The breed next door, p.1
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       The Breed Next Door, p.1
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         Part #5.5 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh
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The Breed Next Door
Page 1

  Prologue

  " You were created. Created to give your lives to the Genetics Council at any time deemed appropriate. You are animals. Nothing more. You have no sire. You have no bitch mother. You have only us. And we will decide if you are strong enough to live or die. "

  The dream was merciless, stark in the memory of who and what he was as he watched the scientist point out the procedure that had created him.

  The genetic enhancement of an unknown sperm and ova. The fertilization, the development before it was ever placed within a human womb. And finally, the death of the vessels that had carried each Feline Breed babe to term.

  Nothing was hidden from the immature creatures. They sat on (he floor of their cells and watched the graphic video daily. They saw it nightly in their dreams.

  "You are not human. No matter your appearance. You are an animal. A creation. A tool. A tool for our use. Never imagine you will ever be anything different…"

  Tarek tossed within the nightmare, years of blood and death passing by him. The lashes of the whip biting into his back, his chest. Hours of torture because he had not killed savagely enough or because he had shown mercy. The pain of knowing that the dream of freedom might be no more than a fantasy, quickly lost to death.

  He came awake in a rush, the blood pounding through his veins, sweat dampening his flesh as the horrors he had fought so long to distance himself from returned.

  Breathing roughly, he rose from the bed, pulling on a pair of boxer briefs before leaving the bedroom.

  He inhaled deeply as he left the room, his brain

  automatically processing the scents of the house, sifting through them, searching for anomalies. There were none. His territory was uncorrupted, as secure now as it had been when he settled into his bed.

  He rubbed his hand over the ache in his chest, the almost ever-present remembrance of that last beating, and the whip running with a current of electricity that sent agony resonating through his body.

  He was created, not born.

  Those words echoed through his mind as he opened the back door and stepped onto the porch. Created to kill. Not human…

  He stared into the bleak emptiness of the late-fall Arkansas night as he let the memories wash over him. Fighting them only made it worse, only made the nightmares worse.

  You will never know love. Animals do not love, so before you ever imagine this is a benefit due you, forget it!

  The trainers had been quick to destroy any flicker of hope before it drew breath, took form, or hinted at an end to their tortured suffering. The psychological training had been brutal. You are nothing. You are a four-legged beast walking on two. Never forget that…

  Your ability to speak does not mean you have permission to do so…

  He stared into the star-studded night.

  God does not exist for you. God creates His children. He does not adopt animals…

  The final destruction. A silent snarl curved his lips as he glared into the brilliance of a sky he had never been meant to see.

  "Who does adopt us then?" he snarled to the God he had been taught had no time for him or for his kind. "Who does?"

  Chapter One

  Wasn't there some kind of law that said a man wasn't allowed to look that damned good? Especially the tight, hard bodies who persisted in mangling a perfectly good lawn at the wrong time of the year.

  Lyra Mason was certain there had to be such a law.

  Especially when said male, Tarek Jordan, committed the unpardonable sin of whacking down her prized Irish roses.

  "Are you crazy?" She ran out the front door, yelling at the top of her lungs, waving him away from the beautiful hedge that was finally managing to achieve reasonable height.

  That was, before he attacked it with the weed-eater he was wielding like a sword.

  "Stop it. Dammit. Those are my roses," she wailed as she sprinted across her front lawn, skidded around the front of her car, and nearly slipped and broke her neck on the strip of lush green grass in front of him.

  At least he paused.

  He lowered the weed-eater, tipped his dark glasses down that arrogant nose of his, and stared back at her as though she was the one committing some heinous act.

  "Turn it off," she screamed, making a slicing motion across her throat. "Now. Turn it off. "

  Irritation and excitement simmered in her blood, heated her face, and left her trembling before him. He might be bigger than she was, but she had been maneuvering big, brawny men all her life. He would be child's play next to her brothers. Maybe. He cut the motor, lifted a brow, and flashed all that bare, glorious muscle across his chest and shoulders. As though that was going to save him. She didn't think so.

  The man had lived next door to her for almost six months and never failed to totally infuriate her at least once a week. And she wasn't even going to admit exactly how much she enjoyed razzing his ass every chance she got.

  "Those are my roses!" She felt like crying as she rushed to the broken, ravaged branches of the four-foot-high hedge. "Do you have any idea how long it took me to get them to grow?

  Have you lost your mind? Why are you attacking my roses?" He lifted one hand from the steel shaft of the weed-eater and scratched his chin thoughtfully.

  "Roses, huh?"

  Oh God, his voice had that husky little edge. Dark. Deep. The kind of voice a woman longed to hear in the darkness of the night. The voice that tempted her in dreams so damned sexual she flushed just thinking about them.

  Damn him.

  He tilted his head to the side, staring at her roses for long moments behind the lenses of his dark glasses.

  "I can't believe you did this. " She flicked him a disgusted glance as she hunched in front of the prize bush and began inspecting the damage. "You've lived here six months, Tarek. Surely it occurred to you that if I wanted them cut down I would have done it myself. "

  Some men just needed a leash. This was obviously one of them. But he was fun—even if he was unaware of it. It just wouldn't do for him to know how often she went out of her way to come down on him.

