“Sounds good. Thanks, Sin.”
Logging off, she grabbed a small daypack and walked out to the communal kitchen/dining area in this sector of the den. It was empty, the lighting dim. But someone had started the coffee, and there was a still-warm tray of muffins on the counter. The sight made her heart lift.
Forcing herself to wait, she stashed a water bottle in her pack, along with a sandwich she put together using the fresh ingredients in the cooler. That done, she poured herself a glass of milk—a habit for which both Evie and Riordan teased her unmercifully—chose the biggest muffin on the tray and sat down to indulge. Her eyes almost rolled back into her head at the first bite.
Cream cheese and peaches—her favorite.
Licking her fingers after finishing it, she glanced at the tray, bit her lower lip. Food was the most innocent of sensual pleasures but one she never took for granted, remembering all too well the nutrition bars that had been the mainstay of her diet for so many years. It was Hawke, she remembered with a stab of pain deep within, who had given her her first bite of something that had set her senses humming.
She’d been shaky, on her knees on the grass, her arms around the kids as they’d blacked out after Walker cut their connection to the PsyNet.Judd had stood in front, Walker at the back, both of them giving her time to make certain Toby and Marlee wouldn’t break away from the newly created familial net into which Sienna had pulled them, wouldn’t seek to rejoin the Net.
So blue, she remembered thinking as she raised her head and met the gaze of the man who stood opposite Judd’s protective form, his hair brilliant even in the dull sunlight that fateful morning. So lethal, had been her next thought. They’d done their research, and so she’d known who he was, what he might yet do to the adults, herself included.
But Toby and Marlee, they were children, and wolves loved children. Judd, Walker, and Sienna had bet the kids’ lives on that bit of knowledge, hoping against hope that the two youngest members of the family would find some way to gain the necessary biofeedback from the wolf pack once the adults were gone. Because though—once he’d realized they’d fetch no ransom—the wolf alpha had ordered them to cut their PsyNet links if they were to have any chance of gaining sanctuary, none of the adults expected to live through the day.
It was only later, with the children secured in the LaurenNet, that Sienna realized the wolf alpha was biting out clipped orders to his men and women. Blankets had already appeared for the children in the time she’d spent on the psychic plane. Sienna stood with Marlee in her arms, while Walker took Toby, and Judd stayed as their shield. Her body swayed.
The wolf alpha’s eyes snapped to her. “Give her to me.”
She should’ve let Judd answer, but she was a cardinal who’d effectively been on her own since she was five—she knew a challenge when she heard it. “No.”
A single raised eyebrow. “You’ve defected, sweetheart. No use worrying about the big, bad wolf now.”
She was aware of Judd speaking, but her attention never shifted off the man who was a predator, for all that he wore a human skin. When he peeled open and held out a bar of some kind, she took it, aware low energy levels could be dangerous when it came to her ability to keep a handle on the cold fire. “Thank you.”
A faint smile, a strange amusement in those icy eyes. “You’re welcome.”
It was the most polite interaction they’d ever had.
HAWKE spent the morning in a business negotiation—the other party was attempting to get SnowDancer to increase its offer by dangling a bullshit competing bid in front of them, an underhanded tactic, but one Hawke understood. What he had a problem with was the fact the Psy conglomerate thought SnowDancer too stupid to know the difference between a fair if tough price and a scalping.
“I’m sorry,” the Psy negotiator said from the comm screen, her face pristine in its lack of expression. “I’m afraid we can’t accept anything less than a fifteen percent increase.”
“In that case,” Hawke said, having had enough, “I guess this negotiation is over.” Ending the call before she could respond, he glanced over at Jem, who’d sat in on the session from L.A. “Find us another supplier.”
“I’ll have a short list by tonight.” The lieutenant’s eyes narrowed. “They really think we got to where we are by being dumb shits? You’d think they’d know better by now.”
Hawke shrugged, ignoring the flashing message that said the negotiator was trying to reinitiate contact. “They will, when their shares take a nosedive.” SnowDancer was the largest pack in the country and had the attendant economic power. While Hawke had a preference for dealing with changeling or human companies—for the simple reason that the Councilors had interests in, and control over, so many Psy businesses—Psy were the only option in certain sectors. Except—“That small human start-up, what was it called . . .”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Can they supply us?”
Jem took a moment to check her files. “They have the intellectual know how, but it’ll stretch their capacity.” A pause. “Of course, with a contract this big, they’ll be able to afford to expand.”
“You want to talk to them?”
“I’ll set up a face-to-face today.”
Leaving Jem to handle that, Hawke headed out for a hunt in wolf form with some of his senior soldiers. It was something he did on a regular basis, having no desire to be an alpha who didn’t know the wants and needs of his people. More, it was a need within his wolf, to run side by side with those who were his own.