Home > Tangle of Need (Psy-Changeling #11)

Tangle of Need (Psy-Changeling #11)
Author: Nalini Singh

Chapter 1


RIAZ CAUGHT A flash of midnight hair and a long-legged stride and called out, “Indigo!” However, he realized his mistake the instant he turned the corner. “Adria.”

Eyes of deepest blue-violet met his, the frost in them threatening to give him hypothermia. “Indigo’s in her office.” The words were helpful, but the tone might as well have been a serrated blade.

That did it. “Did I kill your dog?”

Frown lines marred her smooth forehead. “Excuse me?”

God, that tone. “It’s the only reason,” he said, holding on to his temper by a very thin thread, “I can think of to explain why you’re so damn pissy with me.” Adria had been pulled into den territory during the hostilities with Councilor Henry Scott and his Pure Psy army a month ago and had remained behind to take up a permanent position as a senior soldier. She’d fought with focused determination by Riaz’s side, followed his orders on the field without hesitation.

However, off the field?

Ice.

Absolute.

Unrelenting.

Glacial enough to bite.

Folding his arms when she didn’t reply, he stepped into her personal space, caught the subtle scent of crushed berries and frost. A strangely delicate scent for this hard-ass of a woman, he thought, before his wolf’s anger overrode all else. “You haven’t answered my question.” It came out a growl.

Eyes steely, she stepped closer with a slow deliberation that was pure, calculated provocation. She was a tall woman, but he was taller. That didn’t seem to stop her from looking down her nose at him. “I didn’t realize,” she said in a voice so polite it drew blood, “that fawning over you was part of the job requirement.”

“Now I know who Indigo learned her mean face from.” But where his fellow lieutenant’s heart beat warm and generous beneath that tough exterior, he wasn’t sure Adria had any emotions that registered above zero on the thermometer.

Adria’s response was scalpel sharp. “I don’t know what she ever saw in you, but I suppose every woman has mistakes in her past.” The slightest change in her expression, the tiniest fracture, before it was sealed up again, her face an impenetrable mask.

Scowling, Riaz was about to tell her exactly what he thought of her and her judgmental gaze when his cell phone rang. He answered without moving an inch away from the woman who was sandpaper across his temper, rubbing him raw with her mere presence. “Yeah?”

“My office,” Hawke said. “Need you to head out, do a pickup.”

“Be there in two.” Snapping the phone shut, he closed the remaining distance between him and Adria, forcing her to tip back her head. “We will,” he said, realizing those striking blue eyes with an edge of purple had streaks of gold running through them, beautiful and exotic, “continue this later.”

That was when Adria’s cell phone rang. “Yes?” she answered, without breaking eye contact with the big, muscled wolf who thought he could intimidate her.

“In my office,” Hawke ordered.

“On my way.” Hanging up, she raised an eyebrow at Riaz in a consciously insolent action. “My alpha has requested my presence, so get out of my fucking way,” she said with utmost sweetness.

Eyes of beaten gold narrowed. “Guess we’ll be walking together.”

Not giving an inch until he stepped back and turned to head to Hawke’s office, she walked in silence beside him, though her wolf bared its teeth, hungry to draw blood, to bite and claw and mark. Damn him. Damn him. She’d been doing fine, coping after her final separation from Martin. That had been a bloody battle, too.

“You’ll come crawling back to me. Maybe I’ll be waiting. Maybe I won’t.”

Adria stifled a raw laugh. Martin didn’t understand that it was over. Done. It had been over the night a year ago when he’d stormed out of their home, not to return for four months. The truly stunning thing was that he’d had the gall to be shocked when she’d told him to find someplace else to sleep and slammed the door in his face.

“Cat got your tongue?” An acerbic comment made in a deep male voice that ruffled her fur the wrong way.

“Go bite yourself,” she muttered, in no mood to play games. Her skin felt too sensitive, as if she’d lost a protective layer, her blood too hot.

“Someone should bite you,” Riaz responded in a near snarl. “Pull that stick out of your ass at the same time.”

Adria growled just as they reached the open door to Hawke’s office. The alpha looked up at their entrance, open speculation in blue eyes so pale, they were those of a wolf given human form. However, when he spoke, his words were pragmatic. “You two free to go for a drive?”

Adria nodded, saw Riaz do the same beside her. “What do you need done?” he asked, his tone far calmer than the one he’d leveled at her.

“Mack and one of his trainee techs went up to do a routine service of the hydro station,” Hawke told them, shoving back strands of hair the silver-gold of his pelt in wolf form, “but their vehicle’s not starting, and they’ve got components that need to be brought back to the den for repairs.”

“No problem,” Riaz said. “I’ll take one of the SUVs, pick them up.”

Even as Adria was thinking the task was a one-person job, Hawke turned to her. “You’re now one of the most senior people in the den.” His dominance was staggering, demanding her wolf’s absolute attention. “I’d like you to get reacquainted with the region, given that you haven’t spent an extended period of time here since you turned eighteen.”

She nodded. “I’ll ask Riley and Eli to work some time into my shift schedule.” It was a necessary detour from her normal duties—falling just below the lieutenants in the hierarchy, senior soldiers were often called upon to lead, and as a leader she had to know every inch of this land, not only the section she’d been assigned to during the battle. “It’d be better if I do it on foot.” She’d see, scent, so much more.

“You can explore in detail later on. I want you to have a good working knowledge of the area as soon as possible.” He handed her a thin plas map. “The trip up to the hydro station will take you through some critical sections—and you have certification in auto mechanics, correct?”

“Yes.” It had been an interest she’d turned into the secondary qualification all soldiers were required to possess. Later, it had kept her sane, the ability to fix broken things and make them whole again. “I’ll take a look at the vehicle.”

“What about the replanting?” Riaz asked, his voice clawing over her skin like nails on one of those old-fashioned chalkboards the pups liked to draw on. “Felix’s team have enough security?”

“They’re fine.” Walking to the territorial map on the stone wall of his office, Hawke tapped the large crosshatched section where the battle with Pure Psy had taken place. “Felix’s volunteers and conscripts”—a sharp grin—“are planting the area with fast-growing natives, but for now, it’s so open it’s easy to monitor, especially with the cats sharing the watch.”

Adria thought of what she’d seen on that battlefield filled with the screams of wounded SnowDancers; the cold red and hypnotic gold of a flame so hypnotic and deadly, and wondered at the cost paid by the young Psy woman who held all that power—and their alpha’s heart. “What are the chances of another serious Pure Psy attack?” she asked, intrigued on the innermost level by a relationship that appeared so very unbalanced on the outside, and yet one that her wolf sensed was as solid as the stone of the den.

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