Wake a sleeping tiger, p.18
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.18
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  Pulling in behind the house, he shut off the vehicle, and rather than waiting for him to open her door she let herself out of the car, ignoring his dark look.

  As they entered the house he closed that door loudly behind them as well.

  Wow, she’d never heard him slam doors before.

  “Graeme canceled the meeting again,” he told her, his tone a dangerous rasp of fury. “Cerves won’t be at his compound for several more days and Graeme wants to gather more intel before we talk.”

  “A wise decision,” she murmured, watching him carefully.

  His expression tightened further and she knew that cracked molar was coming soon.

  He shifted, his feet planted firmly on the floor, legs slightly parted, and the prepared stance had a frown flickering on her brow.

  “What, Cullen?” She crossed her arms over her breasts and stared back at him with a glare. “Are you going to try to blame me for Ranger’s diarrhea of the mouth? Not my fault. That’s between you and Ranger.”

  “Do you want him to die?” The hard, flat look in his eyes had her swallowing tightly at the question.

  He wouldn’t really kill Ranger, she assured herself.

  “Look, I know he’s your friend . . .”

  “He lied to you, Chelsea,” he suddenly snarled, his fingers curling into fists for a moment before he pushed them restlessly through his hair. “At no time did I ever hint that you were at the fucking office as a reminder of Lauren. And I damned sure, not at any time, never made fun of our friendship when you were a teenager.” His jaw clenched and unclenched with furious motions as he glared down at her, his gaze probing. “I would never have done such a thing.”

  Anger vibrated in the air around him, frustration and maybe resentment. Maybe he hadn’t told Ranger she was a Lauren stand-in of some sort, but it wasn’t completely illogical either.

  “But I am your mate now,” she pointed out quietly, that knowledge settling heavy in her heart as she watched him. Perhaps the recessed genetics really were the reason he hadn’t mated his wife then. When his Breed instincts began waking, he’d mated her because she was the closest he could get to having his wife back.

  “Again, not your fault,” he growled, heated lust flashing in his eyes. “And not something I regret for a moment, so don’t even go there.”

  “Why do you think this happened now, then?” she asked suspiciously. “You had four years to make this mating start or to even show me you wanted me. Why now? Why did it just happen now?”

  He prowled farther into the room, coming nearer, not stopping until she stepped several feet in the opposite direction.

  “Answer me,” she demanded, despite the lust in his eyes and her own growing heat. As though the confrontation only made the need to touch, to taste, more extreme. “Why now?”

  He inhaled sharply, a grimace contorting his expression. “It actually began the morning you gave me your resignation,” he told her, his expression hardening. “The recessed Breed instincts hadn’t become active enough, though, to strengthen the mating hormone until I learned you’d been attacked.”

  She knew how it worked. Graeme had explained it to her. When a Breed was faced with the woman the animal instinct recognized as its mate, then small glands beneath the Breed’s tongue filled with a liquid hormone that bound them together physically. According to Graeme, her resignation had caused the inner animal instincts to jerk in response and begin awakening. She was leaving him, and the strength of the animal’s refusal to allow that had activated his Breed instincts. Or, she wondered, had the man’s refusal to lose his only reminder of his lost wife started the mating instead?

  “When I kissed you after learning of the attack, it was stronger. It’s only gotten more so since,” Cullen concluded. “This had nothing to do with Lauren, and nothing to do some fucking insane view Ranger has of how I feel. For God’s sake, she’s been dead ten years,” he snarled. “He’s the one with the problem here, Chelsea. Not me.”

  “Tell me why it happened now, Cullen,” she demanded, needing to understand what was happening to them, and why it was happening now. “What made now different? I had threatened to leave dozens of times and you didn’t mate me then.”

  “Because I was losing you and I knew it,” he snapped, his expression filling with frustration as he raked his fingers restlessly through his hair. “I felt it when you drew that damned piece of paper from your jacket. You were leaving me.”

  And she had been. She nodded heavily, refusing to hide from it.

  “I was actually getting ready to leave the Nation,” she admitted, watching his eyes flare with pending fury. “It was Ashley and Cassie who convinced me to wait to see if I could get on with the Bureau. And after what happened with Louisa . . .” She gave a heavy shrug. “I changed my mind.”

  She stared around the kitchen, her body so sensitive now, her need to touch him, to be touched by him, only growing.

  “You were going to completely leave me?” he bit out, moving closer again as she shifted farther around the table. “Do you really think I wouldn’t have come looking for you?”

  Did she?

  She shook her head slowly.

  “No, I don’t think you would have,” she admitted, her voice sharper, confused as to why he’d believe she’d even give it a thought. “I think you would have let me go. If I had left as I meant to, the attack by that Coyote wouldn’t have happened and you wouldn’t have come looking for me. Then the mating wouldn’t have started, and your friend wouldn’t give a damn who you were sleeping with.”

