Wake a sleeping tiger, p.25
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.25
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  “Stay put, no matter what,” he rasped, the growling sound of his voice not his normal roughened tone, but there wasn’t time to question.

  She could hear the low hum of a heli-jet coming in on stealth mode and coming in low. The vibrations of the powerful motor trembled through the cave as Chelsea hurriedly dug into her pack and dragged on the night vision glasses she kept there.

  Instantly she could see. Not as well as she could if she were outside, but she could see to find the cushioned socks she wore with the thin sneakers that folded easily into her pack. The jacket she pulled around her arms as quickly as possible, zipping it up to her neck.

  Her weapon had been pushed into the side pocket, still loaded and locked in readiness to fire. There were pain pills at the bottom of the pack, but she left them in place. She still hurt, but the pain wasn’t slicing ribbons tearing into her ability to think. And she could walk, if not gracefully, at least not with the staggering weakness that the pain caused.

  Seconds later she was slipping from the mouth of the cave just as the first enraged roar of a tiger screamed through the night, followed quickly by the second.

  The night lit up like fireworks exploding too low to the ground. Automatic weapons shattered the peaceful quiet, lighting up the entrance to the cave with rapid flashes of light that had Chelsea rushing to get closer.

  There was plenty of cover to stay behind, she assured herself, but she was not letting Cullen and Graeme have all the fun by themselves. Now dammit, that was just uncalled for.

  At that thought, the violence that exploded through the night shook the ground with the thunder of powerful Runners suddenly shooting out of nowhere, along with the explosions of automatic weapons discharging enough ammunition to supply a small war. Which was what it sounded like was going on. The night had erupted into a war, and they were leaving her out of it.

  Dammit.

  Cullen glimpsed Ranger and Arthur running for the outcropping of boulders and rock opposite the canyon entrance when the cartel soldiers swept in from the night, Graeme’s wife, Cat, leading the fray with the roar of a Bengal that should have done her mate proud.

  Ranger tossed his spent rifle to the dust, scampering away and leaving Arthur to rush after him, his aging body unable to keep up though he gave it a valiant effort.

  Graeme was in the thick of the Breed soldiers who spilled from the heli-jet. Twelve hard-eyed, savage beasts intent on nothing but success. Their intent and Graeme’s Primal were at odds, though, and as usual, Graeme ended the fight with a victorious feline scream that echoed through the night.

  It might have taken him longer than usual, and Cullen was pretty certain he took at least one bullet.

  He’d glimpsed Chelsea, still limping but safe, covered by several of Samara Cerves’s soldiers as she stepped from the mouth of the canyon. Safe. Thank God, his mate was safe. Though she was at present searching for him.

  He had a little matter to take care of first.

  He moved lazily through the night, following the scent of panic and fear, a snarl pulling at his lips. And as he expected, he faced Ranger first. Obstinate, his eyes filled with hatred, he tried to jump from the dark in a surprise attack.

  His arm went around Cullen’s neck, trying to twist him from his feet as he stood still, patient, until the other man dropped to the ground, his legs folding under him. Turning, Cullen stared down at him. The blood he’d scented on Ranger was a bright, vivid splash at his right shoulder and across his left side.

  He could live through the wounds, Cullen knew, but he still had another wound to contend with.

  “I loved her,” Ranger suddenly screamed. “She was mine first. Mine. You don’t deserve to be happy, you let her die.”

  “I didn’t let her die,” Cullen stated simply, the Primal bite to his voice and his more savage appearance causing Ranger to flinch. “I simply refused to mate a woman I didn’t love, and one who sought only to use me to live. Lauren came to peace with that before she died, and I believed you had.”

  Ranger shook his head, sobbing. “I won’t forget that you let her die. I won’t. You and that bitch . . .”

  Breaking his neck was a simple matter.

  Cullen did it without emotion, without remorse, though he had no doubt that when he saw it through Chelsea’s eyes, he’d know remorse. He’d know remorse, but he’d also know his mate would be forever safe from the man’s unreasonable hatred.

  As he stepped back from the body, his gaze lifted. Arthur stepped from behind one of the larger outcroppings of rock, the thin light of a half moon gleaming on the barrel of the weapon he held in both hands.

  “Look at you!” Awe and terror mixed with the hatred and psychotic impulses raging through his former father-in-law. “You’re a monster.”

  Cullen growled, a low, savage sound that widened Arthur’s eyes and had him trembling.

  “You’re the monster,” he assured the other man. “I’m your executioner.”

  As the gun fired, Cullen flowed to the side and launched himself at the older man. The bullet flew by harmlessly. Before it struck the rock Cullen had stood next to, the other man dropped to his knees, his gaze sightless now, the deep gouge across his neck severing life before his knees hit the dirt.

