Rule breaker, p.2
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       Rule Breaker, p.2
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  “They’ll hate me. Momma and Daddy will never forgive me for this,” she told herself, unaware she was speaking aloud, that her words were breaking the heart of the new director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs. “They won’t even want me to come home now. How could they ever want to live with me after this?”

  Where would she go?

  She was only fifteen, and no one would want the girl who had helped Coyotes murder her brother. Because everyone loved Mark.

  He was everyone’s best friend.

  How could anyone ever love the awful person who had enabled those filthy animals to kill him?

  “How could they ever want me to be home?” she whispered again, laying her head against the wall beside her and staring into the darkness once again.

  Maybe if she was very, very still, if she tried hard enough, she could just disappear into that darkness and never have to exist ever again.

  “I promise you, Gypsy, your parents won’t blame you,” he lied to her again. “But if that ever happens, I swear to you I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. Do you hear me, sweetheart? You have only to contact me, I’ll never desert you.”

  She heard the words and he probably meant them. But he was so brave, and just like that Breed with those bright, bright blue eyes who had shot the Coyote, Grody, he was strong, and he knew how to protect everyone.

  Even stupid, weak little girls who didn’t know how to stay home instead of risking everyone they loved.

  She didn’t deserve his protection.

  She didn’t deserve anyone’s protection.

  ...

  Jonas eased back to his seat on the crate and watched her sadly.

  “They love Mark so much, just like I do. And I got him killed. It was my fault that the Breed used that knife—”

  She broke off, shaking so hard he wondered how she was remaining in one place.

  Rising, Jonas moved far enough from her that he could get the reports he knew were coming in.

  He wondered if the shock would build in this child until she had her wish and she just went to sleep forever.

  Hell, he’d grieve himself if this brave, broken little girl ceased to exist.

  And should that happen, at least one Breed would surely suffer for it.

  This grieving child would be far more to the Breed society than even she imagined if his hunch was correct.

  Jonas turned and met one of the independent contractors who often fought alongside the Breeds, waiting for his report.

  “Mercury just called from the McQuade residence,” Simon Quatres reported. “Rogue Breeds hit McQuade’s house at the same time this group ran Khileen’s car off the road. Mercury and his men found video and audio devices in his room and at his workstation in the living room. Grody and his men knew who they were coming for, and where he was. Nothing could have kept this from happening. And if she had been in the house, we’d have never found out in time to get to her.”

  A low, all-but-silent little whimper reached his sharp ears then. A cry he was certain the girl was unaware she had even made.

  “Where’s that fucking doctor?” he questioned Lawe as the enforcer moved quickly toward him. “That kid’s going to die of grief if he doesn’t get here soon and give her something.”

  “They make drugs to cure grief now, boss?” Simon asked, his voice low and resonating with the same aching regret they all felt for her pain. “Can I have some?”

  “Lobo’s having the doctor flown in now,” Lawe Justice assured him. “He should be here within the next five minutes. Rule’s been outside coordinating our people and taking care of her brother. Reever’s men are taking care of disposing of the Council’s rogue Coyotes. One of them is still alive, though,” he said, his voice lowered to carry no farther. “The guard who was at the front of the cave. Swears he’s the one who contacted us and led us here after they took the McQuade girl.”

  Jonas’s eyes narrowed. “How did he survive?” He knew that damned Coyote had taken a laser blast to his chest.

  “Reinforced laser-resistant Kevlar,” Lawe answered. “Seems he wasn’t into suicide tonight, were his words I believe. Swears he has video and that he tried to delay McQuade’s death and says you’ll know him. Grody wasn’t just here for the Council either, according to this Coyote. He was paid by a human to make certain McQuade and his sister both died tonight.”

  “And he has video?” Jonas mused.

  Lawe gave a sharp, brief nod.

  “What’s his name?”

  “Goes by Loki,” Lawe answered. “But his brother, a full brother, is one of the Council’s best trackers and assassins, Farce.”

  Jonas’s lips curled at the name. “He’s not their best, he’s their luckiest.” Then he sighed. “Damn, I didn’t know Loki was in the area, though.”

  “You know him?” Lawe questioned, his eyes narrowing.

  He knew him, Jonas thought with a sigh, and he should have known to expect him here.

  “He’s one of ours,” Jonas confirmed. “As damnedably stubborn and hardheaded as he is, he’s one of ours.”

  Lawe’s eyes widened. “Rule’s beating the fuck out of one of ours, then . . .”

  Lawe turned and rushed from the cavern, motioning to several of the enforcers guarding the entrance as he moved to rescue the young trouble magnet, Loki, from Rule Breaker’s clutches.

