Wake a sleeping tiger, p.16
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.16
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  with whatever he might have once felt for his dead wife? And as much as the accusation stung, as much as he hated it, he wondered if she had a point.

  Not so much that he wanted his wife back, because that wasn’t the case. Even had a cure for her disease been found, their relationship had ended the day she had flung her knowledge of his Breed status in his face and accused him of not loving her enough to cure her. He’d told her he was a Breed before their wedding, unwilling to go into their marriage with any secrets between them. Just as he’d explained what recessive Breed genetics were. But, he’d realized later, she’d already known.

  The tabloid stories had fed her belief that Mating Heat could cure her. The revelation that Chelsea’s uncle Ray had been aiding the Genetics Council resulted in the proof that Ray had actually pushed Lauren into believing the stories. Ray had preyed on Lauren’s fears and her desperation to live, with the information he’d gained on mating and the mating hormone’s ability to reverse diseases most often incurable.

  The final year of Lauren’s life had been hell on both her and Cullen. She’d been so desperate to live, and he’d understood that desperation. But a Breed didn’t control mating; he couldn’t call it up or force its retreat. And in her final moments that knowledge had consumed her with rage.

  After her death, Cullen had deliberately isolated himself, not because of the overwhelming grief everyone assumed, but because he couldn’t forget that he had loved her when they married, only to pay the ultimate price for giving someone that much of himself.

  Even here, in the house he’d bought after Lauren’s death, he’d kept his life as barren as possible. He’d worked, slept and ate when he needed to. He’d fucked when the urge couldn’t be denied, but he hadn’t formed relationships.

  The sound of the shower was a faint pulse of life in the house and Chelsea’s presence a vivid splash of color against the dull shadows of the rooms.

  She too was a reminder of his failures, though, in some ways. Because she was his mate, and that wild independence she possessed wasn’t going to change. It was such a part of her that she’d never be able to contain it. And because Lauren had known that even though she wasn’t his mate, still, she had known his mate was close.

  “Who’s your mate? I know she’s close to you. Do you think I don’t feel her stealing my chance to live?” she screamed out in rage, her face twisting with it. “I won’t let you have her, Cullen. I swear to you I’ll reach out from the grave and destroy both of you.”

  The smell of her desperation, her pain, sank inside him like a bitter breath.

  He inhaled wearily; the memory of his hopelessness at that time, of her lost hope and ever-deepening terror as death neared, was a reminder of his failure of his wife.

  Of his duty to her.

  God knew he had understood her desperation to live, to survive. The spirit would fight for life at all costs in most situations. Even then, despite his own feelings of betrayal, if he could have saved her, then he would have. And every day he’d thanked God that the mating couldn’t come alive because of guilt alone.

  “I’ll never let you have her,” Lauren whispered just before she slipped into a drugged sleep. “Do you hear me, Cullen? I’ll never let you have her. All you had to do was mate me. All you had to do was save me from this and I would have let you go.” Hatred gleamed in her eyes before they filled with terror and tears once again. “You were my only hope.” She’d believed that if he’d just loved her, then that would be all it took.

  Nature wasn’t nearly that kind, though, was it?

  He was a Breed; his life had been filled with the knowledge of his and other Breeds’ agony and terrors on a daily basis while in the research facility. What he’d sensed from Lauren in those final weeks before her death was a bleak addition to those memories.

  The ringing of his sat phone pulled him from his musings and back to the present. Pulling the device from his back pocket, he slid it open after checking the caller ID and greeted the caller.

  “Ranger? What’s up?” His second in command had charge of the Agency until Cullen’s return.

  Whenever that might be.

  “We have a problem.” Fury filled his second’s tone as it came over the line. “Dammit all to hell, Cullen, someone got to Morales, the surviving cartel assailant. They just found him in his cell, his throat cut. We hadn’t even had a chance to interrogate him yet.”

  Cullen stilled, the fingers of his other hand curling into fists as they literally ached to slam into something.

  “How the hell did that happen?” he snapped back with brutal fury. “Did you pull security coverage?”

