Tangle of Need

By: Nalini Singh

Laughter wrapping him in silken ropes, the crimson fire of his mate’s touch flickering through his blood. “Lara will protect you.” Stealing another little kiss, she stepped away, paused, her next words vibrant with emotion. “I love you.”

He knew what it meant to her that she could say those words and know no one would hurt her for daring to feel, for daring to love with all the power of her strong, loyal heart. Closing the short distance between them, he answered with a kiss as tender as he knew how to give, his fingers closing possessively around her throat.

“Are you sure you have to go to that meeting?” she whispered when he lifted his head, her lips wet and luscious, her body arching toward his own.

His wolf was tempted. Sorely. “Nell and her crew will hunt us down and interrupt.” Maternal females were not to be messed with. “Then they’ll make us feel like shamed five-year-olds.” He took another kiss, rubbing his thumb over the flutter of her pulse and reining in the urge to bite. Later, he promised his wolf. “I’ll see you tonight.”

He watched after her until she disappeared around the corner, the possessiveness inside him a primal craving that made him want to haul her over his shoulder and drag her to his bed. Maybe tie her to it for good measure.

“Don’t even think about it,” Riley said as he walked over to join Hawke for the Meeting of Doom.

Hawke met his senior lieutenant’s brown eyes, always so calm and stable. “The only way you could know what I was thinking was if you’d had similar thoughts yourself.”

“Mercy forgives me … most of the time.” A slow smile. “Come on, enough procrastinating.”

As they walked, Hawke said, “Adria and Riaz. Problems?”

“Personality clash, I think. They seem to work well enough together despite it.” The lieutenant glanced at him. “Why? You want me to split their shifts?”

“No, better they work it out.” He’d picked up something more violent and intense than a simple personality clash, but his wolf knew when to be discreet, so he didn’t mention it. Instead, he turned the conversation to the juveniles, and the remainder of their walk passed in shoptalk.

While meetings such as this one promised to be weren’t ever on his favorite things-to-do list, it felt good to be doing something as normal as worrying about the juveniles. Not discussing Psy surveillance or planning to defend against an attack. Not stockpiling weapons, or checking medical supplies as they waited to evacuate their vulnerable. Not even meeting with the DarkRiver leopards to assess a suspected threat.

It had been months since his wolves had had a chance to just be Pack.

However, Hawke knew the fact SnowDancer and its allies had won the battle didn’t mean their enemies wouldn’t regroup and return. But he was a wolf. He also knew how to live in the moment—a time in which he was mated to a woman who challenged, loved, and teased him; his pack was safe; and the den filled with the vibrant sounds of children’s voices once more. “How’s the planning going for the mating ceremony?” Sienna was indelibly his, but his pack needed to have a chance to celebrate their alpha’s mating, and they’d get that chance four days from now.

“Drew suggested dancing girls.”

Hawke grinned. “How many?”

Riley shot him an unamused look. “Don’t encourage him or I swear to God I will hire a troop of strippers, complete with spangled pasties, and watch cheerfully while Sienna barbecues you.”

Wondering what else Drew had been suggesting, Hawke stifled his laugh. “Seriously, how’s it going?” Riley and Nell were sharing the overall organizational load, in charge of ensuring all the pieces came together into a cohesive whole.

“Good. My brother, when he isn’t e-mailing me brochures about Brazilian samba dancers and Vegas showgirls, has found a job for every single person who wants to be involved in the preparation.”

That was why, Hawke thought, Drew was so perfect for the position he occupied. Not quite part of the hierarchy, he was Hawke’s eyes and ears in the pack, accessible to even the weakest of their number, those who might feel intimidated approaching one of the other dominants. No one was intimidated by Drew, and that was an incredible achievement, given that the other man was SnowDancer’s tracker, charged with finding and executing rogues if the need arose. “It’ll be a good night.”

“The best,” Riley said quietly, then took a deep breath. “We’re here.”

Hawke folded his arms and stared at the door with a sour expression. “I hate these meetings.”

“We should make Drew attend instead. Teach him a lesson.”

They both stared at each other and grinned. Yeah, he thought, pushing through the door, it was nice to be doing something as ordinary as grousing about a meeting with the maternals.


FROM: Lara<[email protected]>

TO: Ashaya<[email protected]>;

Sascha<[email protected]>;

Tammy<[email protected]>;

Amara<[email protected]>

DATE: Aug 26, 2081 at 11.00 a.m.

SUBJECT: Patient A

I thought you’d all appreciate a quick update on Patient A. She remains unresponsive, in a comalike state. I say coma like, because frankly, she confuses the instruments. However, I can say with certainty that she isn’t brain-dead, so that remains a positive indicator.