Pierce was the lone wolf who had taken over Riaz’s duties in Europe. “Tell him to keep his nose clean or I’m putting him on rotation to Siberia.” Unlike Riaz, Pierce was a flirt—his face had been introduced to more than one jealous male fist.
“Then we’d have WhiteSteppe to deal with,” Riaz said with a grin, naming the sole wolf pack in Siberia. “They’d probably declare war on us after he seduced away some lieutenant’s girlfriend.”
Laughing as the other man left, Hawke nodded at the teenager who’d just come to the doorway. “Here to grab the dishes, Silvia?”
A shy smile. “Yes.” She quickly gathered them up, no sign remaining of the injuries she’d suffered in a severe fall.
“How are your sessions with Ava going?” he asked, knowing the maternal female had taken Silvia under her wing.
“Everything she teaches me,” the teenager said, “it fits. Like I already kind of knew it. I wanted to ask if I could maybe have more time with her?”
Shyness or not, there was strength there, Hawke thought, warm and strong. “Mention it to Nell,” he said. “She’ll work something out.”
As Silvia left with another small smile, Hawke recalled the note Nell had sent him this morning. Picking it up from his desk, he considered how to deal with that particular situation. He should make Riley handle it—it was his damn fault for putting ideas in the juveniles’ hormone-drenched heads. The thought cheered him up for a second, but he knew this was a task for an alpha, so he sucked it up and made the call. “You at the cabin?”
“Yes,” Lucas answered. “Bring some of Aisha’s chocolate pie for Sascha if you’re heading this way. As far as my chocoholic is concerned, it’s ambrosia.”
“Anything for Sascha darling.”
“That doesn’t work now that you’re mated.”
“Damn.” Hawke hung up, then called Aisha to arrange the pie—the cook adored how Sascha craved her baking, so it was a mutual love affair. Poking his head into Riley’s office after picking it up, he told the lieutenant where he’d be if needed. “Do you know where Sienna is?” He could sense her through the mating bond, track her if need be, but he’d made a promise to himself that he would only ever do that in an emergency. Never did he want his mate to resent the bond between them, to see it as a leash or a cage.
Riley brought up the roster. “She’s got study time, so I’m guessing the library.”
“Thanks.” Even with a couple of interruptions by packmates wanting to talk, it didn’t take long for Hawke to walk over to the den library, where he found his mate with her head downbent over a piece of paper on which she was writing formulas that made his brain ache. Physics and math texts lay open on several large datapads around her, and the small computer she’d signed out was running what appeared to be a complex equation.
Putting his hands on either side of her desk from behind her, he nuzzled a kiss to the sensitive spot below her ear, the autumn and spice of her calming and invigorating his wolf at the same time. “Ms. Sienna Lauren Snow,” he teased, “what’re you doing working on something as archaic as paper?”
A HINT OF color on her cheekbones. “It helps me think.”
Chuckling, he made a mental note to buy her a ream he’d seen at the little stationery store next to the shop that made the mechanical toys he collected—if he recalled right, the paper was specially formatted for the type of calculations she was doing. “How much do you have left to do today?” He knew she was working on an extra-credit project to gain early entry into an advanced course on thermodynamics—the behavior of energy.
Sienna wasn’t certain the information would help her understand the cold fire that lived within her, but it couldn’t do any harm. Knowledge, he thought, gave her a control that had so often been stolen from her life.
“A couple of hours,” she now said, tipping up her head, her hair catching on his shirt, “but I can do that tonight. I could do with a break.”
He tapped her nose with his finger. “Come on then. I’m going to see Lucas—you can visit with Sascha.”
“Oh, great! I haven’t cuddled Naya since several days before the mating ceremony.” She quickly stacked the datapads neatly in her cubicle, then gathered up and put her computer and notes away in the attached locker. “I’m ready.”
They were halfway to the garage when Toby ran up to them, a small backpack slung over one lanky shoulder. “Are you going out? Can I come?” he asked, pushing back hair that wasn’t anywhere close to the cardinal night-sky of his eyes. Habit, Hawke thought, wolf grinning at the memory of the haircut he’d given the boy.
Sienna reached out to straighten his collar. “You complete your kitchen chores?”
“He did,” Hawke answered to Toby’s grin. “Brought me some food not long ago.”
“I even finished my homework,” the boy added, and got the permission he’d requested to join them. Smiling, he fell in beside them. “We got out of school early today, and we don’t have to start till after ten tomorrow because we have a night class.” Toby all but vibrated with excitement. “Elias and Sam are going to teach us how to track in the dark. It’s going to be real late, when everything’s quiet.”
Hawke remembered those classes from his own youth, the memories poignant … because his lieutenant father had been one of the teachers. Looking at Toby’s eager face, it seemed impossible that he’d ever been that young, but his wolf vividly recalled stalking through the nocturnal whispering of the forest, trying to be quiet, so quiet. It made him proud that in spite of everything that had happened, SnowDancer’s young continued to have the chance to be children, to learn and play and grow.