  “Techs say it was jammed during the time he was taken out.” Ranger’s voice shook with his own anger. “We took every precaution and the cartel still got to him.”

  There was no reason for Cerves to come after his own man and take him out. If the story the assailant had given them at the scene was true, then he didn’t have much information to begin with. Cerves would be the one with details, not the muscle he used to get the job done.

  “Pull in our contacts, see if there’s anything out there about the murder. I want to know why, Ranger, and I want to know now. Let me know as soon as you find out anything.”

  “How’s Chelsea doing?” Disgust still rang in the other man’s tone. “And I didn’t get a chance to tell you Lauren’s parents came by Nation headquarters looking for you yesterday.”

  “They caught up with me,” Cullen grunted. “And Chelsea’s doing fine. Bruised and sore, but nothing that won’t heal in time.” Except the memory of it.

  “Yeah,” Ranger sighed. “The Holdens showed up at the house, then?”

  “They were waiting with Chelsea’s family when I pulled in the drive,” Cullen told him heavily as he swiped his fingers through his hair and paced to the kitchen window, frowning as he stared into the desert beyond his house. “They stayed for a while.”

  “Damn,” Ranger muttered. “How did they handle Chelsea being with you? You haven’t really had a relationship since Lauren’s death.”

  No, he hadn’t. The knowledge that Lauren had deceived him so easily had been too fresh for those first years. Afterward, he’d been too busy running from that gut-deep hunger for Chelsea that he couldn’t seem to escape.

  “We didn’t discuss it,” Cullen informed him, his words clipped, cold. “Look, I need to go. Find out what the hell happened with Morales, and do it fast. I want to know who’s targeted Chelsea, and I want to know why. That’s priority.” Not Lauren’s parents or a past he couldn’t change.

  “Got it, boss,” Ranger sighed. “I’ll check in tomorrow one way or the other. You still have her Breed security for backup?”

  “Backup’s taken care of.” Cullen stared outside, wondering what the hell was causing the disquiet inside him as he searched for any movement.

  “Good to know. Call if you need me.”

  The line disconnected.

  Absently, Cullen slid the phone closed and returned it to his back pocket, realizing his eyesight was sharpening even as he let it rove over the early-morning landscape.

  The sound of the shower pulled his attention from anything that might be outside and back to the woman ripping apart his nerves of steel. Instantly, his cock was hard, throbbing, pressing against his jeans with imperative demand. The scent of her filled his head, the faintest hint of her subtle heat, her arousal, reaching him as his tongue began to itch.

  He could feel the awakening of his animal senses as he hadn’t before; the stillness of it since he’d arrived at the house with Chelsea the day before was over. There were no great revelations, merely an awareness that when those instincts awakened he was fully merged with them. His senses were stronger with that awakening, more intuitive; answers came to him faster, sight, scent, taste and touch revealing far more than they had before.

  Turning, he stalked toward the bedroom; the knowledge that Chelsea was holding back from him was startlingly clear. He’d fel
t it during each confrontation they’d had, just as he’d felt it before dawn when she took him with such need. The need was physical, hollow, lacking the emotion he knew was there. And the instincts riding him weren’t going to allow it to go on.

  If he didn’t secure her heart, he’d lose her anyway. If he didn’t find a way to push past whatever barrier he could feel between them, then neither of them would find any peace in their life together.

  He was dominant enough, secure enough in his own sense of self that he knew he’d never be satisfied with this half a mating they seemed to have. Cullen did nothing halfway, and he damned sure wasn’t going to start with his mate.


  From Graeme’s Journal

  Recessed Primal Genetics and Mating Heat

  A mate forced to wait is a mate whose retribution can sear with the hottest flames and show the Breed the dangers of ignoring the nature of his beast—

  Chelsea was just out of the shower, a towel still wrapped around her damp body, when Cullen stepped into the bedroom, his gaze hooded as he closed the door and watched her silently. She hadn’t expected him to be pleased with her determination to participate in his planned visit to the Cerves compound, but this distant silence wasn’t expected either.

