Wake a sleeping tiger, p.26
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.26
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  oo terrified to eat because he feared the soup was drugged.

  There was so much she knew now, things she sensed. He was a part of her soul, not just a part of her body.

  Though the pleasure rushing her as he became a part of her body was so incredible, so sensual, that she knew she’d never find anything this good anywhere but in his arms.

  “Kiss me, Chelsea,” he groaned, pushing completely inside her, the iron-hard length of his erection buried to the hilt.

  As she turned her head to him, his lips came over hers, covering them and caressing them with hungry demand. Chelsea felt the drugging, drowsy pleasure rushing through her. His kiss was wildfire, cinnamon and spice and the wild taste of the desert air. And she loved it.

  She loved him.

  That taste marked him as hers only. Her heart and her mate and every dream she’d ever had.

  She moaned when his lips slid over her jaw, her neck, his hips moving with strong, sure strokes as he pumped his shaft inside her. Sensitive tissue parted to each heavy thrust, clenching around his erection with each retreat and return.

  Impaling her with each rocking movement of his hips, he caressed and stroked the slick inner flesh even as his hands and lips moved over her shoulders, neck and breasts.

  His fingers gripped her tender nipples, hands cupped and molded her swollen breasts. Hungry lips moved over her shoulder, the base of her neck, his teeth rasping over the flesh and sending sharp, vibrant flashes of sensation streaking to her womb.

  “I love you,” she gasped, feeling the tension increasing in bands of impending ecstasy.

  That tension, the pleasure, it raged through her, chaotic and whipping with a storm of such sensation she felt herself becoming lost within it.

  The heavy, heated thrusts became faster and harder, stroking inside her with driving intensity. The storm raged, it built and in a flash of blinding, destructive ecstasy, it exploded through her senses. On the heels of her orgasm she felt Cullen thrust deep, hard.

  The mating barb emerged, locked him inside her, increasing the storm and the explosions tearing through both of them.

  His release spilled inside her, pulsing hot and brilliant in continuing waves of blinding pleasure.

  When the storm eased, Chelsea found herself collapsing boneless to the bed, wasted from the pleasure and ready for another nap.

  Still, a protesting moan fell from her lips when he pulled free of her, his breathing heavy as he curled himself around her.

  “I love you, wild woman,” he whispered, his voice drowsy and rough with emotion.

  “I love you, tiger man,” she answered, feeling his arms wrapped around her, a kiss pressing to the mating mark.

  They had so much to talk about, so much to figure out. But they had time for that. Time to make everything work and to find the compromises that would them both happy.

  WESTERN DIVISION OF THE BUREAU OF BREED AFFAIRS

  A lifetime of running was over, and that wasn’t a good thing.

  Running hadn’t been so bad. She’d been free, able to feel the breeze against her skin whenever she wanted to, able to run in the wild, to taste the falling rain or feel the sunlight against her skin. She’d just had to be careful whenever she did it.

  Running had been fraught with fear, with uncertainty, but if she was running, then she had a chance at a future, a chance to live.

  She was very much afraid those chances were a thing of the past now.

  Kenzi Deacon paced the opulent suite she was confined to, bare feet sinking into the thick, expensive carpet. She preferred the feel of grass beneath her feet, she thought wearily. The wind against her face, the sound of the forest filling her ears. She didn’t like being here; she didn’t want to be here. But there was no way to escape either.

  The silver toe ring she wore flashed at the ragged edge of her jeans, drawing her attention for a heartbeat of time and clenching her chest with pain. The ring was the last gift from her parents. It was the only piece of jewelry they’d ever given her, for any reason, and she’d been so surprised, so pleased by it. And no more than days later, they were gone. Murdered.

  They’d tried so hard to protect her, fought to keep her hidden. They’d been so certain they would be safe, buried in the Cascade mountains, when they’d made the harrowing trip there years ago. The last refuge, her father had called it, his studious, somber expression showing none of the concern she knew he’d felt.

  They’d been found, though. Her parents were murdered in front of her eyes, her father’s desperate attempt to shield her mother so heartbreakingly hopeless. Even as he’d thrown himself in front of his wife, that knowledge had been in his eyes, that the running was over.

  Now here she was, one of the two places they’d fought to keep her free of. And one of the two places Kenzi had sworn she would never allow herself to be. She’d been so certain she could keep this from happening, so certain . . . And she’d been so wrong.

  Pushing her fingers through her short mop of black hair, she shot a disgusted look at the wig that the Council Breeds had so carefully fitted to her head before taking her from the cabin she’d lived in with her parents. The riotous curls spilled from the seat of the chair she’d tossed it to, tumbled to the floor and reminded her of the reason she’d been hunted for so many years: her genetic tie to the young woman the Council was offering a fortune for.