  Cullen swung around in the crouch he landed in, watching dispassionately as the broken, lifeless form fell to the ground on its side, blood seeping slowly into the dirt beneath it. Then he raised his gaze and met the compassionate, loving eyes of his mate.

  Her weapon lowered to her side and a heavy sigh whispered past her lips as she stared at the two men, their bodies still in death, their threat forever silenced.

  “They would have ensured we were never safe,” she told him without regret, though the sweet scent of her compassion flowed over him, wiping the taint of death from his senses. “Maybe they’re at peace now.”

  He didn’t really care if they were or not. They were no longer a threat.

  “Graeme and Cat are hissing at each other again because she wanted to fight one of the Coyotes,” she told him, limping toward him slowly. “He wouldn’t let her and now she’s pissed. We should get out there. I think she’s going to bite him.”

  Cullen jumped for her and swung her into his arms as in the darkness his lips touched hers, the rage finally easing from his mind, the burning stripes he’d felt over his body cooling, fading away as her arms clung tight around his neck, her lips meeting his and her love wrapping around his senses.

  He was home, he thought. Finally, irrevocably, he had found home.

  The Cerves cartel members did the cleanup in the clearing at the entrance of the canyon, their hard eyes, harder faces intent as Graeme and Cullen tossed the bodies of Ranger and Arthur next to the dead Council Breeds who had met the enraged Bengal with a surfeit of confidence but a severe lack of strength and sheer cunning to match.

  Just outside the center of commotion, the black stealthy heli-jet sat, ominously quiet. The pilot lay half in, half out of the cockpit, his blood staining the dirt below him. On the other side, the copilot still sat in his seat, a gunshot wound in the center of his forehead.

  From the opposite side of the commotion Samara, Juan and Esteban moved quickly into position, weapons held ready, as Esteban gripped the handle to the door and quickly jerked it open.

  Samara stared into the heli-jet, something inside her twisting with so much pain it was all she could do to hold back a scream of agonized rage.

  The girl—child really, she couldn’t be older than five or six—was bound hand and foot, naked, long black hair tangled around her too-thin face, her brilliant green eyes filled with panic and staring back at them with dazed shock. With her, the scientist Graeme had demanded possession of was unconscious, but alive, slumped against the side of the seat she sat in.

  The girl, though, was wide-awake, and filled with such fear that her eyes broke Samara’s heart.

  Snatching a folded blanket she glimpsed beneath the seat, Samara quickly checked for any watc
hing eyes before hurriedly wrapping it around the child, lifting her in her arms and then turning to Esteban.

  “They took my baby,” she hissed, determined, the fierce protectiveness she couldn’t control surging through her. “This is my child. Take her now, and make certain no one sees her.”

  “Samara.” Compassion filled his voice, but she could see the doubt beginning to cloud his eyes.

  “Now!” she demanded. “No one can know from where she came. Take her now.”

  The voice of the Blood Queen; she’d perfected that voice when she was but a child herself.

  “Go,” Juan ordered him firmly, his tone brooking no refusal.

  Looking down at the girl, Esteban felt her shuddering, hard, vicious tremors, her beautiful eyes filled with such fear he couldn’t bear it.

  Nodding abruptly, he turned and rushed to the Runner he’d driven in, strapped her into the passenger seat and then, activating the stealth mode and sliding the night vision glasses over his face, pulled soundlessly into the waiting night and headed for the compound.

  Staring at the scientist, her gaze hard and cold, Samara debated killing the bitch but knew she could be a bargaining tool as well. They’d need someone who understood the unique physiology of Breeds to ensure that the child remained healthy, and Graeme wanted this woman.

  There would be no way to hide the child from him, but she had a feeling Graeme didn’t exactly think with the same rationale as other Breeds did, even his brother.

  If she couldn’t bargain with him, she’d just make certain the girl disappeared.

  But this woman didn’t look like a scientist, she thought, finally giving the unconscious form a closer look. She didn’t look more than twenty. Actually, she looked very familiar.

  Far, far too familiar.

  The world knew this young woman, this Breed who shouldn’t have been here in this heli-jet.

  “Sweet God,” she whispered, brushing aside the multitude of heavy black curls and peering into the girl’s pale face.

  “Get Graeme,” she snapped as two of her soldiers rounded the side of the heli-jet. “Get him now.”

  The soldier rushed away as Samara felt a heavy, dark foreboding sweep over her.

  This was no scientist.

  Delicate, quite fragile, and like the child, her hands bound behind her.

