Wake a sleeping tiger, p.20
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.20
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  “The main cavern’s through there.” He nodded to a wide, arched entrance as they stepped from the cart and Chelsea followed behind him.

  From one surprise to another—the cavern they entered was easily the square footage of a modest home and at least two stories high. On one side, a curved metal staircase extended up to a landing that held a large, heavy wood door. On the opposite side, it appeared Graeme had set up a well-equipped medical lab. There were at least a dozen varying types of computerized processing units and a computer set up with no less than half a dozen monitors.

  State-of-the-art and well lit, and obviously used often.

  “Mad scientist much?” she muttered suspiciously as they neared the work area.

  “Dr. Jekyll’s lab is more like it.” Cullen glanced at her over his shoulder, a small grin edging at his lips. “You met Mr. Hyde yesterday.”

  “No way.” She could not stop a spurt of laughter. “You actually call it that?”

  “You call him ‘it,’” he pointed out, shooting her a mocking frown. “Trust me, he likes ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ far better.”

  Graeme chose that moment to enter the main cavern from a separate entrance on the other side of the lab area wearing a white lab coat, white shirt, jeans and leather sneakers. Behind him, Ashley strutted, her slight form swallowed by a matching lab coat as she seemed to be admiring the far-too-large fit. Cat followed behind them, dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt and sandals, shaking her head at them, obviously on the verge of laughing.

  “There you two are,” Graeme announced in a distracted, mad-scientist sort of way. “Good. We can get started.”

  “Madhouse,” Cullen muttered beside her. “Come on, let’s get it over with.”

  “Get what over with?” she asked suspiciously, eyeing the lab equipment.

  She had a feeling Cerves wasn’t the only reason they were visiting Dr. Jekyll’s lab.

  “Here’s the thing about Graeme,” Cullen stated softly with a flash of brotherly patience. “Sometimes, it’s just easier to give in and let him get things out of his system than to argue with him. That way, Mr. Hyde isn’t nearly the nuisance he could be.”

  “What kind of things?” Maybe she should escape now while she could still possibly get away with it.

  “Scared?” He slid her an amused glance as he moved to the computer monitors, activating the screens and reading what appeared to be an extensive analysis of some blood sample. “You’ll face down cartel assailants and Coyote soldiers but balk at the sight of Graeme in a lab coat?”

  “I’m not allowed to shoot Graeme,” she hissed, glancing to where the other Breed and his wife had stopped at one of the far counters where Graeme was checking information on another, smaller computer. “Not so with cartel assailants and Coyote soldiers.”

  “Yeah, Cat would get a little put out,” he agreed. “But if we don’t play nice, then he might refuse to tell us whatever he’s learned about Cerves.”

  As a bribe, or a threat, it would probably work, Chelsea thought with a sigh.

  “Leave my equipment alone, Ash,” Graeme demanded as he and Cat headed toward Cullen. Behind him, Ashley had paused next to a large cabinet lined with long, narrow drawers. “Your alpha should keep you locked up for the sanity of everyone who knows you.”

  “Not to mention those who don’t,” Cat laughed teasingly as she shot Chelsea a subtle wink.

  “Oh, they are so unimportant if I have yet to meet them,” Ashley assured them as she moved closer and perched on one of the cots that sat against the stone wall, her gray eyes twinkling merrily. “Cullen, you are looking so well mated,” she drawled teasingly, her Russian accent still very apparent despite the years since she’d left the country. She turned and winked at Chelsea then. “Way to go, girlfriend.”

  The Coyote female wagged her brows then and blew Cullen a kiss as Graeme moved to her, carrying a small plastic tray with several vials and needles lying atop it.

  Pushing up the sleeve of the overlarge coat, Ashley extended her arm and Graeme quickly and efficiently extracted several vials of blood.

  “Graeme is a secret vampire,” the younger woman grinned as Chelsea watched dubiously.

  “Mad scientist is more like it,” Cullen grumbled as he turned back to face them, his arms crossing over his chest as he leaned against the heavy table holding the array of computers.

