Wake a sleeping tiger, p.24
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.24
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  his way at the insult. She had a feeling they might end up killing him before Cullen ever managed to arrive, if the looks the two Breeds shared were any indication.

  “He’ll smell you,” she told him wearily. “You and Ranger both.”

  “Not so.” Arthur smiled, the flickering firelight throwing a reddened hue over his expression as he stood above her. “We used a scent blocker ourselves. His animalism may be active now, but it’s distinctively weak. Otherwise, he would have caught the fact that I’ve been staying in the house across from him for months.”

  The bastard was crazy and it was obvious neither he nor Ranger knew anything about Breeds or how their instincts worked.

  And those Coyotes sure as hell weren’t helping them out.

  “You can give up hoping for a rescue,” Ranger called out to her then. “Cullen has no idea where you are or who took you. And by the time the effects of the paralytic he was shot up with wear off, you’ll be long gone.”

  Oh God. The paralytic was one of the most horrifying drugs created to use on the Breeds while they were in captivity.

  “She’s figuring it out now,” Arthur said quietly. “She’s not as stupid as we thought she was.”

  That paralytic could last up to eight hours, in some cases longer. She could be dead by the time he found her. Or what he said? Long gone?

  She wasn’t going to make it easy for them. She would have her chance, she promised herself, and the longer they fucked around, the greater her chances of actually managing to get away.

  It wouldn’t be easy, but she’d take whatever she could get.

  “He’ll kill you the hardest, Ranger,” she warned him. “Cullen trusted you.”

  “Of course he did.” Ranger shrugged, unaffected. “I made sure of it when your uncle Ray told us what he was. If his Breed status changed, then we needed to know so Council soldiers could reacquire him.”

  There was no way she could hide her surprise.

  “Yes, the Genetics Council.” Arthur smiled cruelly at her look. “Covering our tracks when Ray died wasn’t easy. Do you really think he was the only one watching those bastards? Your Breed Underground is good, but the Council is better, and they’ve been at it far longer. You could never guess the men and women you meet almost every day who are part of a very organized network to keep track of those fucking animals and the dumbasses who support them.”

  The Coyotes glanced at each other, their expressions flickering with distaste. They didn’t like being called animals. Go figure.

  “With you gone, his mind tormented by that little gift you have to communicate with him, especially while you’re screaming in agony I bet, then we’ll have our revenge. When we’re tired of tormenting him, then we’ll take him out. Or the Council will come for him.” Ranger grinned, the thought of it evidently giving him a large measure of satisfaction.

  “Lauren really didn’t want Cullen hurt.” Arthur sighed, his voice saddened as he stared down at her. “She had a good heart despite his betrayal. He could have saved her, though, but he let her die instead. He has to pay for that.”

  Chelsea shook her head desperately. “He would have saved her if he could.”

  Fury instantly transformed Arthur’s face. “How could he save her when you refused to allow him to do so?” he burst out, enraged.

  Before she could avoid the blow, he backhanded her with enough force to throw her to the side, her mouth filling with blood as waves of dizziness began washing through her.

  “She knew you were the reason he wouldn’t mate her. She knew you were his mate.”

  “I was twelve,” she gasped, weakly spitting out blood and trying to breathe through the pain.

  Oh God, that hurt. That hurt so bad.

  “You were and still are nothing but a fucking whore,” Arthur screamed. “She knew every time he could sense you. You wouldn’t let him go. Not even long enough for him to save her.”

  His foot connected with her hip, and the agony that streaked through her pulled a hoarse cry from her throat. The pain shattered her senses, causing her stomach to heave sickeningly.

  “Enough, Arthur,” Ranger ordered. “Leave something for your dogs to chew on later or they’ll feel cheated.”

  “She deserves to pay.” His breath heaved in and out of his chest. “If she had left him alone, Lauren would have lived.”

  Chelsea fought to keep from passing out. Dark waves of agony kept rolling through her senses, making her wonder if he’d broken her hip.

