Wake a sleeping tiger, p.17
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.17
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  So why the hell was he having such a hard time figuring out what the hell she was feeling now? He’d assumed with the Mating Heat that she loved him, but not once had she mentioned the L word or asked for anything resembling a commitment.

  Hell, she was still giving the impression that the mating and Cullen were more an inconvenience in her life than anything else. If it weren’t for the pleasure he knew she felt and the fact that she said all she’d asked for was to work and fight beside him, he’d have assumed that nature had finally been fucked in her judgment.

  Now, two days later, sitting next to her in a borrowed sedan as she made adjustments to her telephoto sunglasses, he found himself clenching his teeth, again, until his jaw hurt.

  She was completely focused on those damned glasses despite the fact that the scent of her arousal in the closed vehicle had him so hard again, his cock so engorged, it was all he could do to stay in a sitting position.

  “You want to explain to me why we’re sitting outside the police station rather than going in?” he asked, realizing he wasn’t hiding his testiness.

  And he did feel highly testy.

  He still hadn’t figured out how she’d talked him into this.

  He wanted to keep her safely hidden in the house, with Draeger, Tobias and Graeme’s men covering them, watching for any dangers slipping up on them. There, he had his safe egress and means of protecting her that he wouldn’t have anywhere else.

  “These glasses are on loan from the Bureau.” As she turned to him, he met her gaze through the dark lenses.

  He was impressed. There was nothing to distinguish them from a regular pair of sunglasses.

  “Nice,” he answered cautiously. “But you still haven’t answered me.”

  She grinned back at him before focusing on the electronic pad she held on her lap.

  “The camera built into the lenses themselves has a camera, video and audio. The experimental nanotechnology will follow my eye movements and record and store everything to the e-pad as long as it’s connected.” She tapped the e-pad. “I can do what I do without you standing over my shoulder growling. And you can keep an eye on me and assure yourself I’m safe.”

  Looking from the entrance of the police department then back to her, Cullen gave her a mocking chuckle and shook his head.

  “You actually believe I’m letting you go in there alone?” Now, wasn’t she just the little optimist? “And stop rolling your eyes at me.”

  Those sunglasses didn’t nearly hide her eyes enough to keep his Breed eyesight from detecting the movement.

  “I’m a big girl, Cullen,” she drawled. “I can take care of myself. Didn’t you say something similar to Graeme this morning when you learned he was trying to protect you?”

  The little arch of a brow over the frame of the lens assured him he hadn’t misheard the sarcasm in her voice.

  Trust her to bite his ass with that lecture he’d given Graeme.

  “Chelsea—” He counted to ten.

  He made it to five.

  “Cullen.” She interrupted his count as she said his name in a tone so sweet it could have been candy. “If you go in with me, no one’s going to talk to me. You glare at everyone.”

  He was definitely going to end up cracking a molar, his jaw was so tight.

  “And there’s not a man in that station who’s going to believe I’ve let you out of my sight long enough to question them about anything after that attack on you the day before yesterday,” he tried to point out. “The world saw me trying to pull you out of that mess. And those men know me.” He pointed his finger to the department in a stabbing motion. “They’ll be suspicious.”

  Her laugh had his cock jerking in far too much interest at the challenge he heard in the sound.

  “I bet they like me much better,” she informed him with a smirk. “And they’ll be expecting me. Without you.” Tilting the glasses down her nose, she peeked at him over the frames, her brown eyes sparkling mischievously. “Why do you think Ranger always sent me to question the investigating officers whenever the two of you needed statements? Hell, Ranger’s probably sitting on his ass waiting on me to send him my report so he can call you and give his report. No doubt that’s why he hasn’t managed to send it to you yet.”

  He was going to kick Ranger’s ass if that actually happened. Not that he doubted Chelsea’s word, because he didn’t. And he knew the reports from the Navajo police were not nearly as in-depth and detailed as they had been when Chelsea was there.

  He rubbed his hand over his face, frustration eating at his insides. He didn’t want her going in there alone for several reasons, not the least of which, because he knew most of those men in there too and he knew they were damned perverts.

  “So all you have to do is watch the screen while I go do my thing,” she suggested.

  Every human and Primal instinct inside him reared its head in pure male jealousy.

  “While you do what thing?” he bit out, keeping his expression carefully calm.

  Even his fingernails were aching, he was so tense.

  Feminine outrage filled the car with the scent of her offended pride now.

  “Really, Cullen?” she asked him with a little insulting curl of her lip. “Don’t worry, I promise to keep my pants on. I’m a little shy like that. Especially in public places.”