  As the Breed rushed from him, several others following behind, Jonas watched as a young female moved toward him. With her short black hair and emerald green eyes, the Irish blood was damned close to the surface. As were her Breed genetics.

  “Mr. McQuade is demanding to speak to you ASAP. He and his wife are en route for arrival in one hour, sir,” Moira O’Malley, a young Breed just out of the labs she was confined in, faced him coolly with the information.

  Jonas shook his head. “Contact Pride Leader Lyons and have him inform the McQuades that I’ll answer what questions I can when they arrive.”

  There would be time enough for questions once the heli-jet landed. For now, he had other things to do now that he knew Gypsy McQuade’s fate was tied to the Breeds.

  Moving back to her, he watched the ghostly form that had begun advancing from the entrance of the cave earlier.

  Wary, suspicious, it watched Jonas warningly, a savage snarl curling its lip.

  He wouldn’t have expected it, but that misty image of the lion prowled slowly, carefully to the girl until the huge beast settled protectively at her side to rub its huge head against her much smaller one.

  A psychic connection, he thought in wonder, a manifestation of the creature’s ability to sense far more than the man who carried it within him.

  It blinked back at him, those eyes locking with his, and he knew. He knew in that moment, staring into the beast’s eyes, exactly who this psychic creature was a part of, and felt a warning chill race up his spine.

  The lion snarled at him silently, warning him to keep his thoughts to himself.

  Jonas was curious just how strong the animal inside that Breed was now, and how long the man would wait once Gypsy matured before he was forced to face who and what she was to him.

  He refused to allow that curiosity to influence any decisions he would make, though. If she was destined to eventually be the mate that Breed swore he would never have, then that was what she would be. If not, then forcing him to acknowledge who she was would only change the destiny evolving around her.

  Either way, Jonas was responsible for ensuring that she survived here and now. Nothing less and nothing more. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t do a hell of a lot more, if possible, to make this tragedy easier for her.

  Though God help him, how he wanted to ensure that neither she nor another child suffered the depravity that the Council practiced ever again.

  Shaking his head, he moved to another female Breed rushing to him, heavy blankets cradled in her arms as she returned from the heli-jet they’d used to fly into the area. It had just landed again after making a run to the Reever estate.<
br />
  “Enforcer Breaker asked that I tell you he’s sending the dead Coyotes to the Reever estate until you can examine them and decide what do with them. Enforcer Justice has your contact secured outside and awaiting your orders, sir,” the Jaguar female enforcer stated as she moved to Gypsy.

  Jonas wasn’t surprised that Rule had taken command while Jonas sat with the girl and tried to figure out what had happened in this desolate place.

  He was surprised that Rule had broken protocol and decided to beat one lone, living Coyote within an inch of his life rather than saving him for interrogation, though.

  Rule Breaker, despite his amusing choice of a name, this single, understandable mistake where Loki was concerned, was turning into one of his most intuitive leaders. His brother, Lawe Justice, though, was quickly becoming his right hand.

  A female enforcer crouched before Gypsy and eased the blankets in place around the girl huddling on the makeshift bed. Gypsy’s arms were wrapped around her scratched, bruised legs as her forehead rested on her knees. She was shaking so damned hard he was surprised her teeth weren’t chattering.

  He sensed the tears, the screams trapped within her. Sensed the agony burning like a fiery ball of pain that buried itself in her heart the second she was forced to watch the Coyote slice her brother’s throat.

  The debt the Breed community owed her brother was too great not to ensure that if his sister ever needed the Bureau or the Breeds, they would be there for her.

  For now, though, all he could do was try to make her warm and comfortable and await the family flying out to her. A loving family, he hoped. Parents who would try to help her repair the wounds this night would leave on her gentle heart.

  As he watched her, watched the ghostly lion sheltering her, he had a feeling nothing could repair Gypsy’s wounds, and he was afraid of what her parents’ arrival might bring, regarding their acceptance of her.

  Son of a bitch, he wished he’d gotten there sooner.

  Wished he’d had Mark McQuade’s location ahead of the Coyotes who had killed him.

  As he watched Gypsy McQuade, he realized just how heavily the regret that he hadn’t been fast enough lay inside him.

  It was a futile wish, because it was now something he couldn’t change. Jonas didn’t dwell on things that couldn’t be changed.

  He moved on to things that could be.

  And though it was the hardest thing he’d done in his life, he turned his back on her after giving the female enforcer a silent order to stay by her side.

  This night was over.

