“No, it’s standard.” A pause. “Hold on.” The SUV shuddered over a hole in the road.
Ignoring the jolt, Adria pulled out her mini datapad. “I better scan it anyway—I’d tell off my trainees if they skipped homework.” She focused, managed to absorb the material, but when she tried to carry on and catch up on the pack-wide senior soldiers bulletin, it proved a failed effort. She couldn’t turn off her wolf’s awareness of the male in the passenger seat, the one who did not belong to her, regardless of the unexpected, wonderful battle he was waging.
“I saw Lisette yesterday,” he said without warning.
The words in front of her blurred. “How is she?”
“Not in love with me.” The words were hard, making it clear that courtship or not, his anger had in no way dimmed.
It somehow hit her deeper, that even though he was so mad at her, he continued to want her, continued to court her.
“Which is great,” he added, “because I’m not in love with her either.”
“Give it time.” Love and the mating bond were interlocked for every mated couple she’d ever met—she wasn’t going to fool herself by pretending they would be the exception that proved the rule.
“God you’re obstinate.” It was a snarl. “Must make me a masochist that I like that about you.”
Her wolf bared its canines, charmed but trying not to allow it to matter. “I only get worse the more you know me. Consider it a lucky escape.”
The smile Riaz shot her was feral. “I’m not the one thinking of escape—and just in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not about to let you succeed.”
With that warning, he brought the SUV to a stop in the drive of a small home tucked neatly in the Presidio, enough land around it that the place must’ve cost a substantial sum.
Stepping out of the vehicle, she circled around the front. Riaz met her there, curling his fingers around her upper arm when she would’ve moved past. She jerked, the spark of contact explosive. “I’m not going to leave,” he murmured, his breath hot against her lips, “and I’m not going to change my mind, so get used to having to deal with me.”
Hope was a tiny light in her heart she no longer had the willpower to stamp out. “We have a job to do.” Practical words, but her voice held a vulnerability that terrified her—especially when she saw Riaz’s eyes turn night-glow and knew he’d heard it, too.
SIENNA stopped on a promontory, looking out over the land below. It was her second day in a row on the routine task of running perimeter security—though Riley made sure her routes remained erratic—but she didn’t mind. As she’d said to Hawke, this time around, it was how she could help the pack.
“Anchor watch isn’t much more exciting,” Riordan had said to her as he left tonight to act as backup to two senior soldiers, no novices having been posted as main guards. “Mostly they just sit there working or reading, or sleeping.”
“Maria said you had a good story about your first anchor.”
“Oh yeah, that’s the one who kept watching me as if she was waiting for me to grow fangs and try to eat her. I couldn’t help it—I used my claws to scratch my nose. Her eyes almost popped out of their sockets.”
Smiling at the memory, she wondered if those in the PsyNet would have offered another group such help. Once, she would’ve said no. But now … Though Nikita Duncan and Anthony Kyriakus might have helped defend San Francisco out of their own self-interest, stories had come in, in the aftermath of the battle, that told of ordinary Psy helping their fellow man, regardless of race.
A DarkRiver soldier had fallen in combat, been dragged inside by two elderly Psy women while they held back his attackers using their combined telepathic abilities. One of the humans DarkRiver knew well had told of how his son, a curious little boy, had snuck outside and down a block to peek at the jet-choppers dropping Pure Psy operatives from the sky.
Out of his mind with worry, his father had been getting ready to head out into danger to search for the missing child when a Psy neighbor—one of three students sharing an apartment—called to say he was safe. They’d snatched the boy off the street and hidden him in their home, protecting his mind from the psychic strikes the operatives had thrust out as a defensive measure while they landed.
It would’ve been safer for those students, the elderly twosome, to stay inside. After all, neither an injured soldier nor a small child could offer them any tactical advantage. But they hadn’t remained behind closed doors, safe. They’d helped for no reason except that it was the right thing to do.
A brush of fur against her leg, that of the wolf who’d appeared out of the trees.
Hawke didn’t have much time with everything that was going on, but he always found her during her shifts, even if it was only for a few minutes at a time.
Crouching down beside his proud head, she ran her fingers through the silver-gold of his fur. “When I think of the stories that came out of the battle, it makes me proud to be Psy.”
The wolf angled his head, his eyes piercing in the dark. She laughed, able to read the affronted expression on his face as if he’d spoken. “Yes, I’m a SnowDancer,” she said, because this was her family, her pack, her home, “but I’m a Psy SnowDancer.”
The wolf considered this before turning his muzzle and nipping very, very carefully at her jaw, those lethally sharp teeth not even bruising her skin. Laughing again, she rubbed her nose against his. “Thanks so much, Your Wolfiness,” she said, knowing that had been his way of saying her decision to call herself a Psy SnowDancer was acceptable.