  “Dammit, I didn’t mean to say that.” Patience. He just needed to hold on to his patience. “That attack was too coordinated. We already know there’s a price on your head. The closer I am to you, the more I can help you and keep the third attack from succeeding. You’re making me crazy here, Chelsea.”

  “Of course your craziness is all my fault.” She gave a bitter little snort of laughter as she turned forward and breathed in slow and deep. It did nothing to still the scent of her outrage and ire, though.

  When she turned back to him and removed the glasses, meeting his gaze with cool brown eyes, in that second he knew that if he went with his instincts and followed her, he would damage a part of the relationship he wanted with her and it might not be repairable.

  “I’m walking in there alone,” she informed him, her voice clipped. “You can watch or you can go home. Follow me and when you do go home, you’ll be returning without me.”

  Slapping the e-pad on his thigh with enough force to draw an irritated growl from his throat, she stared back at him demandingly.

  Chelsea knew how to talk to people, he knew that. More important, she knew how to get them talking, how to get information that even those she was talking to didn’t realize was pertinent.

  Detectives tended to give Cullen only what they thought he wanted, just as he gave them.

  But letting her go in there alone was grating on his instincts like nails over a chalkboard.

  “Do you have any idea how much I’ll worry?” He tried to make her understand his need to make certain she wasn’t harmed.

  Her anger eased, but the scent of resigned acceptance replaced it.

  “Do you know I worried when you were in the field?” she asked him then, staring back at him as the soft scent of remembered fear reached his nostrils. “But I remained at the office, where you said you needed me. Now I’m telling you, you go in there with me and there’s not a chance in hell I’m going to get anyone to talk to me.”

  In that moment he knew he’d lost this argument.

  A grimace tightened his jaw further.

  “Stop grinding your teeth,” she advised him with a little flip of her hand. “Before you crack a molar.”

  Pushing the glasses back over her eyes, she left the vehicle, slammed the door behind her and jogged across the street.

  Alone.

  And he hated it.

  CHAPTER 16

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  The Primal, once active, will never rest, will never sleep, unless his mate is close enough to touch . . . Only then is she close enough to always protect.

  Chelsea
tried to assure herself that she was handling the situation with Cullen the best way possible. After all, if they were going to have any peace in everyday life after the danger was over, then she needed to establish her independence early in the game.

  Cullen had no idea how much she would have preferred to have him at her back as she jogged across the street and into the police department. Not to mention being enclosed in the elevator with several unknown men. But if she let herself think about the danger she was in, then the fear would creep in. A fear that would leave her in the shower shaking from the inside out again. So she didn’t let herself think about it, didn’t let herself consider it.

  She did what she’d done so many other times as Cullen’s assistant and used her friendship with the officers and detectives she knew to get the information she needed.

  And everyone was willing to talk to her once they realized she was there.

  The detectives for the most part were friends of the family. A few she’d actually grown up with and been friends with most of her life.

  The news that the only surviving assailant, Hector Morales, had been killed while in police custody shocked her when Cullen had told her about it. To get to Morales it had to have been an inside job. Someone at the department either had helped the murderer or committed the act themselves.

  And she couldn’t imagine any of the detectives or officers she knew actually killing a prisoner. She suspected several were on Cerves’s payroll. That suspicion was even stronger after talking to them. She didn’t get the sense they were involved in killing the prisoner, though.

  She’d been there over two hours, the sunglasses hanging from the front of her blouse rather than on top of her head. A few of the braver officers actually copped a look at her breasts. She could just imagine Cullen growling each time it happened.

  Unfortunately there weren’t many details to be found on Morales’s death. It happened sometime after three in the morning. The guard on duty at the security cameras reported a technical problem when the screens filled with static, and when the cameras came back up minutes later, Morales was dead.

  He’d had no visitors, made no calls, hadn’t had a cell mate and no one had seemed overtly interested in him other than their amazement that Chelsea had been the intended victim. Though he might have scuffled with a few of the officers at some point. Officers who didn’t appreciate the fact that Chelsea had been targeted.

  “I don’t know what to say, Chelsea.” Dylan Rowe pushed his fingers through his short black hair, disgust glittering in his dark eyes.

  He was several years older than Chelsea, an experienced investigator, and Chelsea had always trusted him in the past. Still handsome, and in good shape if the fit of his jeans and gray dress shirt were any indication. His thick, coarse black hair had a raven’s sheen, and his black eyes were invariably filled with amusement.

  At this moment, his gaze was somber, though, frustration gleaming in it as he tossed a copy of the report on Morales’s death toward her.

  “What about forensics?” she asked as she picked up the file, leaned against his desk and opened it, a frown creasing her brow.

  There was nothing there, just as he’d said.