  “Katya, our Coyote specialist, is so jealous of him.” Ashley gave a quick little roll of her eyes. “She thinks he knows more about Coyotes than she does.”

  “I do,” Graeme stated absently as he carried the tray and the vials over to a work center that held several smaller machines.

  “Okay, Chelsea.” Ashley jumped from the cot, her chin jerking toward it. “Your turn, chickie.”

  “Whoa.” Chelsea stepped back quickly, straight into Cullen’s chest. “Not in this lifetime. I’m sure he has enough of your blood to entertain him for a while.”

  Cat snickered at the comment.

  “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from Dr. Jekyll,” Cullen assured her, the amusement in his tone causing her to shoot him a look of promised retribution. “I’ll take care of you myself.”

  Gripping her waist, he lifted her to the cot as Graeme placed another tray containing the vials and extracting kit on it.

  “Why does he need my blood?” She flicked the items a frown before eyeing Cullen suspiciously.

  “Because,” Graeme answered for his brother, “I based your hormonal therapy on Cullen’s blood samples since I didn’t have yours. Your blood and DNA sample will give me a much more accurate baseline to work from.”

  Graeme was inputting information into one of the machines as he spoke. “There’s a reason why you’re able to go about a normal routine without a few quickies every couple of hours.”

  A flush heated her face as he looked over his shoulder at her and shot her a teasing grin.

  “Graeme, stop,” Cullen warned his brother as Chelsea extended her forearm to him warily.

  Graeme gave a mocking little snort of amusement.

  “Also,” he continued, turning back to the machine. “If you’re going to continue moving about in public, then a stronger scent blocker would probably help. It will keep the Council’s Breeds from detecting the mating scent.” He frowned. “They’ve been skulking around a bit more than normal lately.”

  She looked up at Cullen, wondering what the hell he was getting her into.

  “Don’t forget the DNA swab.” Graeme stretched his arm out behind him, a sterile swab gripped between his fingers.

  Taking the swab as he laid aside the vials now containing her blood, Cullen broke the seal, and when Chelsea opened her mouth he quickly rasped the insides of her cheeks with it.

  “This is highly weird,” she informed him.

  “And wanting to do the nasty like rabbits a dozen times a day isn’t?” Ashley teased, her gray eyes dancing with laughter.

  “Not as weird as this. And definitely more fun,” Chelsea assured her, watching as Cullen moved to the machines, his voice low as he asked his brother something about the baseline and the DNA. It was more science than she wanted to understand.

  “Graeme’s been bitching because Cullen hasn’t been in the lab working with him lately.” Cat moved to the cot and sat next to Chelsea as Ashley wandered off and began inspecting equipment and drawers curiously. “He gets distracted when I come down here to play assistant.”

  Her cousin’s scientific smarts had arrived in her late teens, and her proficiency in it had shocked her teachers. Cat—Claire, as she’d been called then—had changed a lot that summer and even more so over the years.

  “Yeah, he gets all kitty frisky on her,” Ashley drawled as she examined an array of scalpels she’d found in a drawer.

  “Ashley, leave them alone,” Graeme growled as Ashley lifted her hand to pick up one of the sharp instruments.

  Ashley shot him a pouting look but closed the drawer.

  “You know,” Gr
aeme said then. “I believe Khileen had some new polishes and shoes arrive from Paris today; she said . . .”

  An excited little squeal cut through the rest of the sentence and Ashley shed her lab coat quickly, tossed it over the back of a stool and ran for the staircase, racing up it, the heavy door at the top closing with a bang.

  “Last time she was here, my favorite scalpel disappeared with her,” Graeme sighed as he shot a fond look toward the stairs. “She’s like a little pack rat.”

  “Coyote hoarder,” Cat corrected him, laughter filling her voice. “Her Coya, Anya, is threatening an intervention.”

  “Someone should keep her closer to the Coyote stronghold,” Graeme grumbled then, concern apparent in his tone. “It’s getting harder to keep her tagged without rousing her suspicions.”

  Chelsea gave Cat a questioning look.

  “Graeme believes Ashley’s been targeted by a stalker or the Council.”

