Rule breaker, p.6
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       Rule Breaker, p.6
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         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  “Before you make the mistake of spouting all that womanly ire I feel building inside you and demanding I keep my dirty Breed paws to myself—”

  She had to laugh at the irritation that flashed in his deep blue eyes.

  “Strange women you run with there, Breaker,” she snickered. “It’s not the paws that offend me. It’s the arrogance and the attitude. I don’t like being handled, by anyone. Don’t do it, and we’ll just keep getting along fine. How does that sound?” She had to laugh at him then, because he really did have the power not just to burn her alive with lust, but to also make her laugh. He charmed her, and she hadn’t been charmed in a damned long time. “Do you often listen to the womanly ire, then?”

  “I believe Breeds listen often when they can’t smell the sweet scent of all that female honey spilling like hot syrup on a summer day,” he retorted, his tone echoing with a sense of impatience. “I’ve yet to understand why women believe lies are so very important when they’re most often more eager for a man’s touch than they let on. The moment you obey them, disappointment has a tendency to mar the delicacy of their scent while they then become angry that you obeyed them. And that only makes for a horny, irritated, not to mention confused Breed.”

  “Because a man’s ego, or a Breed’s, doesn’t need to be fed?” she asked, her eyes widening for effect at his obvious confusion. “Maybe we want you to work for what we have to give you? We do tend to believe we’re worth a little effort, you know.”

  It seemed Breed males, just like their counterparts, the human males, could be so incredibly obtuse when it came to women.

  “Breeds can smell their lies,” he pointed out. “What’s the point in lying when one will be so easily caught in the lie?”

  Yep, obtuse.

  But it wasn’t the first such conversation they’d had over the past eight or nine weeks. Though it was the first time he’d approached her as blatantly as he had in the bar, and before she’d managed to get into her vehicle.

  “Perhaps most women haven’t watched those little documentaries the Breeds put out close enough.” She had studied them for months. “And there could be the fact that even in those documentaries, there’s very little layman’s language. There’s also the fact that you had to have used the most incredibly gorgeous, dangerous-looking, deep-voiced male Breeds living to narrate them. I suspect those Breeds were used in an attempt to distract us just as you meant to. The same can be said for the females used in those videos. The only intent in them was to fool the suspicious and to draw the unwary even deeper beneath your spell. Besides, women absolutely love ice cream, cake and chocolate too. Doesn’t mean it’s good for us, or that we eat it without first considering the calories it contains.”

  She’d already known this Breed didn’t like games, nor did he believe in the chase. That was really too bad, because she was very experienced in playing games.

  She was considered an expert at them, sometimes.

  He only grinned at the accusation, those laser-bright blue eyes holding her gaze, encouraging her to sink beneath the waves of hunger she could feel beating at her resistance. “And did those videos draw you deeper as you denied yourself your favorite sweets?”

  Leaning against the side of the vehicle, Gypsy crossed her arms over her breasts as she smiled back at him, shaking her head at the fact that men could be so hardheaded. She was very well aware of the fact that her position only plumped the curves of her breasts higher over the vest-style top she wore, drawing his attention. Momentarily anyway. She liked that about him; he didn’t leer, despite the fact that she could almost feel his need to touch her.

  “Sorry, Commander, they didn’t fool me. And my chocolate and ice cream doesn’t wake me up in the mornings, bitch at me for not cleaning, cooking and waiting on it hand and foot or leave dirty clothes lying around my house, so yes, I enjoyed it immensely.”

  His lips tilted into a half grin as he watched her closely while tucking his thumbs into the band of his pants, as though trying to find something to do with them besides touch her.

  He stood, his feet braced slightly apart, muscular body not exactly relaxed, but neither was he poised for danger. Dressed in the black mission uniform most Breeds wore whenever in public, he presented a dangerous male allure.

  Thick black hair fell back along his nape and framed the savagery in the hewn features of his face.