  “Nada.” Leaning back in his chair, hands clasped behind his neck, he shook his head decisively. “The final report isn’t in yet, but my sister’s a tech at the lab. I talked to her earlier.” He shot Chelsea a quick grin, his craggy features filling with amusement. “She says hi, by the way.”

  Tara had been a hell-raiser in school.

  “Tell her she still has my favorite pair of boots,” she laughed.

  Dylan chuckled at the message. “She said you’d remember those boots.” Then he sighed heavily, lowered his arms and shook his head. “I wish I had more.”

  “What about your informants, Dylan?” she asked him. “What are they telling you?”

  “Informants? In the Cerves cartel?” His eyes widened. “Really, Chelsea?”

  She snorted at the false innocence.

  “Tell that to someone who doesn’t know how you work,” she suggested knowingly. “Come on, Dylan, I know you have them.”

  He grimaced at the statement before glancing to the door. When he turned back to her, speculation lit his gaze.

  “From what I understand, hell hath no fury like Samara Cerves since her daughter Louisa’s death. Even my informants were surprised when Morales and his men tried to abduct you. The Blood Queen and her family have been completely focused on finding the girl who snatched her kid from those Coyotes. Samara hasn’t cared about contracts coming in no matter how much money’s attached to them. All she wants is to find that girl and kill as many Council soldiers and Breeds as possible,” he snorted. “She’s racking up numbers there.”

  Chelsea stared down at the file, making certain her expression didn’t show a reaction. “She ever find out who rescued the little girl?”

  “Whoever that chick was, she’s a fucking ghost,” he stated with a short sniff of laughter. “Crashed the gates and the minute Samara and her men turned their backs, she was gone like the wind. All anyone knows is that the vehicle carried the Breed Underground insignia.” He gave a short little shake of his head and another snort of laughter as he glanced up at her, that laughter gleaming in his eyes. “Has the locals spouting tales about the Unknown again, though. So at least the crazies are being kept busy with something.”

  She had to laugh at that. The Unknown weren’t the legends everyone believed they were, but she didn’t care one bit to have them taking the credit for Louisa’s rescue.

  They were indeed like ghosts, though. So much a part of the land that they were almost invisible.

  “It was a shame about that baby, though,” Dylan sighed, compassion filling his expression. “Whoever the girl is, she deserves a medal, not the fury Samara Cerves is exploding with in her search for her. She’s crazy enough to kill her if she gets her hands on her, though.”

  “Why?” Chelsea asked, laying the file on his desk and distracting his attention from her face.

  “Because the kid died.” He scratched at his cheek, bemusement flickering over his face. “I guess she’s getting the heat for that, same as the Council Breeds the Blood Queen’s rounding up. Anyway.” He breathed out roughly as he leaned back in his chair again and gave her a heavy look. “I find out anything else, Chelsea, you’ll be the first to know. But that’s all I can give you right now.”

  That promise was all she was going to get today, and Chelsea knew it.

  “Thanks, Dylan, I appreciate it,” she told him as he rose to his feet.

  Lifting her hand in farewell, Chelsea left the office, frustration eating at her as she started down the hall to the bank of elevators.

  Someone had to have seen something or someone where Hector Morales was concerned, yet if they had, they weren’t telling the tale.

  “Hey, Chelsea, hold up.” A familiar male voice calling out behind her had her stopping and turning quickly.

  She smiled at the dark-haired, lanky agent heading up the hall toward her. Cute in a studious kind of way, usually too quiet and rarely in a hurry, Ranger shot her a quick grin.

  “Ranger. Are you here to get Cullen’s report?” She smiled at Cullen’s second in command.

  He strode toward her, looking comfortable in his relaxed jeans, scuffed boots and nicely pressed white shirt, the sleeves rolled back along his forearms.

  “Me?” His brows lifted and despite the teasing tone she could see a glimmer of seriousness in his gaze. “Hell, I was hoping you’d have already taken care of that. I just dropped in to see if Marcy wanted to have dinner this evening.”

  Marcy was his longtime girlfriend. Very longtime.

  “Not this time, my friend,” she answered, very well aware Cullen was listening to every word. “If I write one I’ll send you a copy, though,” she teased, knowing how badly he hated getting those reports.

  “I’ll expect it in a few hours.” He wasn’t teasing. “You’re killing
me with this resignation thing. I spend more time here than I do in the office now, and the officers here don’t like me near as much as they like you.”

  Ranger hated getting intel for Cullen out of the detectives.

  “Grow boobs,” she snickered. “That’s all they require. Their brains stop and their mouths start. They’re really kind of cute when it happens.” And those officers made a running joke of it.

