Her wolf bristled. “It’s not an inevitability.” And it wasn’t as if they ever slept apart.
“Fuck that. If I wanted to live alone, I wouldn’t be in a relationship.” Twisting her braid in his hand, he held her in place. “So your thinking time has just run out.”
She dug her claws into his chest, saw him wince. “Let go or I’ll rip this T-shirt, too.”
Respect on his face. “I’ll let go … after this.” The kiss was hot and angry and refused to allow her any distance.
She was still growling in fury when she ran into Indigo not long afterward. “Don’t ask,” she snapped the instant the other woman went to open her mouth. “Not when I saw you making kissy faces with Drew five seconds ago.”
Indigo held up her hands in surrender. “Hey, we fight. Drew just makes it damn hard to stay mad at him. Do you know what he did today?” She answered her question before Adria could respond. “He lined the dashboard of my vehicle with miniature teddy bears with sad faces. I mean, come on! Not fair.”
Adria laughed despite herself—because Indigo was holding one of those adorable tiny bears as she gesticulated. “You have it so tough, boo-hoo.”
Indigo mimed throwing the soft toy at her. “See? I never get any sympathy.” Tucking the bear into her jeans pocket, where it watched them mournfully, she said, “So?”
Adria shook her head. “I’m going for a run.”
“I’ll come with you.”
“Go away,” she muttered. “I want to be alone.”
“Get over it. You’re in a pack.”
They ran in silence for over half an hour, ending up on a high mountain meadow dotted with wildflowers and huge broken rocks thrown around as if by a giant’s hands. Taking a seat on one of those rocks after quenching her thirst at a fragile waterfall hidden nearby, she said, “Sorry for being snippy.”
Indigo, seated on the ground with her back to the sun-warmed rock, reached over to pat her on the shin. “You’re allowed. What did Riaz do?”
“He’s demanding I move in with him.”
“Hardly surprising,” Indigo said, stretching out her legs. “He’s a wolf. Pack is everything, and his woman is where it begins.”
Those words again—his woman. “I made the decision to be with him,” Adria whispered, “but I never thought I’d fall so hard, so deep, until his name is written on parts of me Martin never touched.” It was the first time she’d consciously accepted that fact … and the fear that came with the knowledge. Martin had hurt her, but Riaz, he could savage her. “He does these things and they take my breath away, make my chest hurt.”
“What kind of things?”
“Yesterday, he disappeared with my boots and came back with them resoled because he’d noticed they were damaged.” When she’d thanked him, he’d run his knuckles down her cheek and said it was his job to care for her. “I found a shawl in my quarters the other day, soft as air, and the precise color of my eyes.” Golden threads woven into the exquisite blue.
“And he’s always feeding me,” she said, bewildered by the unexpected tenderness. “Cupcakes and homemade pizza and my favorite spaghetti.” Then there was the most wonderful thing of all—the wooden sculptures she kept finding in her pockets. Her favorite was a tiny dragon, its expression fierce, its claws out.
“Protectiveness is part of the package,” Indigo said. “You know that. I’m more dominant than Drew, but he still finds ways to take care of me.” She took the sad bear out, smiled, and kissed its face before tucking it safely back into her pocket.
“I know. I just never expected Riaz to be like that with me.” She didn’t have to explain why, didn’t want to speak of the unknown woman who was Riaz’s mate.
Twisting, Indigo looked up at her. “I get why you’re hesitant. I guess the question is, do you think you’d be happier without him?”
“I can’t bear to think of being without him.” The hurt was bone deep … and that was her answer.
Coming down to sit beside Indigo, she said, “It’s no use trying to keep a physical distance between us, is there? When I already belong to him here.” She rubbed a fisted hand over her heart, knowing that regardless of how much it terrified her to trust her love to a man whose own would never belong to her, keeping it stifled did an injustice both to herself and to the lone wolf who had made her feel so cherished. “I have to have the courage to love him without conditions.”
VASQUEZ WENT OVER the most recent report cataloguing the acts of attempted sabotage on SnowDancer land. The incidents had dropped off markedly in the past two weeks, and none had caused the wolves any problems, but planning and carrying them out was keeping the majority of Pure Psy’s remaining forces occupied.
Good, he thought, sending a telepathic message to the ringleader to continue. So long as they were occupied in the pointless task, he could set up the warning “outlier” strike without having to concern himself with anyone getting too curious. No leaks could be permitted. Not now.
Not when the time had finally come.
“There is one problem,” he said to Henry when they met that night. “Though I have a unit ready to move on the secondary targets, I still have only one operative I trust with the primary task.” Making back-to-back strikes impossible, though—and not counting the outlier—he had five complete sets of confirmed locations. “However, I do not recommend waiting. The Net is becoming further infected with those whose conditioning has fractured.”