  Nor was it wanted.

  He let himself believe she didn’t know how he felt about protecting her, but she did. She knew the type of man who held her heart. His sense of honor, his need for justice. He was a loner, too intense at times, arrogant and far too self-confident, but that was his nature. That confidence came from experience, training and the sense of honor that filled him.

  “I don’t want to argue with you, Cullen.” She didn’t want to have to feel as though she was a disappointment to him any longer.

  “Don’t you?” he asked her, the rasp of his voice warning her that a growl was on the horizon.

  Breeds and those growls. They seemed to think that was all they had to do to get their way.

  She shook her head at the question. “I’ve never wanted to argue with you.” She held her hands out to him for a moment before gripping the front of the towel once again. “We’re not going to agree on this.” She’d realized that while she was in the shower. A bitter smile tipped her lips. “And do you know what? I can’t even figure out why this mating thing even happened with us.”

  They were so incompatible . . .

  Her eyes widened, lips parting nervously as the growling sounds rumbled with such feral warning she couldn’t help but take notice this time.

  As he stared at her, the simmering arousal that didn’t seem to ever completely ease away began to build in her body. The reaction didn’t really seem unnatural, it was just a little stronger than it had been over the years anyway.

  Gripping the towel tighter, Chelsea stared back at him, watching as his gaze began to burn with lust. Swallowing past the nervousness building in her throat, she licked her suddenly dry lips and tried to control her escalating breathing. It wasn’t easy to do, especially when he sat down in the chair next to the door and removed his boots and socks.

  Standing once again, he stripped his shirt off, tossed it to the floor and then with swift, economical movements loosened his jeans and shed them as well.

  Chelsea completely lost her breath then. She hadn’t taken the time to really look at the body that gave her such pleasure, until now.

  His chest was broad, his abs flat and muscular. Long, powerful legs were tense, the muscles at his thighs rippling. Between those thighs his erection stood out, thick and heavy. The dark head pulsed with the lust surging through the erect shaft, the heavy veins throbbing in tandem with it.

  As her eyes widened, Cullen stepped to her and hauled her into his arms, his lips covering hers in an explosion of pure hunger.

  Cinnamon exploded against her taste buds as his tongue surged between her lips. Invading, licking, stroking over hers as flaming need rushed through her senses. Just as quickly he pulled back, ignoring her cry of protest. Instead, his lips brushed over her jaw and moved to her neck, scraping over sensitive nerve endings before moving to the mark he’d left at her shoulder.

  There, he actually bit her. Not enough to pierce her skin, just enough to send flashing arcs of pleasure racing through her senses. Before she could process the sensual attack it was gone and she found herself pushed back on the mattress.

  He groaned, pushing her legs apart before sliding between them. “I dreamed about eating this sweet little pussy for years, do you know that?”

  He had? Chelsea stared down at him dazed, because he’d never given her so much as a look to indicate it.

  The thought scattered as his head lowered, his greedy lips and tongue tasting her sex with hungry demand.

  A rumbled growl vibrated against her clit and sent a pulse of ecstasy to attack her vagina. Chelsea tangled her hands in his hair, the sudden blistering pleasure difficult to process as his tongue circled the sensitive bud. Licking over it, around it, he toyed with it before drawing it between his lips and sucking firmly.

  Her orgasm surged through her with a suddenness that was breathtaking. The detonation rippled to her pussy and convulsed her womb. Her juices spilled from her and just as quickly, he was there.

  Licking, lapping at the heated moisture, his tongue pressed inside her entrance, his groan sent a vibration of scalding pleasure against her sensitive flesh as he tongued her with quick, rapid strokes. Each hungry thrust of his tongue had her crying out for more, her senses rioting out of control again.

  “Cullen,” she sobbed, her hips jerking against his mouth.

  Fiery, ecstatic, she climaxed again in surging waves as her hips bucked against each stabbing thrust and hungry lick.