  She hated it, and she hated the knowledge that those Breeds had planned to pass her off as the woman she looked so much like to collect a bounty they were so greedy for. They weren’t even part of the Council. They were no more than mercenaries, despite their appearance.

  She hadn’t even been able to fight them as they put that monstrosity on her. Whatever they’d had in that dart they shot in her neck, it had taken her down instantly, paralyzing her, though she’d been awake, able to feel everything. To see everything.

  To watch as the mercenaries fired on her parents, bullets ripping into her father’s body and slamming into her mother’s. The fear, the smell of their blood, the horrifying realization that nothing would ever be the same again.

  Stalking to the wide windows overlooking the desert, she stared out at the rising hills and vastness of a land she’d once longed to see. She’d never been to the desert before. The heavy forests of the mountains were easier to hide in, her parents had always insisted. She had a feeling it wouldn’t have mattered where they hid; they would have still been found. They were destined to be found. They should have done as she’d suggested years ago and deserted her, saved themselves while they still could.

  The sound of the door opening behind her had her swinging around. At the first glimpse of the Breed that entered the suite, her heart began pounding out of control before she could force back the terror rising inside her.

  Rhyzan Brannigan.

  Celtic green eyes, long pitch-black hair falling between his shoulders from the leather thong that held it low at his nape. Six and a half feet tall, he towered over her short five feet four.

  He was dressed in dark, obviously expensive dress slacks and a white dress shirt, the sleeves rolled to the elbows, but the veneer of civilization did nothing to hide the animal beneath. Pure power and primal awareness filled his gaze as well as his expression. Those green eyes flicked over her, from her feet to her short hair, before turning from her as though she was insignificant. She didn’t matter; only the reason for her existence, the threat she might pose to the woman she shared the features of her face with, mattered.

  As an individual, as a person in her own right, she meant nothing. He simply didn’t give a damn if she survived or not.

  Those brilliant green eyes flicked to the wig, then back to her before he strode to the table at the side of the room.

  “Would you sit down, please.” He extended a hand to the chair across from him, his expression forbidding as he watched her.

  Crossing her arms over her breasts, she stared back at him mutinously. “I know how to stand and talk. I can even walk a
nd chew gum at the same time.”

  His brow arched, the bland expression devoid of emotion.

  “Aren’t you multitalented,” he murmured before those hard green eyes became chips of ice. “Now sit your ass down before I have you tied to the fucking chair.”

  The clipped order, delivered with crystal-clear demand, assured her that he wouldn’t hesitate to carry out the threat.

  Great. The son of a bitch was just as hard as her father had said he was. And likely just as cruel.

  Watching him warily, she moved to the chair, pulled it out and sat down.

  Kenzi remained silent as he followed suit. Once settled at the table, he placed the electronic pad he carried in front of him and activated it with precise, controlled movements.

  Once he had a file pulled up, he went over it for a moment before lifting his gaze back to hers.

  “There was no file found with any information on you in the heli-jet you were on, nor on any of the Breeds flying with you. Those we have in custody claim they captured you in the mountains and were picking up another young woman in the desert before flying to Argentina. Is this correct?”

  Kenzi shrugged. Did he really expect her to cooperate that easily? She was terrified of him, but she was even more terrified of being forced to stay there.

  After a few seconds the Coyote Breed laid the stylus he held on the table, folding his hands over the e-pad, and gave her another of those icy stares.

  “Because of the young woman you look so much like, I’m willing to make this an interview rather than the interrogation I would personally prefer. Now, a few ground rules.” Ice dripped from his voice. “Shrugs are not answers. You will answer me. Lie to me and I will know it. Attempt any deception and I will know it. Now, shall we start again?”

  She waited until she thought he was ready to ask the question again.

  “What’s the difference between this and an interrogation?” she demanded, her one weakness, her temper, coming out to play.

  He blinked. Once.

  “No truth serum, no pain, and no cell where every time you go to take a piss other prisoners are watching and trying to jack off at the thought of catching a glimpse of your bare ass. Do you have any further questions?” The answer had her swallowing tightly, but she did have one more question.

  “If I cooperate, will you let me leave?” she asked. “Today. Can I just walk out?”

  His expression gave nothing away. Whatever he was thinking, there was no reading it. And that could be very bad for her.

  “Answer every question honestly and provide me with what I need, and after that, I don’t give a damn where you go,” he assured her. “But I will have the answers I want first.”