  High cheekbones, firm, well-molded lips, and thick, thick inky black lashes surrounding brilliant sapphire eyes, while his shoulders were wide enough that a woman could convince herself of her safety while in his arms.

  Or just in his presence, in the shadows of one of the most notorious bars in three states. She could stand there with him, enjoy the banter and not have to worry about some drunken wannabe Romeo groping her.

  He was the epitome of everything Breeds were being portrayed as. Strong, intent, protective and honorable. And for the most part, they were.

  But Gypsy knew just how dangerous some of them could be.

  A flash of memory surged through her.

  Lengthened canines gleaming in the dark as she screamed out in horror, saliva dripping from them as maniacal savagery reflected in the yellow-gold depths of the creature’s eyes.

  No matter how she fought, they tore at her clothes, shredding them, removing them, intent on raping her.

  As he jerked her thighs apart—

  She flinched, dragging herself back from the memory as a familiar band of panic tightened at her chest just before the sat phone in her vest pocket vibrated furiously.

  “Gypsy, are you okay?” Rule moved closer, the scent of her sudden fear subtle, vying with the scent of arousal and the remnants of amused fun as he caught the distinct sound of the phone vibrating in one of the little pockets of her snug vest.

  She’d been enjoying herself, only to have something yank her quickly from her joy as though to remind her of some pain.

  A bleak pain so horrific that he could smell the agony of it even from outside the cavern where she’d huddled nine years ago, Rule remembered.

  “It’s time I leave.”

  He watched, denying the urge to pull her back to him as she slid inside the vehicle and pushed it into gear. The sporty little black Jeep tore out of its parking space and raced from the lot with a surge of power.

  His eyes narrowed.

  He was certain that motor was far more powerful than it should be.

  Just as his attraction to the woman was.

  Narrowing his eyes on the fading taillights of her vehicle, he checked the glands beneath his tongue carefully once more.

  Breathing in, he pushed back his arousal, feeling the loss of stiffness in the eager shaft beneath his mission uniform and giving an imperceptible nod as the once-hard flesh lay dormant once again.

  The beast that had been irritating the crap out of him, courtesy of his genetics, was quiet rather than roaring out in rage that a possible mate was escaping.

  Hell, he halfway felt as though the animal senses inside him couldn’t have cared less where she went or what she did as long as she didn’t represent physical danger.

  That meant no Mating Heat.

  He grinned.

  That meant Miss Gypsy Rum McQuade definitely wasn’t his mate, no matter Dane’s suggestion that his hunger for her indicated it.

  Becoming addicted to her was a definite threat. But he could handle an addiction. He could walk away from it. Just as he had walked away from several of them while being tested in the labs for any weakness.

  And that made her fair game, because he wanted nothing more than to fuck them both into exhaustion.


  Pulling into the parking lot behind the store an hour later, Gypsy watched in surprise as her sister’s short-wheelbase four-by-four black pickup pulled in beside her.

  Sliding from the Jeep, she set the roof into operation again, waiting as Kandy slid from her truck, closed the door and locked the vehicle before meeting her at the front of the Jeep.

  “You’re out late.” Gypsy lifted her brows suggestively as she watched her younger sister.

  Kandy was even more delicate than Gypsy. At five four, she sometimes looked far too tiny to even be a McQuade.

  “Look who’s talking,” Kandy laughed back a bit nervously, her turquoise eyes gleaming back at Gypsy as they moved toward the downstairs apartment her sister had moved into the year before.

  “Not so late for me,” Gypsy murmured as Kandy unlocked the door, then followed her sister into the cool interior.

  Flipping on the lights, Kandy instantly dispelled the shadows that filled the roomy, inviting openness of the apartment.

  As in Gypsy’s upstairs apartment, the door opened into a wide entryway that flowed into the open kitchen, dining area and living room. The rooms were divided by a long counter, inset with a chef’s dream of a stove and oven.

