This time, when she pulled, he released her wrists, watched her leave.
The spray of the waterfall was cold on his skin.
THE day after running the surveillance search, Sienna found herself with time on her hands. Aware Hawke was busy organizing something with DarkRiver, she decided that rather than give in to her frustration at being shut out because of her rank, she’d make productive use of her time to go speak with Sascha.
When she moved out of the woods near the cabin, it was to see the empath walking back and forth in front of the home she shared with Lucas. “Thanks for agreeing to talk to me.”
“Hush.” A hand cupping her cheek for a warm moment. “You know you’re always welcome.”
“Where’s Lucas?” It was a given that he wouldn’t be far with Sascha now only days from her due date.
Sascha lifted a finger to her lips, then pointed up. Following the cardinal’s gaze, Sascha found a black panther draped in graceful sleep over one of the thick branches that supported the aerie the couple planned to move back into after Sascha recovered from the birth.
“Wow,” Sienna whispered, having never before seen Lucas in animal form. “He’s beautiful.”
The cat’s tail waved lazily.
Sascha laughed. “He heard you—he’s just dozing. Stayed up rubbing my back most of the night.”
“Shouldn’t you be sitting down?”
A black scowl. “Sienna, don’t make me deck you.”
“I don’t know much about pregnancy aside from the facts, or what I’ve learned from being around you,” she admitted. “I wasn’t there while my mother was pregnant with Toby.” No, she’d been trapped in a telepathic prison created by a master of mental combat. Awful as that had been, she wouldn’t change it—because Ming had trained her in his own image, taught her the skills to fight those who would hurt her brother, her family, her pack . . . her man.
“Then we’re in the same boat.” One hand bracing her back, Sascha reached over to tuck Sienna’s hair behind her ear. “You wanted to talk, kitten?”
Sienna looked up at Lucas, dropped her voice. “Can he hear us if we keep the volume low?”
“I’m afraid so. He’s got bat hearing these days.”
The panther made a low grumbling sound but didn’t leave his branch.
Much as she respected the leopard alpha, Sienna wasn’t sure she was comfortable discussing this particular topic with him in hearing range. “It’s okay. You need to relax anyway.”
“Talking to you is hardly a strain.” A chiding look. “Luc will be a Sphinx, won’t you, pu**ycat?” Her mate’s responding rumble made Sascha smile. “He’s feeling very grumpy this afternoon.”
Needing answers, Sienna decided to ask her questions and trust in Lucas’s discretion. “With Hawke,” she said, walking with Sascha as the empath continued her easy pacing, “I . . . something happened.” Though it was in her nature to be private, she shared the gist of what had taken place between them the night of the attack. “He’s been busy since then, but even when we’ve run into each other, he hasn’t made a single move—it’s like his wolf is watching, but for what, I’m not certain.”
“Hmm.” Sascha rubbed at her belly, her head cocked at a listening angle. “Oh, well, yes.”
Sienna looked from the empath to her mate. “You have a telepathic bond?” Extraordinary.
“It’s grown exponentially during the pregnancy.” Digging the heel of one hand into her back while cradling her abdomen with the other, she blew out a breath. “I think Lucas is right—he says Hawke is waiting for you to go to him.”
“He’s not the kind of man who waits.” If Sienna knew one thing, it was that immutable fact, which was why his sudden watchful distance had left her so at sea. “Sascha,” she said, noticing the wince on the empath’s face, “your back’s hurting you.”
“It’ll be worse if I sit.” Waving off Sienna’s gesture toward the wicker outdoor furniture, Sascha continued to walk. “The thing is, Hawke needs to know you’re making a conscious choice to be with him, even understanding that it’s not going to be an easy road—though I have no doubt his patience will be shoved aside by his arrogance very soon and you’ll find yourself hunted.”
The black panther jumped down from his branch to stand against Sascha’s side as she completed that dry statement. Smile curving her lips, the empath stroked her hand over that proud head. “There’s also—” A startled cry, liquid gushing down her legs.
And Lucas was shifting in wild sparks of color. “Sascha, did your water just break?” Stunned leopard-green eyes.
“I’ve been having small contractions since the middle of last night,” Sascha admitted, chest heaving. “I didn’t want to call Tamsyn too early.”
Rising without another word, Lucas gathered his mate into his arms, carrying her with no evidence of strain. “Sienna.”
“I’m on it.” Grateful she had the DarkRiver healer’s code on her cell phone, she stabbed at the touchpad of her phone, missed. Tried again.
Tamsyn’s calm response settled her own frantic heart. “I want you to go in,” the healer said, “time her contractions, keep me updated. Can you do that?”
Sienna nodded, then realized Tamsyn couldn’t see her. “Yes, yes, of course.” She was a cardinal X and a SnowDancer soldier. She could time contractions. Sascha was having her baby!