  Kenzi nodded hesitantly, praying he wasn’t lying to her.

  “Your previous information was correct, then. The Breeds transporting me in the heli-jet had no information on me. I know they weren’t Council, though. They were mercenaries. They intended to collect a bounty being paid for the woman I look like, just as they intended to collect a fee for the woman they were picking up in the desert.”

  He made a quick note on the pad before lifting his gaze back to her.

  “What is your name? Your full name,” he asked her without emotion, without any sort of interest really.

  She inhaled slowly, deeply. She hated questions.

  “Mackenzie Elizabeth Deacon.” And she knew the questions would just become harder to answer.

  “Birth parents?” he asked.

  She glared at him, hating him, hating the questions.

  “I didn’t ask to come here,” she reminded him. “Your people brought me here against my volition.”

  “Shall I ask the question again?” He stared at her again, green eyes surrounded by heavy, thick lashes, his tone so cold she’d probably get frostbite.

  “Dane and Elizabeth Colder,” she answered, fighting to push back the resentment and pain at the thought of them.

  “Known siblings?” Rhyzan asked in that hard, brutally cold tone.

  “Cassandra and Kenton Sinclair.” She stared over his shoulder now, concentrating on the mirror behind it, trying to distance herself from the “interview.”

  “Known genetic status?”

  Known genetic status. Human or Breed, and if Breed what designation. She knew what that question meant.

  Her lips thinned. “Coyote.”

  Her interrogator paused then. “You mean Coyote and Wolf.”

  She turned her gaze back to him. “No, Mr. Brannigan, I mean Coyote. My genetics weren’t mixed, only Cassie’s. I’m the throwaway child. The one they didn’t want.” What had happened to the Wolf child, though?

  He said nothing for a long moment, then placed the stylus on the table and watched her clinically.

  “Answer this one question and you can walk out of here now, and just disappear if that’s what you want,” he told her then. “The moment I confirm the answer and have what I want, then you can leave.”

  Kenzi nodded hesitantly.

  There were strings attached. She knew there were. Freedom could never be that easy.

  “Where is your sister, Cassandra Sinclair?”

  She blinked back at him, not certain what he meant. Confused, she gave a short, quick shake of her head.

  “What do you mean?” she asked, frowning at the flash of retribution in his gaze.

  “I mean, Cassie disappeared just before your arrival here, in this building. Tell me where she is, and you can go.” His expression didn’t shift an iota, but his voice had a terrifying harshness to it that had her heart jumping in fear. “If you don’t tell me, then I’ll throw you in the deepest, darkest fucking cell I can find.”

  Cassie was gone?

  Kenzi could feel the fear beginning to tear through her, panic surging past her fragile control as her heart began racing, pushing the adrenaline-laced terror straight to her mind and freezing her with the implications of what he’d just said.

  “I don’t . . .”

  “Tell me you don’t know, and I’ll drag you to that cell right now,” he growled, and she believed him. She could see it in his face, see his desire to do it, hear it in his voice.

  Kenzi jumped from the chair, the panic rioting through her making her sick to her stomach, threatening to make her heave on the beautiful carpet.

  “But I don’t,” she whispered. “I don’t know . . .”

  He rose to his feet, picked up the pad and stared down at her with chilling disregard. “I’ll give you some time to think about it, Mackenzie,” he offered coldly. “Have an answer when I come back, or I’ll send you to that cell.”

  He walked out. Not a backward glance, not another chance to answer his question or another threat. The door closed behind him, the sound of the lock clicking ominous in the silence of the room.

  She didn’t know . . .

  And it wouldn’t matter.

  Now she was really fucked . . .

  CERVES COMPOUND

  Samara was there when her baby opened pretty green eyes and blinked up at her.

  In the child’s eyes, there was a flash of confusion, of fear that she should have never felt, never known.

  “There’s Momma’s baby,” Samara whispered, her voice hoarse, love suddenly flooding her, swelling inside her soul as she touched the child’s cheek.

  “Momma?” the child asked, the uncertainty in her voice bringing tears to Samara’s eyes. “Are you my momma?”

  Samara brushed back the tangled curls, her lips trembling as she held back her tears.

  “Yes, baby,” she whispered. “I’m your momma. Do you remember your name?”

  Little lips trembled and tears filled her eyes, distress darkening the emerald hue.

  “It’s okay, sweetheart,” Samara promised. “I think you must have had a nasty fall. Your name is Lily, for the beautiful flowers I love. Lily Cerves. Do you like that name?”

  Lily nodded, the tears drying, though the confusion remained. “Why don’t I remember my
name, Momma?”