  Fall colors and dark wood gave the apartment an inviting warmth that Gypsy’s didn’t have, while the scent of various baked sweets still filled the interior. Her sister could make a cake that would melt in the mouth and send the senses into orgasmic bliss.

  Yet Gypsy knew, despite her parents’ dreams, it wasn’t a life Kandy really wanted for herself.

  Unfortunately, Gypsy didn’t think her sister knew what she did want instead.

  “Did you check in with your guard dogs tonight?” Kandy set her purse on a table just inside the door as she slid her keys into it and glanced back at Gypsy. “Commander Breaker and his sidekick were convinced you’d been kidnapped, had run off to Fiji with a lover or were lying dead in the desert somewhere when they couldn’t find you.”

  Gypsy rolled her eyes as she strode to the bar and sat down on one of the high stools as Kandy moved to the fridge.

  “They finally caught up with me at the Crooked Toe,” she drawled. “What is with those two anyway?”

  Kandy paused as she set a covered pie dish on the counter and stared back at her sister in surprised amusement. “You haven’t figured it out yet?”

  The knowingness of her tone had Gypsy grimacing at her sister’s knowledge that Rule Breaker’s intent was no more than to get her into his bed.

  “Don’t start on me, Kandy,” Gypsy ordered her, pointing an accusing finger at her with a fierce glare. “We’re not going there tonight.”

  “He wants your body,” Kandy announced, her lashes lowering as she gave her sister a quick wink. “Really bad.”

  “He can want on.” She rolled her eyes before folding her arms on the counter and watching as her sister dished up apple pie, set it in the warmer, then moved to make coffee.

  Kandy didn’t ask if she wanted it, but then, it was rare for Gypsy to visit with her like this too.

  Watching her sister as she moved about the kitchen, Gypsy felt the guilt and grief that filled her whenever she spent much time with the other girl.

  Kandy had been ten when Mark had died. She had never known the brother Gypsy had known. The smart, incredibly funny, and always intensely protective young man who had given his sister her freedom while standing by carefully to ensure no one dared to hurt her as she tried out her teenage wings.

  Her sister had seen the danger of slipping out, the parties, and the truth that monsters really did exist in the world. And it changed her life almost as much as it had changed the lives of Gypsy, their parents, his best friend, Jason, and Mark’s former fiancée, Thea Lacey.

  All of their lives had been scarred because of Gypsy’s carelessness.

  They ate the pie and Gypsy drank her coffee as the tension slowly began to build between them, just as it always did.

  “Time for me to go to bed,” Gypsy announced as she slid back her saucer and cup and rose from the stool before Kandy’s nervous tension ended up affecting her further. “Catch you in the morning.”

  Throwing her sister a quick smile, she turned to head for the door.

  “You didn’t ask me why I was out so late tonight, Gypsy.” Kandy’s observation had her pausing and turning back to her.

  Blue-green eyes watched her, the delicate, almost elfin features far too serious and, Gypsy realized, maturing when she hadn’t been looking.

  Just because she hadn’t questioned Kandy’s whereabouts didn’t mean she wasn’t well aware of where her sister had been. Like Mark, Gypsy took her sister’s safety seriously. Unlike Mark, she didn’t let Kandy know she did; that way, if anyone, especially the Council’s Breeds, was looking for a weakness and found Kandy, they’d be convinced that the younger girl couldn’t force Gypsy into giving her life for her.

  Even though she knew she would do for Kandy just as Mark had done for her.

  Die for her.

  “You’re nineteen, Kandy,” she finally answered, swallowing against the sudden tightness in her throat. “I guess I thought you’d tell me if you wanted me to know.”

  A flash of hurt gleamed in the younger girl’s eyes before she turned away.

  “That’s how it works, then?” Kandy picked up the dishcloth on the counter beside her, more to have something to hold on to than to actually clean the counter, Gypsy thought.

