A crisp nod, her stance that of a SnowDancer soldier in front of her alpha. “Earthing helps me maintain a stable psychic balance.”
“How often do you earth?” Judd had told him to ask the question, though the Psy male had refused, “until he had more answers,” to say why. It was a measure of Hawke’s trust in the lieutenant that he’d left it at that—for now.
“Several times over the past few months,” Sienna admitted. “Before that, I was only doing it once or twice every half year. My theory is that the change is linked to my increasing control—I’m no longer releasing power inadvertently, so it builds up faster.”
Judd spoke for the first time. “Do you foresee doing it again soon?”
“No, I don’t think so.” However, there was a hesitation in her words, a crack in her confidence. “The pattern’s become less predictable of late, but that could be due to a simple fluctuation in my abilities. That’s happened once or twice before, and it’s always subsided without any discernible aftereffects.”
Hawke pinned her with his gaze. “You’ll tell me the next time you need to earth.” He wasn’t letting her head out alone, not when the Psy might have her in their sights.
He’d never been called “sir” with such insulting politeness. Wolf settling at the return of the acerbic edge in her voice because he didn’t like seeing her lost and unsure, he turned to Judd. “Anything else I should know?”
“No, I’m still working my contacts.” Turning toward the door, he said, “Sienna?”
Hawke held up a hand. “We have something to discuss.”
Judd looked up, met his eyes, but spoke to Sienna instead. “Wait outside.” There was a command in his voice, that of a lieutenant speaking to a lower-ranking soldier.
Hawke had the feeling that while Sienna might have argued with her uncle, she obeyed the lieutenant—albeit with a tight set to her jaw—sliding past Judd and into the corridor. Only when she was gone, the door shut, did Hawke raise an eyebrow at the Psy male who’d returned to stand opposite him.
“You have my loyalty,” Judd said in the quietest of tones, “but she has a piece of my heart.”
Hawke had known this was coming, was ready for it. “I won’t hurt her.”
“Sienna is strong,” Judd continued as if he hadn’t heard Hawke’s vow,
“older than she should be. But in many ways, she’s far more vulnerable than any other female in this den. She broke Silence at a critical age, and it altered her emotional psyche.”
Hawke’s wolf wasn’t pleased at being taken to task, but he listened. “From what I see,” he said, thinking of her empty eyes when she’d walked into the office, “she seems damn good at reining in emotions.”
It should’ve made him happy that she had the capacity to maintain that distance—he always chose lovers who wouldn’t be hurt by his inability to give them everything. But last night, as he indulged himself by claiming the first level of intimate skin privileges, he’d discovered something—when it came to Sienna, he was beyond selfish, beyond possessive. She was his. And he wanted all of her.
“That’s not what I’m worried about.” Judd’s eyes were arctic blue with intent when they met Hawke’s. “She has no off switch when it comes to those she loves. She will do anything to protect them, even murder. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
Hawke curved his lips in a faint smile.“Sounds like a predatory changeling.”
“Yes. Except unlike a changeling, she didn’t grow up around simple kindness, much less touch and affection.” A harsh reminder that Sienna hadn’t even had the cold childhood of most Psy. “On an intellectual level, she might understand that intimate physical contact doesn’t mean a commitment, but when it comes to you, that isn’t going to matter a damn.” Cool words no less forceful for being delivered in a tempered voice. “Once you turn that key, be sure you’re ready.” It was a warning.
Hawke’s wolf heard it loud and clear—but it also heard what Judd didn’t say. “Why aren’t you telling me to stay the f**k away from her?” he asked, because while it was too late for that, it angered him that her family hadn’t thought to protect her.
Judd’s own anger was an icy whip. “You insist on seeing her as a child when the truth is, she was forced to make adult decisions long ago. She’s earned the right to live her life as she pleases.”
“Doesn’t that piss you off? That she was never allowed to be a child?” It sure as hell pissed him off.
“Yes—but she survived.” Not even by the flicker of an eyelash did Judd betray the depth of emotion that had to be riding him, but the chair next to him turned into a pile of splinters between one breath and the next.
Hawke’s wolf saw, understood. “You’d kill them all if you could.”
“Sienna could do that herself.”
SIENNA knew they were talking about her in there, and though it frustrated her to be shut out, she’d been part of the pack long enough to understand hierarchy. The truth was, annoyance at situations like today’s aside, she appreciated it.
SnowDancer, at its core, operated very much like a military unit—albeit one with a warm emotional center, and that was a pattern of behavior her mind understood and accepted, the strict nature of it acting as an outside restraint on her abilities. Sienna was deathly certain she wouldn’t have survived in a more laissez-faire environment.