“Yeah.” Walking over, he wrapped his arms around her from behind. “You’re frozen.” Not surprising. But his wolf wasn’t irritated at her choice of clothing anymore, not now that he’d claimed skin privileges. “Come on,” he said, breathing in the wild spice of her scent, “we won’t learn anything more here tonight.” He’d get the techs to come out tomorrow and do a sweep, check the area was clean.
Sienna was uncharacteristically subdued as they walked to the car and got in. Though the cold didn’t bother him in the slightest, he turned on the heater to high as he pulled away. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”
“My race attacks your people again.” Quiet words. “Is that why you hate the Psy? Because they never stop?”
Echoes of blood and pain, of watching people he loved fall under claws and teeth as packmates turned on one another. “No.” The scars left by the violence over two decades ago would never disappear, but he’d learned to move past the feral anger that had driven him those first few years. “I don’t hate all Psy. Just those who follow the Council.”
Sienna squeezed her arms tight around herself, though the car was plenty warm now. This was the one thing, the one thing she’d never factored into the equation. Yes, the attraction between them was the rawest of cravings, strong enough that it had finally brought Hawke to her. But, how could she possibly expect him to feel anything deeper for her, for a woman born of a race that had caused him so much pain that his voice went wolf when he spoke of it even now, his expression grim with old shadows.
The den had become home, the SnowDancers her friends and family, but she remembered how it had been when they’d first arrived. Coping with the dual shock of being severed from the Net and of her inexplicable, violent reaction to the alpha with ice-cold eyes, Sienna had focused on simple survival those first few months. Still, she’d trained under a Councilor, was the niece of an Arrow. She’d filed away the whispers, the overheard snippets of conversation. All to do with the pack’s stunned amazement that Hawke, “of all people,” would give a Psy family sanctuary “after what they’d done to his own.”
Her throat was suddenly lined with razors.
“Were the Psy,” she said, forcing herself to ask the hardest question, “responsible for the deaths of your parents?” She knew he’d lost them as a child, but no one ever spoke of the circumstances of that loss.
Hawke didn’t react for almost a minute. When he did, it was only to say, “There are some things you don’t need to know.” A slapdown. Cool. Unvarnished. Absolute.
It was in her nature to rebel against him, deepest instinct telling her that he would only ever respect a woman with the strength to stand up to him, but she had no right to ask him to return to a nightmare. “I apologize.” Turning her attention to the passing darkness of the forest, her trembling fingers hidden in her fists, she stared unseeing into the night.
RECOVERED FROM COMPUTER 2(A) TAGS: PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, FATHER, ACTION NOT REQUIRED
FROM: Alice <[email protected]
TO: Dad <[email protected]
DATE: February 12th, 1972 at 10:00pm
SUBJECT: Published at Last!!
I’ve just received the first copies of my book. I know you didn’t care for the nonscholarly title but I do think The Mysterious E Designation: Empathic Gifts & Shadows sounds snazzy.
To answer the question in your last e-mail—yes, I am still single, but I have time yet before you’re consigned to retirement without grandchildren (especially since you plan to never retire). Tell Mom I went over to the house and the flowers are blooming beautifully—one of my empathic friends has been helping me with the gardens. E-Psy have such green fingers. Maybe I should study that next time.
As for the X Project, it’s been almost a year since I began and I’ve realized I can’t rely solely on my tiny live sample. I’ve asked for and received archival assistance from a Psy librarian who will mine the PsyNet for data about past Xs, while I do the same in the libraries I can access.
My premise is that this mutation would not exist unless it had a purpose, but George pointed out how many rare diseases are caused by mutations. If I were to follow that line of thought, I’d have to conclude that the Xs are so uncommon because they have no function and that their deaths are an attempt by nature to control a dangerous disease. That’s not a thought I’m comfortable having, but as a scientist, I know it’s as viable a theory as any.
I so wish you were home so we could have these discussions in person.
LARA SAT AT her desk in the infirmary, having stayed late to keep an eye on an elderly wolf who’d had a fall, but her mind wasn’t on the papers in front of her. She’d enjoyed tormenting Walker about her date with Kieran, but her amusement had faded the instant he’d left, to be replaced by a throbbing ache that mocked her attempt at getting over him.
The fact was, the attraction she felt toward Walker Lauren was no simple thing—it had been growing slowly ever since he entered the den, layer by layer, word by word. The more she learned about the man behind the reserved mask, the harder she fell. His rebuff had bruised those emotions, bruised them badly, but she’d been stupid to think they’d disappear just because she wanted them gone.
It didn’t surprise her how tempting it was to cling to the apparent jealousy that had driven him to seek her out. But even if she had read him right, she was certain the emotion wouldn’t make him change his mind—Walker wasn’t the kind of man who vacillated, and he’d been damn unequivocal that their single kiss had been a mistake.