  "Sorry, Lyra. I thought perhaps the job was too large for you. It looked like a mess to me. "

  She stared up at him in shocked surprise as he said the blasphemous words. Only a man would consider roses a mess. It was a damned good thing she liked that helpless male look he gave her each time he messed up.

  She could only shake her head. How long did the man have to live beside her before he learned to leave her side of the yard alone? He needed a keeper. She considered volunteering for the job. "You should have to have a license to use one of those. I bet you would have failed the test if you did. "

  A grin quirked his lips. She loved that little crooked grin, almost shy, with just a hint of wickedness. It made her wet. And she didn't like that, either.

  Her eyes narrowed as she ignored the chill in the early winter air, her lips thinning in true irritation this time. He was obviously ignoring the chill. He didn't even have on a shirt. It was barely forty degrees, and he was using a weedeater like it was June and the weeds were striking a campaign to take over. That or he just didn't like her roses.

  "Look, just take your little power tool to the other side of your property. There are no neighbors there. No roses to mangle. " She gave him a shooing motion with her hand. "Go on. You're grounded from this side of the yard. I don't want you here. "

  A frown edged between his golden-brown brows as they lowered ominously and his eyelids narrowed. What made men think that look actually worked on her? She almost laughed at the thought.

  Fine, he was dangerous. He was getting ticked. He was bigger and stronger than she was. Who gave a
damn?

  "Don't you give me that look," she snorted in disgust. "You should know by now it doesn't work on me. It will only piss me off worse. Now go away. "

  He glanced around, appearing to measure some invisible line between where he was to his own house several yards away.

  "I believe I'm on my own property," he informed her coolly.

  "Oh, are you?" She stood carefully to her feet, staring over the edge of her pitifully cropped rose bush to where his feet were planted. Boy, he really should have known better than that. "Go read your deed, Einstein. I read mine. My roses are planted exactly six feet from the property line. From oak to oak. " She point out the oak tree at the front of the street, then the one at the edge of the forest beyond. "Oak to oak. My brothers ran a line and marked it real carefully just for dumb little ol' me," she mocked him sweetly. "That puts you on my property. Get back on your own side. "

  She would have chuckled if it weren't so important to maintain the appearance of ire. If she was going to survive living next to a walking, talking advertisement for sex, then some boundaries would have to be established.

  He cocked his hip, crossing his arms over his chest as the heavy weed-eater dangled from the harness that crossed over his back.

  He was wearing boots. Scarred, well-worn leather boots. She noticed that instantly, just as she noticed the long, powerful legs above them. And a bulge… Nope, not going there.

  "Your side of the property is as much a mess as your bush is," he grunted. "When do you cut your grass?"

  "When it's time," she snapped, pulling herself to her full height of five feet, three and three-quarters inches. "And it's not time in the middle of winter when it's not even growing. " Okay, so she barely topped his chest. So what?

  "I would get in the mood if I were you. " He used that superior male tone that never failed to grate on her nerves. "I have a nice ride-on lawnmower. I could cut it for you. " Her eyes widened in horror. He was staring back at her now with a crooked grin, a hopeful look on his face. She sneaked a look around his shoulder, stared at his grass, then shuddered in dismay.

  "No. " She shook her head fervently. This could be getting out of hand. "No, thank you. You hacked at yours just fine. Leave mine alone. "

  "I beg your pardon. " He threw his shoulders back and drew up in offended male pride as he propped his hands on his hips. He did it so well, too. Every time he messed up something he pulled that arrogance crap on her. He should have known it wasn't going to work.

  "And so you should," she retorted, propping her hands on her hips as she glared back at him. "You hacked your grass. Worse, you hacked it in the winter. There's no symmetry in the cut, and you set your blade too low. You'll be lucky to have grass come summer. You just killed it all. "

  He turned and stared back at his lawn. When he turned back to her, cool arrogance marked his features.

  "The lawn is perfect. "

  He had to be kidding.

  "Look," she breathed out roughly. "Just stick to mangling your own property, okay? Leave mine alone. Remember the line—oak to oak—and stay on your side of it. "

  He propped his hands on his hips again. The move drew her eyes back to the sweat-dampened perfection of that golden male chest.

  It should be illegal.

  "You are not being neighborly," he announced coolly, almost ruining her self-control and bringing a smile of pure fun to her lips. "I was told when I bought the house that everyone on this block was friendly, but you have been consistently rude. I believe I was lied to. "

  He sounded shocked. Actually, he was mocking her, and she really didn't like it. Well, maybe she did a little bit, but she wasn't going to let him know it.

  She refused to allow her lips to twitch at the sight of the laughter in his gaze. He very rarely smiled, but sometimes, every now and then, she could make his eyes smile.

  "That realtor would have told you the sun rose in the west and the moon was made of cheese if it would assure him a sale. " She smiled mockingly. "He sold to me first, so he knew I wasn't nice. I guess he neglected to inform you of that fact. " Actually, she had gotten along quite well with the real estate agent. He was a very nice gentleman who had assured her that the homes on this block would only be sold to a specific type of person. So, evidently, he had lied to her, too, because the man standing across from her was not respectable, nor was he family-oriented. He was a sex god, and she was within a second of worshipping at his strong, male feet. She was so weak. He was a rose assassin, she reminded herself firmly, and she was going to kick his ass if he attacked any more of her precious plants. Better yet, she would call her brothers and cry. Then they would kick his ass.

 
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