  Samara inhaled, her breathing hitching at the wash of emotion and fragile hope building inside her.

  “I think you fell and bumped your head, baby.” Samara eased her fears. “But Momma has you now and I won’t let you be hurt ever again.”

  Her heart melted, already loving this child, determined to protect her from anyone who would harm her.

  “Rest now, my Lily. Momma is right here with you,” she promised the baby, her Lily. She brushed her fingers over the child’s flushed cheeks.

  Lily’s eyes closed, fluttering against baby cheeks before sleep settled over her again.

  It was then that the Breed, Graeme, stepped from the shadowed corner of the room, his gaze heavy as he stared at the child.

  “Get out of the business, Samara,” he growled. “And hide her. Hide her well.”

  Samara nodded faintly, brushing back the dark hair next to Lily’s cheek.

  “We were doing so for Louisa before she was taken,” she told him quietly. “We wanted only for her to be proud of her momma and poppa. We will continue to do so now. We will remain here, on this estate. Where her uncle Graeme can help us care for her.”

  It was a risk bringing him there, letting him see the child, but they’d been unable to wake her. And she would need someone who understood her Breed physiology, in case she became ill or hurt.

  “We can take care of her, Graeme,” she whispered, desperate now. “Juan, Esteban and I, and you.” She had nothing but hope at this point. “If we take her to the Breeds, then the Council will not stop hunting her. This way, no one knows what happened to her. Perhaps even the soldiers lied and she was not there.”

  Staring at Lily, Graeme restrained a sigh. It wasn’t quite that simple, but only a few of the soldiers were left living and they wouldn’t be living for long. He’d have to make certain of that.

  It seemed the Council was still playing with genetics. This child was proof of that.

  This beautiful, innocent child was even more unique than Samara knew. The only way to protect her was to indeed hide her. From Council and Breeds alike.

  How very interesting, he thought.

  It might be time to start a new journal.

  BREED TERMS

  Breeds: Creatures of genetic engineering both before and after conception, with the genetics of the predators of the Earth such as the lion, tiger, wolf, coyote and even the eagle added to the human sperm and ova. They were created to become a super army and the new lab rats for scientific experimentation.

  The Genetics Council: A group of twelve shadowy figures who funded the labs and research into bioengineering and genetic mutation to create a living being of both human and animal DNA, though references to the Genetics Council also refer to affiliated political, military and Breed individuals and groups.

  Rogue Breeds: Breeds who have declared no known loyalties and exist as mercenaries following the highest bidder.

  Council Breeds: Breeds whose loyalties are still with the scientists and soldiers who created and trained them. Unwilling or unable for whatever reason to break the conditioning instilled in them from birth. Mostly Coyote Breeds whose human genetics are far more dominant than in most Breeds.

  Council Soldiers: Mostly human, though sometimes Breeds, soldiers who willingly give their loyalty to the Council because of their ideals or belief in the project and their belief that Breeds lack true humanity.

  Bureau of Breed Affairs: Created to oversee the growing Breed population and to ensure that the mandates of Breed Law are fully upheld by law enforcement agencies, the courts and the Breed communities. The Bureau oversees all funds that are paid by the United States as well as other countries whose political leaders were involved with the Genetics Council or any labs in their countries. They also investigate species discrimination and hate crimes against Breeds and track down scientists, trainers and lab directors who have escaped Breed justice.

  Director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs: The position has been held for the past ten years by Jonas Wyatt, a conniving, calculating and manipulating Lion Breed who ensures that Breed Law is upheld and all Breeds are given a chance to be free to find mates who will ensure future generations of the Breed species.

  Breed Ruling Cabinet: Composed of an equal number of feline, Wolf and Coyote Breeds as well as human political leaders. It governs and enforces the mandates of Breed Law and oversees Breed Law where the separate Breed communities are concerned.

  Purists and Supremacists and Their Various Groups: Groups of individuals who for reasons of religion, fear or just personal feelings believe that the Breeds are not human, but no more than puppets created in man’s image. They’re determined to destroy first the Breeds’ public standing, then their lives. They dream of a world where Breed genetics have no hope, no chance and no threat of ever infecting the human population.

  Their species discrimination against the Breeds includes but is not confined to the following: capturing Breeds and Breed-mated couples for further scientific study of how to weaken them or create a drug that will prevent the conception of hybrid children; guerrilla attacks against Breeds and Breed facilities; public outcries and protests against Breeds, Breed-funded and -hosted events and/or charities; bombings of Breed offices, attempts to kill key Breed political figures and general harassment whenever possible.

 
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