Wake a sleeping tiger, p.4
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.4
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  But they were comatose, Cullen reminded himself, fingers curling, aching with the need to hit something, that burning, hollow rage still beating a fierce tattoo through his brain. A recessed little snot—wasn’t that what Graeme had called him?

  The bastard.

  And he was right. His Breed genetics had become recessed when he was no more than ten and hadn’t reemerged. There were the odd moments of scent sensitivity, intuition and advanced strength, especially when he was angered. For the most part, he was no more Breed than any human walking down the street.

  That didn’t mean he couldn’t show the members of the Breed Underground Network the risks in placing Chelsea in a position of danger.

  Jerking his keys from his desk, he left the Underground offices, enduring the elevator ride to the parking garage, all the while his teeth grinding so tight his jaw ached.

  No wonder he hadn’t heard anything about Chelsea in the past weeks. No fucking wonder no one dared give him the chance to ask about her. They knew he’d probably throw a punch at the messenger.

  Not that he’d done that in a damned long time.

  Unlike some Breeds—his brother, namely—he’d learned control in the past decade.

  At least, until it came to Chelsea.

  CHAPTER 3

  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  At its base, the male, whether human, animal or Breed, has a core nature equal to that of a sullen child denied a favored treat.

  And the male can react accordingly—

  The last thing Chelsea wanted to do was have dinner with Graeme Parker and his fiancée, her cousin Claire—or Cat, as she was now called.

  Especially after her employer, Cassie Sinclair, texted with the night’s job.

  The other woman had sent another list of locations for pictures, along with the best possible times to be in place.

  What Cassie was searching for, Chelsea didn’t have a clue. She had to admit, though, the job was far more interesting than working as her father’s legal receptionist. She’d been bored to tears when she’d taken that particular job at sixteen. She simply couldn’t imagine taking it again.

  Cassie’s offer of a job had been just what she needed. Especially in light of the fact that the other woman wanted to keep it completely secret that Chelsea was working for her. It was really going to look good on her résumé once the job was over.

  “Dinner with Cullen’s brother, or work?” she muttered, staring at the addresses and lists of times on her e-pad.

  She knew why Graeme had invited her to dinner; he was still trying to convince her to take the job as Cat’s personal assistant.

  That was a job guaranteed to get her killed. Graeme and Cat weren’t exactly homebodies. They lived dangerous lives, especially Graeme if rumors were to be believed. And those particular rumors, Chelsea guessed, didn’t even come close to how dangerous Graeme actually was.

  Still, not showing up for dinner would no doubt have him finding her and questioning why. The man was so damned nosy it amazed her. The fact that he seemed to be taking some kind of interest in her after she left the Covert Law Enforcement Agency worried her. Graeme wasn’t known for his concern for anyone but Chelsea’s cousin Cat. How Claire had ended up with that nickname, Chelsea hadn’t figured out yet.

  Padding naked from the shower to the attached walk-in closet, she considered not just what to wear, but also what to do.

  Dinner at Graeme’s would require at least a dress, while heading out to the clubs and various underground bars on the reservation required an entirely different sort of attire.

  Jeans and boots worked. There were plenty of underground clubs, but they were often dangerous, raided and not always easy to get into. Still, Cassie had managed to list several of the more popular and harder-to-access locations.

  Those establishments were frequented by a high number of Breeds, despite the clubs’ illegal status. Having Breed members made them harder to raid as well. The Enforcers always seemed to have advance warning of any raid being made, unless Cullen’s Agency made the raids. And it was rare that Cullen could be convinced to do so.

  Cullen.

  God, she missed him.

  Missed working with him, arguing with him, and sometimes he even laughed with her. Not that he laughed much after his wife’s death a decade ago. He’d retreated from everyone then, closing himself off and concentrating on his rise up the ranks of the Covert Law Enforcement Agency instead.

