Rule breaker, p.12
Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh
Despite her attempt to run, Gypsy found herself unable to skip the meeting with Jonas and her parents that evening. She felt raw inside, ready to break apart at the slightest provocation, but she couldn’t let her family down again, no matter how hard it was going to be to face Rule after she’d left him in the desert.
Gypsy had met Jonas Wyatt on several occasions in the past two months that he and his teams of Breeds had been in Window Rock searching for a rogue Bengal. The reservation and the Navajo capital itself seemed to be a haven for lost Breeds, hunting Breeds—and rogue Breeds.
It seemed that the rumors were true as well, that the reservation was now about to become home to an investigative branch of the Bureau of Breed Affairs.
Rather fitting, as a large number of them had been created from the stolen sperm and kidnapped girls of the Navajo that the Council had taken.
Dressed in a neat black pencil skirt and sleeveless white silk blouse, she moved from the Jeep before retrieving the black leather briefcase she’d brought with her. Sliding the strap over her shoulder, she pushed the door closed and locked the vehicle, then turned back to her parents.
“Where’s Jason?” she asked. She was depending on his ability to distract her parents and ensure that this meeting went as planned.
“He had a meeting in Santa Fe that he couldn’t cancel,” her father informed her rather stiltedly. “You didn’t wait around earlier to find out that he couldn’t be here for this one.”
Of course that was the reason why, she thought silently as she inhaled slowly, her gaze slipping to her mother. Because she hadn’t waited around for the full brunt of the guilt trip, it was her fault she didn’t know everything.
Greta glanced at the bag Gypsy carried for a second before turning her gaze to her disapprovingly. “This is just a friendly visit, Gypsy. Not an official meeting.”
“I worked up a few ideas while waiting on Connie.” She shrugged, thinking of the horrendously boring hours in Connie’s salon, stuck in the VIP room alone while waiting for the chemicals on her hair to do their job. She’d missed her appointment, but Connie had worked her in anyway. Gypsy had wished she would have just told her to go to hell so she could escape the torturous hours alone. Connie and her assistants had done their job excellently, though. Her deep, dark brown hair now had the faintest streaks of sun-lightened browns and tawny blond peeking out.
“That wasn’t necessary, dear,” her mother murmured, as though Gypsy were some wet-behind-the-ears new consultant. “I’m sure Mr. Wyatt will let us know when he’s ready for ideas. He’s not a man who likes to be pushed, you know.”
“Understood.” She nodded, despite her confusion.
Since when did her mother protest being prepared? Since when did her mother profess to be an expert on how Jonas conducted business?
Because Gypsy knew damned good and well the Breed highly respected initiative. They’d had several discussions on that subject and several others the few times she’d visited Rachel.
Dressed in a sleeveless beige top and a soft, casual cream chiffon skirt, her mother looked relaxed and comfortable, so Gypsy let her keep her illusions. Her father wore his customary jeans with a white button-up, just as he would have if he were joining friends for dinner at the local café.
Neither of them wore any of their more business-related clothing, which was surprising considering their nervousness over this contract.
“Gypsy.” Her mother stopped her as they neared the lobby entrance of the hotel.
Turning back to her, Gypsy saw the genuine concern building in the dusky features.
“Yes, Mother?” Damn, her mother was nervous. Gypsy didn’t work directly with her parents very often, and only took the smaller contracts when her help was needed, but still, she would have thought she’d have seen this side of Greta McQuade before now.
“Please, be polite,” her mother asked warningly, her green eyes shadowed, a bit harder than normal.
“Mother, when am I ever impolite to a client?” she asked, confused by this new worry her mother seemed to have gotten into her head.
“Anytime anyone, anywhere gives you the impression that you have to do something,” her mother stated in disapproval. “Don’t embarrass us, Gypsy.”
Was her personal life now tied to the clients she helped her parents with?
“Greta, now isn’t the time,” her father murmured, casting Gypsy a faintly regretful look.
Don’t embarrass them? Had they not wanted her help on this contract?
Her lips parted to ask what the hell they were talking about.
“Mr. and Mrs. McQuade. Gypsy, sweetie, it’s about time you came back to see us.” It wasn’t a Breed who stepped from the lobby to greet them, but Thor Thorsson, a rumored ex-mercenary turned Bureau Enforcer who worked with Rule’s brother’s fiancée, Diane Broen. Diane also happened to be Jonas Wyatt’s fiancée’s sister.
But to her, he was just Thor, the big, strapping Viking look-alike who had taken one look at her two months before, grinned and said, “Hey, just what I’ve been looking for, a little elf to torment. Can I adopt you?” Then he’d pulled the braid at the back of her hair.
She’d informed him icily that she did not need anyone to take her brother’s place.