  “Knows,” Graeme corrected his wife, the statement filled with confidence. And he was completely serious. “There’s a difference between knowledge and belief.”

  “So he tags her how?” she asked her cousin.

  “I’ve convinced her she’s in danger of developing allergies and needs a biweekly injection,” Graeme answered as he turned back to the blood samples he was working with. “I inject a small tracking device in her arm. Her alpha refused to authorize a permanent one, so I have to settle for a temporary. They degrade fairly quickly, though. But if she disappears, then I’ll know exactly where to find her.”

  Cat turned back to Chelsea, grinning. “He’s evil, huh?”

  “That’s one word for it, I guess.” She could come up with a few more accurate terms.

  “Come on, there’s drinks and sandwiches I keep in the other room. We’ll chat while they do their thing.” Sliding from the cot, Chelsea moved to follow Cat. As she neared Cullen he reached out, snagged her wrist and dropped a quick kiss to the top of her head, though his gaze remained on whatever experiment they were running.

  Graeme wasn’t the only brother with mad scientist tendencies, it seemed.

  Making certain Chelsea was out of earshot, Cullen watched the hormonal readings as they slowly began to display on a monitor, a frown working at his brow.

  “We had company before we left the house,” he told his brother quietly.

  “Ranger?” Graeme guessed, a rumble of displeasure in his voice. “Was he put out that you had him fired?”

  The rage Ranger had displayed concerned him more than he wanted to admit. The scent of hatred coming from the man he’d called friend had shocked him with its depth. Hatred that strong had to have been brewing for a while.

  “Draeger pulled him out before I could get hold of him.” He breathed out roughly before relating the incident to his brother.

  Cullen shook his head when he finished, still trying to make sense of it. “I could feel his need to hurt her, Graeme. I believe he’s attempting to justify blaming Chelsea for the fact that I didn’t mate Lauren.”

  Silence descended but for the beeps of the machines and the low whirring of their fans as he and Graeme continued to run the blood and DNA samples.

  “I suspect Lauren knew Chelsea was your mate.” Graeme shocked him with the statement.

  Turning to his brother, Cullen watched him suspiciously now.

  “How do you figure? Hell, even I didn’t know. God, Graeme, she was like thirteen or something when I married Lauren.”

  Graeme stilled then, a distant look coming over his expression for long moments before he shook his head as though in reply to some inner dialogue. His brother could be amazingly good at talking to himself too.

  “I believe Lauren may have had some psychic ability. Weak, but still present enough that she might have picked up on something you were unaware of at the time,” he revealed. “Just as I believe your mate has a stronger gift, perhaps one similar to her grandfather’s or her cousin’s.”

  Orrin Martinez was a Wind Listener, able to hear secrets in the wind, he’d told Cullen once. Chelsea’s cousin Megan Arness had such a strong empathic ability that until her mating with a Lion Breed, Braden Arness, she’d been forced to keep herself mostly isolated.

  “And you know this how?” Cullen questioned him doubtfully.

  “I’m really not certain how I knew.” Graeme stressed the past tense. “When I found you it was right after her death, I believe. I broke into the clinic treating her and stole several blood and urine samples that were taken just before her death.” He flashed Cullen a satisfied look. “Specialists such as hers keep those for various tests after the death of a patient.”

  “Thief,” Cullen muttered, watching his brother warily.

  “Whatever works,” Graeme stated. “I’ve tested those samples extensively over the past ten years,” he explained then as he input commands on the keyboard and another monitor flared to life, filling the screen with a series of multicolored, complicated genetic strand sequences.

  “Orrin Martinez.” He pointed to the upper strand. “Lauren’s, and Chelsea’s.” He identified the lower strands. “Lauren’s is similar to her grandfather’s, though the exact makeup of it is much weaker and was far harder to find. While your mate’s appears far stronger, but the makeup of it is entirely different. The research I’ve done indicates Lauren may have held a slight sensitivity I believe to be in the ‘reading’ category. Possibly the ability to sense bonds and connections. I’m still working on it, though. I’m certain I’ll have a clearer picture of it soon enough.”

