“Hold on,” he murmured without breaking the searing eye contact, without removing the rough heat of his hand from her nape. “That’s Riley’s code.” He placed the phone to his ear.
And everything changed.
“KEEP THEM CONTAINED. I’ll find Judd and head down.” Hawke saw Sienna’s eyes sharpen, realized she’d put the pieces together. “No. No communication. If they talk in spite of the order, shoot the men in the legs.”
The woman across from him didn’t appear the least shocked by his instructions. “More intruders,” she said when he ended the call.
Rubbing his thumb over her lips in lieu of the slow, deep kiss he’d intended to coax from her, he dropped his hand and said, “Can you telepath Judd, get him to meet me at the garage?”
“Yes. I’m doing it now.”
Hawke had turned and was on his way before he stopped to think that maybe he should’ve said some sweet words instead of making such an abrupt departure, especially after last night. Even the most mature of women tended to get miffed about things like that. Pulling out his phone as he ran to the garage, he coded in a call.
Sienna picked up at once. “Is there a problem?” No anger, only an incisive intelligence.
That was when he remembered that this woman had been raised in a military context, understood about the need for a rapid response. “How far away is Judd?” he asked instead of the pretty words he’d much rather save to whisper in her ear when she was na**d and well pleasured under him. Very well pleasured.
“Almost there.” A pause. “Be careful.” It held the distinct edge of a command.
Surprised but not opposed to the idea of that particular command from this specific woman, his wolf pricked up its ears. “Yes, ma’am.” Hanging up, he entered the garage just as Judd appeared from the opposite corridor.
JUDD stopped in the heavy dark of the trees surrounding the clearing where the SnowDancer unit held four men and a pregnant woman at gunpoint. “Confirmed, Psy,” he said in a subvocal murmur to the man who stood beside him. It had taken him time to learn to speak that low, so low that he couldn’t hear his own voice—but that changelings could discern with unerring accuracy.
“Anything else?” Hawke asked, his attention focused on the intruders.
“No symbols on their shoulders,” he said. “That’s on purpose—those are military uniforms, should have emblems.”
“She’s not touching her abdomen.” A pregnant woman who cared about her unborn child would have made some protective move that betrayed the disintegration of her conditioning—rather than standing with military stiffness. Still . . . “I can’t say with certainty that her state is meant to manipulate your emotions. Her Silence could simply be too strong.” He melted farther back into the dark as Hawke stepped out to stand beside Riley.
“Gentlemen—and woman,” the wolf alpha said with deceptive calm. “Would you care to explain the reason for this territorial breach?”
The man who replied was tall, with features that placed his ancestry as originating in the Indian subcontinent, most probably on the border with China. “We have defected.” A frigid statement, but that meant nothing. Judd had sounded as cold once upon a time. “We seek sanctuary.”
“What makes you think SnowDancer would offer sanctuary to a bunch of Psy?”
“There are rumors you have done so on at least one previous occasion.” Judd’s blood chilled in his veins. His entire family had disappeared off the grid, was meant to be listed as dead in the Net. “He’s fishing,” he said into the microphone clipped to the collar of his leather-synth jacket, though he knew Hawke was well aware of that fact.
Now, the SnowDancer alpha curved his lips into a grin that was all teeth. “We may have run across the occasional stray,” he said, reaching down to pet one of the wild wolves that had streamed out of the forest in response to his presence.
“Then you indeed offered them sanctuary?”
Hawke stroked the wolf at his side, a beautiful creature of deepest black . . . the same shade as the much larger changeling wolf who prowled out to join the circle of watchers. Riaz. The SnowDancer lieutenant stared unblinking at the trespassers with eyes a startling shade akin to ancient gold.
“Depends what you define as sanctuary.” Hawke’s tone was easy, as if this was an everyday conversation. “I’m sure they no longer feel any pain . . . no longer feel anything.”
“Are you saying they’re dead?”
A faint smile. “Now, if I said that, I’d be admitting to murder.” He angled his head toward the woman, and Judd knew the wolf was assessing the truth of her. “Our legal team would frown on that.” Then he did something Judd would have never expected.
Throwing back his head, he howled—the sound eerily beautiful, seeming to come from a wolf’s throat, not a human’s. The wolves around him, wild and changeling, reacted in a split second, forelegs bunching as they launched themselves at the intruders. Only someone who’d been watching with utmost care would’ve seen that their lunge would have them streaming around the woman.
The Psy weren’t paying that kind of close attention. But the woman didn’t clamp her hand around her belly, didn’t try to shield her womb, didn’t attempt to protect her body in any way. Instead, she, like the others, slammed out a hand in a telekinetic thrust that shoved the wolves back . . . and teleported out.