  The blinding intensity of pleasure came from more than just the act, though, and Chelsea knew it. It wasn’t just the sensual, erotic touch alone unraveling her. It was what he did to her each time he took her. That feeling that each time he took her, he possessed more of her heart had a part of her soul shaking in terror.

  “This is all I’ve thought about, all I’ve ached for, for years.” His voice rasped with a rough, dark hunger that had her trembling at the need in it. “Damn you, you’ve made me crazy.”

  Rising between her thighs, he stared down at her, his gaze fiery, sweat-dampened features flushed, lips moist from her juices.

  Panting, fighting for air, Chelsea stared up at him, dazed as she watched him fighting for control. Cullen? Fighting for control? Until this moment he had been the most controlled person she had ever known.

  Before she could make sense of that change, he moved over her, gripping the heavy shaft of his cock and guiding it to the slick, swollen folds between her thighs. They parted over the broad head, opening for him, embracing him as he pressed the engorged crest between them.

  Watching, drunk on the pleasure, she trembled at Cullen’s sudden desperate need, and she watched as he began taking her.

  “I can’t be easy this time.” His breaths were sawing in and out of his lungs. “Ah hell, baby, I can’t be easy.”

  Easy wasn’t what she wanted, though.

  Her head ground into the blankets beneath her as he began pushing inside her. Short, quick thrusts parted the sensitive inner tissue. Flashing pleasure-pain struck at her nerve endings and ricocheted through her system.

  “So fucking hot,” he bit out between gritted teeth, his expression savage, hewn in lines of fierce male pleasure.

  Chelsea’s hips bucked into each deeper stroke, crying out at the rapture beginning to whip inside her. Stretching her, filling her, he worked his cock inside the snug channel until he completely filled her, possessing her body and, she feared, her soul.

  Ah hell, she was so tight, so hot. It was all he could do to hold back to ensure her pleasure, until he relinquished that final thread of control and lost himself inside her.

  She writhed beneath him, perspiration dewing her flushed features, her gaze slitted, staring back at him, dazed with the rushing pleasure he wa
s giving her.

  He was buried inside her to the hilt, her sweet flesh gripping and milking his dick, destroying him.

  Fuck, what had happened to him? He had more control than this and he knew it. Where had it gone?

  His breathing was erratic; flaming pleasure engulfed his senses. It was so extreme he was on the verge of shaking, trembling in her grip as he felt her pussy rippling around his erection.

  He was steel hard inside her, his dick so engorged, so fucking hard he had to grit his teeth to keep from pounding inside her like a maniac.

  “Fuck, you feel good, Chelsea,” he groaned, pulling back, the already snug channel tightening around him further as though to hold him inside her. “All I can think about is fucking you, touching you, tasting you.”

  Finesse was not happening and he knew it the moment he slammed inside her again, feeling her hips jerk, her pussy grasping him, milking at the tortured length of his cock.

  Her expression was drowsy, pleasure-drugged, as he stared down at her, a wave of possessiveness gripping his chest as he paused again, loving the way her pussy flexed and rippled around his cock. The feel of it pulled another groan from his chest as destructive waves of nearing rapture raked through his senses and tightened his balls.

  What the hell did she do him? What was she doing to him? Mating Heat was physical, it had nothing to do with emotion; it couldn’t, could it? Yet no matter how hard he fought he could feel her pushing at the walls he’d built around his soul.

  The tiny glands beneath his tongue were doing more than itching now. They were swollen, inflamed with the mating hormone as he tasted the heated essence of it.

  Thrusting inside her, he gritted his teeth as he fought to hold back, to relish each stroke of his cock in her sweet pussy; he knew he couldn’t keep from kissing her much longer and sharing the drugging essence of the mating hormone.

  One hand grabbed her hip, a snarl of frustration tearing from his chest, Cullen lowered his head as his thrusts became harder, deeper, and brushed his lips over hers.

  “Kiss me, baby,” he growled, his tongue aching for the warmth of that kiss. “Take all of me.”

  She moaned against his lips, her hands gripping his biceps, nails pricking his flesh as her lips parted, her tongue meeting his as he stroked past the sweet curves.

