Rule breaker, p.20
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       Rule Breaker, p.20
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         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  His fingers, blood smeared, the tips of strong, lethally sharp claws extending from the tips—

  Another snarl tore from him, nearly a roar as animal instincts clashed with human ones and nearly overwhelmed him once again.

  “Back off, goddammit,” he snarled furiously, reining in the animalistic impulses tearing through him.

  He had to think.

  Blood pounded hard and fast through his veins, chocolate and peppermint teased his taste buds, and that sure as hell didn’t make sense because he hadn’t had one of the sweets in days.

  Drawing in a deep breath, her scent, her emotions, he clenched his teeth against another snarl that rose from the animal trapped inside him.

  Gypsy was gone.

  Her dress and her shoes were gone.

  The little clutch purse she had carried was gone.

  There was nothing left of her but the scent of such overwhelming pain—and God help him, shame.

  He’d shamed her, humiliated her.

  Pushing his fingers through his hair, the animal growled out at the silence of the room as self-disgust filled him with a suddenness that was shocking.

  What the fuck had he done now and how the hell was he going to fix it? Because as God was his witness, he would have to fix it. Mate or no mate, barb or no barb, he had to get her back. He was beginning to suspect she was far more than any lover, and even without Mating Heat, a mating mark or mating hormone, he wasn’t going to be able to do without her.

  He hadn’t marked her, but he knew that somehow, some way, she had marked him. The thought of that wasn’t as distasteful now as the thought of it had been, even hours ago. As though in the midst of their pleasure, in acknowledging that he’d never known so much with another woman, he’d dropped his guard enough to realize she was much more to him than he’d allowed himself to believe.

  He wasn’t going to let her go.

  He’d hurt her, he knew that. He could scent how much he had hurt her. But she would have to forgive him. He would find a way to make her forgive him.

  And if he didn’t?

  Some part of him mocked his confidence.

  He wouldn’t entertain the thought that she wouldn’t forgive him. He couldn’t. If he did, then the animal pacing and enraged inside him just might break the leash restraining it and do something that would well and truly shock the man who controlled it with such force.

  And Rule didn’t know if his pride could take too many more shocks.


  Huddling in the corner of the elevator, her head down, Gypsy was all too aware of the three Breeds who stood silently on the other side of the car.

  They had been striding down another hall as she ran for the elevator, holding her dress to her breasts because she’d been unable to zip it all the way. Her mother had zipped it earlier, and Gypsy had been unable to finish pulling the tab up in Rule’s room.

  She’d had to wait on the elevator in the hall, too aware of the Breeds striding toward her, silent, suspicious as they most often were. Struggling not to sob in agony, she’d stood with her head down, burning with humiliation as they moved silently to stand in front of her while she pressed her back into the wall.

  She didn’t want them to see that her dress wasn’t zipped, but when the elevator doors had slid open, they had stepped back and she knew they’d wait until hell froze over if she didn’t step in first.

  Keeping her head down, she had done just that, moving to the corner of the car before turning and staring at the floor.

  No one had spoken.

  She didn’t even know if she knew the Breeds. She couldn’t bear to look them in the face. If she knew one of them, she wouldn’t be able to hold back the humiliation and the pain. It would have poured from her eyes in such grief that she wouldn’t have been able to stand it.

  “We’re on our way down, sir,” she heard one of them answer, the link she supposed. “We’ll meet with you at the west elevators if you don’t mind.”

  Everyone referred to Rule as Commander, so it wasn’t him. Not that Rule would care, she thought. No way in hell would he really care whether he drove her home or not.

  What had she done?

  How had she managed to mess it up?

  Was there some unwritten rule she was unaware of when it came to orgasming? Had she done something so unforgivable as to cause him to jump from her before he even finished his release and rush to the shower?

  She lifted her fingers to her lips to still the threat of trembling. She was not going to cry over him here, in front of other Breeds who would no doubt tell him. Breeds who would laugh with him over the stupid little human who couldn’t hold her emotions back.

  That must have been what it was.

  As her release had whipped through her, she remembered fighting to hold back the words she knew he wouldn’t want to hear. Had he somehow sensed how deeply she was coming to love him without her saying the words?

  Shame burned inside her, blazed through her cheeks and burned a path straight to her soul. And she knew the Breeds in the elevator could smell it.

  Who else would know once the elevator came to a stop in the lobby?

  God, she hoped the journalists were gone. She couldn’t bear to be seen like this.

  The elevator slid to a stop, the subtle ping announcing the end of the ride sounding as the doors slid open.

  She moved quickly from it, striding across the lobby with what she hoped wasn’t obvious hurry. If she was lucky, very very lucky, then no one would even notice her.