  That smile that curled at his lips wasn’t comforting and had nothing to do with amusement.

  “Is that what you think?” His eyes narrowed then, tension tightening the muscles at his jaw. “I’ll deal with Ranger soon, don’t doubt it. But I cannot believe you’d even consider a reality where I wouldn’t have come for you.”

  “It’s what I know,” she informed him heatedly, the knowledge of it hurting far more than she wanted to admit to herself. “You had four years to decide you wanted me,” she pointed out furiously. “We were together almost daily and you didn’t want me then. So why the hell should it matter if I left now?”

  “And you really believe that? Oh baby, you are so fucking wrong.” He was on her before she could evade him, his voice part growl, part incredulous anger.

  Before she could stop him, he pulled her hand to the erection beneath his jeans and held her palm in place.

  “I’ve been like iron since the night you showed up at that damned Breed Underground meeting with Steven Fields when you were no more than eighteen fucking years old, and it’s only gotten worse since.”

  She’d been so desperate to see him that she’d all but begged Steven to let her go with him.

  “And you want me to believe you’ve waited all these years for a woman you say you’ve stayed hard for?” She jerked her hand out of his grip, but the feeling of heat remained. “Really, Cullen? Do you think I don’t know exactly who your lovers were over the years? You’re telling me you didn’t want the women you fucked?”

  That memory was enough to piss her off and remind her of the jealousy that ate at her during those times.

  “That actually about sums it up.” Disgust filled his voice and flashed across his expression. “But I knew myself, Chelsea. I wanted to give you time to grow up first; instead all I did was give you time to find ways to get yourself killed.”

  “No, Cullen, I figured out how to protect myself and others if I have to. And I’ll be damned if I’ll feel as though that’s a weakness of some kind,” she argued fiercely. “Mating me will not change who I am, so don’t even imagine it will.”

  She was not Lauren. She didn’t need him to shadow her every move. All she needed was a partner, not some damned grieving widower living in the past . . .

  Before the thought could finish she was in Cullen’s arms, his lips covering hers, the heated spice in his kiss stronger, more intense than it had been at any other time, and
it hit her senses faster, deeper.

  The arousal already overheating her senses flared into a conflagration and burned through thought, protest and shadows. Fear receded beneath the feelings that rose when she was in his arms. It wasn’t security she was searching for, but she found security in his arms.

  The resentment, anger and confusion were swept away by the incredible pleasure and need.

  She cried out, her lips parted, her tongue meeting his, arms gripping his shoulders as she held tight to him.

  Cullen was ravenous, his need for her as desperate as hers for him.

  His head tilted, his lips slanting over hers as he consumed her kiss. Lips and tongues met, melded, and control became a thing of the past.

  Chelsea didn’t want control, she didn’t want to be logical or realistic. In this moment she just wanted to be Cullen’s.

  “That’s it,” he groaned before nipping at her lips. “Burn for me.”

  Burn for him? She was already burning past reason.

  Reaching up, she buried her fingers in his hair, nipped his lips as he tried to pull back again before licking her tongue over them.

  His mouth slammed down on hers, a groan rumbling in his chest as her lips closed on his tongue, drawing the addictive, heated taste free. An overwhelming rush of sensation and fiery need tore through her senses, clenching the inner flesh of her sex and spasming through her womb.

  She didn’t have to think; all she had to do was give herself to the need storming through her now. And after his kiss was the need to feel his flesh against hers, skin to skin. She was desperate for it, needing it with the same out-of-control hunger that demanded his kiss.

  Chelsea tore at his shirt, needing it off him now. She might have felt a few buttons pop too before he was jerking the material free of his body.

  Her blouse was next, buttons tearing free before Cullen managed to release them all. She thought she might have heard material rip.

  It took precious moments to shed boots, shoes and clothes, to get to bare skin and the incredible pleasure to be found in the contact.

  Chelsea’s breath caught as he lifted her in his arms, her nipples raking over his chest, the caress exciting and heating the sensitive peaks. As she lifted her knees to his hips, the feel of the engorged crest of his cock against her lower stomach drew a desperate cry from her.

  Her juices wept from her vagina, the inner tissue clenching and rippling with the need for him inside her.

  She needed him now. She didn’t want to wait, didn’t need foreplay. She needed him inside her.

  “Now, Cullen,” she whispered, gripping his hips with her knees and lifting against him to get the broad crest to the entrance of her sex. “Please. Now.”

  She was dying for him, her breathing harsh and ragged, nails biting into his shoulders.

