to permit you that far from the heart of DarkRiver territory. Give the man some peace.”
“Judd! No wonder you fit in so well with the wolves.” Laughing, she decided it might actually be better for Sienna to have a break from the den. “Fine, we’ll do it your way.”
As the former Arrow melted into the forest, on his way to see a small boy who’d been born with the same gift that made Judd so lethal, Sascha poured another cup of tea and considered the mysterious Eldridge manuscript. She, Faith, and Ashaya had all exhausted their sources, to no avail. She’d even chanced trusting the director of Shine with the question—but Dev’s people hadn’t had an X in the original group of defectors and knew close to nothing about them.
As far as the mainstream world was concerned, there was no such thing as an X-Psy.
MID-AFTERNOON the day after Sienna had alerted them to the Psy incursion, Hawke crouched in a sun-drenched corner of a small clearing ringed by ancient sequoias with roots the thickness of a grown man’s body and dotted with a myriad wild blooms adapted to the cold mountain climate. “Hey, Rissa.”
The only reply was silence. But it was a peaceful silence. As this place was peaceful, a haven whenever he needed one. And today, he needed it desperately.
“They all think,” he said, clearing away a few stray leaves to uncover a delicate patch of wildflowers the shade of the sky at noon, “that I’m being stubborn without reason. They don’t understand I’m protecting her.” He was brutally attracted to Sienna. That much, he’d admitted to himself if no one else. But the cruel fact was, he could give her little beyond a physical relationship. “I gave my heart to you a long time ago.”
Theresa had been five years old when she died in an avalanche. He’d been ten. Too young to love her the way a man loves a woman, or even the way a boy loves a girl. But the wolf had understood from the moment they met who she was to him, who she would become—his mate.
They’d been best friends since that instant, the connection between them a bright, shining thread, their relationship full of laughter and a delight that was beyond innocent. It had been nothing like the tumultuous nature of the craving that raked him with blade-sharp claws anytime he was in Sienna’s vicinity. The scent of her alone could send his wolf insane, the taste of her a lingering, maddening spice on his tongue.
“Wolves only mate once, Rissa,” he said, using the old childhood pet name he’d been responsible for coining. “Everyone knows that.”
But we never mated.
The voice he heard in his mind when he thought of Theresa was never that of the child she’d been, but of the woman she would’ve become. A woman full of warmth and gentleness, a woman who wouldn’t have been a soldier but a maternal female, part of the beating heart of the pack.
“Doesn’t matter,” he murmured, refusing to give up a truth that had shaped so much of his life. “You were my mate. We would’ve mated when we grew old enough.”
The wind whispered through the trees, through his hair. It was a touch he’d felt a thousand times over the years, and always, it had left him centered and calm. Today, however, as he rose to his feet and walked away from the final resting place of the girl who would’ve owned his heart as a woman, he felt strangely dissatisfied, off-kilter.
It wasn’t a sensation either man or wolf enjoyed.
SIENNA was ready to head down to DarkRiver territory with Judd around eight that evening. Seeing Riordan as she left her quarters, she lifted a hand. “Hi.”
“Hey.” He stopped a few feet away, shifting from foot to foot and avoiding her gaze. “You okay? Hawke was pretty pissed when he came down to Wild the other night.”
“You know he wouldn’t hurt any of us.” She made no attempt to hide her shock that he’d even asked the question, it was so incomprehensible.
Riordan colored, looked up. “Uh, yeah. That’s not what I was talking about.”
“Jeez, Sin he made it clear you were his.”
A punch of memory—a hard male body holding her close enough to kiss, his voice an intimate roughness against her senses, his hands so big and hot on her skin. “No,” she forced out, “there’s nothing there.” He wouldn’t permit there to be.
“You sure?” Riordan’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “Thing is, no one else is going to come near you now.”
A shrug, a hand thrust through chocolate-dark curls. “He’s the alpha, babe. Only an idiot would try to poach on his territory.”
She gritted her teeth. “I. Am. Not. His. Territory.”
“Hey, look, isn’t that Marlee?”
Sienna turned automatically. Riordan was nowhere to be seen when she realized she’d been had and swiveled back to face him. “Chicken!” she called out before continuing on her way.
She ran into Evie not far from the exit, flat out asked her if the other novice had been spouting bullshit.
Her friend winced. “Um, no. Hawke definitely had the alpha-possessive vibe going on.”