  “I guess.” She had no idea what was going on now. Her sister rarely, hell, had actually never questioned her about anything other than how her day was going.

  “Then if I want to know anything about you, I should just wait for you to think to tell me because it’s really none of my business, right?” Kandy questioned her softly, though Gypsy could see a gleam of determination in Kandy’s eyes that didn’t make sense.

  “I don’t want to fight with you tonight, Kandy,” Gypsy breathed out roughly, reaching back to release the elastic band holding her hair back. “I’m really tired, and I just want to—”

  “Go home and stare into the dark until dawn like you did while you were at home?” Kandy questioned suddenly, the quickness of the question catching her off guard, reminding her of why she stayed out so late most nights.

  Gypsy flinched.

  “Exactly. Good night.” She moved to the door.

  “Do you know what, Gypsy?” Kandy’s harsh question stopped her as she opened the door and started through it.

  “I’m sure I don’t want to know,” Gypsy sighed, keeping her back to her sister, aching at the bitterness churning inside her now.

  “I didn’t just lose my brother that night in the desert, I lost my entire family,” Kandy whispered, the words, the grief in her sister’s voice driving a brutal, sharp-edged stake straight into Gypsy’s soul. “I became an orphan, and none of you ever realized it. Or maybe you just fucking didn’t care.”

  Shock held her for long seconds, stealing her breath before she swung around to face her sister. But she wasn’t there. Disappearing into her bedroom on the other side of the room, her door closing quietly, Kandy had evidently said all she had to say.

  Gypsy shook her head.

  Kandy was wrong.

  Their parents had held on to the younger child desperately after Mark’s death, terrified of losing their last, remaining favorite child.

  They hadn’t objected as Gypsy drew further and further away emotionally. Sometimes they had watched her helplessly, but they had loved Kandy.

  Giving her head a hard shake, Gypsy left the apartment, closing the door behind her and listening carefully for the locks to engage. When they did, she forced herself to move to the stairs that led to her own apartment, and the darkness that couldn’t be dispelled no matter how many lights she turned on.

  She knew where her sister went on the rare occasions she stayed out late. Kandy liked to play poker and over the years, several of Mark’s friends had taught her how to play it with deadly skill. The small amusement had begun when Kandy turned twelve and Mark’s best friend, Jason, had arrived at the house to speak to her parents about the image consulting business that had been floundering sharply since Mark’s death.

  Kandy had been playing poker with a dummy hand at the small card table where Mark had taught them both to play. From there, as she
’d grown older, he’d sometimes taken her with him to his card games when her parents were busy. Her parents had never, not even once, asked Gypsy to watch her little sister.

  Not that she blamed them after she’d failed her older brother.

  Jason and his friends got together monthly now and had been known to play for entire weekends.

  And they always invited Kandy.

  Stepping into her apartment, she made a mental note to call Jason—maybe he would know what the hell was going on with her sister.

  Because Gypsy couldn’t allow herself to figure it out on her own. If she did, she would have to admit that Kandy might not be an orphan, but in all the ways that mattered, she had definitely become an only child.

  And the guilt of that would only open her to the nightmares she’d fought to put behind her so long ago.


  The next two days were relatively free of Rule and his sidekick, as Dane Vanderale was being dubbed. Rumor was that Jonas Wyatt had flown with his fiancée and child to D.C. to attend a Senate hearing that had been called regarding the reorganization of the Bureau of Breed Affairs that was being speculated on.

  According to the press, despite the fact that there was no official announcement or details regarding the rumor, the Bureau of Breed Affairs and the Breed Ruling Cabinet were already in the process of expanding the offices when the Senate Oversight Committee on Breed Affairs had caught wind of it and called the immediate, private hearing.

  It gave Gypsy the chance she needed to get a few jobs finished that she’d left hanging because of the distraction he represented. But she admitted, at least to herself, that some spark that had come into life when he began “harassing” her was no longer there.