  Would he be at Graeme’s? she wondered. He usually showed up at his brother’s dinner parties. Several times, they’d actually ridden in together whenever Chelsea had been invited as well. Graeme’s attempts to befriend her since his relationship with Cat never failed to confound her, but she was certain he had the best chef in the world.

  The question remained, though. Dinner where Cullen would no doubt be in attendance, or another night staking out illegal bars and photographing Breeds and whoever they were with?

  Decisions, decisions.

  Seeing Cullen would definitely hurt after all this time. For some reason she’d expected him to make more of an effort to call or at least check on her after the night he’d pulled her out of the Cerves compound.

  And he hadn’t kissed her before she left, either. She had hoped that maybe he would. Amid the crashing adrenaline and fight to stay in control of the resulting devastation of tears and emotions returning with a rush, she’d hoped he’d kiss her.

  Her lips tingled with the need; her neck ached where his teeth had scraped the skin the morning she resigned from the Agency.

  Sleeping was impossible some nights if she dared let herself think of it, and most nights, she dared. She’d lie awake, reliving it, torturing herself with a need that she knew he wasn’t about to slake for her.

  Asshole.

  Going to dinner at Graeme’s and risking having to actually socialize with Cullen was more than she could deal with.

  Pulling dark pants and a T-shirt from the closet, Chelsea stomped to her bedroom and threw them on the bed mutinously. She might as well work. At least then, she might actually become too immersed in finding Breeds to think about Cullen. That or she’d be attacked again.

  She pushed that memory back. She wasn’t going to let it spook her. The Coyote her Wolf Breed Enforcers had taken down was a verified Genetics Council soldier, not part of the Breed society. He was one of the monsters the Council had first envisioned, merciless killers that followed their creators’ orders, nothing more. He must have somehow caught her snapping those pictures of him from her truck and taken offense. Or worried he’d be identified. There couldn’t possibly be another explanation.

  Pulling on lacy black panties, she frowned at the uneasiness she could feel at the rationalization. No matter how many times she tried to be logical about it, the possible reason for the attack didn’t sit well with her. And she might tell herself she wasn’t going to let it spook her, but Chelsea knew she was spooked.

  Not simply because she could have died. She should never have been attacked to begin with.

  Dressing quickly, she fought back the hint of nerves that came with thinking about it, concentrating on the job instead. She was familiar with the list of locations Cassie had sent. A few of them she could actually get into on her own; for the others, she might need to get her handy-dandy Wolf Breed shadows to get her entrance.

  She pulled on her boots and was just picking up the small pack she kept her equipment and other necessities in when the sound of the doorbell had a grimace twisting her lips.

  Hopefully, it wasn’t her sister, Isabelle, making a quick little visit to make certain Chelsea was attending Graeme’s dinner. Isabelle and her husband, Malachi, were often invited to the dinner parties Graeme hosted, and Isabelle would guilt the hell out of her if she learned Chelsea wasn’t going.

  Family dynamics—good grief.

  Gripping the doorknob, she gave a quick turn of the lock and swung the door open, not bothering to chec
k to see who her visitor was first.

  She should have checked.

  Her breath caught. Something hot and achy tightened in her chest and for just a split second, her heart seemed to pause before it jump-started and began racing in her chest.

  “Cullen.” It seemed like it had been forever since she’d seen him. Since his green eyes had sparked with that hint of warmth while staring back at her and his far-too-somber expression made her ache to bring a smile to it.

  “Hello, Chelsea,” he greeted her, his voice low. “Can I come in for a minute?”

  Dressed in dark slacks and a long-sleeved white shirt, the sleeves of which were rolled back, he looked far too handsome in a rough, rugged sort of way. Those Breed genetics he possessed might be recessed, but the unique handsomeness Breed males possessed was in full force.

  From his amber-flecked green eyes, to the longish, once black, now dark blond hair streaked with darker brown hues, to the tall, muscular form of his body, he was the very essence of a woman’s most sexual dream. And like all the other women who lusted after his arrogant ass, she couldn’t help but want to pull him straight into her bed and just have her way with him.

