“I warned them they’d be on their own tonight … last night now.” The friends she’d made were friends she intended to keep for life—but the night had been hers and Hawke’s. “I waited so long for this moment,” she whispered, touching her fingers to his jaw, the stubble rough against her fingertips. “Sometimes, I think I’m dreaming and I’m so scared I’ll wake up.”
Hawke didn’t try to talk away her fears—he understood the life she’d lived, this wolf who had never known the PsyNet, and yet who knew her. He understood that some nightmares couldn’t be overcome by logic or reason. Only time had that power. Her fear of losing him, as she’d lost her kind, gifted mother, as she’d lost her brother and the rest of her family for so long, was a darkling thought that had made her gasp awake more than once, her heart pounding as if she’d been racing desperately toward him.
Then she’d feel her wolf strong and warm beside her, or open her psychic eye to the wild silver-blue and flame-hued passion of their bond, and the terror would abate. One day, she thought, it would no longer return, but until then, her wolf would walk beside her into the darklands. “I wanted my mother at our ceremony,” she confessed, eyes burning.
Indigo and Tarah had done their best, been there for her every step of the way, but it wasn’t the same. “I don’t even have anything of hers to hold on to.” It had all been destroyed after her mother’s suicide, while Sienna had been trapped in a psychic prison with a monster named Ming LeBon.
“This beautiful hair,” Hawke said, his chest rumbling under her palm. “Judd once told me it reminded him of his sister.” He played his fingers along the strands. “You are a piece of her, you and Toby.”
“That’s nice,” she said, hiding the wonderful thought away in the secret place inside her mind where she’d kept everything that mattered to her for so long.
Judd, having learned the skill from Walker, had shown her how to build the impregnable telepathic vault when he’d grown old and experienced enough to teleport to her without alerting Ming. Though she no longer needed the vault, she liked having her most precious memories in one place.
“Toby has her hair, too,” she said. “He doesn’t otherwise look like her”—as he grew, her brother’s features had begun to lean more toward the harder angles of Walker’s face—“but sometimes I see her in his smile.”
“That’s a gift.”
“Yes.” Stroking his chest, she said, “You missed your parents, too, didn’t you?”
“My father would’ve been so proud to see how the pack reacted to us,” he said in answer, a poignant smile on his lips, “and my mother, she’d have been sitting in a corner, sketching as fast as her hand could move.”
Images formed in Sienna’s mind, created from the photos Hawke had shared with her. Of a tall man with golden hair, eyes of blue a shade darker than his son’s, and a white-blonde woman, her bones fine, her skin porcelain. The snapshots of his mother, Aren, were lit with laughter, while her mate, Tristan, had been more guarded, his gaze piercing … except in the few precious photos Hawke had of the two of them together. There, it was clear who held Tristan’s heart, nothing guarded or remote about the intensity of his love.
“Psy don’t give credence to the idea of an afterlife,” she said, trailing her fingers over the hard ridges of his abdomen, “but I’d like to believe that last night, all the people we miss were there dancing alongside us.”
Hawke’s hand stroked under her hair to settle on her nape. “Yes.”
They were quiet for a long time, happy to simply be together. Breathing in the hot, wild scent that was Hawke, she felt a sense of wonder bloom deep within.
“What’s got you smiling?” her mate asked in a slumberous voice, though she lay with her cheek on his chest, her face hidden from view.
“No one who saw us interacting before we mated,” she said, pushing up so she could look down into curious wolf eyes, her hair pooling on his chest, “would ever believe we could be so peaceful together.” She’d been half afraid they would clash the entire time, because that was all they’d done for years. What she hadn’t understood until afterward was that the passionate need she and Hawke had fought for so long would become a molten river. Connecting them. Making them whole.
Even in this peace, the embers glowed. Always would.
Hawke chuckled. “I would’ve recommended a good shrink if someone had suggested it to me six months ago.”
Laughing, she braced herself on one arm and began to play with his hair, petting him until his eyes closed. He was still awake, his fingers brushing lightly against her back, but he was a lazy wolf now, contented and sleepy. Yawning, she snuggled down against his body and let the rhythm of his heartbeat lull her into a sleep devoid of fear … and filled with dreams of an alpha wolf who ran beside her as she explored the mysteries of a night-dark forest.
RIAZ watched the cold dawn from his position seated against a large ponderosa pine on the edge of a mountain lake rippling with gossamer whispers of wind. The mating celebration had finally wound down about forty-five minutes ago, every one of the lieutenants remaining till the very end.
The out-of-towners had slipped away as stealthily as they’d arrived, while those who called den territory home had broken off to head to bed, or to otherwise relax after the night’s festivities. The most interesting departure had been Jem and Kenji’s—they’d left together, and Kenji had a bruise on his cheek he refused to explain.