  “Samara?” Graeme strode around the craft, his wife at his side as Cullen joined him, aiding Chelsea as she limped next to him.

  They moved to the entrance of the jet as Samara moved aside.

  “This is the only woman here,” Samara informed him, shock still filling her. “Tell me this is not who I believe it to be.”

  Cullen moved to the door of the heli-jet and stepped next to his brother, shock resounding through him.

  It wasn’t possible.

  He drew in her scent quickly and knew it was. How in the hell had Council soldiers managed to abduct this woman?

  “Cassie?” Chelsea’s suddenly panicked voice ricocheted through the night as she struggled to climb into the interior of the heli-jet. “Oh my God, Cullen, let me in there. Cassie?”

  Cassie Sinclair?

  He glanced at his brother, seeing the narrowed eyes, the flaring of his nostrils.

  “Get her out of there,” Graeme suddenly growled. “Get Chelsea out now.”

  Cullen didn’t wait for questions; he simply gripped her waist and dragged her back despite her struggles, holding her against him as Graeme moved closer to the unconscious young woman.

  Her scent was Cassie, with only the slightest, subtle difference.

  “Graeme?” Cullen questioned him softly, suspicion suddenly flaring inside him.

  Graeme shook his head, his gaze turning back to Cullen.

  “That’s not Cassie,” he stated.

  Chelsea froze beside him. “Of course it’s Cassie,” she snapped. “Who else could it be?”

  Who indeed? Graeme thought warily, but it was not who it appeared to be.

  “That is not Cassie Sinclair,” Graeme stated again, nodding toward the unconscious woman. “That’s her twin.”

  As he made the announcement the ground rumbled with sound as three stealth heli-jets hovered over the area.

  “This is Director Breaker, Western Breed Affairs. Stand down for landing. I repeat. This is Director Breaker, Western Breed Affairs, stand down for landing.”

  The announcement had Cullen’s eyes narrowing, a growl rumbling in Graeme’s throat and Samara Cerves cursing a blue streak.

  “I’m going to rip his head off,” Graeme snarled. “And stuff it up his ass.”

  Turning, they watched as the crafts landed. Doors opened, spilling out three dozen enforcers and the director of the Window Rock Breed Affairs office.

  Striding toward them, Rule, Lawe and surprisingly their mates rushed to the heli-jet.

  “I hear we have a scientist to collect,” Rule announced his, eyes narrowed as he took in Graeme’s expression.

  “Actually,” Graeme growled. “You don’t.”

  “Come on, Graeme.” Rule smiled consolingly. “You know I can’t let you keep her. We had a report they were flying close and we’ve been searching for them all night.”

  “There’s no scientist,” he snarled.

  “Dammit, Graeme, I’m not in the mood to fight you . . .”

  “Fuck you, you mangy damned cat.” Graeme stepped aside, the frustration in his tone unmistakable. “There’s no fucking scientist.”

  Rule and Lawe stepped to the entrance of the heli-jet, then froze.

  “I just left her at the offices.” Shock roughened his voice. “How the fuck . . .” He turned back to the enforcers trailing him. “Contact Jonas. Now!” Turning back, he stared at the unconscious young woman. “There was no report of attack . . .”

  “It’s not Cassie, Rule.” Chelsea gripped his arm hard. “That’s not Cassie.”

  “That is Cassie,” Lawe snapped. “You know . . .”

  “It’s her twin, dammit,” Graeme growled, a rough, savage sound filled with impatience. “The witch has a twin . . .”

  Rule stepped closer. Easing into the interior cautiously, he reached out and carefully brushed aside the long, lush curls that spilled around her pale face.

  “She smells like her,” he protested, his voice shocked.

  “There’s a difference.” Graeme’s querulous tone was followed by a vicious curse. “Trust me, it’s there.”

  Lawe joined his brother and crouched in front of the girl, staring at her, their expressions disbelieving.

  “Get the medic over here,” Rule said to his brother, never taking his eyes off the girl’s face. “Contact Jonas yourself. Send all the enforcers back but your four most trusted. I want a lid on this.” He turned to stare at Samara with piercing, ice blue eyes.

  She shook her head. “None have seen this but those standing here now,” she told him quietly. “The heli-jet was empty but for the Council soldiers. There was no scientist. I swear this to you.”

  He stared at her for several more long moments before nodding abruptly, his gaze flicking to his brother, Lawe, as he suddenly jumped from the interior and hurried to the waiting enforcers.

  “Fuck.” Rule turned back to the girl, moving farther inside the comfortable interior as both Diane Justice and Gypsy Breaker climbed in beside him.

  “I second that,” Diane murmured. “Get ready for the explosion. We’re going to get to see Dash Sinclair erupt and Jonas melt down. It’s not going to be pretty.”

