If she was alive, she could not be allowed to exist off the leash of Ming’s psychic control.
TEMPER STILL SIMMERING—and that wasn’t the only thing—Riaz got dressed in plain black athletic pants made of a light material that didn’t overheat, his upper body bare, and walked out to the training run just in time to see a group of the more experienced soldiers cross the finish line. “How did it go?” he asked Judd, who’d been overseeing the session.
“Curses were cast on your name.” Judd’s expression remained unchanged, his sense of humor a subtle thing. “The course is a tough one, but wolves enjoy challenge.”
“So do Psy.” He knew that as a Tk, Judd was brutal competition. “Me and you.” The painful fury of energy in his body needed somewhere to go.
But Judd shook his head, dark hair catching the deep orange rays of the slowly setting sun. “I have dinner with Walker and the kids. Tomorrow?”
“Sure.” Riaz opted to remain behind after the other lieutenant left with the rest of the group, deciding to run the course on his own. That was when he caught an unexpected scent on the breeze.
Crushed ice over berries … licked with an unexpected undertone of lingering warmth.
His jaw tightened when Adria emerged from the trees, his wolf reacting with a snarl even as his c**k hardened. The response was so hot, so fast, and so beyond his conscious control that it infuriated him.
Not saying a word, Adria kicked off her boots and socks.
“You’re not dressed right.” It came out a near growl.
A fluid shrug that revealed the lithe muscle on that tall frame. “Jeans are worn in.”
His wolf heard the unspoken challenge, flashed its canines. “Then let’s go.” With that, he ran up the smooth wooden log that had been the downfall of more than one SnowDancer, conscious of Adria making the climb with an almost feline grace.
Instead of a wall at the top of the slope, there was now a specially designed rope climbing frame that required rigid muscle control to navigate. It favored those of lighter weight, and Adria beat him to the top—and to the ring ladder that tested upper-body strength. He was much stronger than her by any measure, and they were neck and neck again by the time they reached the final set of rings.
Dropping to the firm ground, he made his way through the dark and narrow tunnel built to provide no purchase for claws and nails, its walls seeping a slick gel that frustrated forward movement. He’d created the obstacle, but he was swearing by the time he got to the end—beside an Adria who had tendrils of jet black hair stuck to her temples and cheeks, and then they were wiping off the gel and scrambling across the jungle gym.
Focusing only on navigating the complex structure, he shut out the presence of the woman he could still taste, still feel clenching so tight and liquid on his fingers. He’d always known he would one day take a lover. Lisette—a near-blinding stab of pain—was happily married, would never belong to him. It was a truth nothing could change, and he’d understood he’d have to accept that before it destroyed him.
But he wasn’t ready yet.
Even if he had been, he’d always assumed the woman with whom he ended his celibate existence would be warm, affectionate, someone who understood the wound that was his heart.
Not a near stranger who might as well have been a razor blade.
His arms aching, he came down on his feet after successfully reaching the end of the jungle gym and looked back to see Adria hanging on to a section that had fallen in, courtesy of the random algorithm that had almost dumped him on his ass halfway through. There was no way she’d catch up to him now, but teeth gritted, she pulled herself back and onto the top of the structure.
Impressed despite himself, he didn’t do her the insult of not putting his all into the rest of the course, the ground hard beneath his bare feet. He was cooling down when she crossed the finish line and collapsed to her knees. “Sienna was right,” she gasped, her braid falling over one shoulder to lie against her breast. “You are a sadist.”
“An easy course teaches them nothing.” Leaving her to recover, he ran to the den to grab two bottles of water from a cooler kept close to the nearest exit and jogged back.
Stretch completed, she took the bottle he held out. “Thank you.”
No sound, except that of water being drunk.
Twisting closed the lid of her bottle, Adria pushed back the sweat-damp strands of her hair and said, “Look, what happened—”
“It’s over with.” The memory of his betrayal brought bile into his throat—regardless of the raw pulse of his body, he wasn’t yet willing to accept the inevitable and forget the woman meant to be his. “Doesn’t need a postmortem.”
Flawless creamy skin with the barest touch of sun gold pulled taut over Adria’s cheekbones. “Burying your head in the sand won’t make it go away.” Her tone made it clear she hadn’t missed the rigid evidence of his arousal.
Forcing himself not to pulverize the bottle he held in hand, he took his time replying. “What exactly would you like to discuss?” he asked in a tone that told her to back off if she knew what was good for her.
Adria didn’t take the hint. “We’re sexually attracted to one another,” she said, feet slightly spread and hands by her sides. “Maybe you didn’t realize it consciously until today, but now you do.”
“I’m also a lieutenant,” he said, furious he hadn’t understood his own antagonistic response to Adria in time to strangle it, “and that means I can control my urges.” Neither part of him had any intention of giving in to this unwanted desire, the wolf’s rage as primal as the man’s.