Brass balls. Big ones.
The memory of Evie’s words gave her a slightly hysterical confidence, but it was confidence nonetheless. Using every ounce of the will that had allowed her to retain a personality even in Ming’s tender care, she wrenched her heartbeat and breathing under control. It had nothing to do with what she felt and everything to do with playing a very dangerous game with a predator who had much bigger teeth.
A growl filled the vehicle, filled her senses, just as they entered the lane that led to a small clearing not far from Lucas and Sascha’s home. “You taste of ice.”
“It’s necessary,” she said with manufactured calm. “You know it is.” He’d caught her in an active state not long before she left the den to spend several months with the cats, seen firsthand what she could do. She’d chosen an isolated section to attempt her experiments at harnessing the fury of the X-marker, but an hour into it, she’d turned around and there he was, a huge wolf, proud and beautiful.
Now, he didn’t answer as he brought the vehicle to a halt. Getting out, she took a deep breath, feeling as if she’d escaped the lair of the very big, very bad wolf. Then she met Hawke’s eyes across the hood of the SUV. Oh God. All eyes of ice blue and hair of silver-gold, he was her every fantasy come to life.
And he was focused on her to the exclusion of all else.
She wet dry lips, saw his eyes follow the movement. “Stop it.”
A faint smile that made every tiny hair on her body rise in quivering attention. “How fast can you run?” A wolf’s question.
“I’m not running from you.” She held her ground.
“We’ll see.” Pushing off the SUV, he led the way to the cabin.
“You need to go away while I’m talking with Sascha,” she said after she was certain the wolf wasn’t about to make good on its threat.
To her surprise, he made no argument. “I’ll go for a run. Luc doesn’t like me close to Sascha at the moment.”
“Really?” Startled, she looked toward where the DarkRiver alpha was waiting with his mate, a small light illuminating the outdoor seating area. “I thought you two had trust.”
“His mate is pregnant. It changes the balance.” Raising his hand in hello to the alpha couple, he glanced at her. “I’ll be back in an hour. Enough time?”
She didn’t trust his sudden cooperation but tried to keep her own tone just as businesslike. “Twenty more minutes?”
“Fine.” Then he was gone, a sleek shadow in the dark.
Her heart slipped the vise of her rigid mental control to slam against her chest at witnessing his incredible speed. If Hawke ever did chase her, she’d better hope she had one hell of a head start. Then again, it might be more fun to get caught.
“Sienna.” Lucas’s voice broke through her stunned realization that she wasn’t as averse to the idea of playing prey to Hawke’s wolf as she’d thought.
Closing the distance to the cabin, she smiled, hoping her distraction didn’t show. “Hi.”
“Grab a seat.” The leopard rose from his own chair. “I’ll stay out of earshot and make sure the sentinels are, too.”
Sienna knew the reason for the courtesy was because his mating bond with Sascha meant he’d know the instant she felt in any way threatened. “Thanks.”
Lucas left with silent feline grace. Getting to her feet at the same instant, Sascha motioned for Sienna to follow her inside. “Warmer there. Plus, I have your favorite chocolate-caramel slice.”
A spark of childish joy. “Really?” It was hard for her to resist sweets—in the Net, she’d been disallowed anything sensual, including food. Since getting out, she wanted to gorge. On food, on feeling . . . but mostly on Hawke.
Heat bloomed low in her body, and she had to focus to catch Sascha’s next words.
“I had Lucas hide it in the aerie before the sentinels got here for a meeting tonight. Otherwise”—a warm laugh—“you’d have been lucky to scrape up a crumb. Sit. I’ll get the tea.”
Sienna nudged Sascha down instead. “I’ll do it—I know where everything is.” Bringing the pot to the table, she put it aside to steep while Sascha cut the slice.
“So,” the empath said, putting the rich chocolaty treat on her plate, “Hawke wants to chase you.”
Sienna froze. “Lucas heard that from all the way over here?”
“Uh-huh. And Hawke knew he would.”
It took Sienna several seconds to process the implications of that statement. “He told me flat out that there couldn’t be anything between us.” Yet he’d just come perilously close to staking another claim.
“What?” It was a relief to be able to talk this over with Sascha. While Indigo had become her friend and guide in many ways, Hawke was the one subject Sienna hesitated to discuss with her, not wanting to put the lieutenant in an awkward position.
“I heard what happened at Wild.”
“I could still kick him for that.” Pouring the tea, she pushed one of the quirky tulip-shaped cups toward Sascha. “He treated me as if I was ten years old.” Except for when he’d tapped her butt, kept his hand there. Her thighs clenched at the memory.
“There is that, isn’t there?” Sascha’s tone was gentle. “The age issue.”
“Nothing I can do about that. I’m always going to be younger.” Afraid she’d break the teacup with the force of her grip, she put it down. “But,” she added, voice vibrating with feeling, “I’ve not only survived and gained control of my abilities, I’ve done so outside the PsyNet. Hardly the act of a child.” She’d earned the right to live her life as she pleased. “I’m not about to let His Wolf Highness disregard all that because it makes it easier for him to not recognize—”