“Yes.” Sienna showed no overt signs of it, but he knew she had to have paid a price for the cold fire that had saved so many SnowDancers. “Doesn’t matter, though—part of me still wants to protect her.” She had his respect, but that didn’t mean his normal instincts were dead.
“Me, too,” Drew admitted. “Don’t think that worries her—the girl’s tough enough to handle an alpha.”
Just like the woman in front of him, Riaz thought, was more than tough enough to handle anything he threw at her, the delicacy of her scent belying a steely core that had begun to fascinate his wolf.
“You two are as slow as old ladies,” Hawke said, having dropped back to join them.
Drew whistled. “Sounds like a challenge to me.”
“That it does.” Catching Drew’s eye, Riaz slammed into Hawke without warning, taking the alpha to the ground.
Drew had already pulled off Hawke’s boots, stripped the laces, and thrown everything in four different directions by the time the alpha managed to get past Riaz and to his feet. “Those are my favorite boots!”
Drew rubbed his hands. “Better find them then. Meanwhile, we’ll beat your ass to Riley’s.”
Hawke bared his teeth—and the race was on, the women and Riley joining in. Riaz’s wolf grinned as it ran, happy in the most uncomplicated sense. The trees whipped by at lightning speed, and they spilled into the clearing that fronted Riley’s home, a graceful stone and wood chalet set halfway between DarkRiver and SnowDancer territory, less than ten minutes later … to find Hawke and his boots waiting for them on the steps.
“Damn it.” Drew scowled, hands on his knees. “We need to cheat better next time!”
Hawke’s eyes went night-glow. “Touch my boots again and I’ll have Aisha broil you for lunch.”
Chest heaving, Riaz shook his head. “We should make him run one-legged.” The alpha had been fast as a boy, but now he was fast. “Maybe weigh him down with rocks.”
Hawke leaned back on the steps, resting on his elbows. “You’d still be eating my dust.”
“Oooh.” Drew shook his head. “That’s a declaration of war.”
“Boys!” Mercy stepped out of the house. “Be nice.” Her amused expression changed when it landed on Riley—who raced up the steps to claim a kiss, his hand large and gentle against her cheek.
Dorian and Ashaya arrived at almost the same instant, pulling up in a hover vehicle they parked at the edge of the clearing. Riaz knew the man was one of Mercy’s closest friends, as well as Judd’s training partner on occasion. It seemed a strange combination—the former Arrow and a man who’d fit right in on a surf beach—but among other things, Dorian was deadly accurate with a sniper rifle.
“Come on in.” Riley waved everyone into the house.
They entered en mass to find the air rife with mouthwatering smells.
“Yes.” Mercy fell back against Riley’s wide chest with a dramatic sigh, the back of her hand pressed to her forehead. “I slaved and slaved for you. I hope you appreciate it.”
That was when a male head sporting the same distinctive red hair as Mercy’s, popped out of the kitchen. “I see someone’s pants are on fire.”
“Shut up, Bas.” Mercy shooed away the tall man—who walked over to wrap his arm around her neck and tug her to his side in a scowling grip, as if she wasn’t a sentinel with her lieutenant mate standing right there.
“Never.” Elbowing the man to free herself, Mercy made the introductions. “Everyone, this is my brother, Bastien, otherwise known as a pain in the neck, and an excellent cook. Bas, these are wolves who will fall upon you and devour you if you so much as blink wrong.”
“I have wolf defurring tools, too,” Bastien muttered before jerking his head toward the kitchen. “Food’s ready. Me and my serving wench will bring it out.” He dragged Mercy off with a brotherly lack of concern for her insulted expression.
Riaz’s gaze connected with Adria’s laughing eyes, his own lips curving.
SENSING his mate’s approach half an hour after the rest of them had arrived at Riley’s, Hawke headed into the trees, squeezing Brenna into a hug when she appeared first. “Judd sprung you from your late shift, I see.” His wolf had a soft spot for this small woman who’d survived a monster and come out of it sane.
“Mariska said she’d cover.” An unexpected frown. “I wish she’d get out more. Next time, I’m bringing her.”
Aware the gifted senior tech was both extremely shy and a submissive, Hawke nodded. Submissives weren’t uniformly shy, not by a long shot, but when such a strong combination—as in Mariska’s case—happened, it tended to make them timid and introverted. The pack had to be careful those wolves didn’t get lost in the shuffle of their stronger, more dominant packmates. “Tell her we don’t bite.”
“I don’t lie to my friends.”
Hawke tugged on her ponytail for that smart-ass remark, just as Judd and Sienna appeared behind her. “How did you beat them down?”
Brenna gave him a look of pure, haughty affront. “I’m a wolf.” Walking over to her mate, she held out a hand. “I won. Pay up.”
“Tell me the shortcut,” Judd demanded.
Innocence in the fractured blue-brown eyes that spoke of Brenna’s unwavering strength. “What shortcut?” She batted her lashes … and shrieked as she was lifted into the air without warning. Shriek turning into delighted laughter after a second, she did a backward flip.