  He hadn’t been fast enough, he hadn’t tracked McQuade in time. When he returned to the Bureau, he’d ensure that all their equipment was updated with the best the government and the corporations ordered to provide for the Breeds could pay for.

  The next time, he’d be ahead of the Genetics Council’s lapdogs.

  The next time, he wouldn’t face the fact that he’d failed in the shattered eyes of a girl who would never forget the nightmare of her brother’s death or her own near rape.

  The next time—

  Jonas sighed as he walked out of the cavern. God help him, he didn’t want there to be a next time.

  CHAPTER 1

  NINE YEARS LATER

  She was his fix and he’d been long months without his fix.

  Too long.

  This time, she would know he was there. He’d waited. For six years, since the night she’d shown up at her eighteenth birthday party dressed in leather and dancing like a seductress, he’d waited.

  He’d been there every year for her birthday since the night her brother had died nine years before. Actually, he made certain he was there every few months just to check up on her, but the night of her birthday, he made damned sure he was there. Not to bring a present; he never did. Just to make certain she was safe, that she was taken care of and that she wasn’t living on the streets, as it was reported her mother often threatened to send her.

  The hell of that night, over nine years before, still haunted her.

  Hell, it still haunted everyone who had been there. But Gypsy had paid more than anyone else. And she was still paying.

  Staring across the bar, his gaze caressing the gentle lines of her face, he willed her to sense the caress. To sense his presence. To feel the hunger that had begun growing since the night she’d turned eighteen, the night she’d entranced him with the grace and erotic promise in her absorbed face as she’d given herself to the music.

  Standing across the large room, the gyrating mass of dancers between them, her head turned slowly, her gaze seeking the sensation of whoever watched her. When her eyes met his, he watched the transformation.

  Green eyes darkened, dilated. Arousal flushed her sun-kissed face as a sudden, vulnerable pain flashed across her expression. It was gone just as quickly, to be replaced by a hint of uncertainty, of want and hunger that he knew she believed she could never appease. Not if she intended to continue to pursue the shadowed course her life had followed for the past nine years, since the night she had lost the one person who held her uppermost in his life.

  Most young women were raised knowing that their mother, father, even both, were there to protect her. That one or the other would ensure she was cared for. For Gypsy, that one person, that parent who had loved her above all others, had been her older brother. The brother who had died in the desert, drawn there by the Coyotes who had taken his sister, who had threatened to destroy her in ways Mark McQuade couldn’t have imagined unless he took her place.

  Surely the brother knew neither of them would escape? What had made him go into that desert believing his sister would return from it unscathed?

  Whatever the reason, Mark had died and Gypsy had spent the past nine years trying to atone for a death she hadn’t been the cause of. A death she was told repeatedly had been her fault.

  The time for Gypsy to pay for sins that were not her own was over, he decided. Just as it was time to draw free of the past, to save one fragile infant’s life and ease the hell a friend and his mate were enduring.

  In that moment, as her gaze touched his, as he watched the heat and the hunger rising inside her, he made her a silent promise.

  Soon, very soon, the games of the past nine years would be over and he’d ensure the shadows that lurked about her would come to light. While he was at it, he’d appease a hunger he was entirely certain was not, could not be, Mating Heat.

  Because Mating Heat couldn’t be allowed.

  Rule Breaker, Investigative Commander of the Bureau of Breed Affairs, refused to allow himself a mate.

  He refused to allow any woman to die beneath the cold, merciless blade of scientists determined to learn the secrets of a mating that nature was still determined to play with . . .

  He shook the thought away. Before he could move to possess what he’d waited for for six years, he first had secrets to reveal, a game to end and a Bengal Breed to slowly draw into the fold of the Bureau of Breed Affairs. Years of searching for the Breed called Gideon, and he’d finally arrived in the one place Rule had been pushing him to.

  The danger Jonas’s daughter faced and the hell of a past research project, would see the end of its secrets. He would either see the brutal truths hidden among four victims of that horrible project revealed, or the possible death of an innocent child and the slow destruction of a man he respected above all others but his brother.

  It would end here, he promised.

  But what would happen to him, who or what he would have to fight for, once it was over . . .

  TWO MONTHS LATER

  Jonas stared down at his sleeping daughter, his hands clasped together as his wrists rested on the rail of her crib. For the moment, he could almost convince himself that she was going to be fine.

  Almost.

  Rage festered inside him. His daughter was being killed right before his eyes, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop the serum she had been given seven months previously from doing as the scientists
predicted: It was killing her.

  Just as it had killed its creator, Phillip Brandenmore, weeks after he’d injected Amber.

  It had rotted his brain from the inside out, killing him slowly, painfully.