  Suddenly, her back met the wall. Gripping her thighs, Cullen lifted her, holding her in place as his cock began pressing against the narrow entrance.

  “Look at me,” he snarled.

  Heated pressure flared in her pussy as Chelsea forced her eyes open, staring up at him, dazed pleasure drugging her senses now.

  “I need you,” she whispered. “Please. Now.”

  “You were fucking eighteen.” His breathing hard, ragged. “A weapon strapped to your thigh and all I could think about was this.”

  The pressure increased, the stretching, heated sensations as he began pushing inside her pulling a cry from her lips.

  Slowly, by increments, his gaze holding hers despite the need to close them, his hips rocked against her, working the hard crest inside the hungry depths of her sex.

  “You’re mine,” he gritted out, his thighs bunching between hers, his eyes flaring with wild lust as she felt that overwhelming, desperate need rushing through her.

  A second later, blinding, incredible pleasure tore through her senses. She cried out his name, losing her breath as sensation blazed through her.

  Steady, hard thrusts impaled her, driving his cock deeper with each stroke. Pleasure-pain streaked through her senses even as her body demanded more.

  She needed more of him. She needed all of him.

  Moving against him as he thrust inside her, whimpering cries falling from her, Chelsea felt the rising pleasure beginning to burn through her determination to hold a part of herself back. To keep from becoming lost in the whipping emotions she felt rising in the storm tearing through her.

  The need to become lost in him was strong, though. It was becoming stronger each time he took her and taking more and more willpower to hold a part of herself back.

  Her arms tightened around him as her head fell to his shoulder, the feel of him laying a burning trail of kisses down her neck. She could feel her climax building, rushing through her.

  His hands gripped her hips, his cock shafting furiously inside her now.

  Brilliant, white-hot sensation suddenly exploded through her. The rush of ecstasy stole her mind, drawing a shattering cry from her as his teeth gripped the mark at her shoulder, his tongue rasping as his cock plunged deep.

  A desperate, breathless cry was torn from her as she felt the barb extend, locking him in place as his release began spurting inside her. Explosions of ecstasy shuddered through her again, the lightning-bright rush of sensation and emotion terrifying in its strength.

  She’d been desperate to hold a part of herself back, but in that moment she wondered if Cullen hadn’t already slipped inside her soul.

  CHAPTER 17

  From Graeme’s Journal

  Recessed Primal Genetics and Mating Heat

  Research into recessed Breed genetics, especially those of the recessed Primal instincts, has been woefully lacking and nearsighted.

  The Primal senses what even the Breed himself cannot pick up. And in regard to his mate, there are few secrets she can keep from the feral creature determined to claim her—

  Hours later, his body curled around Chelsea’s, Cullen stared into the darkened room, a frown furrowing his brow. Despite the excessive sexual play, Chelsea was still awake. She was exhausted, yet for some reason she still hadn’t slipped into sleep.

  “You’re not sleeping,” he finally pointed out softly. “I can feel you thinking.”

  And he knew Chelsea. Thinking was sometimes her worst enemy.

  “I didn’t come to the Agency wanting Ranger’s job,” she said quietly then. “I just wanted to be close to you.”

  He flipped her over quickly, one hand covering her lips as he stared down at her fiercely.

  “I know that, Chelsea,” he told her firmly, seeing the uncertainty and regret in her eyes. “Ranger has his own issues with the past, and he tends to hold on to things way too long. But that’s not your fault. He knows that.”

  Lifting his hand, he let his fingertips brush down her cheek, loving the silken feel of her skin and the warmth that went far deeper than just flesh.

  “I don’t want his job,” she said without anger then. “But no matter what the mating demands in our relationship, I won’t be happy filing your papers for you and waiting for you in the office. I’d be miserable.”

  He knew that now. He’d already accepted that the time for that was over, and that he’d have to make peace with his fears and overprotective tendencies.

  “Chelsea, we’ll straighten all this out between us so we’re both happy once the threat against you is over,” he promised her. “If I stay with the Agency I promise you won’t be in the office filing papers unless I’m filing them with you.”

  A hint of amusement sparkled in her eyes then as he felt her hand at his hip, caressing, warm. “You’re not allowed to do filing. Remember?”

  Now probably wasn’t the time to tell her he’d already made a mess of any organization she’d ever had going in that office. He could tell her that later.

  She settled against him, though, and drifted into sleep, leaving him awake and staring into the darkness of the room.

  The friendship he’d believed was set in steel was
over forever now.

  Ranger was going to have to be dealt with, and soon. Rising from the bed and leaving the warmth of his mate’s relaxed body, Cullen stared down at her for a moment, the sight of her in his bed filling him with a satisfaction he couldn’t explain.

