Reaching up, Hawke snipped off a bit of his own hair to test the blades. “Yeah, should do the trick.”
“Uh-oh.” Huge cardinal eyes. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
“ ’Cause every time you cut your hair, Sienna gets mad.”
His wolf pricked up its ears. “Yeah?” He stepped closer.
“Okay,” Hawke said, having had enough experience with pups to understand logic wouldn’t help right now, “close your eyes and scream as loud as you can.”
“Just do it.”
Toby took a deep breath, scrunched his eyes closed . . . and screamed.
Wincing at the earsplitting volley of sound, Hawke snipped off the boy’s far too long bangs in one cut, making sure not to touch the metallic blades to the kid’s skin. “Not bad.” It wasn’t crooked in any case.
Toby’s eyes snapped open. “Did you do it?”
Hawke handed him his hair. “What do you think?”
“I don’t think anyone else will let me scream.” A pensive statement.
“Well, as long as you don’t mind looking like a prison escapee, I can do it.”
“Okay.” Toby beamed.
“How about the bottom?”
“Yours is longer than mine.”
“You can leave it that length on the condition it doesn’t get in your way.”
Toby frowned, considered. Serious little man, Hawke thought, realizing he hadn’t spent that much time with the boy. But man and wolf both liked him—Toby had a simple and deep kindness to him that Hawke knew would never disappear. The last vestiges of childhood fears aside, there was strength there, too. Hesitant yet, still growing, but when Toby came into his own, he’d make the pack proud, of that Hawke had not a single doubt.
“Cut it.” A decisive statement. “I can have it longer after I pass my outdoor lessons.”
Hawke was impressed. “You sure?”
A strong nod. Then Toby closed his eyes, inhaled. It took three screams and by the last one, Toby was laughing. So was Hawke. They sat on the tailgate afterward, eating peanuts from a bag Toby had had in his pocket. The nuts were crushed, but that didn’t matter.
Hawke found himself reevaluating his opinion of the boy as they talked. Toby had the gentleness of an empath, but he saw everything—and he understood that the world wasn’t always kind. Who better, after all, to know the dark side of the human heart than someone gifted with the ability to sense emotion?
But he was also a child.
“I’m thirsty,” he said after crunching the last peanut.
“Me, too.” Turning around, Hawke hunted through the first-aid kit and came up with a bottle of water. “Aha.”
“You’ll have to replace that or Lara will tell you off.”
“Don’t I know it.” Taking a gulp from the bottle, he passed it to Toby.
Who copied his actions.
Hiding his grin, he grabbed the soccer ball. “Come on, squirt.”
Toby’s face beamed. “Really? Me and you?”
Hawke played the ball over his foot. “Move it.”
They spent over a half hour together, with Toby proving to be both nimble and intelligent as an opponent. Afterward, they finished off the bottle of water before getting back into the truck.
Toby did up his safety belt. “How come you didn’t ask me stuff about Sienna?”
Hawke raised an eyebrow as he started the vehicle.
Toby shrugged. “I figured you were spending time with me to find out about my sister.”
Yeah, the kid saw everything. “Maybe I thought about it,” Hawke said, because he didn’t believe in lying to his pack. “But turns out I like hanging out with you.”
Toby’s whole face lit up. “You mean it. I know.”
Mussing the kid’s hair, Hawke drove him home. He went with Toby to the practice field to ensure the boy’s coach was aware Toby hadn’t played hookey, and the kids begged him to stay. He was alpha. Caring for pups was instinctive. As a result, night had fallen by the time he was able to go after Sienna again.
And this time, nothing was going to keep him from his prey.
RECOVERED FROM COMPUTER 2(A) TAGS: PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, FATHER, ACTION NOT REQUIRED
FROM: Alice <[email protected]
TO: Dad <[email protected]
DATE: November 12th, 1974 at 11:04pm
I received a notice today terminating my access to the X-designation volunteers and “requesting” I cease my research. I’m a scientist. I can’t do that, especially when I’m on the brink of discovering the answer.
What worries me is that if I’m right, I may well be giving those who seek to control the Xs a way to hold them hostage. The promise of safety could be used as an “incentive” to force them to act as psychic weapons—I wouldn’t have worried about such a thing a few years ago, but the Psy Council is no longer what it once was.
Call me when you get this e-mail. I can’t get through to the dig.
SIENNA WASN’T IN her room. Nor was she in the family quarters—but Walker was. The telepath jerked his head toward the corridor. Realizing the eldest of the Laurens wanted to have this conversation away from the kids, Hawke led them to a small, private alcove before saying, “I’m surprised you waited this long.”