Tangle of Need

By: Nalini Singh

Indigo’s laugh was affectionate. “That’s fairly normal when a female wolf is as on edge as you’ve been.” A playful waggle of her eyebrows. “Long time?”

“A year,” she said and knew exactly when Indigo understood the ramifications of her statement, because she seemed to stop breathing for a second.

“So, when you and Martin came to the dinner to meet Drew…”

“I’d ended it months earlier.” The flash of hurt in Indigo’s eyes had her nudging the other woman’s shoulder in a silent apology. “I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone—needed to get my head on straight.” When Indigo squeezed her hand, she continued. “I’m not proud to admit it, but I used him when I ‘gave in’ to his persistent efforts to win me back and asked him to come along that night.”

It hadn’t taken Martin long to realize the invitation didn’t equal one to her bed or to her life, and he’d been in an ugly temper by the time they’d arrived. Feeling guilty for having consciously misled the man who had once walked by her side, she’d tried to reach out, pacify him.

His response had, for a single painful second, returned her to the ruins of their relationship, before it hardened her resolve. “I thought you were making a horrible mistake.” The realization that Indigo was seeing a man whose dominance didn’t match Indigo’s own, had chilled her blood.

“And you wanted me confronted with the results.”

“I’m so sorry.” It had to be said, because Drew was nothing, nothing like Martin, his adoration of his “Indy’s” strength open.

“I understand.” Indigo’s response was fierce. “You won’t have any of those problems with Riaz. He’s strong enough not to be scared of your hunger, and”—a smile that lit up her eyes—“he’s got enough wildness in him to lead you astray.”

Most lone wolves did. As a young woman, Adria had always steered clear of them, aware that while such a male might make love to her with primal intensity, he was as likely to disappear into the mountains come morning. She’d always known she needed someone more stable, more rooted. But things had changed. She had changed. “You’re not saying something.” Adria knew Indigo too well not to have caught the subtle hesitation.

The other woman took a long time to reply, her expression troubled. “He told me something in confidence, and I can’t break that promise,” she said at last. “But Adria, you need to know … any relationship with him, even more than with another lone wolf, is unlikely to ever turn permanent.”

The fact that Indigo hadn’t flat out warned Adria off, told her it wasn’t a case of Riaz already being involved with someone else. Which either meant he played the field—and nothing she’d heard indicated that—or he wanted someone he couldn’t have. Though Indigo couldn’t know it, that realization eased the cold knot inside Adria, allowed her to breathe, come to a decision.

“I need to talk to him.” Wolf and woman in agreement, she rose to her feet. “We left things in a bad place.” No matter what happened, she didn’t want this to affect their working relationship, and by extension, the pack.

Waiting until she’d redone her braid, Indigo walked out with her. “Are you enjoying being back in the den?” she asked, reaching back to tighten her own ponytail.

“So much.” Adria narrowed her eyes at Tai when the young soldier with uptilted green eyes and wide shoulders walked down the corridor.

“God hates me,” she heard him mutter. “Now there are two of them.”

Neither she nor Indigo said anything until he was out of earshot. Then Indigo’s lips twitched. “Poor baby.” Affection laced the words.

“He’s solid?”

“Loves Evie.” Wolfish amusement danced in her eyes. “Doesn’t mean we don’t get to mess with him.”

Since Evie was gentle and in no way dominant or aggressive, Adria agreed. “Don’t get me wrong,” she said, returning to their earlier topic of conversation, “Matthias is a great lieutenant to work under.” Darkly beautiful and with those eyes that had talked many a woman into bed, Matthias had been a friend as well as her lieutenant.

He’d called to check up on her a couple of times since she’d relocated to the den, and it was a measure of her trust in, and respect for him that she hadn’t bristled. “But that region’s got too many bad memories for me, you know? Den’s a fresh start.” One she’d allow nothing, not even the hot burn of a shocking need, to steal from her.

“Here’s my stop.” Indigo halted in front of one of the break rooms. “Having an informal chat with some of my novices and newer soldiers.” She raised an eyebrow at the young woman who was all but crawling down the hall. “What happened to you?”

“Riaz the Sadist’s new configuration of the training run is an excuse for heinous and unparalleled torture,” Sienna muttered before nodding hello at Adria and limping inside—to a chorus of sympathetic groans from others who’d obviously been subjected to the same torture.