“Hey.” Cradling her face in his hands, he rubbed his nose affectionately against her own. “Changelings don’t like the way Psy constantly mess with the DNA of their offspring, but even we make an exception for diseases that could harm a child’s welfare.” He continued before she could interrupt, his voice fierce. “As far as I’m concerned, your X-fire isn’t a disease. It’s a gift.” It had saved the pack, saved so many lives. “B—”
“Walker’s helix,” Sienna broke in, her skin flushed with the intensity of her emotions. “I know it keeps me stable, but there’s no predicting the result when the X-marker first goes active.” Tears glittered in the midnight of her eyes. “Our baby could burn up, and we wouldn’t be able to stop it.”
He cupped the back of her neck, squeezed gently. “Which is why I was going to say that in spite of the fact I see your ability as a gift, if you want to see a genetic specialist before we try for a child, I’ll be right there beside you.”
“Really?” Slender fingers on his jaw.
“Always,” he said, tucking her hair behind her ear, his Psy with her capacity to love with a passion as wild as the crimson and gold of her X-fire. “But I’m not budging on the hair.” He rubbed the ruby red strands between his fingertips.
No smile, fear lingering in the ebony shimmer of her eyes. “The other thing is,” she whispered, “I don’t know how pregnancy will impact my abilities. I know of no case where an X has even been pregnant, much less carried a child to term.” Her throat moved as she swallowed painfully. “The changes caused by pregnancy could destabilize me, kill our child, hurt the pack.”
“Ah, baby.” Stroking his hand around to cup her cheek, he ran his thumb over the delicate arch of her cheekbone, warmth cascading through his veins when she turned her face into the touch. “I won’t say that’s not a real worry, but what I will say is that you’re becoming stronger with each day that passes. Fuck, I’m proud of who you are, who you’re becoming.” His wolf strutted around the den with its chest puffed out. “I know when the time comes to make that choice, we’ll be ready.”
“I know the other mated couples don’t use anything to prevent conception because the birth rate for changelings is so low, but—”
He kissed the words off her lips, laving affection on her until the tension left her body. “Anything that eases your mind, I’m good with.” Changeling pairs rarely had more than one or two children, and it was highly unlikely Sienna would fall pregnant so soon after mating—but there was no reason to chance it with his mate’s life at stake. “I’m sure Lara will know the best option for Psy physiology.” The healer had been gathering medical knowledge about Psy since the family’s defection to SnowDancer.
“I know that,” Sienna said, a pert look to her that made him chuckle.
“Was I taking over?”
“Just a little bit.” Fingers weaving through his hair.
His wolf rubbed up against his skin, wanting that touch. Later, he promised.
“I spoke to Lara and got what I needed when I first became an adult,” Sienna told him, “I was so afraid about passing on the X mutation.” The mate bond vibrated with quiet passion. “I didn’t purposefully keep it a secret—it just never came up before.”
“I know.” Sienna’s honesty was an integral aspect of her nature. “It’s a good thing you took care of that or we’d probably be wrangling a litter in a year or two, rabble-rouser that you are.”
A playful thump against his chest. “I think that maybe, I might not be a bad mother,” she said with a shaky smile, “but I’m not ready yet.”
“Hey, I’m not sure I am either.” He might be wolf, might be alpha, but he was also a man who’d just found his mate after believing he’d never have that bond. “I want this time with you.” Curving his hand around her rib cage, he slanted his mouth over hers in a slow, petting kind of a kiss, licking out at her lower lip, nipping at her upper one.
“Hawke.” His name a caress, Sienna wrapped her arms around his neck and melted into the kiss. A far more pleasurable kind of tension rippled through her body, her eyes devoid of stars for a reason that had nothing to do with fear or worry when she broke the kiss to run her lips along his jaw.
He groaned, went to slide his hand under her shirt … but Sienna shifted without warning. Tumbling out of the car after shoving the door open, she shot him a look of pure challenge. “Twenty-minute head start. I get to our grotto before you. Winner does what she wants with the loser.”
His wolf jerked to attention. “Go.” There was nothing he liked better than playing with Sienna, especially when he had more than one new trick up his sleeve. Baring his lips in a feral grin, he waited exactly twenty minutes before taking off after her.
ADRIA WAKENED TO find herself wrapped in hot, muscled male flesh. Not for an instant did she wonder who it was that held her, the dark woodsmoke and fresh bite of Riaz’s scent intimately familiar. Sensing he hadn’t yet awakened, she remained motionless, the crispness of his chest hair against her palm an exquisite temptation, the thickness of his thigh shoved between her own—pressed against the part of her that was going damp with a slow, inexorable arousal though she tried to fight the response.
She hadn’t invited him into bed to demand sex, but there was no way he’d fail to sense her body’s response. His erection rubbed against her almost the instant the thought passed through her head, and then he was rolling her over onto her back, still sleepy-eyed, his hair tousled and unbearably sexy.