Wake a sleeping tiger, p.3
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.3
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  “This isn’t over, Chelsea,” he warned her, watching her pause, feeling her resolve.

  “Yeah, it is,” she said softly. “It was over before it ever started.”

  The message came three days later from her cousin Linc and sent agony tearing through Chelsea’s chest.

  Re: Requested information

  The child didn’t survive her injuries. She passed at 8:04.

  If you need me, call.

  Sitting down slowly on her bed, her arm wrapped around her stomach, Chelsea lost her battle with the grief that exploded inside her.

  Louisa Cerves was gone. That sweet, beautiful little baby was gone, and no doubt the Coyotes that inflicted the damage were hunting again.

  The unfairness of it shattered her and left her sobbing alone, her pillow catching the tears and the cries, just as it always had.

  CHAPTER 2

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  Recessed Primal genetics and Mating Heat is a combination guaranteed to drive any sane Breed to psychological mayhem. For the Primal Breed, Mating Heat is a time bomb ready to detonate with a force that will reshape that Breed’s life forever.

  The Primal Breed, more cunning and predatory than any other, will not stay hidden indefinitely—as those without the Primal designations may do—once free, the animal may be impossible to control.

  The female that loves such a creature must be not just strong, but in possession of a chair and whip long enough to force the Primal Breed to some semblance of at least the appearance of humanity—

  THREE WEEKS LATER

  There it was again.

  Cullen stilled the moment his senses sharpened, aligned until scent, sight, his very pores began pulling in information around him. It lasted only a second. Only long enough for his head to jerk up, awareness slamming into him before it stopped.

  He would have blamed it on an overactive imagination if it hadn’t happened more and more often in the past weeks.

  In the weeks since he’d last seen Chelsea. Since she’d awakened a hunger inside him that refused to be pushed back to nothingness again.

  Three weeks since he’d seen her, a month since she’d resigned.

  He’d told himself she’d be back. When she hadn’t come back that second week, he’d given it another week. Somewhere around the third week, he’d finally admitted it might take a while longer. But she would be back. He just had to wait her out.

  Chelsea could be stubborn; that steel will inside her often took a while to relent and allow emotion to rule her once again. If he hadn’t known that, he would have learned it after her report on Louisa had come in and he’d realized the horror she’d faced that night.

  His head jerked up, some sixth sense warned him there was a slight difference in the air outside his office now. Someone was coming, but it wasn’t her.

  It wasn’t Chelsea.

  The office door pushed open without a knock. The tall, broad form that stepped inside closed the panel silently behind him and then grinned mockingly.

  Graeme. Or Gideon, as he had once been called. He had a new identity now, much as Cullen had created one for himself, leaving his previous one as Judd behind.

  The crazy twin. Madness was an old and familiar friend, he’d told Cullen. And his brother wore it like an intimate, well-molded garment.

  Though in the months since Graeme had found his mate, there were days his brother actually seemed close to sane.

  Days.

  Not all the time, and he had a feeling this might not be one of those times.

  He was six and a half feet tall, and the primal stripes that sometimes bisected Graeme’s face were absent. They only came out during moments of extreme worry now, rather than the animalistic rages he’d once experienced. As the Primal, as Graeme called the transformation, the animal side his brother possessed revealed itself in striking, physical characteristics that could cause grown men to whimper.

  They’d been identical twins at birth, but over the thirty-some years of their lives, life, scars and the monster Graeme possessed inside himself had left them with only a resemblance to each other. The resemblance could be stronger if Cullen allowed it.

  “What the hell do you want?” Cullen snapped. It never failed that where his brother went, trouble tried to follow. Though the trouble, he admitted, wasn’t as severe as it had once been—or it just wasn’t trying as hard.

  Graeme arched one sandy blond brow, that mocking smile that tugged at his lips becoming deeper.

  He was amused. Almost playful.

  That never failed to bode ill for Cullen.

  “Just thought I’d stop by and visit with my favorite sibling,” Gideon drawled. “What’s wrong with that?”

  “I’m your only sibling,” Cullen grunted. “Alive, that is.”

  For a moment, his brother’s gaze glittered with that wild promise of madness.

  “That’s still debatable,” Graeme stated then, as enigmatic as always.

  That was Graeme, always playing games.

  “Gideon . . .” He used the one name guaranteed to piss his brother off, and he didn’t even want to know why he was so determined to arouse the insanity his brother possessed.

  “Eh, that’s not my name, remember? It’s Graeme. You should remember that, Judd.” There was an edge of warning to his voice now.

  Cullen had grown tired of the warnings when they were no more than teenagers confined in hidden cells beneath dirt, cement and steel and experimented on daily.