  There was no missing the smell of pain that agonizing, Lawe thought as he and Diane watched the elevator doors slide open. They had stepped to the bank of elevators less than a minute after the enforcer had contacted him with the strangely worded request that he meet him there.

  He and Diane watched as Gypsy McQuade stepped from the doors the second they slid open, her shoulders shaking as she held her dress to her breasts and moved quickly for the lobby exit.

  “Sir.” The Wolf Breed, Dagger, stepped forward, a hard frown on his face. “Commander Breaker didn’t notify security of his mate, and it seems she’s in some distress.”

  There was a heavy tone of irate disapproval in the Breed’s voice. One Lawe couldn’t blame him for.

  “It seems Commander Breaker neglected to inform me as well,” Lawe muttered as Gypsy rushed past the doorman and moved to the side of the entrance, and the shadows she was no doubt attempting to hide within as he turned to Diane. “I was wrong. The mating scent is like a damned red flag now.”

  “Of pain,” Dagger growled.

  “Damn him,” Diane whispered beside him.

  Lawe could only shake his head, reaching back to rub at his neck and send a small prayer heavenward. Rule was determined to destroy himself and his little mate, it seemed.

  “Go,” Diane urged him. “You have all that freaky Breed sense going on, you’ll know what to do and say far better than I will.”

  “You could come with me,” he urged her gently.

  “Go,” she waved him away. “I’ll just want to convince her to go with me and kick his ass. That’s not what she needs. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here for you.”

  Bending his head, he brushed a quick kiss to her lips before following Gypsy, waving the doorman back as he moved for his phone where it lay on the small counter just outside the doors. No doubt, his first instinct was to contact Jonas Wyatt. Lawe really didn’t think Rule needed Jonas poking his nose into this right now.

  Gypsy stood to the side of the entrance, just out of sight of those inside, huddled in the shadows.

  Pausing, Lawe breathed out heavily before stepping to her, watching as she quickly shifted to hide the fact that her dress was still partially unzipped. Shrugging his jacket from his shoulders, he gently laid it across hers, pulling the edges together in the front.

  She looked up then, her pretty dark green eyes bright with unshed tears.

  “Tell me,” he said softly, his vo
ice filled with an understanding he feared would never be enough for whatever Rule had done to this young woman. “What stupidity has my brother acted on this time?” Barely brushing the soft flesh beneath her jaw, he urged her to glance up at him as he smiled back at her gently. “I believe the scientists may have dropped him on his head one time too many when he was a babe.”

  She didn’t smile back at him. “No stupidity,” she whispered instead. “He’s just a man.”

  “A Breed,” he corrected her, thinking it an oversight.

  She shook her head slowly, her eyes dazed with confusion and such aching hurt that it tightened his chest.

  “No,” she denied, her voice thickening as she swallowed. “He’s just a man.”

  Whatever Rule had done, he had cut so deep into her woman’s soul that Lawe actually feared now that repairing it might be impossible. He hadn’t just hurt her feelings, he thought, shocked; Rule had sliced her open.

  And that simply wasn’t like his brother.

  Of the two of them, Rule had been the one more prone to cuddle and spoil his lovers. He laughed with them, teased them more than Lawe ever had. He had never, at any time, done anything more than hurt their feelings when he moved on.

  “What has he done, Gypsy?” he asked her again, urging her to confide in him. “Perhaps, whatever it was, he didn’t mean to hurt you as deeply as he obviously has.”

  “Hurt me?” She jerked her head up, staring back at him with patently false surprise. “There’s no hurt, Enforcer, I promise. He even offered to drive me home. I simply preferred to find my own way. That’s all.”

  The blatant lie almost had his lips curling in another smile, one that would assure her he had seen through it. But the white-hot agony pouring from her deserved far more than even a facsimile of humor.

  As he stared down at her somberly, her lips suddenly began to tremble before she lifted her fingers and forced them to stillness.

  “I want to go home,” she whispered, and she felt so lost, so very alone that his heart absolutely broke for her, and he was reminded vividly of that night, nine years before, when she had whispered those same words.

  “Carl,” he called to the doorman.

  “Yes, Enforcer Justice?” Carl maintained his distance, though he too watched Gypsy worriedly.

  “Would you call down and have my driver pull my car around, please?” he asked the doorman.

  “Yes, sir.” Carl moved quickly to do as he was asked, calling down to the Breed parking level where one of the enforcers on duty would be waiting in case they were needed.