  God help him, he couldn’t allow that to happen to Amber. It would destroy her mother, his mate.

  It would destroy him.

  Pulling back from the crib, his arms dropping to his sides, he gazed around the room, not for the first time, searching for some shadow, a spirit, something, some sign of a presence that could answer his questions.

  Fairies, Cassie Sinclair called them. Jonas knew them to be spirits, psychic remnants or broken dreams.

  And no such spirit or remnant, psychic or otherwise, walked his daughter’s path.

  Yet.

  That didn’t mean she had none.

  It didn’t mean she had no future.

  It simply meant she was far too young to have drawn one to her yet.

  Either way, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t keep fighting for her life.

  The answers were here, in Window Rock, Arizona, waiting to be unburied, while other secrets were waiting on the day they could be buried.

  He didn’t see the things Cassie saw and he didn’t see those vague images near as often. But he knew enough to know that the ancient Navajo ritual that had played out in this desert nine years before, three years after the escape of four incredibly gifted creations, would reveal the secret he needed to save Amber.

  The question was whether he would uncover the truth in time.

  Jonas knew he’d searched every area he could think of. He’d gone over every memory, no matter how unfocused or uncertain, that Liza Johnson had of her previous life as Honor Roberts. He’d especially probed at the hazy, scattered memories of the ritual itself that she remembered. The ancient power that transferred the consciousness of two dying girls into Honor Roberts’s and Fawn Corrigan’s bodies wasn’t as easy to decipher as he’d hoped, even with the help of the guides that sometimes came to him.

  The spirits of Honor and Fawn had somehow been put to sleep until the time of the awakening, as it was called. Cassie assured him they were awake now, though, and working quite well with those of the spirits of Claire and Liza when they’d chided her for attempting to interfere.

  A recent attack on Liza had revealed the partial memories that now allowed Jonas to piece together some of the missing clues they needed to crack the code that hid the information on the serum Amber had been injected with.

  Just some of the pieces. Still, the formula and various notes of the years that the serum had been used on Honor and Fawn had yet to be decoded.

  Claire Martinez, the young woman who inhabited Fawn Corrigan’s body, had accepted the fact that she wasn’t who she believed she was. Accepting and awakening were two different things, though. And the secrets the girl was hiding were beginning to bother him. How the hell was he supposed to stand aside and let her continue to search for a way to honorably kill herself?

  Son of a bitch, why couldn’t he just fucking walk away from everyone else’s problems and just focus on his own. On his daughter. On his mate.

  Because it was all tied together, he admitted.

  Woven so closely together that to abandon one would be to abandon the child his heart had taken as his own. And that meant doing what he could to bring Fawn Corrigan, or Claire Martinez as she was now called, along a path that would bring her face-to-face with the Breed sworn to kill her.

  Claire had revealed nightmares and some scattered pieces of memories from Fawn’s years in the labs as well. But there were still so many missing pieces and so little time.

  Before he could draw the Bengal Judd and the feral Bengal Gideon out, the girls would have to reach inside themselves and find the spirits that slept within them. Liza and Claire would have to accept that the reprieve they had been given from death was at an end, and the parts of Honor and Fawn that still slept would have to accept that it was once again time to face their lives and truly awake.

  This had to be finished.

  Moving from Amber’s bedroom into the main room of the hotel suite, Jonas strode to the desk that sat at the far wall and took his seat. Activating the holo-board of his computer, he laid his palm against the biometric scanner on the top of the desk and waited for the screen to appear.

  When the holographic panel came up, he pulled up several files as he checked the time.

  He had five minutes before the meeting he’d called with the newly promoted Investigative Commander, Rule Breaker.

  The investigative field of the Bureau of Breed Affairs was growing quickly, requiring Jonas to put his best enforcers into key positions now available.

  And into the investigations of crimes against Breeds and Breed Law.

  Though soon, Jonas suspected, Rule would be heading the new offices in New Mexico as division director rather than continuing on to another assignment after completing this one.

  That knowledge had reminded him of a silent promise he’d made to himself nine years ago as he flew away from the area, and to the broken child who had been left to the care of her family. A family tragically wounded by the death of the young man they had all treasured.

  Arranging Rule’s life was something Jonas had sworn to Rule he wouldn’t do.

  Hell, he’d even crossed his fingers, just in case, as he’d made that promise.

  Maneuvering Seth Lawrence and Dane Vanderale, two of the Breeds’ greatest benefactors, into doing his dirty work for him had required a bit more finesse. If they had even had a distant thought or suspicion regarding his actions, they would have created a Breed Town Crier just to announce it to every Breed far and wide.

 
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