  Cullen could only shake his head in amazement. Graeme could read genetic code with an instinctive, terrifying ability. His intelligence and instincts where genetics were concerned were growing at an astounding rate after his mating.

  In some cases, his brother had revealed, he no longer needed to be in Primal form to sense genetic as well as emotional bonds and had even begun to recognize certain genetic markers by scent.

  “How do you keep what little sanity you possess?” he asked his brother. The amount of information Graeme could sense would drive even the strongest minds into never-ending madness.

  “What sanity?” Graeme murmured, completely serious now. “Never doubt the madness, brother. I simply control it, rather than it controlling me now. For the most part anyway. Now, as for your mate,” he continued, shooting Cullen a sharp look. “She’s amazingly healthy. I can smell the changes occurring in her genetic code; it’s adapting, though slowly, which indicates a much stronger mating. It’s in line with the Primal genetics I’ve always suspected you possessed. Though I’ll know more once I’ve processed her samples.”

  Primal genetics, or the madness his brother called his greatest strength and the monster that lived inside him. Graeme had been trying to convince Cullen for years that he carried the same monster inside him, merely waiting for the proper trigger to set it free.

  “Once I have all her readings I can create a treatment that will be much more effective and enable the two of you to adapt to the mating much more comfortably than most,” he informed Cullen.

  The process of putting the hormone therapy together could take several days, though. And that therapy was imperative at this point.

  “By the way, I tagged you and your mate last week with the injections I brought,” Graeme informed him blithely. “You can decide if she’s made aware of it or not. I wasn’t going to do it, but the madness overcame my hesitancy.”

  “One of these days I’m going to stop being so patient when you decide after the fact to inform me of the crap you inject into my body.” Cullen sighed, glad his brother’s madness wasn’t homicidal.

  “If you say so.” His brother obviously wasn’t bothered by the threat as he began coding information into the computer again. “This should be ready in about forty-eight hours,” he predicted. “I’d like more blood after the injections, though, just to be certain I have everything coded properly.”

  “I’ll take care of it.” Cullen nodded.

/>   “By the way,” Graeme said then, his head lifting as though just remembering some bit of information. “Are you ready to talk to Cerves? He’s waiting upstairs along with his wife and brother. Lobo’s playing reluctant host as they wait for us.”

  Cullen’s brows lifted in surprise. “You had them grabbed?”

  “Actually, no.” Graeme’s brow creased with bemusement. “They showed up several hours ago at Lobo’s gate, requesting to meet with him. It seems they’re certain there may be a misunderstanding with the commander of Covert Law Enforcement, who they’ve learned may be a hidden Breed.” As he flashed his canines, his gaze gleamed with the wild awareness of the feral creature within. “They’ve asked Lobo, as the resident alpha leader, to mediate for them.” The feral promise of savagery grew stronger in his gaze then. “I believe Juan was a bit concerned when the Primal informed him that you weren’t his only problem. He controlled his bladder much better than his lieutenant did. The poor man pissed himself.”

  Cullen smothered a spurt of laughter as he eyed his brother with mock disappointment. “They just don’t have any fortitude anymore, do they?”

  “Ball-less,” Graeme amended with a sigh of regret. “They just take the fun out of torturing them, don’t they?”

  A chuckle escaped despite Cullen’s best attempt to hold it in. That was his brother’s favorite complaint. They just weren’t fun to torture anymore.

  Cullen gave a heavy breath then, turning back to his brother.

  “Before we go up, there’s something you should know first.”

  Graeme stared back at him curiously.

  “It was Chelsea who rescued their daughter from the Coyotes that night. I was there, undercover at the time on another operation. I managed to get her out of the Runner she crashed through the gates, get her into mine and out of there before anyone could really identify her. My contact there was able to wipe the security discs and further ensure that Chelsea’s identity wasn’t compromised. There’s a chance Samara might recognize her, though. Before Chelsea revealed Louisa buried under a blanket and strapped into her seat with her, Samara had her gun in Chelsea’s face, ready to fire. And that woman has a memory like an elephant.”

  Graeme was silent, his only reaction the slight widening of his eyes in surprise.

