There was just one problem—he didn’t want any other woman. He wanted the violet-eyed soldier who had, completely justifiably, told him to f**k off.
HIDDEN in the midnight shadows on the periphery of the large clearing, the Ghost watched the SnowDancers dance and laugh and play. Not ten feet from him, a giggling woman pressed her lover to a tree and suckled a kiss to the base of his neck before darting out of reach and back into the crowd. Groaning, the obviously disappointed male adjusted his jeans and followed.
The Ghost didn’t know why he watched. He’d kept an eye on this region since before the battle with Pure Psy for reasons of his own, had dropped by tonight as part of a routine sweep, and caught the faint sound of music twining through the trees. It had taken him a significant investment of time to find this exact location—he’d never before ventured this deep into the heart of SnowDancer territory, conscious the wolves would go on red alert at the first sign of an intruder.
Now, taking extreme care not to touch any surface that’d hold a scent, he came close enough to see, but not be seen. Sienna Lauren’s hair, he thought, glimpsing her in the arms of a tall man—not the SnowDancer alpha—had darkened considerably. Her height, however, remained much as it had been at fifteen.
A single scan and he found Judd. Garbed in black, his fellow rebel was standing on the edge of the dance circle, but he wasn’t alone. A small blonde woman, a slice of cake on the plate she held in hand, leaned her back against his chest. One of Judd’s arms was wrapped with familiar ease around her waist as he spoke to a man the Ghost recognized as a SnowDancer lieutenant.
Forking up a bite of cake, the blonde woman twisted and offered it to Judd. He leaned down to accept, the curve of his lips set in an unmistakable smile. The Ghost had only ever seen Judd in another context, and though intellectually he’d understood the former Arrow had a life beyond the rebellion, seeing it in reality made him take a risk, remain longer. For this, too, he could offer no rational reason. This was not a life he would ever have. It may as well have been an alien wilderness.
Yet … he continued to watch.
NOT far in front of Sienna, Mercy hauled Riley into a wild kiss. The senior lieutenant’s surprise lasted a bare instant before he snapped his hands around the leopard sentinel’s waist and dragged her close.
Turning to Hawke, Sienna said, “This is just so…” No words seemed enough.
“I think someone’s about to steal you from me again.”
Opening her mouth to protest that she’d hardly spent any time with him all night, she sensed the psychic energy of the person behind her. Her heart burst with love. “Sorry,” she murmured, touching her fingertips to Hawke’s jaw. “I’m going to ditch you.”
“Remember”—he rubbed his thumb over her lower lip before putting her hand into her new partner’s—“the midnight dance is mine.”
Always. It was a whisper along the mating bond. Out loud, she said, “Where have you been?” and fixed her brother’s hair.
He scowled. To her shock, she realized he’d gained several inches of height when she hadn’t been looking. No wonder he looked like a beanpole, if this was how fast he was growing.
“Jeez, Sienna. Don’t do that here.”
“Oops. Sorry.” Sometimes, she forgot he was heading toward thirteen, and then the incipient teenager in him would make an appearance. “You look very handsome.”
His smile was shy and sweet, and she had the thought that her empathic baby brother was going to grow up into an incredible man. “Thanks. I went online shopping with Lara.” Spinning her around in a slick circle, he grinned at her startlement. “Drew taught me that.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
Toby’s smile shimmered into a deeper, more poignant expression. “It hurts my heart in the best way that you’re so happy.”
“Oh, Toby.” Always, she had loved the brother she hadn’t been permitted to know as a child, but never had she been able to protect him from the psychic price demanded by her gift. “You’re the best kid brother a girl could have.”
I love you, Sienna. He spun her out again, sending her skirts flying.
When he finally relinquished her, it was to another member of her family. Walker’s hold was as calm as Toby’s had been exuberant, his pale green eyes intent. “He’s your mate,” Walker said, the warning clear for all that it was made in a tempered voice, “but if he ever does anything to hurt you, you come to me.”
“Are all men so bloodthirsty?”
“Lara’s father showed me his tools—then we had an illuminating conversation about how easy it would be to cut a person in half using one of the lasers. It was very civilized.”
Sienna stifled a laugh at the idea of gentle Mack threatening Walker, and tipping back her head, looked into a face she’d never seen violent either in anger or in love. That meant nothing. She knew Walker would die for her without blinking, that he loved her so fiercely, some part of her had sensed it even in the darkest part of her Silence.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “For being my father.” In every way that mattered.
Walker’s expression altered only the minutest fraction, but she saw the storm of na**d emotion crash across the green before he stroked his hand over her hair and kissed her gently on the forehead. “You make me proud each and every day.”
Tears stung. Swallowing, she hid her face against the wide chest of the man who had always found a way to tell her that she mattered, that she wasn’t just an X but family.