  “Get out of my office and leave me the hell alone,” he ordered, trying to turn his attention back to the files he should be going over.

  His concentration was shot since the night he’d pulled Chelsea out of the Cerves desert compound.

  He kept expecting to hear from her or to see her walk through his office door, a wry smile on her lips asking for her position back. And he’d give it to her.

  He’d frown, berate her a bit, but he’d make certain she was reinstated and perhaps begin working her into some less dangerous assignments.

  If she’d just walk through that damned door.

  Gideon, Graeme, whatever the hell he was calling himself this week walked to the chair in front of Cullen’s desk and sat down casually, as though he had every right to be there. Except that was where Chelsea was supposed to be sitting and Cullen wasn’t in the mood to deal with Graeme’s dramatics.

  “You have that irritated look on your face, but the scent of rage is like wildfire.” Gideon tilted his head to the side, a thoughtful look on his face. “What’s going on, Cullen? I haven’t seen you for weeks. I could use some help in the labs.”

  Use some help in the labs?

  That Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality of his held an instinct for Breed genetics and an intelligence that could be damned scary.

  Graeme watched him in silence, his hands resting calmly on the arms of the chair, his savage features far too perceptive.

  Genetics wasn’t the only instinct his brother possessed. Graeme could get into a person’s head with frightening ease. And once he did, he’d turn order into chaos.

  “Go home,” Cullen ordered, feeling as disagreeable and put out as he knew he looked. “Torment Cat.”

  Dammit, he was getting tired of waiting for Chelsea to come back, and he was getting real damned tired of everyone he met talking about everything and anything but her. As though she had never worked in these offices, never made herself a part of their lives. Even the agents never spoke of her, as though waiting for him to ask if they’d seen her, talked to her.

  The only one he gave that satisfaction was his second in command, Ranger. They’d been friends since Cullen had been brought to the Navajo Nation.

  “Cat is actually the reason I’m here.” Gideon smiled then. It wasn’t a comforting look. “She asked me to come check on you. It seems few people have seen you except your agents. When asked about you they get this wary look on their faces, as though to speak is to co
urt the wrath of demons.” Gideon gave him a brooding look. “You’re encroaching on my territory. Only I’m allowed to produce such reactions, not a recessed little snot such as yourself.”

  A recessed little snot?

  One of these days, he was going to kill Graeme. It was coming. Cullen could feel it.

  “Go home, spend some time with your woman, give her my condolences for when I kill your sorry ass. I’ll send your hide back to her for the memories,” Cullen promised, his fists clenching, hands aching with the effort to hold his fists back. He’d been after a good fistfight for weeks and no one seemed willing to give him one.

  Gideon would give him a fight, though, surely—

  His brother watched him suspiciously for a moment before grinning.

  “Oh, Cullen, brother,” he chuckled, his tone berating. “You’ve surely not lost your senses to the point that you’d actually believe you can direct all that aggression toward me? Have you?”

  Cullen came up from his chair.

  Enough of this bullshit.

  “Get out of my office,” he snarled. “Or I’ll not just get aggressive, Graeme.” He sneered the name. “I’ll make damned sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”

  Graeme stared at his brother and almost snickered.

  Cullen—or Judd, as he’d once been known—was so ready to fight he’d forgotten who he was dealing with. Not that Graeme would actually go primal during a fistfight with his brother, but Cullen wasn’t aware of that. Graeme would never let him in on that little secret. Until Cullen released the animal prowling inside him, desperate to be free, then Graeme had to play nice. His own animal demanded it. No claws unless claws were bared, or so his mate made him promise. He couldn’t think of any way to break that promise without pissing her off.

  Or actually hurting Cullen.

  Graeme didn’t want to do either.

  He actually felt sorry for his brother.

  Almost.

  He looked around the office as though backing down to Cullen’s demand.

  His brother was a man, not a kid, he reminded himself. Not a teenager who needed to be watched over, or a young man grieving the loss of a wife.

  A wife, not a mate, Graeme reminded himself. Cullen hadn’t lost his mate, but if he didn’t get his head out of his ass fairly fast, then he just might end up doing that now.

  Cullen sat down slowly. “Don’t you ever listen?” he growled, pushing his fingers through the overly long dark hair that was already fading to the more natural dark brown and blond strands.

  “Listen to who?” Graeme smirked. “You? Why would I do that? You never say anything I actually agree with.”

  Cullen doubted anyone said anything his brother agreed with.

  Running his hand along the back of his neck, he tried to tell himself that fighting with Graeme never accomplished anything. Even as children Graeme had inevitably won their disagreements.

  “Tell me why you’re here or get out,” Cullen breathed out roughly.