  “Breeds never mate children,” one of the Coyotes sneered. “The animal won’t respond to a female who’s physically incapable of enduring the Heat.”

  “Lauren knew he would mate her . . .”

  “That sounds like a personal problem to me.” The other Coyote laughed. “I don’t care what the bitch did, I just want make sure she still has a little fight in her when it’s time for us to play.”

  “And you wonder why I call them dogs, Ranger,” Arthur sneered, moving away from her.

  “I didn’t say I wondered why.” Ranger laughed. “I said one day one of them will end up killing you for it.”

  She wished they’d kill him now.

  Where was Cullen? He really needed to hurry and rescue her now. If he didn’t hurry, then she might not survive the night.

  What were they waiting for anyway?

  Chelsea fought the shudders threatening to tear through her body. She was too cold to restrain the deep tremors, and that made it harder to push back the pain. Cullen’s shirt and her thin cotton sweats weren’t much protection.

  “What time is it?” Arthur snapped from where he paced by the fire. “Have they contacted yet?”

  They. The Genetics Council. She had to find a way to get away from them; she didn’t have much time left.

  “Not yet,” the third Coyote answered. “They shouldn’t be much longer. They had to make a stop first.”

  Cullen had told her the Genetics Council would love to get their hands on a Bengal Breed mate. And it looked like Arthur intended to give them one.

  “You won’t get away with this, Arthur.” She had to swallow back the need to vomit. “Cullen will make certain of it.”

  “Cullen will be too busy grieving for his mate.” He laughed gleefully. “This is actually much better than having you killed as I first planned. This way, Cullen suffers as Ranger suffered. Terran knows the hell I’ve lived, and you get to pay for Lauren’s death. It works out beautifully. Once the Council scientist who’s arriving confirms the mating, you’ll be taken to one of their facilities. That’s your punishment and Cullen’s for letting my daughter die.”

  He was crazy.

  Chelsea stared back at him in shock.

  “Arthur, don’t do this.” She couldn’t believe the horrible evil spilling from his mouth. “Lauren wouldn’t have wanted you to do this.”

  “Lauren’s dead, Chelsea,” he stated brutally. “She’s been dead for a very long time and I’ve waited long enough to make certain Cullen pays for it.”

  There was no convincing him. She could see the insanity gleaming in his eyes.

  I love you, Cullen. Closing her eyes, Chelsea sent the thought out, hoping he was right about sensing the strongest of her emotions.

  She turned her head to look at the stones behind her when she realized the boulders she’d been resting against before Arthur’s blow held darker, deeper shadows stretching out behind them. Her eyes narrowed, realizing that behind the rocks there was actually what appeared to be a small entrance into the wall of the shallow canyon they’d brought her to.

  Dragging herself back to a sitting position against the rocks, she had to keep from blacking out as pain shot from her hip, exploding in it as she struggled to pull herself up.

  Resting back against the rocks, she lowered her head and drew in a deep breath, watching them from beneath her lashes.

  If she got lucky, really lucky, maybe it was deep enough that she could slip inside it and the narrowness of the entrance
could hide her scent. Graeme had said the hormonal therapy he injected her with had an added scent blocker, that it wouldn’t completely hide her scent, but it wouldn’t carry as far.

  She just needed them to be distracted for a minute, that was all.

  Instead of becoming distracted, though, the quieter of the three Coyotes never took his eyes off her. Each time she let her gaze drift to the fire and the coffeepot sitting on the rocks next to it, she realized he was watching her.

  The other Coyote had leaned back against a boulder, eyes closed; the third stood with Ranger. Arthur paced or stood with his back to her and talked to Ranger as the younger man rested back against the windshield of the Runner.

  Her gaze moved to the coffee again. It was smelling better by the minute, and the scent was drifting to her, teasing her with the knowledge of the warmth it would hold.

