A growl rumbled out of his chest, and she immediately recognized that it wasn’t the playful one he used with her when he wasn’t serious. This one was very, very, very serious. Every sense on alert, she rose to her feet, telepathically scanning the area at the same time.
“Intruders,” she said a second later, moving with as much stealth as possible beside her wolf as he padded toward their prey. “Psy mental shields.”
“Wait.” Crouching again, she used another sub-vocal whisper to convey what she’d sensed. “They’re scanning the area. They have to know I’m here.” Not her personally, but a mind with a Psy fingerprint. “I’m not sure if they know about you.” Sienna could sense the subtle but critical differences between the mind of a feral wolf and that of a changeling, but she’d been in SnowDancer for years—most of her race didn’t have that advantage.
The pale eyes of a husky or a bird of prey met hers, the glance both protective and adamant. They’d been mated only a short time, hadn’t yet learned all of each other’s subtleties, but she understood the unspoken message. And she disagreed. “Whoever it is will know I can destroy him in a split second the instant he sees me. I’ll go in prepped.”
Hawke’s lips lifted to display his canines.
“This is my area of expertise,” she said, holding his gaze, because he would stare her down and get his own way if she let him.
This time, the bite on her chin was a fraction harder, a warning not to get herself hurt or she’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Running her hand through his fur once more, she watched him become a shadow indistinguishable from the trees as she made her way to the small clearing where three Psy minds waited. They were shielded, but she knew deep in her gut who it was that had come for her before she ever glimpsed him through the trees.
The birthmark on the left side of his face was a red splotch, a pigmentation error he’d once told her his parents hadn’t had corrected because they’d believed it would make him more resilient if he had to overcome such a thing in a society that prized perfection. Ming could’ve taken care of it once he was no longer a minor, but he hadn’t. A badge of pride, she’d always thought; or perhaps a way to gain a psychological advantage over other Psy, all of whom were taken aback the first time they met him face-to-face.
But Sienna felt no shock. She knew every line and pore of that face, was intimately acquainted with the evil that lived within Ming LeBon.
I’ll burn him up and watch him die…
Her own words, as true today as when she’d spoken them to Hawke. Aware the two men on either side of Ming, their hands touching his shoulders, had to be teleporters, she considered how exactly to kill the man she hated beyond all others without injuring his guards. They had done her no harm, and she would not judge them when she herself had been forced to be Ming’s protégée.
“Sienna,” Ming said into the silence, his voice calm, in control, cold enough to burn. “I know you’re out there.”
No, she thought, he didn’t. He was simply taking a calculated risk that the mind he sensed was hers, having no doubt used satellite surveillance images to narrow down the range she might be present in tonight. From the lines of strain on the faces of his teleporters, this wasn’t the first spot they’d jumped to in their attempt to pinpoint her location.
Keeping her silence, she continued to work out the most efficient way to kill him.
“The world is changing,” he said, his military haircut exposing the narrow bones of his face. “While there was no room for an X of your toxic capacity in the previous one, there is now. The Psy will need a new ruling council after the dust settles, and you’re already considered a hero by many.”
Sienna would have laughed at his arrogance, but she had no laughter in her where Ming was concerned. Eyes narrowed, she lifted her hand and looked sideways to meet the gaze of the wolf who had shifted out of the shadows so she could see him. There was no censure in his gaze, only the approbation of a fellow predator.
Nodding, she turned … and set the cold fire free.
Ming teleported out the instant before the fire would’ve hit him, and it smashed into the tree opposite, turning it into ash between one breath and the next. “Bastard’s men were primed to ’port.” It must’ve been brutal, holding their minds on the brink of a teleport for that long.
Hawke shifted in sparks of light and color, the wolf transforming into a male who took her face in his hands and said, “You’ll get him next time.”
It was exactly what she needed to hear. “Yes, I will.”
Her mate wrapped her in his arms, the soft pelt of silver-gold that covered his chest a sensory pleasure as she held him tight.
“He actually thought I might go with him,” she said, the insult violent.
“If you had, it would’ve ended his problems.” Hawke’s voice was not entirely human. “Now, he has to find a way to kill you.”
Recalling her dark emotional response when she’d seen Hawke in danger on the battlefield, she stroked his back, his skin hot silk. “Ming,” she reminded him, “will have to get through you and the pack to get to me.”
“He’ll never succeed.” It was a growl.
“No, he won’t.” The wolves might not have psychic power, but as Henry Scott had learned, it wasn’t only the mind that mattered when it came to war.
Pushing away from him just a fraction, she stood on tiptoe to reach his mouth. “I didn’t get a kiss tonight.” He needed the contact and so did she—to wash Ming’s poisonous words from her mind, to remember she was so much more than he could ever imagine.