  “Why?” The question popped out of her mouth before she could stop it.

  Those devilish lips quirked into a hint of an amused grin as he scratched at the closely cropped beard he was now sporting. When had he decided to wear a beard?

  “Because I wanted to see how you were doing?” he quipped, the dark timbre of his voice sending a thrill of sensation racing down her spine. “See if you were still mad at me.”

  Mad at him? She was still furious with him, but she stepped back and waved him in, despite the feeling that she should have just closed the door in his face.

  She knew Cullen. He didn’t just make friendly visits to anyone’s house. He always had a reason, an agenda.

  “I still think you’re an ass,” she informed him, turning for the kitchen. “But I have time for a cup of coffee before I have to leave.”

  Work, she reminded herself. She had a job to do, and doing it didn’t include entertaining her former boss or lusting over him for the evening.

  “You’re going to Graeme’s dressed in jeans?” There was a hint of surprise in his voice.

  “I’m not going to Graeme’s.” She kept her back to him as she spoke and busied herself with the coffeemaker.

  Looking at him just made her feel way too conflicted.

  Not to mention too damned aroused. Thank God he didn’t have the normal senses a Breed possessed. Like that pesky sense of smell that alerted them whenever a woman was aroused by them. That was just wrong as far as she was concerned. On so many levels.

  “So what’s more important tonight than making certain my brother doesn’t involve himself in your life?” he asked, the mockery not in the least subtle. “Missing one of his dinner parties is guaranteed to make him suspicious, you know?”

  Finishing the coffee, she picked up both cups, turned and moved to the table. Her gaze lifted to his as he stood in the doorway, his shoulder resting against the frame as he crossed his arms over his chest. Placing his cup on the table, Chelsea stepped back, leaned against the counter and sipped at the hot brew, all the while holding his gaze.

  Graeme had no reason to involve himself in her life. Missing a dinner party wasn’t exactly a crime.

  “I’m certain Graeme and I both will survive me missing one of my cousin’s little get-togethers,” she assured him.

  Cullen’s lips quirked knowingly. It wasn’t a smile, it wasn’t a grimace. It was a look of certainty and pure confidence.

  “You don’t know my brother very well, Chelsea.” The chastisement in his voice was more than a little mocking. “He seems to be fond of you, and after catching wind of that Coyote attack the other night, he’s concerned.” His voice lowered, hardened as his expression turned downright dangerous. “You could say I’m a bit concerned myself.”

  Chelsea placed her cup of coffee on the counter more as an excuse to break his gaze and gather her thoughts than to keep from throwing the cup at him.

  “Concerned, are you?” she scoffed, turning back to him. “I haven’t seen or heard from you in weeks, and now you’re supposedly so concerned for me?” Her brows lifted in disbelief at the very thought of it. “Sorry, Cullen, not buying it, and I don’t have time to stand here discussing it with you.”

  Maybe if he’d shown a little interest in the past weeks, then he might have been able to fool her. If he had been the one to tell her Louisa hadn’t survived, if he’d at least been there to share her sorrow.

  His eyes narrowed on her, dark green glittering between heavy gold-tipped dark brown lashes. She didn’t like that look either. It was one she’d only seen rarely, and then only during interrogations of some low-life suspect as she watched from behind a two-way mirror. Until now, he had never turned that look on her, though.

  It was a bit unsettling.

  “What are you up to, Chelsea?” He questioned her softly, the tension in the room rising by the second. “And who are you working for? I’d have thought that night in the desert would have caused you to at least show some caution for a little while.”

  Chelsea lifted her brow, disgust surging inside her as anger threatened to get the better of her.

  “You need a ladder to climb out of my business?” She tried for sarcasm, but even she heard the hurt in her voice. “What I’m doing and whoever I may be doing it for doesn’t concern you in the least. I resigned from the Agency. Remember?”