Forlorn, his pale blue eyes had turned somber, “I wasn’t asking if you needed a brother. I was trying to tell you I needed a baby sister.”
Long, thick white-blond hair was brushed back from his face, his imposing features creased into a smile as his eyes met hers now while giving her a subtle little wink. A second later he bent, his arms going around her in a brief, firm hug before he drew back.
Sometimes, she was really afraid Thor knew far more about her than she was comfortable with him knowing.
“Hello, Thor.” Gypsy smiled up at him, genuinely glad to see him. “I see you’re recovering nicely from your accident.”
The story that he’d been injured in an accident in the desert was bullshit. He’d taken a knife in the shoulder that had been meant for his heart two months before.
“I’m recovering fine,” he promised with a wide smile. “So much so that Wyatt decided to put me back to work. I’m here to escort you up to his suite.”
Her brows lifted. “Strenuous activity,” she agreed, automatically handing over her bag to the too-handsome escort.
“That’s what I tried to tell him, but he wasn’t listening,” Thor agreed before turning to her parents, blocking the entrance and waiting patiently.
“We do have an appointment,” her mother informed him frostily.
“Mother, he needs your bag,” Gypsy murmured, catching her mother’s surprised look. “Security. We can’t go in until you give it to him.”
Confusion flickered in her mother’s gaze. “I’m not comfortable with that.” Greta frowned.
“You can leave the bag in your vehicle, ma’am,” Thor suggested politely. “But I can’t take you up until you do so, or until it’s in our possession. You’ll have it back before you leave, though.”
Greta glanced at Gypsy worriedly.
Gypsy shrugged, confused by her mother’s hesitancy. “Your choice.”
Slowly, her mother turned the bag over to Thor.
“Thank you, ma’am.” Nodding to her mother, he gave the bags to the female Breed who stepped out behind him.
“Hi, Gypsy.” Emma Truing, the slightest smile edging her lips, accepted the bags from the enforcer.
“How’s Ashley doing?” Gypsy asked as she noticed Emma’s haggard expression had eased some from the past six weeks.
Emma’s sister, Ashley, had been shot in the chest by one of the locals intent on kidnapping the niece of the nation’s chief.
“She’s recovering well,” Emma promised, despite the shadow of remembered fear in her eyes. “She mentioned the other night that she’s missed talking to you.”
“Tell her to hurry and get better,” she told the too-somber Bre
And that was no less than the truth. The private parties where only a select list of Breeds were invited were definitely suffering, not to mention the bars to which Ashley dragged Emma and some of the other Breed females.
“I’ll be sure to tell her,” Emma promised before turning and moving back into the lobby.
“If you and your parents will follow me,” Thor said, “I’ll show you up to Jonas’s suite.” His gaze met Gypsy’s again. “Rachel’s looking forward to seeing you. She and Diane were talking about that chocolate mousse cake you brought in with you last time. I gather they really liked it.”
“I’ll have to remember to make another chocolate date with them,” Gypsy laughed as Thor chuckled, then turned and led the way into the hotel. “Amber especially loved my contribution to that little lunch.”
“Where’s the girl going with my bag?” her mother asked worriedly as they neared the bank of elevators.
“We’ll get them back before we leave,” Gypsy promised. “It’s just a precaution.”
“A precaution against what?” Her mother was clearly unsettled by the fact that her purse wasn’t on her.
“Against weapons, I guess.” Gypsy shrugged as they moved toward the elevator.
“Jonas has plenty of enemies, Mrs. McQuade,” Thor stated as he led them into a waiting elevator. “No offense is meant. That’s standard operating procedure no matter the visitor.”
Gypsy could see that her mother was still bothered by it, though, her troubled gaze meeting her husband’s for a second as they stepped into the waiting elevator cubicle.
Catching her mother’s eye, Gypsy glanced to the discreet metal signs in the cubicle. Illegal audio/video devices punishable by Breed Law. All bags, cases and devices must be scanned for illegal electronics before meetings commence. Thank you for your patience.
Discomfort flickered in her mother’s gaze. Gypsy knew her mother’s resentment of Breeds in general after Mark’s death was behind her discomfort; still, it bothered her.
The ride up was a quick one. In less than a minute the elevator came to a smooth stop at the eighth floor and slid soundlessly open.
“This way.” Thor stepped back to allow them to precede him from the elevator.
It was evident her parents hadn’t been to the hotel since the Breeds had taken up residence. The entire building had been more or less taken over by the Bureau of Breed Affairs, and security was incredibly tight.
Moving down the hall, Thor turned up another long hallway, and halfway along the corridor four Breeds stood at attention, watching Thor and Gypsy’s parents suspiciously. Heavily armed, brooding and looking far too dangerous in those black mission uniforms, not to mention far too good looking, they didn’t take their eyes off the small group.
