That left Ming and Tatiana. Both would have to die when it was time. There was no other viable option. Kaleb would not chance them coming at him from behind.
The star sparked in the light from the lamp on his desk.
Caught, he stared at the small charm, wondering what its owner would make of his thoughts of assassination. Soon, he would discover the answer. Because he’d just breached another layer of security, unearthed the oldest part of the trail. It was fragile and fragmented, but it was there.
RIAZ CALLED ADRIA to ask her to come along to the meeting with Bo and the liaison three days later and discovered that she was already in San Francisco with Indigo, Tarah, Evie, and another woman who had a familiar scent but looked nothing like she should—from her height, to the color of her hair and eyes, even the shape of her face, the latter apparently altered using high-tech gel pads Judd had procured from who knows where.
As he pulled away after picking up Adria, the other four women waved at him from the café where they were eating large pieces of cake slathered in frosting. “How in hell did Sienna talk Hawke into letting her out of den territory?”
Adria gave him an arch look. “I have no idea. Didn’t ask.” Scooping up a bite of the apple pie she’d had packed to go, she fed it to him. “However, she may possibly have pointed out that she’s an adult female with the right to make up her own mind.”
He bit back a grin at her tone. “Yes, she may have done that, but Hawke is newly mated and there’s a high probability she’s in Ming’s crosshairs. Hawke might be intelligent, but he’s not that rational, not when it comes to Sienna.”
Eating a bite of pie herself, Adria made a “hmming” sound in her throat. “You know, you’re right. Though, until you picked me up, she was with a lieutenant, a senior soldier, and a woman who thinks of her as another daughter. No one was going to get to her.”
Riaz had to concede that point. Forget about Tarah being submissive—maternal wolves would fight to the death to protect their young.
“Buuuuut,” Adria drawled, “five minutes before I left, I got a call from Simran and Inés. In the area. Shopping. Heard we were nearby, said they’d come join the group.” A narrow-eyed look, but her tone was admiring. “The man is devious.”
Riaz chuckled. “Of course he is.” Brute strength alone did not the alpha of a pack make. “You think Sienna’s figured it out?”
“From the little smile she got on her face when Simran called, yes. She wasn’t mad—I think she realizes exactly how hard this must be for Hawke.”
Riaz’s wolf growled in disagreement. “If she did, she’d have stayed safe in our territory.”
“And if she was the kind of woman to do that,” Adria responded, “she wouldn’t be strong enough to be mate to an alpha.” She fed him another bite of pie. “There’s a difference between taking sensible precautions and tucking your tail between your legs.”
It took conscious effort to think past his protective instincts, to understand that when a man chose a strong woman for his own, he made a commitment to nurture and respect that strength. Adria would never allow him to coddle her—but as Sienna didn’t fight Hawke’s need to ensure her safety, Adria allowed Riaz to hold her, trusted him to take care of her in a hundred small ways that soothed his wolf.
There was no longer any hint of distance between them, that night under the moon having forged a bond that was young, raw, and hauntingly powerful. He couldn’t imagine waking without her, loved to fall asleep with his legs tangled in her own, her husky voice the last thing he heard. He knew that when the urge to roam isolated reaches awoke again within his wolf, he’d coax her to go along. Solitude would be no fun without her.
Picking up her hand, he pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “Thank you for being mine.”
A startled look, followed by a smile that lit up her eyes. “Ditto.”
He was still smiling when they walked into the light-filled lobby of the art deco hotel where they were to meet Bo and his liaison. That was when Riaz took an emotional kick to the chest that knocked all the air out of him.
ADRIA’S wolf punched to the surface the instant she sensed the sudden tension that gripped Riaz’s body. On alert for a security risk, she followed his gaze to where Bowen stood with a woman of about five-two, maybe three, her hair a shining gold she’d pinned into a neat roll, her body clothed in a fitted aquamarine shift that set off eyes of gentle gray.
No weapon. No threat. Only a lovely woman … from Europe.
A horrible sick feeling in her stomach, Adria looked from the stranger to Riaz, saw the shock that had turned his eyes wild, and she knew. She knew. But the woman and Bo had seen them, were walking over, and somehow, she managed to make it through the introductions. Yet even through the ringing in her skull, the nausea choking her throat, she noticed that Riaz never touched the woman—Lisette, her name was Lisette—never even looked at her properly.
“Lisette used to be the business manager for another company,” Bo said to Adria, “but she’s taken up a permanent position with us.” Smooth as silk, not even a hint that that other company was a front for the Alliance. “Her specialty is in communications—the perfect choice for a liaison.”
Riaz folded his arms. “Is Emil with you?”
Adria caught what she thought was distress in Lisette’s expression before the other woman smiled and replied in French-accented English. “No, he had some business in Berlin.” Glancing at Adria, she said, “Riaz and my husband worked together on a project while Riaz was in Europe.”