  The last thing he wanted to deal with was another of his brother’s little games.

  Graeme’s disagreeable grunt only irritated Cullen further.

  “As I said, Cat’s worried and asked me to check up on you,” Graeme stated then, a small frown appearing between his brows for no more than a second, as though he was not exactly certain why Cat’s request mattered.

  Everything about Cat mattered, though. From the moment Graeme had stared into the face of the four-day-old infant Cat had been when they were no more than eleven, nothing had mattered to Graeme but Cat. Her existence was everything. It had driven the far-too-intelligent, too-animalistic Graeme to actually find enough sanity to survive.

  Though Cullen doubted the meaning of survival some days when it came to Graeme’s life in the years before he’d returned to find the woman he’d given up when she was no more than twelve years old. Survival these days was looking pretty good for the too-calculating, beyond-genius-level Bengal Breed Cullen knew as his brother.

  “She shouldn’t worry. Is that all you wanted?” he gritted out when Graeme said nothing more.

  Settling back more comfortably in Chelsea’s chair, his twin let a small, amused smile curl his lips.

  “Well, Cat did want to have friends over for dinner, and she does consider you a friend,” he grunted, as though he couldn’t figure out why. “I came to extend the invitation. Be there tonight around seven.” With that order in place, Graeme rose from the chair as though preparing to leave. So certain Cullen would just follow his orders that he didn’t even pretend to ask a damned thing.

  “I’m busy.” Seven this evening his ass. “You should have tried a little advance notice.”

  Graeme’s eyes narrowed, his powerful body easing back into the chair.

  “That would have only given you an advance warning and allowed you to simply not show up with only the flimsiest of reasons,” Graeme pointed out logically. “I checked your schedule. You have nothing planned for this evening other than returning home as you usually do after leaving the office.” Mockery filled his expression again. “That is, if you leave the office. Tonight you can show up for a decent meal and a little social chitchat.” The last was a primal growl. “If I have to do it, so can you.”

  For a moment, Cullen stared at his brother in amazement.

  “Since when do you indulge in social chitchat?” he asked, wondering if the guests had any clue about the monster they were actually chatting with, if such a thing happened.

  Graeme’s expression became a glare. “I am no longer a monster, brother,” he informed him. “Cat has tamed the beast.”

  And he actually sounded proud of that, Cullen noticed.

  “That’s all well and good for you. I’m excessively proud,” Cullen sneered. “But like I said, I’m fucking busy.”

  If anything, Graeme’s glare darkened. “If you aren’t there and on time, I will find you before the night’s out and make you wish you were there.” The green of his eyes darkened, nearly overtaking the pupil before Graeme pulled back the monster he claimed was tame. “This is for Cat. I will not have her hurt because you didn’t show up. Are we understood?” Strong canines flashed in Graeme’s savage smile as he came slowly to his feet, his gaze never leaving Cullen’s.

  It was almost amusing. The creature Graeme had become during those years of unbridled fury was so much a part of his twin that there was no hiding it. The fact that it was indeed under control now amazed Cullen.

  “Forget it. I’m busy,” Cullen reminded him, really not fazed by the beast. Graeme wasn’t dangerous yet, just a little put out.

  Graeme’s nostrils flared in displeasure. “Very well.” He gave in so easily that Cullen’s gaze narrowed on him. “I’ll inform Cat so she can take your name off the invitation list. She can find another damned dinner partner for her friend Chelsea Martinez. Miss Martinez will probably thank her for it.”

  Cullen froze for a single heartbeat, a flash of something akin to horror racing through his mind. People, Breeds and humans alike, who associated with Graeme usually ended up in harm’s way. Many had been known to die.

  He came slowly from his seat in the next heartbeat.

  “What the hell are you up to?” Rage began licking the edges of his control, fraying it with a flame that threatened to engulf him. “And don’t bother lying to me. I know you too damned well.”

  Graeme tipped his head to the side at a curiously thoughtful angle. “I believe I’ll offer her the position of Cat’s assistant. I know her, her training.” His lips tilted into a smug grin. “And her trainer. I’m rather leaning her way; there are just a few things to consider first. I had hoped to get to know her better by inviting her to Cat’s little dinner party.”

  Cullen had trained her for the most part. For four years he’d invested more hours than he cared to calculate in her training. And he knew she was good. Good enough to steal Coyote prey from beneath their noses and get her to safety. But that was far different from workin
g for Graeme.

  “No,” he snapped, furious. “What the hell do you think you’re doing even considering putting her in the line of fire? She’ll have a price on her head within a week if she goes to work for you or Cat.”

  Graeme’s brow arched. That superior, arrogant calculation that was so much a part of his brother was readily apparent now.

