Instead of running straight to her, he glanced over his shoulder then looked back at the wolf, only racing over when the wolf inclined its head. Heart in her throat, she knelt down to pet him as Vasic strode over to speak to the visitors. A few minutes later, both the wolf—the changeling—and the unknown male headed into the trees.
Who was that? she asked Vasic, scowling at Rabbit when he tried to race off after the departing pair.
The SnowDancer alpha and one of his lieutenants.
Kissing Rabbit’s sulky face, she continued to keep hold of him lest he be overcome by the urge to join a wolf pack. The dark-haired man, he looked like an Arrow.
Vasic gave her a considering look. Judd defected from the PsyNet three and a half years ago, but yes, he is an Arrow.
The pieces clicked. Is he the one the reporters said was deflecting missiles using telekinesis? Astonishing and riveting, the reports had come in during Pure Psy’s attempted invasion of this region the previous year. A member of the missing Lauren family?
Yes. He turned toward Abbot when the other Arrow walked over from Jaya’s cabin. You need to eat breakfast.
Chancing relaxing her grip on Rabbit, she tried not to read too much into the fact that Vasic had made it a point to remind her to replenish her strength, and headed to her cabin. Rabbit, apparently over his starstruck reaction to the wolf alpha, kept her company—at least until he’d finished his own breakfast. Then he took off to explore, and she crossed her fingers the changelings would nudge him back if he attempted to follow the wolf’s trail. Not that she could blame her pet for his dangerous fascination.
Look at her.
Can you do that? she asked Vasic, unable to control the urge to connect with him even when she knew he was busy with the shift change. Throw missiles around?
• • •
VASIC had never had a voice like Ivy’s in his head. There was no restraint to it, the tone an iridescent kaleidoscope that hinted a thousand other things lay beneath. Yes, he said in reply to her query, considering what she’d do if he told her he could also initiate missile strikes through his gauntlet.
There goes that verbosity.
Filtering her comment through what he’d observed of human interaction, he confirmed his earlier suspicions that she was teasing him. No one had ever teased him. He didn’t know the correct response.
I know you haven’t had breakfast, she said while he was still working on the question of whether teasing required a response. Come eat with me.
He should’ve taken the chance to catch a couple of hours’ rest, but he’d spent days awake at a time. One night was nothing. Not compared to a woman who teased him. That was unusual enough to require further exploration.
She smiled when he stepped up to her doorway, her curls tousled around her face and her blue cable-knit sweater too big for her frame. “Thanks for leaving me my porch.”
“It wasn’t in any of Lianne’s photographs.”
A delighted laugh that felt like a tactile stroke over his cheek. “Right.” She mixed up a nutrient drink with hot water rather than the cold he always used, then took several meal bars out of the cupboard. “Here. You must’ve burned a lot of energy last night and this morning.”
First she teased him, then she fed him. Neither action was one he could’ve predicted. Taking the food, he stepped back outside.
Ivy’s face fell. “Are you going already?”
It was almost as if she was disappointed to lose his company. “No,” he said, adding another inexplicable act to his private Ivy file. “Your table is small.”
“Oh, you’re right. You’d probably have to fold yourself in half.” Eyes lit from within, she pulled on her boots and picking up her cereal, followed him out to take a seat on the edge of the porch.
He came down beside her, the distance between them approximately eight inches.
And though she’d warned him she liked to talk, they sat in silence for long minutes, the compound quiet now that the shift change was complete, the morning sunlight pale. Despite the silence, the experience wasn’t like eating with another Arrow; there was a subtext to it he struggled to unravel.
The last time he’d eaten with anyone unconnected to the squad was the day he’d been permanently excised from the family unit. He could still remember that final meal with his biological father, though he’d lost the emotions of the child. What he remembered boiled down to the Silent space between him and the man who’d given him half his genetic material.
“Hey.” A smile so open, he knew the world would savage her if she wasn’t protected. “You’re thinking too hard. Eat.” Having finished her own meal, she put aside her bowl and peeled open the wrapper of one of the nutrition bars he’d set between them.
When she held it out, he realized it was for him. “Thank you.”
“I think I’d better talk to Sascha,” she said, taking the wrappers of the two bars he’d already eaten to drop them into her empty bowl.
“I put in the request earlier.”
“Was that what you were discussing with Judd Lauren and the wolf alpha?”
Vasic nodded, eating the nutrition bar in methodical bites.
“Stop that.” A narrow-eyed look as she held up the drink he hadn’t touched. “I didn’t make this hot so you could let it go cold.”
Unpredictable, she was more unpredictable than a rogue missile. “Temperature doesn’t alter the nutritional value of it,” he said, drinking half a glass.
“I know that. It’s to warm you up.”
He thought about pointing out that his combat uniform insulated him against the temperature, but decided to keep his mouth shut for reasons he couldn’t articulate. Perhaps it was because of the way she looked at him . . . as if concerned.