Every other opponent he’d had in this game had tried to mask his or her scent, to confuse and disorient. She was the single one who’d thought to use her time to set traps—and the wolf appreciated her cunning. It was only her lack of speed that had allowed him to catch her. But caught her he had . . . and he had a few tricks of his own.
SIENNA went motionless as her nape prickled in warning. Nothing. No sound, definitely no shout like the one that had gone up when Hawke had walked into the first trap. She’d been less than ten meters away, having had barely enough time to pull it together. Oh, he’d been pissed.
But then he’d laughed.
She’d never expected that, and it had made her understand. A game. They were playing a game. Except for with Toby and Marlee, she’d never played a game before that wasn’t connected to learning military tactics. Even with her brother and cousin, she was focused on their enjoyment, more a coordinator than a participant.
This—it was play for play’s sake.
The efficient X-Psy inside of her said she was wasting time, but she shushed that voice. Because she’d never felt as light, as young as she did at this moment, sneaking through an ancient forest, trying to outwit a wolf with pale blue eyes and hair of silver-go—“?!#”
The sound that erupted from her throat was unintelligible as she found herself dangling by one ankle at least five feet off the ground. “No,” she muttered, staring around in disbelief. But of course the answer was right there in her current predicament. “You win!” she finally called out in a fit of temper.
He appeared out of the forest, looking at her with quizzical eyes. “What are you doing up there, baby?”
“Rrrr.” She slapped her hands over her mouth to still the feral sound.
Hawke’s cheeks creased into a delighted smile. “Do that again.”
Never. “Get me down.”
He rocked back on his heels. “What do I get in exchange?”
“I won’t fry you to a crisp.”
“You wouldn’t anyway,” he said with such insouciant confidence it was pure provocation.
She shot a bolt of fire past his hair, but he’d already shifted sideways. “Tut, tut. That’s cheating.”
“Urgh!” Twisting her body with serious effort from her abdominal muscles, she went to aim her hand at the vine, sure she could sever it with her abilities.
“It’ll hurt like hell when you fall.”
She paused. He’d set his trap so she dangled higher than he had. It would hurt. Dropping back down, she blew out a breath. “What do you want?” It was a snarl; she’d never snarled before.
Walking close enough that he could put one hand under her nape, the other on her lower back, tilting her head up into a more comfortable position, he leaned in so close that all she could see was translucent ice blue. “A kiss for the big, bad wolf.”
Her throat locked, the words stuck in her throat.
But he didn’t close the distance between them. “Yes?”
Swallowing, she nodded.
“You have to say it.”
“Yes,” she managed to force out, gripping his shoulder with one hand.
Some of her frustration reignited, returning her voice. “You know what? I don’t think I care how far I fall!”
Laughing lips descended on hers, one big hand cupping her cheek as his other held up her neck.
It was . . . She had no words for it, this shock of sensation that speared through her, raw and primal, swelling her br**sts, melting the place between her thighs. All because those firm lips were tasting hers with a playful gentleness interspersed with more than a few nips and licks. She moaned into his mouth, got a nip on her lower lip as her reward.
Then he licked his tongue across her own.
Wanting more, she dared reach out with her own tongue. He made a low, deep sound in his throat and returned the caress with interest, his fingers massaging her nape. The merest pause for breath before her upper lip was being sucked, her lower lip captured between strong masculine teeth for a teasing bite.
When it felt as if he’d lift his head, she arched toward him. He opened his mouth over her own, danced his tongue against hers, before breaking the kiss with a nuzzling slowness. “I’d have given you another kiss,” he murmured, nipping at her pulse with his teeth, “but you made me mad.”
Dazed, she said, “I did?”
“Did you really think I’d let you fall?” A bite lower down on her neck. Harder this time.
She jerked, hand clenching on that shoulder heavy with muscle. “You can’t go around biting me whenever you feel like it.” It was very alpha male behavior, and he hardly needed any more encouragement.
He licked his tongue over the mark. “Cut the vine.”
This time, she didn’t question him, using a targeted laser of cold fire to sever the trap. He caught her so fast she didn’t even experience the sensation of falling for an instant. Lowering her to her feet, he held her against him as she got her balance back, one of his hands on her lower back, the other playing with strands of her hair.
When she looked up, he was watching her with an absolute focus that stole the air from her lungs. “You’re a good playmate,” he said, dipping his head to speak against her lips. “You get to pick the next game.”
Stealing tiny kisses as she stood with her chest pressed to his, she felt the vibration of his growl in every inch of her. “When?” she managed to get out, her ni**les hard little points, her br**sts so sensitized she wasn’t sure she’d be able to take it if he touched her.