“Did I ever tell you I knew another empath once?” Hawke said, buying himself time to temper his response to Sienna. “She was part of SnowDancer when I was a child, mated to a wolf long before Silence.” Zia had been near to a hundred and thirty, a low-Gradient E, but one of the first to notice that something was wrong in the pack. If only people had listened.
Sascha’s eyes went huge. “No, you didn’t! Why don’t—”
Lucas squeezed her. “He’s trying to lure you with his stories. Go away, wolf.”
Sienna was smiling as she looked at the couple, but that smile faded when she met his gaze.
It made him wonder what she saw. “Let’s go.”
She got into the SUV without a word, and they headed off after waving good-bye to Lucas and Sascha. Uncomfortable as his relationship was with Sienna, Hawke liked being around her—a fact he was positive would surprise her. But when she wasn’t fighting with him, she was smart, with a wit the wolf found endlessly amusing. “Want to go for a run?” he asked as they hit the edge of den territory. “I promise not to chase you.”
A lush burst of feminine arousal had him gritting his teeth to fight his body’s instinctive response. “I’m nowhere near fast as you,” she said at last. “Not like Judd.”
“Don’t have to go fast.” He shrugged, the wolf happy because she hadn’t said no. “Sometimes, it’s just about feeling the wind against your face, the earth under your feet.”
She tugged the sleeves of her checked shirt to her fingertips. “Okay.”
“It’s cold out.” The Sierra Nevada had slipped into the quiet beauty of night, the heat of the sun’s rays long gone. “There should be a sweatshirt in the back you can wear.”
Twisting in her seat, she reached for the sweatshirt . . . and her music player. Shooting him a dirty look, she put the little device in the space on the dash and undid her safety belt long enough to pull on the large gray sweatshirt.
That quickly, she was covered in his scent.
Watching her roll up the sleeves to her wrists, he hid his possessive satisfaction behind a lazy comment. “You’re kinda small, Sienna.” She never seemed that way, her personality that of someone much larger and stronger—he bet if he asked people in the den to describe her, most would give her at least half a foot of extra height, more muscle.
“Maybe you’re too big.” She continued to fold up the sleeves with methodical precision.
Grinning at being so politely insulted, he didn’t say anything until he’d parked the vehicle a little ways from the den. Sienna was more than strong enough to cover the remaining distance on foot. “Ready?”
She was already opening her door. “I don’t recognize this area.”
He wasn’t surprised. Den territory was a vast, sprawling wilderness, most of it inaccessible to vehicles—and unlike the wolves, Sienna couldn’t explore as much area on foot. “I want to show you something.”
She clambered over a fallen tree on the path, and he had to stop himself from reaching over and picking her up, caressing her waist with his hands as he slid her oh-so-slowly to her feet. Her movements were smooth and lithe—Indigo had done a good job with her training, but it was Sienna’s will that had led to her becoming as good as she was. Hawke knew the offensive capability of each and every soldier in the pack, and—putting aside her psychic abilities—Sienna was exceptional for someone who wasn’t changeling.
“A little farther,” he said when they reached a stand of conifers intertwined with a delicate dark green vine.
Picking up a small pinecone off the forest floor, Sienna rubbed her thumb over the rough edges. “Are you doing anything tomorrow night?”
He caught the nervous bite in her scent, caught, too, the determination. His gut clenched. “Sienna.” Hurting her was the last thing he wanted to do, but he wouldn’t lead her on. “I have plans.”
Cardinal eyes slammed into his. “Rosalie?” A single frigid word.
His wolf peeled back its lips. “She’s an adult wolf, who happens to be a friend.”
“As opposed to an immature girl you can’t stand.” A challenge, the gauntlet thrown.
He picked it up. “I need something she can give me.” Rosalie was wolf enough to accept and offer the physical intimacy his own wolf craved without expecting a depth of commitment he simply couldn’t give . . . and much as he valued her friendship, Rosalie didn’t tempt him to brand her with his claim, even knowing it would destroy her in the end.
THE pinecone dug into Sienna’s palm, but she hardly felt it against the pain of the body blow Hawke had just delivered. Why had she asked the question when she’d known the answer? It was nothing a Psy—a true Psy—would’ve ever done. But when it came to this man, she had as little control as the child he called her. “Is it enough?” she asked with a fury that sought to draw blood. “Just the physical act.”
“Don’t try and bring it down to that.” Cold, cold words. “You’ve been in the den long enough to know we don’t use each other.”
No, they didn’t. That made it so much harder to bear. With wolves, sexual contact was warm and joyful and treasured. Rosalie would lie with Hawke with a packmate’s genuine affection, luxuriating in having a partner who could ease her own physical needs so very well—because while Sienna might be inexperienced, she understood that Hawke would never leave a woman unsatisfied. He was too much the dominant male to accept anything but total erotic surrender in bed.