  The cinnamon taste infusing his senses intensified as his tongue stroked over hers. Then her lips surrounded it, suckled at the taste, once, twice, pulling it free in a rich flood of exquisite heat.

  Cullen slanted his lips over hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth as a growl tore from his chest. His hand tightened at her hip as the last thread of control unraveled.

  Her knees lifted to clasp his hips as he began stroking inside her hard and deep, furious, desperate strokes as Chelsea writhed beneath him, hips lifting for each lunge of his erection inside the snug depths of her body. Her wild cries of building ecstasy intensified the blistering pleasure tearing through him as he fought to hold back his release. Just another minute. Just a few more strokes—

  He wasn’t going to last and Cullen knew it. And he wanted it to last. Needed it to last. He wanted the sweet heated depths of her pussy consuming him forever.

  Sweat dripped from his forehead, and his balls drew up to the base of his cock as he slammed inside her, over and over. The need to come, to fill her, to mark her senses and her flesh, was suddenly so imperative, filled with such primal demand that as he felt her orgasm exploding through her, his lips tore from hers. He covered the mark at the bend of her shoulder and neck and rather than just gripping it, he felt the longer canines pierce her flesh instead.

  The faint coppery taste of her blood was overshadowed by the cinnamon taste of the hormone. His tongue lapped at the wound as he released his grip on her, feeling her jerking, shuddering beneath him.

  A second later a snarl tore from him as his release ripped through him with an explosion that shattered his senses to hell and back.

  Thrusting deep, he arched his back as a band of pure rapture tightened around his dick. The mating barb extended, the ultrasensitive erection emerging and locking inside the convulsing depths of her vagina as the explosion shook him to the core.

  He jerked with each heavy spurt of semen erupting from his cock.

  The agonizing pleasure shooting through him was euphoric, his release so deep, so strong he wondered if he’d survive the aftermath. Because in that moment he realized Chelsea might well hold more of his soul than he could safely live without if he lost her.

  What the hell happened?

  How had it happened?

  Trying to process the physical and emotional quagmire he found himself in wasn’t easy for Cullen.

  Hell, dealing with his emotions had always been something he avoided at all costs. Breeds were stripped of emotions at an early age for the most part, the horrors of their creation and their training teaching them quickly that emotions meant not just the death of one Breed, but littermates as well.

  The scientists and trainers had learned early that even if their emotions were suppressed, Breeds were incredibly loyal to littermates. They depended on one another, silently—they learned early to hide it, but those who oversaw them caught on quickly.

  Breeds knew that if one of them escaped, then those littermates would pay the price. Any attempts to escape resulted in the young being viciously beaten or tortured to death as the offending Breed was forced to watch.

  It was a brutal world they’d been created to be a part of, a world so many hadn’t survived. Only the strongest and most cunning of those created lived to see freedom.

  Freedom hadn’t given Cullen the luxury of learning how to deal with everything he’d been taught to push back and ignore, though.

  Less than six months after being brought to the Navajo Nation and given a new identity, a new life, he’d met Lauren and married. The next two years had brutalized the few emotions he’d allowed free. When it was over he had forced it all back and returned to his training feeling the least amount of emotion possible.

  And that was why when Chelsea came to work for him at the Covert Law Enforcement Agency, she’d so fascinated him. Because Chelsea seemed to feel everything. She could give him a blank stare and pop off a smart-ass comment while her amusement would reach out to him, stroking against him like the whisper of a summer breeze. Or she could narrow her eyes, those pretty lips thinning, and the summer breeze would turn to a blast of fiery anger.

  She didn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve, though. Cullen doubted anyone besides a Breed could even detect the subtle scents and signs she gave off unless she wanted them to.

  She was a strong woman, didn’t take offense easily and watched the world with interest and a desire to live that terrified him.

  And she kept her word.

  That was one thing Cullen admitted he’d been surprised by when she came to work for him. If she said she would do it, she did it. If she gave him a report, then it was, to the word, an accurate accounting of what happened.

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