It must’ve been a difficult decision for those in charge of the squad, as according to the classified training file Silver had just sent Kaleb, quite aside from his lethal combat abilities, Vasquez possessed a critical skill: being able to organize at the minute level. If he now had control over Henry’s finances, that meant he’d foreseen the need for it, had ensured he’d have the necessary access.
Silver, he said after a quick telepathic knock, the reorganization of Henry’s finances. Where is the money going?
Unknown. Even our best people haven’t been able to track the funds. We can, however, confirm that the money isn’t going to the Caymans.
No, Kaleb thought, Vasquez was no rogue.
He was simply following orders to hide the existence of his master.
RIAZ HADN’T SEEN Adria since the waterfall, so when he ran into her on the outskirts of the Pack Circle a week later, they both froze. Her wariness was writ large across the clean lines of her face before she blinked and wiped it away.
Edgy about his inability to control his touch-hunger when it came to her, he’d done his best to stay the hell away. But now she stood in front of him, and though her presence was nothing simple, nothing easy, he found he couldn’t simply let her pass. “Are you helping with the preparations?” Lara and Walker’s mating ceremony wasn’t for another week, but everyone was already gearing up for it.
“Yes—my trainees volunteered to do the setup.” She twisted what looked like a piece of twine around her index finger, offered him a guarded smile. “Walker and Lara’s ceremony coming so soon after Hawke and Sienna’s is going to be great for the pack.”
She was, he realized, trying to make conversation—distant conversation. And he knew this proud, strong woman wanted to erase the fragile tie created between them by those heartrending moments by the waterfall. Reining back the dominance within him, a part of his nature that fought to crash against her cool facade until it cracked, he glanced around. “Looks like you need a hand with the tables.”
An intent look, the scent of her a lingering caress. “Are you volunteering?”
“I’m yours to command.” Even though it would’ve been far more sensible to walk away.
A hint of true warmth in the luminous blue-violet. “Come on then.” Picking up a hand-drawn plan, she said, “Lara wants the picnic tables set up on the edges of the dance area, except for this section where the band’s planning to set up.”
“Got it.” About to conscript three of the bigger boys from her crew, he wrenched himself back just before he would’ve spoken. These kids were Adria’s. As a lieutenant, he had to support, not undermine, her authority. “Who can I have?”
An inscrutable look before she put two fingers to her mouth and whistled. “Israel, Charlie, Vincent. You’re with Riaz.”
After he’d given the boys a quick tutorial, Riaz’s team began to snap and screw together the tables and benches. Since except for the occasional event, most wolves preferred to sit or sprawl on the ground, the pack put up and broke down their outdoor furniture as needed. It ensured the forest remained as uncluttered and as untouched as possible, and with the separate components taking up very little room when stacked, storage space wasn’t an issue.
From what he’d glimpsed of the plan, Walker and Lara—or if Riaz had to guess, Lara—had decided on a night picnic, followed by a jazz dance. Soft glowing lights in all the shades of the rainbow would ring the area, the festivities kicking off soon after sunset. The early start made sense, since Walker had a young daughter and was basically Toby’s dad as well.
“It’ll be beautiful,” Adria said to him as he wiped his forearm across his perspiration-damp forehead a couple of hours later. “Suit who Walker and Lara are as a couple.”
Riaz had sent the boys off a few minutes earlier, when Adria dismissed the rest of her crew, and was now completing the final table with her holding the boards in place. “The check marks on the plan,” he said, twisting a rivet into place. “I couldn’t figure out what they were.”
Adria’s sudden laugh was husky and uninhibited. “Giant butterflies—Marlee’s contribution to the decorations. Sienna and Brenna have been conscripted into the task force.”
Man and wolf both chuckled. “Walker Lauren is not exactly the butterfly type.” The lone wolf in Riaz had recognized the other man as dangerous from the first.
“He’s a good dad.” Adria consulted the plan, made him move the table a few feet to the left. “That’s it. Thanks.”
Glancing up at the orange glow of the early evening sky, he said, “I might jog down to the stream, take a dip.” He needed to chill the embers in his gut, a dark, hot flame.
Adria frowned. “I didn’t know there was one nearby.”
“It’s about a ten-minute jog.” He described the sector, but the lines between her eyebrows didn’t disappear. “Come with me,” he said, clenching his abdomen against the continuing impact of her presence. “It won’t take long.”
Her reawakened wariness betrayed itself in the finest flicker of tension across her lashes, but Adria was a SnowDancer soldier. She gave a small nod. “Let’s pack up everything here first.”
That done, Riaz led her into the trees and toward the secluded area where the hidden stream widened into a cold, clear pool half hidden by the gnarled roots of two ancient trees before snaking away and underground again. Though his wolf knew Adria wasn’t his mate and the craving confused it, it clawed at him, wanting to lick up the taste of her. As a result, his jaw was a painful line by the time they reached their destination.