  Pulling the Jeep into the small parking area of her apartment that night after completing the final chore, she stared into the brilliance of the desert moon.

  For the briefest moment terror raced through her, struck at her senses and reminded her of the danger she faced each time she entered the nightlife and moved among the Breeds and their enemies.

  Especially the enemies. The animals. The monsters that murdered, that raped . . .

  A horror that had almost destroyed her once before.

  A hard shake of her head pushed it back, her heart rate lowering once again as she activated the control that had the tough, flexible shell of the Jeep top rolling into place and locking securely.

  This time, she pulled the remote fob from her jeans, and as she stepped from the Jeep and closed the door behind her, she automatically locked it before moving quickly for the comfort of the secure apartment.

  She had a few hours to rest before her alarm reminded her that she was due at the Covert Law Enforcement Agency, where she manned the phones several nights a week in case any of the agents in the field called in for immediate help.

  Once she returned home, she turned into just another party girl, just another woman on the hunt for her next dance, her next drink or her next potential lover.

  Before she became the opposite of who she was, and what she always wanted to be.

  As that thought drifted through her mind, the short knock on her front door had a frown creasing her brows. Stepping from the kitchen to the short wide entryway, she pressed the door camera, restraining a sigh at the sight of the man standing patiently on the other side.

  “Come on in, Jase.” Deactivating the locks, she watched as the man her brother had called his best friend stepped into the apartment.

  Jase wasn’t as tall as Mark had been, and he wasn’t as handsome, but he was cute in his own way with short brown hair, deep brown eyes and a stocky rather than lean body. Dressed in dark slacks, black dress boots and a white shirt open at the collar, he’d obviously discarded his tie after leaving the office.

  If it hadn’t been for Jase, Gypsy didn’t know how her parents would have survived after Mark’s death. He’d taken over Mark’s job at the image consulting firm, did all the things Mark had done to help her parents and Mark’s fiancée, Thea.

  He and Thea had married several years before, when Thea had been promoted to assistant DA in Window Rock.

  “Hey, sweetheart.” His smile wasn’t as open and filled with love as Mark’s had always been, but it was familiar even if she’d never stopped seeing a shadow of an accusation buried in the dark depths.

  “Hey, Jase,” she greeted him, allowing the brief hug he always insisted on. He was one of the few people who had refused to allow her to just disappear inside herself after Mark’s death. “I was wondering when you would get around to a visit.”

  He shot her a chastising look as she moved away from him. “If you would come in to work occasionally instead of waiting for assignments, then you wouldn’t have to wonder when you would see me.”

  She leaned against the counter as he took a seat on one of the stools on the opposite side.

  “I’ve been busy.” She shrugged. “I do have other jobs, you know.”

  He snorted at that, frowning. “How many times have I tried to get you to take full time at the office, Gypsy?”

  McQuade Image Consulting was growing slowly, she knew, thanks to the way her parents had thrown themselves into the business after their eldest child’s death and Jason’s steady determination.

  “I like the variety.” She liked not seeing the pain in her parents’ eyes whenever Mark’s name came up.

  Crossing his arms and bracing them on the counter as she busied herself straightening what didn’t need straightening, he watched her closely for long seconds.

  “Your mother called you earlier,” he reminded her gently. “You didn’t return her call.”

  No, she hadn’t.

  Lifting her gaze, she stared back at Jason quietly, coolly.

  She didn’t discuss her parents with anyone, even Jason.

  “I need you to come in to the office in the morning,” he said, concern filling his dark brown eyes. “We have a potential contract coming in and I’m going to need you and possibly Kandy both on this if I can get it to pan out.” His expression hardened. “And don’t even think about refusing, Gypsy, because your father has busted his ass to pull this job in and I won’t have the fact that we’re short a hand causing us to lose it.”

  Her father had taken on the business that had first been Mark’s dream and steadily pushed it until it was a money-
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