  It wasn’t going to be pretty indeed.

  Wrapping his arms around his mate, Cullen moved from the heli-jet; the desire to get her someplace secure, someplace safe, was a driving need he couldn’t ignore any longer.

  “Come on,” Graeme snarled. “Let these bastards clean up. We’ll return to the estate. You can have your suite in the house or the one in the caverns. Take your pick.”

  Cullen shot him an amused glance. He was in big brother mode again.

  “De
al with it,” Graeme snapped. “I’m not in the mood for your I’m-a-big-boy crap tonight. Let’s roll.”

  “Take our Runner, there’s four seats.” Juan nodded to the vehicle still sitting where they’d left it between them and the Bureau heli-jets. “We’ll collect it later, I’m certain.”

  It would be much later, Cullen thought, swinging his mate in his arms, holding her tight until he reached the Runner.

  Graeme’s estate was closer, he thought.

  That would work.

  It would work perfectly.

  EPILOGUE

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  Brother, when your Primal has emerged, I pray your mate has come through whatever danger has stalked her. With the mating, a Bengal’s Primal cannot remain caged. Recessive or active, the Primal will surge back to its place beneath the skin.

  With your Primal free, your mate by your side, know that even in Primal form, even at my most brutal, still the thought of my mate was not the only one that drove me. The thought of the brother who sacrificed the solace of his animal for so many years for me, was always a knowledge I held close to me as well.

  She was his life.

  Holding his mate close later that day as he came awake, Cullen felt a sense of relief that was euphoric. This was his woman, his mate. Because of her and the connection they’d shared since that first night at her father’s, he’d controlled the Primal as it emerged.

  The extraordinary strength and cunning it possessed had ensured his ability to protect her, but her bond to him and his knowledge that she lived had kept the feral madness from overtaking him.

  Now, looking back at the knowledge he’d sensed as the Primal, Cullen knew that connection was the reason he’d also maintained his calm over the years.

  Until Chelsea had tried to leave him and resign from the Agency.

  Running his hand up her bruised hip in a whisper of a caress, he let the miracle of her sink inside him, warming parts of his soul he’d never known were cold. Those hidden places were now warm and comforted and filled with the love that flowed from his mate.

  Brushing his lips against her neck and licking over the mating mark, he felt her come awake. Languidly, lazily, she stretched against him. Her hum of pleasure was a gentle sigh against his arm where she rested her head.

  “Good morning,” she murmured, her rear flexing against his hard-on.

  “You feel so good this morning.”

  “Just this morning?” she asked, a smile filling her voice.

  “Every morning.” He nipped her ear, then licked over the little wound.

  Her breath caught as he sensed her pleasure and her need beginning to fill the air around him.

  “Hip hurt?” he asked, smoothing his hand over her rear, determined he wouldn’t hurt her.

  “No pain.” She sounded surprised. “Whatever Graeme put in that injection absolutely rocks.”

  He had to grin at that. Graeme’s mad-genius mind occasionally came up with a miracle. That injection, Cullen often thought, was just that, a miracle. A painkiller as well as a powerful aid to the Breed’s already strong ability to heal.

  “Feel good, do you?” he chuckled.

  “What does he put in that? He could make millions.” She was stretching cautiously again, easing into moving, testing the area of her body that had been abused.

  “It only works for Breeds and their mates,” he assured her. “The few humans he tested it on didn’t react real well.”

  Violent heaving for the better part of an hour had resulted.

  “From the appearance of his lab, money’s no object anyway,” she sighed as his lips brushed over her shoulder. “That feels so good, Cullen.”

  His fingers trailed over her thigh.

  “You have to rest or the medication in the injection won’t do what it’s supposed to,” he warned her. “So you just lie right there and I’ll take care of everything.”

  “Will you?” Laughter bubbled in her throat. “I think I could probably handle that.”

  Sliding his hand between her thighs, he lifted her leg, easing it over his as he tucked the head of his cock between the slick, swollen folds he found there.

  A little moan fell from her lips as he began working inside her. Slow, easy thrusts, taking her by increments, loving the heated, flexing caress of her snug pussy around the ultrasensitive, engorged head of his cock. So sweet and hot and so much pleasure that he was amazed by it every time she took him.

  “I love you,” he groaned at her ear. “With all of me, sweet Chelsea, I love you.”

  Chelsea felt her heart melt, the incredible pleasure rushing through her, burning brighter, sharper as she felt the emotion flowing from him. The commitment, the promise, had always been between them.

  She had never realized he was always a part of her. He had been a part of her since she sensed he was t
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