“The McQuades to meet with Director Wyatt,” Thor told the guard at the door as Gypsy peeked around Thor’s broad shoulder and shot the Breed at the door a suggestive wink.
His eyes crinkled just slightly.
For Flint, that was a fully formed sexy-as-hell grin. Or at least, that was as close as he came.
“Hello, Gypsy.” Flint nodded as they moved past. “We’ve missed you.”
“Evening, cutie.” She greeted him just under her breath, knowing the Breed heard every word. “You’re looking especially hot tonight.”
He snorted at the compliment, while Gypsy caught the surprise on her parents’ faces as they moved into the director’s suite.
Roomy and opulently appointed, the presidential suite was decorated with classic desert hues, the furniture comfortable, the upholstery incredibly soft.
It wasn’t Jonas and his wife who met them in the suite, though, but rather Lawe Justice, Rule’s brother, and his fiancée, Diane.
They introduced themselves to her parents before greeting Gypsy with a smile and informing them that Jonas was running just a few minutes late.
As they waited, Diane sidled up to Gypsy. “Did you bring cake?” she asked in a hushed tone, drawing Greta McQuade’s attention.
“I didn’t know I needed to.” Gypsy grimaced regretfully. “It was really short notice and Kandy didn’t have any mousse cake. Next time, tell your boss to give me a little advance notice.” Gypsy grinned back.
“You suck, McQuade,” Diane accused her with a heavy sigh. “That cake was the bomb.”
“I’ll be sure to let my sister know,” Gypsy promised, making a mental note to put Kandy in the kitchen whipping up chocolate mousse cake.
Lifting her finger in a sign to give her a minute, Diane turned away, obviously listening to whatever was being said in the earbud she wore.
“Excuse me a minute.” She turned back to them with a quick smile. “I’ll be right back. Lawe will get you a drink, and Jonas and Rachel will be out momentarily.”
Moving to the sofa, Gypsy took a seat, crossed one leg over the opposite knee and sat back to wait as she glanced at her parents while they took a seat on the matching love seat on the nearest side to her.
“You know them.” Her mother seemed faintly confused by the fact that Gypsy was on such familiar terms with the Breeds they’d seen so far.
She shrugged dismissively. “I see them around a lot. We talk. I knew Ashley and Emma before Jonas and Rachel showed up. They asked for one of the chocolate mousse cakes the first week that Rachel was here and invited me to share it with them.”
Actually, they’d begged her to make one and bring it to the hotel for Rachel’s toddler, Amber, who had been having trouble eating. They had sworn the chocolate would tempt her.
And it had.
The little girl had been a giggling, chocolate mess when Director Wyatt had walked into the suite. And the sight of her, lifting her chocolate hands to him and squealing, “Da, moo-ie cake,” had sent such a wash of emotion over his face that Gypsy’s heart had clenched in her chest.
Now, two months later, Wyatt had her cooling her heels while he waited to tell her and her parents that the joke was all on them, she was afraid.
She wondered if Lawe and Diane would let her kick him then?
She was sure Diane would.
“You hadn’t mentioned that you knew so many Breeds,” her mother murmured.
“Yeah?” She glanced over at her mother again before surveying the scenery from the wide floor-to-ceiling windows on the other wall. “I didn’t think it was important.”
“How did you get to know so many of them? The bars?” her mother asked, her lips tightening in disapproval of where she had met them. “But it doesn’t explain how you came to be invited here and now know Director Wyatt and his family so well. I can’t imagine that’s easily done.”
Had her mother forgotten who had saved her the night Mark had died? Or were her memories just of her seeing her son’s body on that stretcher, that ring of red at his neck?
A chill raced through her, cutting through the serenity she’d managed to project in the past hours.
Gypsy turned back to her parents and arched her brows. “I don’t know, Mother, they like me, I guess,” she said faintly. “That or they like Kandy’s chocolate mousse cake.”
It was probably the cake, now, but nine years ago, it had been Jonas who had sworn she would always have a safe place to live if her parents no longer wanted her.
Her mother frowned; her father just watched her with that faintly accusing look she found so disheartening. It was one of the few looks she couldn’t read, and that made her nervous.
“You should have mentioned you knew them,” her mother said accusingly.
She shrugged. “It didn’t seem a big deal.” More importantly, her parents never wanted to hear about the Breeds who came into the store, or those she’d become friends with. Actually, she didn’t remember her mother ever caring who her friends were.
She turned back to the scenery, wondering if Jonas intended to come out and face her anytime soon.
The director looked particularly sophisticated and handsome. His black hair had grown out a bit; his eerie swirling silver eyes seemed to see everything, know everything.
