Hawke’s hand closed around her throat, the possessiveness of his hold echoed by the raw demand of his kiss. “You are so perfect for me”—hot words against her lips—“I’d steal you if you weren’t already mine.”
Surrounded by the strength and heat and wildness of him, she had never felt so ready to take on a nightmare. “I think we should call it ‘Operation Ming Is a Dead Man Walking.’”
A feral grin on his face, Hawke leaned down until the night-glow of his eyes was only a centimeter away. “He won’t be walking for long. We’ll make sure of it.”
RIAZ knew he had Adria’s heart and her commitment as he accompanied her down to the den the next afternoon. She would never again try to leave him. Not that he’d allow it, he thought with an inward growl. But he also knew she hid within her a deep vein of wariness, and he hated that she was unsure of his love on any level. Hated it.
Patience, he counseled his wolf, but when it came to Adria, he wasn’t patient. Like any lone wolf who had made up his mind about his woman, he was pitiless in his determination. “I never canceled our request for couples quarters and it came through two days ago,” he told her, feet set apart and hands on his hips, ready for the fight she was no doubt about to give him. “We’re moving.”
A stiffening of her jaw. “Nice to be asked.”
Hackles paradoxically flattening at the acerbic edge in her voice, he snagged her around the waist and kissed her until she bit at his lip to get some air. Grinning at the sting that told him his empress was back, he said, “I’ll let you pick the sheets.”
She snarled at him, letting him feel her claws, but, to his surprise, cooperated in the move. Since the anchor detail was now at a low pitch, they had time to do it that day.
It was around nine at night that Adria gave a very welcome laugh and said, “You’re a menace.”
A slow grin spread across his face as he saw she’d found the bear he’d carved sleeping belly-up, a big smile on its face and a bottle of beer in one paw. “He had a party with the skunk.”
Adria put the bear next to the drunken skunk on the shelf he’d put up for her to keep her mechanical puzzles. “You have more, don’t you?”
He made a noncommittal sound … and found himself pounced on, as she tried to threaten the answer out of him. Turning the tables, he had her in giggles, and then he had her sighing and arching underneath him, her body molten with welcome. Afterward, she lay with her hand on his heart, his thigh pushed between her own.
Nipping at her ear, he said, “Are you ever going to admit to the fact you’re a maternal dominant?” It happened once or twice in every generation, a maternal female with such aggressive protective tendencies that she chose to train as a soldier. But nothing, Riaz thought, could change the steely core of compassion that made the maternals who they were, that inherent kindness intertwined with strength reflected in Adria’s every action.
Her laugh was husky. “What kind of lieutenant would you be if you couldn’t figure it out, hmm?” She wrote her initials over his heart, as if marking him. “Nell was faster than anyone else to peg me—she wants me in the maternal cabal.”
Grinning at her description of the power at the heart of the pack, he tucked her hair behind her ear so he could see her face. “Interested?”
“I dunno—it’s like the mafia. Once you’re in, you can never get out.” A smile that danced with mischief, but her next words were thoughtful. “I chose to train as a soldier because it suits my wolf—I’m too aggressive to be a full-time maternal.”
“You’re great with the submissives.” Ensuring the health of their young was only one aspect of the complex duties undertaken by the maternal females, but it was an important one.
“Yes.” Another design on his chest, this one more aimless. “Working with pups and juveniles fulfills the other side of my nature. So the setup I currently have is about perfect … though, I might open a channel with the cabal.” Another wicked grin. “It’d be nice to get their input on some things, plus since I’ll have a foot in both camps, it’ll be a way to make sure nothing slips between the cracks when it comes to the children.”
“Do you think Riley had that in mind all along?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me—even dopey over Mercy, he thinks ten steps ahead.” Stealing a smiling kiss, she settled herself more closely against him and closed her eyes. “Go to sleep. We have to get up early.”
“Good night, Empress.”
“Good night, Golden Eyes.”
He smiled, nibbled at her ear again. “Say that in public and you’ll be sorry.”
“Now you’ve gone and dared me. Don’t you know never to do that with a maternal female?”
Riaz growled playfully at her. He was happy deep in his heart … but not content, because this laughing woman who had his wolf’s devotion, a woman he adored beyond life itself, expected him to leave her, maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day. It was a hidden shadow in the violet-blue, a darkness he only glimpsed when she thought he wasn’t watching. … and it eviscerated him.
He refused to allow her to hurt that way. Fucking refused.
JUDD was unsurprised to see Aden on the back steps of Xavier’s church a week after the attack on Sonja. “The anchors in this region are safe,” he told the Arrow. Each and every one had been moved, their locations known only to Nikita and Anthony, no backup files kept either on the Net or outside. But to everyone’s surprise, the telepathic file containing images that could be used for a teleport lock in an emergency, had also been sent to Sascha.