Adria opened her eyes. “You didn’t ask?”
“No.” His task had been to watch, to learn, to make contacts. While SnowDancer’s relationship with the Alliance had thawed enough that the pack was willing to do some business with the group that represented a vast network of human enterprises, neither party was anywhere close to ready to share secrets.
“If she runs their comm team, she must be intelligent.”
“No doubt,” he said, mind filling with echoes of the conversations they’d had while he fought his most primal instincts to steal what time he could with her. “But the first thing I noticed about her was her laugh.” Gentle and warm and so alive. “My wolf wanted to roll around in it.”
He’d never forget walking into the ball in Venice, the sight of her a punch to the solar plexus, the thick mass of her shoulder-length hair shining in the light, such a pure gold it hurt. “She’s tiny, five feet one maybe, but you don’t notice that when you first meet her.” All he’d noticed was the feminine strength of her.
“I met with her a number of times—the company she heads produces certain comm technology that could be useful to SnowDancer.” Alone in an office with her, he’d wanted to lunge across the desk separating them, nuzzle his face into her neck, bite her, mark her. “She felt something, too. I could sense it. It rattled her.” Because Lisette was a faithful, loving wife. “I knew she’d hate herself if she ever betrayed Emil.”
“She sounds like someone I’d like.”
Thinking of the strong, compassionate woman Adria called sister, he said, “Yes, I think you would.” Lisette and Tarah had the same gentle steel to them, the same inviting openness of spirit.
Realizing he was completely curled around her, the arm he’d placed under her head bent to wrap over her upper chest, he played her braid through his fingers. “Do you have to go anywhere this morning?” It was seven thirty, the den’s corridors certain to be filled with packmates starting their day.
“No.” Her lashes closed, throwing charcoal shadows onto her cheekbones.
Exhaling quietly, he closed his own eyes and slept with her, skin to skin, his wolf finding unexpected peace in the nearness of a packmate who didn’t judge, didn’t ask things from him he couldn’t give, and who shared her body with a rare kindness of spirit. Adria Morgan was a woman he would never forget, no matter if their liaison lasted a week or a year.
HAWKE glanced at Sienna. She’d been pensive since they’d left the home of Mercy’s parents ten minutes earlier—where Mercy and Riley had broken the news of Mercy’s pregnancy to their respective alphas, though both Hawke and Lucas had known the instant they got within ten feet of the redhead. It was funny how that worked—the previous night, they’d had no clue, but now that Riley knew, it was as if Mercy’s leopard had decided it was okay to allow others in on the secret.
Hawke and Lucas’s unhidden glee at this most primal seal on the DarkRiver-SnowDancer alliance had garnered them a snarl, though everyone was too goofy with happiness to work up any kind of a good mad. However, right that second, his mind wasn’t on the news that had delighted his wolf enough to put it in harmony with the leopard alpha.
“Hey,” he said, switching the car into hover mode to ensure he didn’t crush any of the tiny forest plants in this area. “Are you pining for your country music?” She’d forgotten her portable music player, which she usually connected to the onboard stereo. “Cruel and unusual punishment, that stuff.”
“You liked the one we slow danced to last night.”
“I tolerated it.” The truth was, when they danced, he didn’t hear anything but the whisper of her breath, the beat of her heart, the low murmur of her voice. “Talk to me, baby.” It sounded like an order, and yeah, it kind of was.
A narrow-eyed glance aimed his way. “I should refuse on principle.”
“What if I say please?”
Sienna’s laugh was soft, intimate, that of a woman who knew him, accepted him. She never let it slide when she thought he was pulling shit, but she didn’t bust his ass for acting who he was—an alpha wolf. “I was thinking,” she said, her laughter fading, “about children. We’ve never talked about it.”
It was the last thing he’d expected her to say. “You want babies?”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sienna sink her teeth into her lower lip. “I didn’t really consider it before. Because…”
“I know.” His hands tightened on the manual steering wheel at the reminder that she’d lived her life believing she’d die before she ever had a chance to live.
“I’m still scared.” A quiet confession.
Wolf sensing her need, he found a clearing and pulled into it, setting the car down so he could turn, brace his arm along the back of her seat. It wasn’t enough, not for either part of him. Shoving back his seat, he slid her across and into his lap. She came without the least protest, a silent indication of just how troubled she was feeling.
“We have years,” he said. “There’s no rush.”
She sat up so she could look into his face. “It’s not that.”
“Talk to me.”
“It’s a genetic mutation, the X-marker, appearing randomly in the population,” she said, a quiet urgency in her every word, “but there is a very high probability I’ll pass it on to any child I conceive, and I won’t do that, Hawke. I won’t.”