“I’ll talk to Judd.” Shutting down the map, Riley retrieved the data crystal. “He might be able to get us more concrete data.”
“I’ll tap my contacts in Europe,” Riaz added, knowing Ming used an estate in the Champagne region of France as his home base. “See what I can dig up.” Glimpsing the look in his alpha’s eyes, he said, “No one will get near her, Hawke. We won’t let them.”
Hawke knew his people would bleed to protect his mate, but he didn’t want Sienna to need that protection, to be forced to live in another cage. “We make sure she’s safe on our land,” he said, his anger an icy blade. “This needs to be her home, where she can walk without fear.”
Riaz’s phone beeped a sharp alarm into the silence. “Damn,” the lieutenant said, glancing at the screen after switching it off. “I have the comm-conference with Kenji and the BlackSea rep.”
“Go,” Hawke said, thinking past the fury that clawed through his veins. “That’s your priority.” BlackSea brought far too much to the table to disregard. “I need to talk to Sienna anyway.” Any defensive response SnowDancer formulated would need her input—she knew the strengths and weaknesses of her enemies better than anyone.
Riley shot him an openly concerned look after Riaz left. “It might go better coming from me.”
Hawke didn’t take it wrong—Riley wasn’t only his senior lieutenant, he was also Hawke’s friend, knew exactly how this might make him behave. “No, I’ve got it.”
HAVING tracked Sienna to the nursery where she was doing a volunteer shift, Hawke watched his mate talking with a two-year-old. Thank God she was inside today—he didn’t know if he’d have been able to handle his primal response if she’d been out in the thick green of the forests.
He knew she’d sensed his presence, but she didn’t break off what appeared to be a serious discussion. Nodding solemnly at something the little boy said, she helped him finish building his wooden-block masterpiece before rising to her feet and walking over to Tarah.
A short conversation later, she headed toward him. “I asked to leave early,” she said, and he knew he’d failed in his attempt to shield the raw emotions that had his wolf pacing, claws out.
“Walk with me.”
Not asking questions, she accompanied him down the corridors and to an exit from the den that led into a less utilized section of the White Zone. Where he leaned against the moss-covered wall of the den and gathered her into his arms, just held her for a long, long time.
Sienna was intensity and fire and energy, but today, she stood quiet, letting him take what he needed, his mate who knew him better than he knew himself.
When he drew back at last and told her what Riaz had discovered, the cardinal starlight of her gaze turned to endless midnight. “It was predictable,” she said, no shock in her, just an anger as deep as his own. “No one likes a rogue X.”
A growl rumbled up from his chest. “I will not allow anyone to hunt you.” It was a vow from the heart of the wolf. “Brenna and Mariska are already working on further fine-tuning our surveillance systems, so we have a better chance of detecting these incursions.” The fact that it was near impossible to stop teleport-capable Tks from going anywhere they wanted meant nothing—no one in SnowDancer was planning to make it easy for those stalking Sienna.
His mate placed her right hand against his chest. “I’ll speak with them,” she said, “let them know a few elements they can factor into their calculations. Judd will probably be able to provide more guidance.”
At times, he forgot how Sienna had been brought up, the inhumanity of her childhood. Then she showed this depth of strength, keeping a steely calm through an ugliness that would’ve shoved many back into the darkness, and he remembered that his young mate had lived a lifetime in nineteen years. “Good,” he said, his pride in her a blinding fire. “You also need to talk to Riley about your watch rotations.”
A guarded alertness. “Why?”
“So he can make sure your shifts never fall into any kind of a pattern, timing or location wise. We don’t want those watching being able to guess with any hope of accuracy where you’ll be.”
Her shoulders lost the fine tension that had flowed into her with his earlier words. “Yes, that’s an excellent precaution.”
Cradling her face with one hand, he said, “I won’t ever clip your wings, baby.” Regardless of how much he hated the fact that she was in danger—because to do so would be to put her back in that cage, and his mate had spent more than enough time locked in the dark.
“I know you want to protect me,” she whispered, long, slender fingers spreading over his heart. “I can feel your need in every pulse of your blood.”
“I can’t promise that I won’t check up on you every so often during your shifts,” Hawke admitted, because it would’ve been a lie of monumental proportions to do otherwise, “but every part of me understands who you are.” Not simply his mate, but a dangerous, beautiful woman with her own dreams and desires.
It would’ve been easier if she’d been someone else, a woman who followed his every dictate and who never put herself in harm’s way. But he didn’t want easier, didn’t want anyone else. He wanted Sienna. Only Sienna.
She turned her face into his hand. “All right.” A simple acceptance that said she knew, understood … followed by an unexpected smile full of mischief. “Scuttlebutt is, Riley’s been running into Mercy ‘accidentally’ during her shifts since they found out about the pregnancy.”