  Then he turned back to Gypsy and ached to find a way to comfort her. Unfortunately, there was little he or even Diane could do. The scent of mating wasn’t as strong as he’d scented on others, but it was there. Another male’s touch could be extremely painful during Mating Heat. He couldn’t even pat her delicate shoulder. Diane couldn’t give her one of those girl hugs that she was forever giving her friends.

  Gypsy was forced to stand alone, without comfort. And for that, Lawe thought, his brother deserved to have his ass kicked.


  She had been a virgin and Rule had known it. He had been her first, her only lover, and didn’t she feel stupid as hell?


  She felt used and cast off.


  The humiliation of it left her feeling so raw, so damned helpless that she didn’t know how to handle it.

  He had just jumped off her and all but demanded she leave.

  He would take her home after he washed up?

  As though she had left him feeling dirty.

  Her stomach roiled at the thought, pitching with such agony that she wondered if she was going to throw up. Piercing, white-hot humiliation and such pain she didn’t know how to bear it. Her knees felt weak from it, her stomach tightening with the bitter waves of it. She just wanted to escape. Escape and find some way to hide from it.


  Lawe flinched.

  God, the emotions his brother’s little mate was feeling. This tiny, delicate woman who had been meant to share his brother’s life had such agony rolling from her that he could only stare at her in confusion.

  How had Rule managed to hurt her?

  Whatever he had done, he had hurt his tender little mate in ways she should never have known after the mating had begun.

  His car pulled to the curb then, the Breed driving it stepping from the car and moving to them, his gaze curious as he too scented Rule’s mark on her.

  The Breed opened the back door for her.

  “Come on, Gypsy.” Careful to keep his jacket between his touch and her arm, he helped her into the backseat of the car, then bent and waited until she finally turned to look at him miserably. “If you need a friend, Diane and I, both of us, are your friends, I promise you. Call us if you need someone to talk to. Sometimes, Breeds, by their very nature, can be incredibly stupid. Perhaps, whatever he did, isn’t something he realized had hurt you.”

  She simply nodded before turning away from him, her fingers linking and unlinking as she stared down at them.

  Lawe shook his head, straightened, then closed the door gently on her.

  “Take her home,” he ordered the enforcer before his gaze hardened warningly. “And if you so much as breathe a word of her scent, even to Rule, then you’ll answer to me. Do you understand?”

  The enforcer snorted mockingly. “Hey, Breaker wants to cut his own nose off, then that’s his business, right?”

  “Exactly,” Lawe agreed. “Keep believing that. I’ll have a team follow behind you and set up security for her. I don’t want her running around unprotected until Breaker gets his head out of his ass.”

  “Or you pull it out for him?” The enforcer grinned before turning and hurriedly moving to the driver’s side, sliding inside, and a second later, the car pulled away from the curb.

  Lawe shook his head before returning to the lobby and his mate where she waited. He couldn’t help but stop in front of her, and as her gaze lifted to his, he cupped her face, his lips lowering gently to hers for a brief kiss.

  “Have I told you lately how blessed I am in you?” he asked her, adoration rising inside him as tears filled her eyes.

  His hardened mercenary had to blink back her emotion and the tears that would have escaped at his declaration.

  “And I love you, mate,” she whispered. “With all my soul.”

  And his brother would throw his own mate away? Cast her away and live without her? Wrapping his arm around his bloodthirsty little warrior, Lawe drew her into the elevator and led her to their suite.

  Perhaps he should have gone to Rule’s room and kicked his ass, but he decided to wait. Once Lawe was in his room and the quiet was close around him, he would do what he had been doing since he’d realized Rule was closing himself off from the twin bond they had shared for so long.

  At first, it had just pissed him off that his twin would desert him. But once he’d realized why Rule was doing it, it had made more sense. Hell, he didn’t want Rule sensing the pleasure Diane gave him any more than Rule wanted to sense it.

  The link was still there when they needed it, so he didn’t worry as much about it. Especially when he was able to slip back into that link without Rule’s awareness of it, just to make certain his brother was doing okay.

  For a week or so, he’d worried. Then one night Lawe sensed Rule’s instincts pacing, growling. Realizing his brother slept, Lawe had shifted through the impressions his brother’s animal senses had been telegraphing, almost as though asking for advice.

  Lawe had seen the woman, felt the animal’s need for her, his brother’s denial of her, and he’d grinned.

  Animal sense to animal sense, Lawe had sent back the impression of Rule accepting it, no matter his denial of it. But had his brother’s animal, his subconscious, somehow known Rule would have actually run?

  Breeds were far more than just human with a few added features. They were both human and animal,
and not always in equal measure. The face of the human might greet each day, but many times, Lawe knew, even for him, it was the animal that was aware as they slept, waiting for trouble, watching the human’s back.