  There was a predatory grace in the way he straightened from the door frame. His head lifted, his expression tightening until for a moment, it would have been easy to believe that those Breed genetics he possessed were anything but recessed.

  “And you think resigning from the Agency meant I’d stand aside and let you get yourself killed?” His lips peeled back in a snarl, prominent canines flashing dangerously. “Chelsea, sweetheart, you should know better after that night in the desert.”

  Gentle, caressing . . . warning. That tone of voice made her ache with arousal even as she tensed at the dark undertone and the fact that he was moving closer.

  “And I should have known better—why?” she asked, gripping the counter as she watched him warily. “I haven’t heard from you once since I returned that baby to her mother.” She swallowed tightly, the memory of the child a torment she couldn’t seem to escape.

  “Because I spent the past four years doing everything I could to protect you? To make certain you were trained before throwing you into the field?” His jaw clenched as he bit out the words angrily. “And now you’re pushing your way into it as though it’s a Sunday picnic?”

  Her brow lifted despite the fact that he was less than six inches from her and glaring down at her while his eyes flickered with amber fire within the green.

  Hell, she’d never seen the color in someone’s eyes flicker like that. She’d definitely never seen his eyes do it. And if he was pissed now, God help her if he learned exactly what she was doing and who she was working for now.

  “You have no idea what I’m doing, Cullen, and if I considered it any of your business, I would have contacted you myself and explained it all to you,” she informed him, narrowing her eyes back at him as she gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “And you don’t get to butt into my life now just because you decided you want to. I don’t work for you any longer.”

  “Does that cancel out friendship?” he asked, tilting his head to the side, a decidedly calculating gleam entering his eyes.

  He was trying to manipulate her. She knew Cullen when he was like this; he’d used just such tactics almost every time she’d lobbied for fieldwork.

  “Friendship implies at least a small amount of respect. Something you don’t have for me, so let’s not pretend you do.” She didn’t like games, especially not the type that kept her in that carefully constructed box her family as well as Cullen seemed determined to keep her within.

  C
onfusion raced through the anger and protectiveness Cullen couldn’t seem to push back.

  “Where do you get the idea that I have no respect for you, Chelsea?” Bracing his hands on the counter on each side of her, he stared into her eyes, wondering if he could become lost in the dark depths of liquid emotion there. Not that he could often decipher the shadows of deeper emotion hiding beneath whatever she showed the world at any given time. He had often tried, though.

  “Are you serious?” Her hands lifted, pushing against his chest, then remaining when he refused to move.

  “Really, Chelsea,” he assured her. “What would make you think such a thing?”

  It was inconceivable to him that she would believe something so ridiculous. They’d spent four years working together. She’d been closer to him than anyone else, even his closest friend, and she believed he felt no respect for her?

  The laugh that left her lips was filled with hurt and anger. He hadn’t just made her angry; he’d hurt her, something he hadn’t meant to do. Something he hadn’t wanted to do.

  “I trained for four years for the field.” She pushed at his chest again. “Four years and you wouldn’t even let me be a part of tech support. What is that if not a lack of respect for me and the training I busted my ass to learn?”

  “You weren’t ready—”

  “And as far you’re concerned, I’ll never be ready.” The cry broke from her as she pushed at his chest again, the sudden, wild scent of her slamming into his senses, taking him unaware. Enough so that he pulled back, giving her the opportunity to push past him.

  She would have escaped. Hell, he should let her escape and he knew it. Instead, before the impulse was even thought, he caught her arm, pulling her back and trapping her against his chest.

  That scent. It was like a summer rainfall in the Virginia mountains, pure and clean. And sweet. So sweet and fraught with a hidden kiss of heat that he found himself nearly dizzy. The scent of her wrapped around his head and sank inside him until he swore he could taste her against his tongue.

  “What are you doing?” The whispered gasp barely registered as a myriad of scents twisted through him. “Dammit, Cullen, you can’t just kiss me whenever I piss you off.”

