Weighing all the factors, Kaleb gave a small nod. “Even the most important aren’t immune to accidents,” he said, taking in the bruises on the body of the middle-aged man. “However, I want no unanswered questions. Do a secondary scan of the premises, ensure your first impression was correct.”
Aden said nothing, but Kaleb knew it would be done. He and the Arrows had come to an understanding—but he didn’t make the mistake of thinking he had their total support. The most lethal fighting force in the Net was still making up its mind about him. What the Arrows didn’t realize was that Kaleb was evaluating them, too, the purpose of that evaluation nothing Aden and his men would ever guess.
RIAZ PRESSED HIS forehead to the wall of the shower and let the water pound over him, washing away the sweat and grass stains, but doing nothing to erase the memories of the passion that had swept over him not long ago … and of the wild, sensual woman whose lush mouth was quickly becoming a private addiction.
Shame, anger, desire, they all vied for prime position within the rigid tension that was his body. The idea of being with anyone else once he’d found the woman meant to be his mate, was so anathema to everything he had ever believed, that both man and wolf were bewildered, lost. But that wasn’t the only thing that had him feeling like shit—regardless of what Adria had said about being with him every step of the way during their first primal coupling, he wasn’t a man who mistreated women. It continued to shame him that he’d been so inconsiderate with her.
A snapshot of memory, Adria’s hair tumbling around him in a silken waterfall as she leaned down to suck his lower lip into her mouth, releasing it in a delicious tease of a bite. “No more guilt, Riaz.” A husky order. “I needed that as much as you did. We can go slow this time.”
Wrenching the water to ice-cold when his c**k surged at the mental replay of exactly how slow they’d taken it, he grit his teeth until his wolf cried foul. Since he was about to turn blue, he got out, dried off, and pulled on a faded pair of jeans, the threads barely holding together above the left knee. A white T-shirt, socks, and boots and he was done. He ran a comb through his hair, rubbed his jaw. It scraped, the bristles hard. Since it was far too late for Adria’s delicate skin, he shrugged and left it.
Heading to the small office he’d been assigned, he began to go through some paperwork Pierce had asked him to look over, figuring he’d grab dinner from the kitchen later, as it was only seven thirty.
However, Riley popped in his head a minute later. “Dinner at my place tonight.”
Riaz had returned to the den because he’d known he needed his pack. But after what had just happened, the painful decision he’d made to forget Lisette and continue his strange, sensual friendship with Adria, his wolf raised its hackles, wanting to be left alone. “Thanks, but I have a lot of work.” It wasn’t a lie—he was the lieutenant in charge of SnowDancer’s international business interests, Pierce and the others under his direct command.
Riley leaned against the doorjamb, arms folded. “If you wanted to isolate yourself,” he said, “you wouldn’t have come home.”
“Don’t push me, Riley.” He could feel his claws pricking the insides of his skin.
“It’s what friends do. We’re running down in ten minutes.”
Realizing he’d only end up brooding if he remained behind, Riaz gave in and joined Riley, Drew, and Indigo outside the den, the sky a soft dark not yet dotted with stars. “We waiting on someone?”
Riley glanced over his shoulder. “Here they come.”
Riaz didn’t need to turn to know that Adria was part of the group. But he did so anyway, saw that Hawke walked beside her. The alpha was laughing at something Adria had said, her face turned toward his, her damp hair caught in a loose braid.
That laughter faded when her eyes fell on him, but her smile didn’t.
Something hard and jagged in him eased a fraction, his wolf settling.
And then they were moving, the pace comfortable, conversation being exchanged as they flowed through the trees. Adria and Indigo ran ahead, following Riley and Hawke, while Drew had ended up beside Riaz. It would’ve been an unexpected pairing a few months ago, but he and Drew had made their peace, the other man so settled in his mating with Indigo that nothing could shake him.
A burst of feminine laughter, husky and generous.
Compelled by a woman who was becoming important to him in a way that threatened to undermine the foundations of his world, he wondered what Adria and Indigo were talking about that had them so amused, decided it was probably one of those things a man didn’t want to know.
“Sienna’s missing,” he said to Drew. “Unusual.” Newly mated men liked to be near their women as a rule—and Hawke was alpha, with the concurrent primal drives. His mate had also been in brutal danger not long ago. Continued to be, in many ways.
“She’s training with Judd.” Drew must’ve done something via the mating bond, because Indigo gave him an arch look over her shoulder before returning to her conversation with Adria. Grinning, Drew added, “They’ll come down together after.”
It wasn’t, Riaz knew, because Judd was a lieutenant that Hawke trusted the other man with his mate when the possessive urges of mating had to be running rampant through his body. “She’s so young.” It worried him at times, that Sienna Lauren wouldn’t be able to bear the weight placed on her shoulders.
“You saw what she did.” A solemn response. “That kind of power ages a person.”