HAWKE SNAGGED SIENNA’S hand as they passed in the corridor, dragging her into a corner hidden from the eyes of curious packmates. “Where are you going in such a rush?” His wolf was delighted to see her, rolling around in the autumn and spice of her scent like a pup. It made him remember how he’d awakened her this morning, how he’d licked up that delectable scent in a much more intimate fashion.
Sienna’s voice was low and caressing when she replied, the fingers of her free hand spread over his heart. “I’m meeting some of the leopards for lunch.”
“Kit?” A feral growl.
“Yes.” Her scowl matched the straight line of her mouth. “He’s my friend.”
The boy had also kissed her, dared to put his hands and his scent on her. “No.” It was an order from the wolf, a wolf used to obedience.
But Sienna Lauren Snow had never once bowed down to him. Tugging her hand from his hold, she rose on tiptoe to thrust both into his hair. “Yes.”
His stare was met by her own, his dominance countered by the steely will of a cardinal X. “I think it’s time I bit you again,” he muttered, rubbing his finger over the curve where her neck met her shoulder, his favorite spot to mark her.
The threat made Sienna pull playfully at his hair. “You did that this morning. It’s my turn.” A quick nip of his lower lip. “Do you want to join us?”
Hell, yes—because while he might not be able to intimidate his smart, sexy, dangerous mate, he damn well could and would warn off the baby cat alpha she called friend. But—“I have to meet with the maternal females.” Wincing at the reminder, he bent his head so she could pet him more effectively. “They’re on the warpath about some of the juveniles.”
Laughing, Sienna ran her nails over his scalp, the caress making his wolf arch its neck in wild pleasure. “You sound scared.”
“Any man not scared of a bunch of maternals ganging up on him needs his head examined.” Hackles still raised by the thought of her lunch date, he straightened to his full height, his mate’s hands sliding to his shoulders. “If that cub puts his hands anywhere near you, I don’t care if he is your friend, I’ll rip his arms off.” He wasn’t joking—this soon after mating, the wolf was possessive beyond belief, the mating bond raw.
Sienna’s smile faded. “You know I would never—”
“Of course I know that,” he snapped, annoyed that she’d even contemplate he didn’t trust her. “That’s not the point.”
A raised eyebrow, tiny nails digging into his shoulders. “What is the point then, Your Alphaness?”
He snapped his teeth at her for that smart-ass remark. “The point is you’re mine. End of story. No touching by any other male.” He paused, considered. “Special family-affection dispensation for those related to you.”
When she didn’t respond, he leaned in close and whispered, “I did warn you,” his lips brushing her ear. He’d told her exactly what it would mean to be his, how hard he’d be to handle, how totally he’d claim her. And still she’d come to him, but he wondered if she was only now understanding the true depth of what he’d demand from her. The thought that he might be distressing his mate by being who he was made both parts of him go motionless, watchful.
Shivering in response to his touch, she pushed him back until she could meet his gaze. Her glare was dark … but then she laughed, the sound of it wild lightning along his fur. “I guess,” she said, the stars vibrant in her eyes, “that serves me right for mating with an alpha.”
His wolf relaxed. His mate had no fear in her scent, in her teasing smile, the bond between them vivid with the red and amber fire that was her brand. Running his hands down the sleek curve of her back, he nuzzled at her. “I may get a little more … flexible after we’ve been mated for a while.”
“No you won’t.” Sienna pressed a hot, wet kiss to his jaw, her fingers stroking the heat of his nape. “But I love you exactly as you are—and I know how to stand my ground. So do your worst, beautiful man.”
He was alternately proud of her strength and aggravated by her intransigence. A familiar occurrence when it came to this woman. Sienna might be younger and physically smaller, but she’d go toe-to-toe with him without a blink. The thought made him grin, every part of him aware they’d likely be butting heads for the next century. He couldn’t wait.
“So,” she said, tracing his smile with a fingertip, “what are the maternals mad about?”
He was used to talking to his lieutenants and senior packmates about pack business, but it felt utterly different talking with Sienna about the same thing. Because she was someone of his own, someone who listened not because it was SnowDancer business, but simply because she liked being with him, liked knowing things that mattered to him.
“The word ‘hormones’ was used,” he told her, already feeling the dull pulse of a throbbing headache. “Some of the older juveniles are apparently getting too frisky. I’ll probably end up dragging the boys off to remind them to keep their paws to themselves.” Groaning, he bent so his forehead touched hers. “And then I’ll have to do the same thing with the girls.” Normally, Indigo and Riley would take care of the situation, but sometimes only an alpha’s voice would get the message across.
“But skin privileges are an accepted part of pack life.” Sienna’s breath kissed his lips. “I know my friends had relationships when they were younger.”