  It was then she realized she was actually downwind of them. If she did manage to slide behind the rocks behind her and into the hidden entrance extending into the wall, then her scent might actually be hidden enough that she could get away with it.

  Sliding her gaze to the fire once again, she saw the tallest of the Coyotes fill his coffee cup, then bump his buddy’s shoulder with some laughing comment. The other gave a low, approving laugh as the Coyote strode away from the fire toward her.

  Arthur and Ranger glanced at the movement, then turned back to their conversation.

  Of the three Coyotes, the one nearing her was by far the most dangerous. Tall, corded muscles shifted beneath his khaki-colored pants and shirt, and his gaze was piercing. His eyes weren’t black, she didn’t believe, but she doubted they contained any mercy either.

  “Hey, man, give her some for me,” the Coyote with Ranger called out, laughing. “I’ll give her some for you later.”

  Oh God.

  Stopping next to her, the Coyote hunched on his knees, the steaming coffee held between his hands.

  “You look cold.” He extended the cup, the metal rim touching her lips as she watched him warily.

  He gave a slight nod toward the cup. “Go on, before they get suspicious and Holden decides to come over and see what we’re doing.”

  He pressed the cup a little more firmly against the seam of her lips and tilted it as they parted. The heated liquid dribbled over her lips and to her tongue. The moist heat flowed from the cup, and as she swallowed she swore she felt the heat sinking to her body.

  Pausing briefly, he would wait, tip the cup to her lips again, and give her more, letting her sip at it greedily until she didn’t care that she could taste the decaf. She was so cold she didn’t give a damn if it was decaf or not, she needed the heat.

  “Come on, Dog, make the show interesting, man,” the other Coyote called out. “I know how shy you can be.”

  Hard lips quirked at the snicker from behind him.

  “Can you run?” he asked, his tone so low she could barely hear him, and the question shocked her.

  She pulled the surprise back and pushed it behind the ice. She was downwind of the other Coyote, but it was better not to take chances.

  “The hip,” she muttered. “I won’t be fast.”

  “Bastard.” The curse was a quiet, insulting hiss.

  “Who are you?” she asked, glancing to the fire as the Coyote stood with Ranger and Arthur now, obviously regaling them with some story.

  “Don’t worry about who I am. Now here’s how we’re going to do this.” He kept his gaze on hers, intent, demanding. “And you have to do exactly as I say.”

  “Why help me? You killed Louisa,” she accused him painfully. “Why help me and not her?”

  “Not me or my partner.” Something cold and vicious flashed in his gaze. “But they don’t know that. If you want to live, shut up and pay attention.”

  She shut right up.

  CHAPTER 24

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  Once free, the Primal will track his mate or his enemy, to the ends of the Earth if he must. And God help the enemy if he’s found with the Primal’s mate—

  Cullen could sense his mate. She was alive, reaching out to him and preparing to run. He swore he could feel her plotting, though he could also sense her certainty that he would come to her. She knew he would, but she was determined to help herself as well, believing that if she could manage to get away, then the danger to him would be lessened.

  Wild courage and soul-deep independence. That was his mate. And he was coming for her. When he reached her, when he knew her safety was ensured, then both Arthur and Ranger would die.

  Leaving them alive wasn’t an option. Alive, they’d always search for a way to escape. The risk that they’d find a way to hire out another attempt on Chelsea’s life was too high. Come dawn, their blood would stain the desert, and their hatred would be stilled. Their threat to his mate would never exist again.

  Crawling on their stomachs, he and Graeme eased to the top of the shallow canyon, surprised at the area where the Coyotes had chosen to camp for the night. Their campfire sent flickering shadows through the ragged cut formed into the Earth. The Coyotes along with Arthur and Ranger were positioned at the wide mouth of the canyon while Chelsea sat inside it, too far away from the fire to feel its warmth, and the night was far too cold to allow her to maintain her body heat.