  “Now, why didn’t I see that one coming?” Graeme pursed his lips, staring back at his brother thoughtfully. “Interesting. Very interesting.”

  CHAPTER 20

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  The world will rarely acknowledge what only a Primal can accept.

  The Breed believes there are only two types of life, predator and prey.

  The Primal believes in three; predator, prey and Primal.

  And the Primal sits silently at the top of the food chain.

  There was something so surreal about stepping into Lobo Reever’s opulent study and coming face-to-face with the woman who had held a gun in her face less than two months before.

  The woman who stood there, along with the two men, wasn’t the woman whose face was spread across tabloids and newspapers before the death of her daughter. The piercing blue eyes and heavy mass of white-blond hair were the same, but the face wasn’t nearly as perfect and icily serene.

  The Blood Queen she was called, because of the blood she and her family spilled in their battle to maintain control of the powerful criminal organization she’d inherited at the tender age of twenty-one.

  The woman standing next to her husband, his arm wrapped protectively her, was a grieving mother. Deep grooves were carved beside her lips, dark shadows marred the skin beneath her eyes and she hadn’t even tried to use makeup to hide the effect of the loss of her child.

  Samara was dressed simply in black. The tasteful sheath fell below her knees and covered her arms to her elbows. Paired with the dress were expensive black heels and a matching clutch. The fact that she hadn’t bothered to adhere to her normal standard of presentation was telling.

  Standing next to her were her husband, Juan, and her brother-in-law, Esteban Cerves. The two men were tall, broad and physically fit, but not exactly handsome. They had black hair, black eyes and swarthy complexions, but the cold, emotionless looks they were said to have weren’t in evidence any more than Samara’s.

  Lobo made the introductions, ensured everyone had a drink, then invited them to sit in the large seating area on the other side of the room.

  Sitting back in the comfortable leather sofa next to Cullen, across from the longer matching couch the three Cerves family members sat in, Chelsea glanced around the seating area. Graeme and Cat were in the chairs next to the sofa at Cullen’s side while Lobo and his head of security, Devril Black, sat likewise on the opposite side of the couch.

  Looking down at her hands in her lap, she felt as though all eyes were on her now. It reminded her of family intervention night in the Martinez household.

  “We’ve made the formal introductions,” Lobo stated, his deep voice just a little rough but still a pleasant, masculine sound. “We can now address the reason for it.”

  “Pardon us, Alpha Reever,” Samara stated, the soft, silky cadence actually quite pleasant. That slight hint of a Spanish accent lent it an exotic quality. “I believe we’re waiting for the reason for this meeting to actually raise her eyes and look at us.”

  The gentle prod wasn’t lost on Chelsea, but she chose to ignore it. The habit of tucking her emotions behind a veil of ice wasn’t working. She needed it to work. She needed desperately to find a way to push everything back. Especially the anger.

  Because of this woman’s determination to hold on to a criminal empire, that sweet, precious baby had suffered a horrible nightmare before dying.

  “I think I blame myself most for what happened to my Louisa,” Samara stated when Chelsea didn’t speak, her voice thick with emotion. “Were I not the Blood Queen, then those monsters would have had no reason to steal my baby from her bed and cause her such pain. Is this not correct, Ms. Martinez?” There was nothing but pain and remorse in the woman’s voice.

  And still, Chelsea fought the anger burning through her like wildfire as she felt Cullen’s arm tighten around her.

  He didn’t make excuses for her or try to explain her silence to anyone. He just held her, allowing her to lean on him.

  Chelsea hadn’t realized until she entered the study and saw Samara’s grief how very angry she’d been at this woman. Had it not been for the Cerveses’ criminal activities, then as Samara said, her child would have never been targeted and never suffered that horrific night.

  Logically, she knew better, though. The Council had targeted other children as well in retaliation against their parents. And the same brutality had been used. Except those children had died alone within such horrible nightmares.

  Breathing in deeply, she forced herself to lift her head slowly, her eyes meeting Samara’s.

  “I’m sorry,” she whispered, her emotions still so torn she had no idea how to deal with them. “No matter what parents may or may not have done, no child deserves
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