Tangle of NeedBy: Nalini Singh
“No you won’t.” Sienna pressed a hot, wet kiss to his jaw, her fingers stroking the heat of his nape. “But I love you exactly as you are—and I know how to stand my ground. So do your worst, beautiful man.”
He was alternately proud of her strength and aggravated by her intransigence. A familiar occurrence when it came to this woman. Sienna might be younger and physically smaller, but she’d go toe-to-toe with him without a blink. The thought made him grin, every part of him aware they’d likely be butting heads for the next century. He couldn’t wait.
“So,” she said, tracing his smile with a fingertip, “what are the maternals mad about?”
He was used to talking to his lieutenants and senior packmates about pack business, but it felt utterly different talking with Sienna about the same thing. Because she was someone of his own, someone who listened not because it was SnowDancer business, but simply because she liked being with him, liked knowing things that mattered to him.
“The word ‘hormones’ was used,” he told her, already feeling the dull pulse of a throbbing headache. “Some of the older juveniles are apparently getting too frisky. I’ll probably end up dragging the boys off to remind them to keep their paws to themselves.” Groaning, he bent so his forehead touched hers. “And then I’ll have to do the same thing with the girls.” Normally, Indigo and Riley would take care of the situation, but sometimes only an alpha’s voice would get the message across.
“But skin privileges are an accepted part of pack life.” Sienna’s breath kissed his lips. “I know my friends had relationships when they were younger.”
“There are still boundaries,” Hawke said, restraining the urge to undo her braid, to knot his hands in that pretty ruby red hair. “Sometimes the wolf has to be reminded that it needs to wait for the human half to catch up.”
Sienna’s gaze turned thoughtful. “Yes, I understand. That’s why you let your wolf be in charge when you were younger—you said it was more mature.”
He played the end of her braid over his fingertips. “Controlling the wolf is something we learn as children and have to maintain as we grow older. Without that control, there’d be a lot more rogues.” Changeling wolves who gave in to their animals turned into vicious killers—and they most often targeted those who had been their own.
“Do you think the juveniles are responding to the stress of being evacuated out of the den?”
“Yes, but if it’s unsettled them to that degree, we’ll have to organize supervision and retraining for a whole lot of young ones.”
Sienna stroked his nape. “I know it’s a headache for you, but what I feel for you only grows deeper every time I see how you care for each member of the pack, young and old, strong and weak.”
He’d never needed verbal petting—but when Sienna said things like that, yeah, it mattered. Raising his head, he released her braid and ran his knuckles down her cheek. “Go, have your lunch.” It cost him to say that, to know that he was sending her out with a man who had once shown an interest in her. “You’re not leaving den territory?” It was too dangerous to chance yet.
The Council now knew she was alive. Ming LeBon, the man who had attempted to turn her into a weapon when she’d been barely more than a child, knew she was alive. And Sienna’s abilities were of unrivaled potential—no one understood or could predict how her power would develop as she grew older … because there had never been another cardinal X-Psy who’d survived to adulthood.
His gut twisted at the thought of Sienna broken and dead at the hands of the enemy, and he had to clench his fists to keep from grabbing her and stashing her in their quarters, where she’d be safe. He fought the urge because the one thing he would never, ever do to Sienna, was cage her. She’d already spent far too much of her life behind bars, the psychic prison designed to contain her power turning into a place of mental torture.
“No,” she assured him. “I wouldn’t risk that when things are so unstable. Kit and the others are going to meet us in the White Zone, and we’ll go down to the waterfall.”
“Riordan, Evie, and Lake are also coming.”
His wolf settled. The boys would make sure no one attempted to poach on his territory—and he’d just keep that thought to himself, he decided with a somewhat feral internal grin. “You want to have dinner with the kids?” he asked, knowing they had only a couple more minutes.
That smile again, the one she hadn’t given him before, when they’d been circling each other … and that she gave him every day now. It was a kick to his heart every single time. “Yes,” she said. “You don’t mind how much time we’re spending with them?”
“Of course not.” Toby was her brother, Marlee her cousin. They were Pack, pups to love and protect. “Since Walker’s stopped giving me the death stare, it’s actually become comfortable.” The eldest Lauren was very protective of those under his care, considered Sienna his daughter. Hawke had no doubt the other man would quietly, methodically gut him at the smallest sign that he was causing Sienna distress. His wolf approved.