  Sometimes, in those Breeds with the stronger genetics, it was almost as though the human and the animal simply shared the same body. He’d often sensed that in Rule. Despite his brother’s control, his denials to the contrary, it was often the animal senses that guided him.

  What if the man had suddenly sensed what the animal was trying to hide from him?

  He grinned at that.

  God, to have been a fly on the wall. Gypsy probably thought his brother was fucking crazy. Or would, once she’d gotten over the pain.

  And maybe, he thought, he could have helped, should have done more. But Rule had gotten himself into this mess and he was going to get himself out of it. If he was too stubborn to accept that his animal would never have accepted a mate who was too weak to be the woman he needed, then he’d just have to suffer until he realized the truth.

  Or until Lawe decided he’d suffered enough and felt sorry for him.

  He’d wait till morning, Lawe decided. Then he’d decide if his brother deserved the help.


  “Going somewhere, Breaker?”

  Rule paused outside the hotel lobby, his gaze narrowing as a whiff of cigar smoke reached his nose and Dane Vanderale stepped from the shadows of the hotel.

  Mockery filled the hybrid’s expression, but his eyes were cold, hard. Like frozen emeralds.

  “I’m busy, Junior,” Rule sneered, almost hoping the bastard would give him the fight he was itching for since he’d stepped from the bathroom and realized Gypsy had run.

  Dane leaned against the side of the hotel, holding the thin, aromatic little cigar loosely between his fingers.

  “I’m almost tempted to give you what you’re looking for, cub. You’re a dumb little fucker, aren’t you? I didn’t expect that of you.” His gaze never wavered.

  Rule gave a harsh snort of laughter. “Dumb little fucker, am I?” he asked the other Breed mockingly. “You’re really itching for a fight tonight, aren’t you? Too bad, I’m not in the mood to give you what you’re after.”

  “No more than you were able to give your pretty little mate what she was after,” Dane tsked as Rule suddenly froze in disbelief.

  “And you called me a dumb little fucker?” he growled, feeling, feeling, something wild and animalistic rising too close to the surface of his skin as fury began to boil in his blood. “She’s not . . .”

  What the fuck?

  The words he would have bitten out in fury were locked inside him, a snarl emerging instead as though a part of him refused to allow him to utter the words.

  It wasn’t a part of him. Animal instincts—the animal that resided just beneath the skin was suddenly enraged. With him.

  Dane laughed.

  A low, savagely cruel sound that had the hair at Rule’s nape prickling in warning.

  “Do you know, Rule, I’ve sensed your mark on that girl since she was no more than fifteen years old. As I stood at her brother’s casket, mere feet from her, the scent of the animal that paces inside you marked her, even then.”

  “What kind of fucking game are you playing, Vanderale?” Rule was in the other Breed’s face before he’d realized he was moving.

  Eye to eye, he glared at the man who could easily break the back of the entire Breed community if he had a mind to, and wanted nothing more than to plant his fist in his face.

  “Game?” Dane drawled as though the only threat he was in danger of was boredom. “No game, Breaker. Even if you were too stupid to realize the animal that paced inside you was keeping you out of that cave the night Jonas and your brother’s teams rescued her, that didn’t mean others were near so stupid. Even your brother caught your scent that night and turned to find you nowhere near. But that animal inside you was. It was there, watching over its future mate.”

  That night.

  The night Gypsy’s brother had died and she had nearly been raped. Jonas and Lawe had been in that cavern with her. Each time Rule had attempted to join them, to be certain nothing more was needed, something had stopped him. Held him back.

  He’d excused it, telling himself the girl was too traumatized for more males to be crowding around her. Yet he’d paced outside that fucking cavern—

  He’d smelled her terror. The horror of what she’d seen, of what had happened or nearly happened to her. He had sensed the agony that had screamed from her, and he’d snarled at the knowledge that nothing could ease it.

  “Ahh, you remember now, don’t you, whelp,” Dane sneered.

  “I haven’t mated her,” he bit out.

  “Because that animal inside you has held back, knowing you’re too buck fuck stupid for such a brave, courageous young woman.” Dane smiled as though finding pleasure in that thought. “Go ahead, cub, run.” He flicked his fingers to the road. “Go play elsewhere. Because I’d almost bet if you leave, then I just might have a chance of completing that bond with her myself. I could use a pretty little mate like her—”

  As though suddenly a spectator to his own actions, Rule felt like a man watching in vicarious pleasure as the animal inside him erupted in a fury unlike anything he’d ever known. Before the Breed, one of the strongest Rule knew, could anticipat
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