  Forcing his gaze from his shivering mate, Cullen slid his attention back to the Coyotes as they sat around the fire. Neither of the two at the fire had been the one who’d aided the abduction of his mate. The smell of dark malevolence and old blood wasn’t drifting on the breeze as it eased from the canyon. The scents he picked up assured him that he recognized the two who waited with all apparent laziness, for whatever reason they were there. The third, next to Ranger, was another story.

  “What are they doing here?” Graeme hissed, a low hiss of savage, impending danger as he too recognized the scents of the Coyotes below. “Son of a bitch. Someone needs to kill them and their master.”

  “They’re no doubt manipulating the situation,” Cullen growled. “They can live as long as they don’t endanger my mate or stand between us.”

  He was taking her out of there. He’d only paused at the top of the canyon long enough to get a look at the situation and determine the best way to go in. He could slide over the canyon wall; the strength that filled his muscles and hardened his bones now ensured that he could take the high drop easily. A good thing, because to stay out of sight of the sniper rifle Ranger kept carefully in his hands, it wouldn’t be possible to climb down the more slanted entrance.

  And their time was limited. From the conversation minutes before, he knew the heli-jet carrying the Council scientist sent for Chelsea would be arriving soon, along with a team of Council Breeds. A team was normally composed of a dozen of the best the Council had trained and whose loyalties were considered solid.

  As he watched, the Coyote he’d recognized first, a powerful, smart-ass bastard, filled a metal cup with coffee from the pot at the fire before strolling across the distance to where Chelsea was propped against the canyon wall.

  “Hey, man, give her some for me.” The sound of lust and amusement was called out as the Coyote approached Chelsea. “I’ll give her some for you later.”

  Ranger and Arthur both laughed, their gazes cruelly satisfied as they watched the Coyote move toward Chelsea. Before he reached her, the one next to the fire rose and stepped to the Runner, his laughter drawing their attention as he began to regale them with some story of blood and mayhem.

  Keeping his gaze on the Coyote approaching Chelsea, Cullen watched as he crouched next to her, placed the cup against her lips and allowed her to drink the steaming liquid. The small amount of confidence the warmth returned to her would ensure mercy if by some chance Cullen had to kill him.

  “Can you run?” The Coyote’s words were too faint to hear, but Cullen’s better-than-normal night vision picked up the carefully formed words on the Breed’s lips.

  He
didn’t hear her response, but he knew it. Hell, he didn’t even need to acknowledge what he sensed; he knew Chelsea. She would have to be unconscious to not attempt to escape. She was too damned stubborn to stay in place and wait to be rescued.

  “We’ve got to move,” Graeme hissed. “That heli-jet due in will become a problem if you don’t have Chelsea secured first. I may need your help taking that scientist.”

  “I’m not here for a scientist.” Cullen’s gaze snapped to his brother, but just for a second.

  “Fine, get your mate out of here and I’ll take the scientist myself.” The harsh rasp of the Primal’s voice wasn’t in the least worried about going against a dozen Council Breeds on his own.

  “From a team of armed, brainwashed Breeds?” Cullen asked dubiously.

  “The scientist is damned important or she wouldn’t be traveling with her own security team. Besides, one less scientist they have in their possession is one less monster running amok in the world.”

  His brother just couldn’t let this be easy, could he? He never failed to find a way to make things more difficult. As though the situation weren’t dangerous enough.

  “Cat will be pissed if you get yourself killed,” Cullen warned him, the words a reminder of what could happen, nothing more.

  “She’ll be pissed anyway because I didn’t bring her with me.” Graeme glanced to the sky just as Cullen felt what was coming.

  The heli-jet was still miles out but coming in fast and covert. The danger to his mate was increasing with unacceptable speed.

  At the same time, the Coyote next to Chelsea gave a hard burst of laughter as Chelsea screamed into the night. She rolled from the Breed, struggling to her feet, obviously having a difficult time staying upright.