  “I’m considering her because no one would expect her to be the fighter she truly is, and the fact that she managed to work for you for four years means she has plenty of patience,” Graeme countered softly, with no small amount of menace. “She’d be a good fit for the position. And her training means she’d be prepared should anything happen. I like to be prepared.”

  He liked to be prepared? Graeme was never prepared. He flew by the seat of his pants, his arrogance refusing to accept that he could lose. There was no preparation, only bloodshed.

  “Chelsea is not bulletproof.” Cullen came around the desk before he considered the move. Nearly nose to nose with a creature even the hardest soldiers, the most fanatical killers flinched in the face of. “You know hiring her is out of the question.”

  Graeme actually had the temerity to laugh. “Being a friend of yours does not automatically disqualify someone from working with me. On the contrary, her training is excellent . . .”

  “She belongs here. Keep your damned nose out of it and she’ll be back,” he argued, furious.

  His brother only laughed. “After a month? Is that what you really believe, brother?” The grin that curled his lips was more a smirk. It was going to be a bloody smirk soon.

  “You will not hire her.” Cullen’s tone lowered to a deliberate, roughened warning that would have had every man under his command paling if they had been in the room.

  Graeme merely stared back at him without so much as a blink.

  “Or what?” his twin asked knowingly. “How will you enforce that order? When you’re strong enough to survive the animal I hold back, then you can make such demands. Just because you wish it doesn’t mean she’ll return. And just because she’s a woman isn’t reason enough to refuse her a job she’s perfectly qualified for.” He flashed a deadly smile. “Or did you forget? A woman will kill an enemy faster than any male simply because it’s unexpected. Besides, Cat likes her.”

  Cullen’s fury was completely ignored. He could feel it. The knowledge of it was pumping through his bloodstream, burning at his mind. The rage that enveloped him consumed him.

  Uncaring of the strength of the monster he’d set loose by enraging his brother, Cullen’s fist flew out and connected with Graeme’s face, and to both their amazement, the blow threw the Breed back with a force that put him on his ass.

  For about a heartbeat.

  With an agile flip Graeme was back on his feet, crouching, waiting, as a chuckle slipped past the amused smile on his face and he slowly straightened.

  His smirk was now tinged with blood, not that the sight of it satisfied Cullen in the least.

  “That was rather surprising,” Graeme stated, one broad hand lifting to work his jaw as he stared back at Cullen, eyes narrowing, his expression flashing with a hint of calculating knowledge. “You’re still invited to dinner, though I suspect Cat will have words with you for the bruise that will no doubt mar my handsome profile.”

  Egotistical, snide, arrogant bastard . . .

  “Go to hell, you mangy, black-hearted fucker. I told you I’m busy,” Cullen muttered, turning his back on his brother as he pushed his fingers through his hair and fought the need to push Graeme into a full-fledged fight.

  Not that Cullen thought he’d survive, but at least he could expend the fury raging through him.

  “I’ll be sure to inform Cat that she needs to find another male to fill your seat next to Ms. Martinez.” Graeme only laughed at the rage.

  Moving behind his desk once again, Cullen stared back at his brother, jaw clenched, fighting back the need to tear something, anything, apart.

  “Why?” he bit out furiously. “Why stick your nose in this? If I wanted her in the line of fire I’d have given her operational status here. You know that.”

  He hadn’t even been able to make that offer to her after pulling her out of the desert, fully cognizant of the fact that if she hadn’t been fully trained, she would have never survived that.

  Surprisingly, Graeme nodded, his expression losing its amusement, though the calculation burned fierce and bright in his green eyes.

  “You don’t have that right, Cullen, that’s why,” his brother stated softly. “She’s intuitive, smart and willing to train to be the best operative you could possibly have at this place. Instead, you turned her into a glorified personal assistant.” He shook his head as though amazed. “Though working for me can’t possibly be more dangerous than the job she’s taken chasing down rumors of Breeds and Council misfits.” His head tilted thoughtfully. “I believe she was nearly knifed in her latest skirmish. I’d have never allowed such a thing, of course, but until I learn who she’s working for, I can’t exactly discuss it with them. Can I?” He gave a light shrug and another of those knowing smirks. “Enjoy your evening, brother.”

  With that, he turned his back and left the office.

  Chelsea, nearly knifed? Even the insulting maneuver Graeme made by turning his back on him during a confrontation didn’t register as that information exploded in his head.

  Chasing down rumors of hidden Breeds and Council misfits?

  Were her cousins fucking insane to allow such a thing, especially after what had happened weeks before?

  If his Breed genetics weren’t still comatose, he’d show all of them the error of their ways.

 
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