A silent offer of surcease.
Walker had learned to touch since his defection, learned to hug, to give pats on the back or a squeeze on the shoulder. But he’d never touched a woman for no reason except that it would soothe something jagged in him to do so. Lara’s fingers began to curl when he didn’t move, her hand starting to slide away.
His fingers closed around her wrist before he was aware of moving his hand, his thumb on the fluttering beat of her pulse. Her skin was so soft, stirring fantasies of what it would be like to explore the skin of her br**sts, her inner thighs. Softer still, he thought, she’d be softer still in those places.
“I’m not Yelene,” she said, a quiet strength to her that had compelled him from the first. “I won’t ever walk away from those who are mine.”
No, that wasn’t the way she was built. But—“Yelene has nothing to do with this.”
“Liar.” A whisper that put him on notice that she wasn’t about to back off. “What she did hurt you on a level you won’t accept, and that hurt continues to drive the decisions you make about women, about relationships.”
“The old bonds,” he said, holding that tawny gaze so she would know he told her the utter truth, “the love for the children, they survived Yelene, survived the defection. But the rest of me is damaged.” In spite of his need for her, he wouldn’t lie . . . even though he knew his words would push her into the arms of one of the other men drawn to the warm glow of her spirit.
His mind went cold with anger, but he wrenched it back, knowing he had no right to the emotion. “I was too long in Silence.”
Lara shook her head, something in her expression he couldn’t read, fine lines around her mouth, fanning out from the corners of her eyes. “You’ve formed new bonds of loyalty, of trust, with packmates. We’re . . . friends.”
“Yes.” He rubbed his thumb over her pulse, wanted to touch his lips to the spot. Physical hunger wasn’t the problem, but Lara wasn’t a woman for whom that would ever be enough. She was a healer, built for family, for laughing children, and a mate who knew how to love with the same fierce depth of heart as she’d love him. “I don’t appear to have the capacity to feel anything deeper.” Maybe the scar tissue was too thick, or maybe a critical aspect of his emotional psyche had been broken beyond repair, but there was a wall inside him that nothing could penetrate.
Not even Lara.
RECOVERED FROM COMPUTER 2(A) TAGS: PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, FATHER, ACTION REQUIRED2
FROM: Alice <[email protected]
TO: Dad <[email protected]
DATE: April 10th, 1973 at 11:44pm
SUBJECT: re: hello
I’m so excited! Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I may have found the most extraordinary correlation. It began when I was able to track down the descendants of a woman named Jena Akim, an X-Psy who lived in the sixteenth century and was part of a high-Gradient family. The information on her and her family is more legend than fact, but if true, it might be the answer.
What is crucial is that unlike most Xs, who are put into specialized training as soon as they begin to show their X tendencies, Jena was never separated from her family unit. That of course is the key and why this has been missed so far. Perhaps it might even be that it is hidden or less visible in weaker Gradient minds—but I can’t draw any conclusions until I’m able to confirm if my theory is correct.
If so, it cannot be coincidence—my studies show that the rules of the psychic plane are multi-layered and textured, so complex that even the Psy don’t have a handle on them, but, and this is critical, there are rules.
SIENNA OPENED THE door the night after the kiss to find Hawke waiting, his hand braced on the doorjamb.
“Ready to play?” the wolf asked.
Her heart kicked against her ribs, the memory of the wild bite, of his taste entangling with the blatant masculinity of his scent—but just like with his previous visit, his phone beeped before she could respond to the invitation.
“This better be important,” he barked into the receiver, clearly as frustrated.
A pause and then he snapped upright. Reading his expression, she went for her work boots, tugging them on with hard, fast motions. He glanced over but didn’t say anything.
“Where?” he asked, his tone so calm and controlled she knew something bad had happened. “No, you’re right. Do what you can. I’m on my way with Lara.”
Sienna jerked up her head at the name of the SnowDancer healer. Pulling her unbound hair into a rough ponytail, she pushed past him into the corridor. “I’ll alert Lara,” she mouthed as he asked the person on the other end for further details.
Eyes very much that of the alpha, not the sensual predatory changeling male who’d come to her door, he broke from the phone conversation to say, “Bring her to the lower garage. She’ll need extra supplies—more than one injured. Don’t bother Judd. He needs to recover from some teleportation he did earlier.”
Leaving the instant he gave another nod, she ran to the healer’s apartment, which happened to be right next to the infirmary. No answer. But when she looked in the infirmary itself, she found Lara at her desk, reading some kind of medical journal. Giving the healer a concise summary of everything she knew, she helped gather the supplies.
“You did level-two medic training, yes?” Lara asked, moving fast and efficient.
Sienna acted the pack mule as Lara loaded her up with gear. “I completed the level-three class while I was with the leopards.” All soldiers were required to have a secondary proficiency—a tech course would’ve been far less demanding for Sienna, given the way her mind worked, but being able to help people on any level was a gift beyond price for her, a tiny way to balance the violence of the X-marker.