  His head lifted, the faint sound of his phone pinging from where he’d left his jeans tossed to the kitchen floor, drawing him from the room. Finding the article of clothing, he pulled the phone free and stared down at the text displayed.

  Is she okay?

  If he didn’t answer it, no doubt Graeme would arrive on his doorstep and make the situation worse.

  He keyed in the speed dial to his brother’s number, and the call was answered before the first ring finished.

  “Do you know what happened at the police department?” Graeme asked, his tone so icy Cullen wondered if he was talking to Graeme or his Primal.

  There were times he envied his brother’s arrogance and knowledge of his own inner madness. Shades of gray didn’t concern his brother, just right and wrong, what was just and what wasn’t.

  “I know. She was wired. I heard every word.”

  Silence filled the line for long moments.

  “And Ranger still lives,” his brother mused with dangerous softness. “Interesting.”

  That softness was an indication that his brother felt he needed to make the hard decisions for him as he’d tried to do for most of their lives.

  “Stay away from him, Graeme. I’ll deal with him,” Cullen ordered. He was actually able to take care of things himself.

  “I misjudged that man, it would appear,” Graeme commented. “I’ll have to rectify that.”

  “You’ll have to let me deal with this,” Cullen reminded him. “Don’t push me, Graeme, I’m not in the mood for it.”

  A mocking snort came across the line. “When are you going to grow tired of others striking against your mate?” Graeme asked then, the curiosity in his voice only pissing Cullen off further.

  “We can’t all call up a monster that enjoys shedding blood when we want to,” Cullen snorted with a bitter fury born of the pain wrapped around his senses. “I’ll take care of Ranger, and when the time comes I’ll take care of Cerves and whoever put that fucking price on her head. But I won’t leave a trail of body parts doing it.”

  Rather than hanging up on him, enraged, as he had in the past, Graeme laughed with mocking amusement. “Ah, brother, how you do enjoy lying to yourself. I think I’ll be rather amused when you’re forced to face the truth.”

  “If you don’t stop talking in riddles and tell me something constructive, then I’m going to find something better to do,” Cullen warned his brother.

  “The Cerveses were in Mexico City when the attack occurred. They were scheduled to be there for several weeks still to allow Samara to deal with their daughter’s death. They’re flying back in tonight and have ordered all the top lieutenants to be waiting for them. No word yet on what has them returning so soon.”

  Cullen knew Juan Cerves, though he knew the cartel leader’s brother, Esteban, much better.

  “Juan’s temper is unpredictable, but if Esteban is with him, he’ll be calmer. If he didn’t order the hit as Morales said, then he could just be intent on reestablishing his hold on his organization,” Cullen said thoughtfully.

  “Hmm,” Graeme murmured. “We’ll see, I guess.” A heavy sigh came over the line now. “What’s Chelsea doing now?”

  Cullen glanced over his shoulder before rubbing wearily at the back of his neck. “She’s sleeping. She’s trying to pretend that what Ranger said didn’t bother her, but I know her. It was painful.”

  Silence filled the line for long moments.

  “What are your instincts telling you about Ranger, Cullen?” Graeme asked then. “Not your head. Your instincts.”

  What were his instincts telling him? Some of those instincts were so new, the information they sensed, the scents, so new . . .

  “Don’t think about it, just answer me.” The growl in his brother’s voice was a guttural rasp.

  “I’m not sure.” Cullen blew out a hard breath as he paced the kitchen and picked up the discarded clothes, tossing them into the attached laundry room.

  “Were you recording while she was wired?” Graeme questioned him curiously.

  He had been.

  “It was recorded,” Cullen said, impatient now to replay her confrontation with Ranger.

  “Send me the file,” Graeme urged him then. “Perhaps I’ll sense something you haven’t.”

  Cullen disconnected the call without answering. Going into his cloud files, he forwarded the file to his brother. Perhaps there was something in the confrontation that he hadn’t seen at the time.

  He’d heard every word Ranger said to her and had listened in disbelief to the other man’s deliberate attempts to hurt Chelsea and drive her away from Cullen.

  Pacing to the back door, he stepped outside, the early-evening sunlight bearing down with heavy heat. Making his way to the shaded corner of the house, he leaned against it, extracted the single, slim cigar he kept tucked in his front pocket and, bringing it to his lips, lit it with a flick of the lighter he pulled from the pocket of his jeans.

  Relishing the flavorful bite of the tobacco as he inhaled deeply, he tried to make sense of events he’d worked hard to forget. And to push aside the unreasonable fear that those events just might have something to do with the danger Chelsea was in now.

  CHAPTER 18

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  Mating Heat in the recessed Primal Breed will often begin with more subtle signs physically, but with much more dramatic psychological results—

 
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