  Whenever she pissed him off?

  “Darlin’, I don’t just kiss you whenever I’m pissed off with you,” he assured her. “If I did, I’d have been kissing you every day for the past four years. Because I think you live to piss me off.”

  And then he did kiss her.

  As he covered her surprised lips, his tongue pushed past them and he sank into the sweetest living taste a man could ever know. She didn’t taste of another male, another’s kiss or passion. Her lips parted in surprise, her tongue stroking over his even as he slipped it past. Cool and sweet, a summer rain over desert heat, and he loved it, ached for more of it.

  This woman and her taste had kept him awake night after night for the past month. The memory of her, of this need, was one he couldn’t push away, couldn’t forget, no matter how hard he tried.

  She could become addictive.

  One hand tightened on her hip, at first in protest. The sound of a subtle feminine moan pierced whatever reason might have risen to the surface at the moment. That sweet murmur of pleasure swept away any thought of letting her go. Any thought of releasing the sweet taste of her.

  Cupping the side of her neck with his free hand to hold her in place, he deepened the kiss, his lips slanting over hers, a rough groan tearing from him as her arms wrapped around his neck, her fingers spearing into his hair, blunt little nails scraping against his scalp.

  Pleasure coursed through him like a drug. Her tongue stroked over his, rubbed against it, fought for supremacy of the kiss, and the resulting pleasure sent a wave of heat rushing through his body.

  His cock was so damned hard it was nearly agony. The need to release it from his jeans, to strip her bare and take her right there in her kitchen, rode him hard. His hand slid from her neck to the hem of her T-shirt. Gripping the material, he pulled it up with a desperation he couldn’t remember ever feeling. Lust burned through his system, wiping away caution, finesse and reason, pushing him to take her, to mark her.

  As he slid his lips from hers, her protesting cry barely registered before he had his lips at her neck, tasting her, licking against the satiny flesh before his teeth raked against it.

  She bucked in his arms, lifted closer, her head tilting to the side to allow him access to the sensitive skin as he bit and licked at it demandingly, needing every nuance of taste, every cry of pleasure she released.

  And he wanted nothing more, needed nothing more than to taste more of her, to pull more of those heated little cries from her lips and strengthen the scent of her arousal.

  As his lips reached the bend of her neck where it met her shoulder, his hand found the curve of her breast, the warmth of her flesh, the pebble hardness of her nipple barely covered by the thin lace of her bra. That fragile barrier was more than he could bear, though. He wanted to feel her skin to skin. He wanted the swollen bud of her nipple between his fingers, his lips.

  The thought of the taste of her nipple against his tongue had his hands sliding back to her hips, gripping, lifting her to the counter and pushing between her thighs as he pulled the cup of her bra beneath her breasts.

  The lace frame was damned pretty, but he wasn’t about to waste time admiring the sight of it, not when he needed the taste of her with a hunger he found himself powerless against. The need for her was killing him. All of her. He wanted to taste every inch of her. No, he needed to taste every inch of her.

  “Cullen—” Whether protest or a cry of pleasure, he wasn’t certain, and he wasn’t asking as his lips covered the taut, cherry-flushed tip and drew it firmly against his tongue.

  Chelsea couldn’t hold back the sharp cry or the sensation that rushed through her senses with a strength she couldn’t fight against.

  She told herself she could hold some part of her response back, that she could return to reality whenever she wanted to.

  And she was fooling herself. She had been fooling herself all along. Each stroke of his tongue against hers was so hot, so good—the feel of his lips and teeth against her neck burned through her flesh straight to her nerve endings, where explosions of incredible pleasure detonated with devastating results.

  But when he lifted her to the counter, pushed between her thighs, and his lips surrounded her nipple, any molecule of common sense or reality she might have possessed disintegrated.

  “Cullen—” She couldn’t hold back the cry as his tongue licked over her nipple, sending
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