Not a scenario he’d have anticipated even a year ago, but he wasn’t going to think further on it today. This night, it was about his mate and his pack. About wolves and play. Laughter and affection.
That scent again.
“Is Alexei here?” His youngest lieutenant had wanted to attend the ceremony, but Hawke had nixed the request. While none of the sectors outside den territory had as yet been targeted, SnowDancer couldn’t risk reducing security in those regions—and it wasn’t only the Psy they had to worry about. Alexei’s sector was on the very edge, near the border with Oregon, close to the lands of a much smaller but aggressive wolf pack.
Judd gave him an inscrutable look. “He’s not scheduled to arrive for at least another month. We discussed it at the last lieutenant meeting.”
“I know, but I could swear…” Shaking his head, he shoved a hand through his hair. “Where’d Riley say he’d meet us?”
Judd nodded at the water glinting through the trees, the sun fracturing it in bright splashes of silver and cobalt. “In the clearing on the other side of the lake. Said he wanted some time out from the insanity inside.”
Wolf not happy with its mistake about the scent, but willing to let it go, he continued to walk beside his lieutenant—a man who, as a result of his incredible feats during the battle in San Francisco, now had a fan club. Complete with “I Judd” and “Judd Is My Boyfriend” memorabilia.
In the normal course of events, civilians wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the former Arrow, but it had been impossible to evacuate the entire city prior to the Pure Psy attack. His name, at least, should have remained under wraps, but a number of intrepid journalists had risked life and limb to cover the battle—and one of them had overheard the other fighters calling out to Judd, revealed it in the ensuing article. “Did Brenna show you the website?”
“Yes.” A dark mutter.
Hawke’s wolf huffed in laughter, thinking of the secret stash of “I Judd” T-shirts and buttons Drew had purchased for everyone to wear at the next lieutenant meeting. “I’m thinking of making you my new PR person.”
“I’d hate to turn my niece into a widow so soon,” was the cool answer.
“I hear women are posting their phone numbers on the site for you.” Accompanied by sexy videos and photos.
Judd’s eyes gleamed. “Not after Brenna hacked the site and plastered a message on their homepage pointing out that I’m very happily mated to a wolf with sharp teeth, razored claws, and a wild case of insane jealousy.” A small smile that was nonetheless, quietly satisfied. “She also uploaded several gruesome photos of feral wolf kills.”
Hawke grinned in pride—he’d expected nothing less. “That’s my girl.” Catching another scent, he halted. “Damn it, that was Matthias.”
Judd watched him without blinking, the perfect expressionless Arrow. “Did you get enough sleep?”
“Funny.” Growling low in his throat, he picked up his speed. “Jem. Kenji. Cooper—” And suddenly, he was in a clearing filled with his lieutenants, male and female, from the youngest to the most experienced, from every sector across SnowDancer’s massive territory.
A “whoop” went up at his entrance, and then he was being hugged, and slapped on the back, and even kissed. “I’d have hit that beautiful mouth,” a grinning Jem said, touching the cheek to which she’d pressed her lips, “but I hear your mate is a possessive woman.”
He was not in the mood to laugh. “What the hell are you all doing here?” Never had his men and women so blatantly disobeyed his orders.
“Relax, boss,” Tomás said with his usual irreverence. “We came down using our best sneaking skills to duck under the radar—no one’s going to miss us for one night. Every one of us has people we trust holding the fort and”—he held up a sat phone—“we’re in constant contact with our sectors.”
“With,” Riaz added, holding up his own sat phone, “Judd, Riley, Indigo, and me acting as double backups in case of an emergency.”
Hawke glanced at Riley. “I assume WindHaven is flying patrols over the territory?” His lieutenants were too smart not to use every resource available to them.
“I told you he’d figure it out.” Alexei smiled that “supermodel” smile of his—as once described by Tomás … right before Alexei gave him a black eye. “We had to be here. You can yell at us and kick us out, but we’ll just shrug and turn right back around.”
Kenji, his hair dyed a deep purple and sprayed with tiny gold stars, nodded. “We’re like termites—you can’t get rid of us.”
He was alpha, his word law. He also knew when he was beaten.
Wrapping an arm around Jem’s petite form, he squeezed her to his side, his wolf nuzzling at her own in welcome. To have the loyalty of men and women of such strength and heart was a gift—even if it meant he had to face the occasional challenge to his authority. And this particular challenge … it showed a depth of love any alpha would be hard-pressed to repudiate. “I guess we’d better find somewhere for you lot to sleep.”
Cooper snorted, the smooth mahogany of his skin bisected by a jagged scar on the left-hand side of his face. “Who plans to sleep?”
“Not me.” Tomás’s grin was infectious. “I intend to dance till dawn, hopefully with the sexy little wolf I spied earlier, then sneak home before anyone knows I was even gone.”