  Ranger grimaced good-naturedly. “I told Cullen he made a mistake letting you go. I was hoping this thing you two are doing meant you’d come back.”

  This thing they were doing?

  “I wouldn’t bet on it. And I better be going, Ranger.” She laughed, determined to leave before he managed to piss her totally off with his comments about her and Cullen’s “thing.”

  “You heading down, then?” He gestured to the end of the hall.

  “Yeah, I have a few more things I need to get done today,” she told him. “You?”

  “I’m still waiting for Marcy.” He frowned thoughtfully. “Can we talk for a minute?”

  That probably wasn’t a good idea, but she had no idea how to get out of it without offending him.

  “Sure.” She shrugged, pasting a smile on her face. “Is everything okay?”

  For a second indecision flushed across his handsome face before it cleared, his features settling into determined lines.

  “I know you’re staying with Cullen,” he finally said, his tone heavy with concern.

  Uh-oh, this so was not a good idea.

  “Ranger—” She tried to protest.

  “Listen to me for a minute, Chelsea.” He reached out as though to stop her before pulling his hand back. “Look, there’s things you don’t know, honey, and I don’t want you getting your heart broken over him.” Oh God, she didn’t want to do this. This was Cullen’s friend. He was probably Cullen’s only true friend.

  “You’re making a mistake, Ranger. Let’s not discuss this right now, okay?” She tried to warn him. “Your concerns are noted and I promise I’ll be just fine.”

  “You’re so damned stubborn.” He grimaced. “But you’re my friend and I don’t want to see you hurt. Okay?”

  “I won’t get hurt . . .”

  “I know you think you love him.” He sighed, talking over her as he stared down at her imploringly. “And I know you think he can love you, but it won’t happen, honey. Losing Lauren broke something inside Cullen. You’ll always be second best and you deserve more than that. You know you do.”

  Now, this was bad. Cullen was not going to appreciate this advice coming from his friend. He was going to be pissed. Hell, he was probably already pissed.

  “Stop, Ranger. We’re not doing this.” She turned to rush to the elevators, determined to stop the train wreck.

  “Wait, Chelsea, please.” He stepped in front of her, blocking her way, his face creasing in regret. “He’s a hard man . . .”

  “And he’s your friend, he wouldn’t appreciate this and I don’t want to hear it.” Tightening her grip on the strap of her pack, she fought to hold on to her temper. “And it won’t make a difference. I do what I want to do. Period. Now good-bye.”

  “Come on, Chelsea, you really believe that? You’re Lauren’s cousin, and he loved her. That’s why he brought you into the office, that reminder of her. You’re a stand-in for her, nothing more.” The shocking statement had her pausing.

  “I look nothing like her.” She pushed out the words between gritted teeth. “I am nothing like her. That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard come out of your mouth. It’s right up there with accusing me of wanting your job when Cullen first hired me. It’s idiotic.”

  Working with Ranger had never been easy, but he’d never gone this far before either.

  “You’re so stubborn.” Ranger shook his head in disappointment. “You know, he and Lauren knew about that little crush you had on him when you were a teenager. They laughed about it then. How pathetic you were watching him with those puppy dog eyes all the time. You’re just as pathetic now.”

  She wasn’t listening to any more of this. She couldn’t. Pushing past him, Chelsea strode quickly to the elevators, intent on catching the one slowly sliding open.

  As the doors revealed the interior of the cubicle, she froze in shock as Cullen stepped out, gripped her arm and pulled her inside without saying a word.

  And he was furious.

  His eyes were flat and hard, the green darker, the amber flecks more pronounced. And she swore he looked taller, broader as he stood beside her after punching the key for the first floor.

  Chelsea restrained a groan of pure frustration. She’d actually forgotten about those damned glasses as Ranger kept running his mouth. Geez, she’d known he was a moron for years, but he’d really outdone himself this time.

  But despite the hurtful words, she knew, in his own way, he was just trying to protect her.

  Sort of.

  Like the detectives and officers at the department, she’d known him all her life. And like her family he had a tendency to be overprotective and a little too free with his advice.

  Whether she wanted it or not.

  Whether she could handle it or not.

  Reaching the first floor, Cullen led her firmly from the elevator and through the lobby, ignoring the greetings called out to him from several of the officers and lawyers he passed.

  He was more furious than she’d ever seen him. But she really wasn’t so happy herself. Not with him or with Ranger.

  Reaching the car, Cullen pulled open the passenger door, and once she was inside he closed it with enough force that she winced.

  The drive back to his house was anything but comfortable. The tension sizzled around him, heavy enough that a weaker-willed woman would have drowned in it.

 
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