  She was hurt, unable to run.

  “Go on,” the Breed laughed. “Run, little rabbit. You have two minutes to hide.”

  That was all Cullen needed.

  In a fast roll he went over the edge of the canyon, dropping to the ground in a silent crouch. The Primal surged closer to the surface.

  Between one heartbeat and the next he could feel the additional strength, his senses opening to such vast perception that it would have been painful if the additional adrenaline weren’t surging through him.

  Graeme would do as he wanted no matter Cullen’s objections, and he knew it. It was far better to secure his mate first, then help Graeme.

  If any help was needed.

  “If I don’t live through this, and if the women on the heli-jet that’s arriving aren’t rescued, then you contact Dash Sinclair,” the Coyote warned her. “You tell him Jonas’s suspicions are true. Do you understand?”

  “I understand,” she assured him.

  “Now, I’m going to start laughing. I want you to scream, get to your feet as fast as possible and get to the back of the canyon. There’s a cave there. I’ve ensured that it will hide your scent. Get there, all the way to the back, and you’ll find hidden fissures running down the wall. Slide into one of those and remain silent. Enforcers will be here before dawn and their commander will know to check those caves, just in case.”

  “What’s going on?” she hissed, feeling the sense of danger rising even as she sat there. “And who are you?”

  “I’m just a dog,” he told her quietly. “That’s all. Now, are you ready?”

  He didn’t give her time to answer. His laugh was suddenly dark with depravity, his expression turning cruel and filled with purpose.

  Chelsea screamed, putting all the horror and fear she could into it.

  She could sense Cullen coming closer in the minutes the Coyote had sat there. She could feel him, his warmth beckoning to her. The oddness of the sensation, the certainty of it, gave her strength as she struggled to her feet. The pain at her hip was slicing, almost putting her back on the ground, but she managed to find her balance and suck in a hard breath to control the dizzying reaction to it.

  “Go on, run, little rabbit,” he suggested with brutal savagery. “You have a two-minute head start.”

  Run to the back of the canyon.

  Turning, Chelsea cried out in agony as her hip threatened to go out on her, but she managed to move, limping as quickly as possible into the heavy darkness of the canyon stretching out behind her and heading to the far end.

  A cave. Hide in a fissure, she reminded herself, pain and the icy cold of the night making her clumsy, stealing too much of her strength. But she managed to push past the low boulders and keep going despite the rocks that bit into the soles of her feet and the agony vibrating in her hip.

  One second she was gasping, her breaths almost cries as she pushed herself to follow the orders the Coyote had given her; in the next, she was swept up into Cullen’s arms, the heat of his body sinking instantly into her as she tried to smother her shocked cry.

  He didn’t speak. With a speed she could have never imagined, he ran the length of the canyon, keeping her securely clasped against his chest until she found herself in the cave the Coyote had told her was there.

  Easing her down to a smooth, flat boulder, he gripped her shoulders, his eyes glowing green and gold in the dark as she stared up at him in shock.

  “You have to wait on me, baby.” He pushed her pack into her hands. “Your weapon’s in there, but I don’t know what else you had packed. Stay here.”

  He gripped her shoulders again, his fingers just short of bruising as those eyes held her transfixed.

  “Promise me you will, Chelsea. Promise me you’ll stay safe,” he demanded.

  She had her weapon, a Thinsulate jacket and a pair of sneakers in her pack. She would be safe.

  “I promise,” she gasped, drawing in hard, desperate breaths. “I’ll stay safe.”

  His lips ground down on hers then, his tongue thrusting between her lips as the shock of the blazing heat of cinnamon, combined with a taste that reminded her of the desert at midday, slammed into her.

  The mating taste whipped through her senses, drowning the screaming pain and erasing the dizziness in her head as her body came alive for him.

  As he pulled back, those brilliant eyes blinked, the startling glow of them suddenly dark, only the glitter of life staring down at her in the pitch black of the cave.
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