Hawke’s wolf was startled out of its anger into a chuckle. “I hope Mercy lives up to her name.”
Sienna laughed, no fear in her, only a strength that made his wolf want to throw back its head and sing in joy that she was his.
RIAZ LINKED IN with Kenji in the conference room usually used for SnowDancer lieutenant meetings. The other man’s hair was now a shocking pink with vivid blue streaks. It was a welcome distraction. “You look like f**king Japanese cotton candy.”
“How the hell can cotton candy look Japanese?” Kenji shot back before picking up a datapad. “Any new thoughts on the outline agreement since our last call?”
Knowing they were short on time, Riaz decided to update Kenji on the situation with Sienna later, and brought up the contract on a split screen that would be visible on Kenji’s end, too. “Yeah, one.” He quickly set it out. “You see any problems?”
Kenji shook his head. “No, that’s a good amendment.” He highlighted a section in the agreement they’d discussed earlier. “I’m still not sure about this.”
“They won’t consent to a complete strikeout, and it’s not a deal breaker for us,” Riaz said, “but let’s bring it up and see what concessions we can squeeze out of them.”
“Works for me.”
One of the other comm screens in the room chimed a five-second countdown as Kenji finished speaking. Clearing away the contract, Riaz was ready when the third screen filled with Emani Berg’s elegant face. Born in a small village along one of Norway’s remote fjords, Emani had skin of a deep, silken shade of brown, and eyes of midnight. Her black hair had been in curls the last time Riaz had seen her—in Venice—but fell sleek and straight around her face today … complete with a single streak of shocking pink.
Amused, Riaz said, “Good call.”
Emani’s nod was regal. “Mr. Tanaka does keep things interesting.”
Kenji looked disgruntled. “How did you guess?”
“I have someone in your region.” Not even a hint of a smile, though Riaz knew her well enough to know she was tweaking Kenji’s nose. The woman was a killer poker player.
“Fleeced any innocents lately?” Riaz asked, recalling the soccer tickets she’d won off him and Pierce, the same serene expression on her face the entire game.
“I’m planning to do so in the next few minutes,” was the smooth response.
Laughing, he lifted the printout of the outline. “This,” he said, “is fine as far as the basics go, but we’d like to make some changes with regard to the details.”
Her surprise was concealed with such flawless ease, Riaz would’ve missed it if he hadn’t been watching for just such a reaction. “I’m listening,” she said in that calm, temperate voice.
Riaz nodded at Kenji, who began to go through SnowDancer’s list of requested amendments. Emani frowned at some of their stipulations but didn’t voice outright disagreement. Once Kenji had completed the run-through, she looked up from the copy on which she’d been making notes. “I’ll need to run this past our Conclave, but while we’ll certainly be coming back to you with our own changes, I don’t foresee any major problems.”
“Good.” Riaz folded his arms. “BlackSea realizes we’re already in alliance with DarkRiver and WindHaven?”
“Of course. We understand that should we agree to a full alliance, BlackSea would be expected to come to their aid when necessary.”
“And vice versa,” Kenji pointed out.
Emani gave a graceful nod. “As DarkRiver and WindHaven would effectively become our allies should SnowDancer and BlackSea come to an understanding, our Conclave would like to have a comm conversation with both Lucas Hunter, and Adam Garrett of the WindHaven falcons before we take the final step into an alliance.”
“I don’t see a problem with that,” Riaz said. “We also have a request: a face-to-face meeting between Hawke and Miane.” He didn’t mention the fact the request was nonnegotiable, wanting to gauge how well BlackSea was willing to play with SnowDancer.
“I see.” A small pause.
He raised an eyebrow. “Is that a no?”
“On the contrary. We expected the request.”
“We’ll work with you to set it up then.” There was no use waiting, not when the entire alliance might hang on the reaction the two alphas had to one another.
“Very well.” Emani’s image swayed a little, then righted.
“Nothing unusual.” Tapping at the comm controls on her desk, she looked at him and Kenji in turn. “While we are not yet allied, BlackSea would like to pass on some information in the spirit of cooperation.”
Not waiting for a verbal response, Emani split her screen. “Two days ago, three of our members found a ship dead in the water off the coast of Sardinia—well outside their territorial waters, however.” The empty half of the screen filled with the image of a sleek yacht that had to be at least one hundred feet long. Painted a gleaming black, it was shaped like a bullet, the windows tinted. “As per our own internal rules, they shifted into human form to render assistance.”
Riaz had no trouble believing her explanation. More than one stranded sailor or shipwrecked crew had been saved by those from BlackSea—the sea changelings might have been notoriously secretive, but they didn’t hesitate when it came to a question of saving lives.
“All seven of the people on board were Psy,” she continued. “They’d been dead long enough to cool, but rigor had not yet begun to set in.” Seven crime scene images appeared onscreen, replacing that of the yacht. “As you can see, they appear to have been executed.”