His smile was friendly and polite as he was introduced to her parents, then lit up with genuine fondness as Gypsy rose to her feet and accepted a quick hug from him.
“It’s good to see you again, Gypsy,” he said sincerely. “You need to visit more often.”
That was Jonas. He was a kind man, but that kindness did not get in the way of whatever machinations he was involved in. It made it hard to hate him, easy to love him, impossible to trust him.
“I try, Jonas,” she assured him. “But that three jobs thing, ya know?” She smiled up at him, comfortable with the affection but waiting for the shoe to drop.
“I told you when we first arrived, there’s a job waiting for you with the Bureau.” He gave her a firm, knowing look. “At any time you could have walked into a PR position in D.C. or in the liaison office in Window Rock we established several years ago. All you had to do was give me the word.”
“And I told you,” she reminded him firmly, “I’d kill you the first time you tried to run my office and then Rachel would hate me.”
“All according to the circumstances, Gypsy.” Rachel laughed as she moved forward for a quick hug as well. “It’s wonderful to see you.”
Gypsy returned the embrace, observing the practice she had seen with others when around women whose husbands or fiancés were Breeds. She let Rachel embrace her, aware that the other woman’s hands never touched skin, but rather her back this time. The weather had been cool the last time they’d met and Gypsy had worn a jacket. Rachel had gripped her forearms then, leaning close but not really touching.
“Tell me, how’s that little moo-baby doing?” After Amber had called the mousse cake “moo-cake,” Gypsy had taken to calling her the little moo-baby.
“She was asking for moo-cake the other day.” Rachel tried to smile, but Gypsy could see the pain and fear in her eyes.
“You should have called me,” Gypsy chided her gently. “You know I would have had Kandy make one the instant I knew.”
“Gypsy’s mousse cakes are actually much better than Kandy’s.” Her mother spoke behind her then. “You should have her bake one of her own.”
Gypsy shot Rachel a little wink, hoping she’d think her mother’s bragging was just motherly loyalty.
“She didn’t mention that when she was here before,” Jonas said, moving behind his lover and placing his hand at her lower back as his gaze met Gypsy’s. “I’ll have to see if I can’t get her to do that for us soon.”
And he wasn’t joking.
Great. Of course, Jonas would know it wasn’t just motherly pride.
“I’m a very busy woman, Director,” she reminded him with a cool smile. “And I understand I’m about to become even more busy with one of your commanders?”
Jonas chuckled. “I can see the suspicion in those pretty eyes, Ms. McQuade. Did you think the offer a ruse of some sort?”
“Perhaps not a ruse—”
“Good.” He nodded. “Because the decision was taken out of my hands by Seth Lawrence and Dane Vanderale, two of the Breeds’ most opinionated benefactors. They’ve been pushing for more individual press where the new investigative division and the division director running it was concerned; they just had yet to pin down their choice of DD and convince him to agree to the job. I’m happy to say, that was achieved day before yesterday.”
She knew there was no hiding her surprise and she didn’t even try to do so. She saved her energy for those times when hiding her emotions, truths or lies, was far more important.
“I see,” she murmured.
“Jonas said you would instantly suspect him of some calculation.” Rachel’s amusement was thick as she glanced at her lover. “I warned him it was all his own fault.”
At least his lover knew him well, Gypsy thought, amused.
“The rumors are vicious, Director,” she agreed, allowing her smile to lose the cool edge as she glanced back up at him. “And several of your Breeds can be quite—charming.”
She opted for politeness rather than rude or insulting at that moment.
“Don’t think so highly of me quite yet,” he warned her, his own smile warming his eyes. “My commander finally got around to informing me less than an hour ago that the two of you might not be on the best footing.”
She felt it then.
That tightness in her stomach, the rush of adrenaline preparing to rocket through her system.
She had missed even more sleep than normal in the past few days because of that damned Breed.
Her eyes narrowed.
“Gypsy, I promise you, we only just learned of the fact that Commander Breaker may have”—Rachel cleared her throat delicately—“offended you in some way.”
Damn him. Damn him.
What had he done, kissed and told at the first chance?
She wished she had her bag. She needed something to strangle, and she assumed Jonas would prefer she strangle the strap of her purse rather than his commander.
“I didn’t offend her, I kissed her.”
Whirling around, all too aware of the fact that her parents were far too interested in this little meeting now, Gypsy lifted her arms, crossed them over her breasts, then threw her weight to one hip as she faced the Lion Breed.
“Definitely a criminal offense,” she heard her father murmur behind her, his voice assuring her it was all he could do not to laugh at the predicament she found herself in.
At least he wasn’t acting as though she had committed some criminal act by kissing a Breed.
Rule Breaker by Lora Leigh / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on47 votes