Wake a sleeping tiger, p.6
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       Wake A Sleeping Tiger, p.6
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         Part #22 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  a ride with someone else,” he replied without inflection, watching her mutinous expression closely. “Looks like you’re stuck with me.”

  Chelsea couldn’t believe those words had actually crossed his lips.

  Damn him.

  She was stuck with him?

  No, she wasn’t stuck with him. Cullen wasn’t the kind of guy to stick around, and she had to remember it. Forgetting it could break her heart more than he already had. He’d already given his heart away and he didn’t want to heal from the loss. No, Cullen wanted to wallow in it, remain mired in the hopelessness of loving a woman who couldn’t come back from the dead.

  “I’ll take you home.” He wasn’t going home with her.

  She had enough problems; she didn’t need to add an affair with him to the mix. His affairs were always short, uncomplicated and uncommitted. She’d always known that it wasn’t something she could handle.

  Starting the truck, she pulled from her parking spot and drove from the warehouse, glaring into the darkness. She’d just take him to his house, drop him off, then go home. She was tired, irritable and still aroused—damn his hide.

  “If you take me to my place, then you’ll be staying there with me, whether those two yahoos behind us agree with it or not,” he warned her, his tone curt. “We’re going to talk, Chelsea, and we’re going to do it tonight.”

  Clenching her hands on the steering wheel, she fought the anger building inside her. It had been building ever since he’d shown up that afternoon.

  “We don’t have anything to talk about.” Bristling with indignation, she shot him a hard glare. “And if we did, the time to discuss it was, ohh”—she waved her hand with a mocking exclamation—“four or five weeks ago. All the kisses in the world, demands and irritable-commander looks are not going to change that.” She shot him a furious look. “Ready to go to your place now?”

  Because that was damned sure where she intended to take him. Taking him home with her was out of the question. She simply had no willpower where he was concerned.

  “Chelsea,” he began warningly.

  “I mean it, Cullen,” she snapped. “You can go home.”

  He growled at her, a low, deep, feline rumble that so shocked her that it had her foot releasing the gas pedal and her eyes widening in confusion.

  He growled at her?


  “What the hell was that?” she exclaimed, finally recovering and hitting the gas harder. “Oh my God, I thought you couldn’t do that. I never heard you do that before. Are you like going freaky cat on me or something? I thought you were—recessed?”

  She’d seen Cullen absolutely enraged before, but she’d never heard that sound coming from his chest.

  “I am.” His voice was deeper, rougher than normal. “But I am still a Breed and you’re driving me fucking crazy. Now, let’s wait till we get to your place before you make me crazier.”

  Had he lost his ever-lovin’ mind?

  He had to have done just that.

  “Sounds to me like it would be hard for you to get any crazier,” she muttered, glancing over at him warily as she took the turn toward Window Rock. “How long have you been making that crazy sound anyway? Should you see a Breed specialist or something? Maybe those recessed genetics are going all wacky.”

  She glanced over in time to catch the glare he shot her.

  “Wacky?” he questioned her carefully. “Breed genetics don’t go wacky.”

  “Course they do.” She shrugged, frowning. “Malachi’s go wacky on Isabelle all the time. Growling and acting all possessive and crap. He even bites her.” She rolled her eyes before frowning again. “Come to think of it, you bit me.”

  Chelsea reached up and rubbed at the sensitive area at the bend of her neck and shoulder. At her touch, the spot tingled with sensation, reminding her of the pleasure she’d felt at the bite. That sensation became a subtle wave of pleasure that washed through her and reminded her that the arousal she’d felt that afternoon hadn’t abated.

  A lower, possibly deeper growl sounded from the passenger seat.

  “What now?” she demanded irritably. “Stop that growling stuff, Cullen. It makes me nervous.”

  It made her nervous?

  Cullen fought to block the sounds. He could count on one hand how many times he’d actually growled in the past thirteen years.

  Maybe she was right—he needed to see a Breed specialist. The only problem was, Bengal genetics were even odder than Coyote genetics and Cullen only knew one specialist.


  No way in hell was he going to tell his brother how his normally silent Breed responses had become more active in the past weeks. Graeme would pull out his needles and sensors, demand blood and tests—he almost shuddered at the thought of it. Graeme had shown up periodically over the years, the monster even Cullen had been uncomfortable in the presence of, and demanded blood, genetic tests and a chance to study the recessed genetics Cullen possessed.

  Cullen had given in not because he feared the monster; he hadn’t. He’d feared his brother slipping so deep into the monster that resided within him that Cullen had given in and allowed the tests simply because Graeme seemed saner while he was conducting them.

  His brother was obsessed with recessed Breed genetics for some reason. During those years that research had seemed to center Graeme, though, and that had made it worth that aggravation.

  As Chelsea drove, perhaps faster than the speed limit suggested, he sat back in the passenger seat and focused on rebuilding his control. He’d had to do that a lot in the past weeks since Chelsea had left the Agency. Irritability and a lack of patience plagued him constantly, and taking care of the various details of the Agency that Chelsea had always taken care of flat pissed him off.

  Hiring anyone else was out of the question. Even before Chelsea had come into the Covert Law Enforcement Agency, he’d found it hard to work with anyone on a daily basis. For some reason, rather than grating on his nerves, Chelsea had actually calmed them with her presence. She took care of complaints, made certain paperwork was filed and saw to the hundreds of details that irked the hell out of him.

  And then she’d left.

  After her resignation his temper had become even more unpredictable, and he couldn’t even explain why. He had no idea why the lack of her presence affected him as it had.

  It had become so bad in the last week that his men avoided him whenever possible. At this rate, the Navajo Council would end up asking for his resignation before much longer.

  Forcing himself to remain silent, to keep his questions to himself during the drive, Cullen was relieved when she finally turned onto her street and seconds later pulled into her driveway. Her shadows pulled into the driveway next to her house and before she shut the truck off, the two Breeds were moving to the front door of her home.

  Their caution and foresight where her protection was concerned only irritated him further. The fact that they were wary enough, on guard to such an extent, led him to suspect that the danger she was facing was far more severe than Draeger and Tobias let on.

  And that, Cullen knew, he simply couldn’t tolerate.

  Nothing could happen to Chelsea. No matter what it took, no matter the blood he would have to shed, he couldn’t lose her.


  From Graeme’s Journal

  The Recessed Primal Breed

  It is a good thing a woman’s heart was created to nurture and to forgive—for a Breed, whether recessed, active or anything in between, will tempt his mate to murder.

  Chelsea stared through the darkness to the small house she rented, wondering at what point Cullen had decided he could master her life in this way. That he could master her.

  What disturbed her the most was that she was letting him get away with it. He was running roughshod over her objections and doing what he wanted to do. And rather than retaining control, she was letting him do it.

  If she let him into the house, then he’d
end up in her bed. She knew it and he knew it.

  “Are we sitting here all night?” The question was low, the roughened quality of his voice sending a flush of need racing through her.

  How many years had she fantasized about him? Ached for him? Even as a young girl Cullen had drawn her. His close association with her family, the tormented depths of his dark eyes and quiet strength had always made her hurt for whatever pain he’d known. When he’d married her distant cousin, Chelsea had only been twelve, but she remembered sensing that Cullen cared far more for her cousin than Lauren felt for him. To her knowledge, Cullen had never learned that his wife had known about her cancer before they married. That their relationship was instigated in the hopes that the stories in the tabloids about Mating Heat were at least partially true.

  Lauren hadn’t loved him; she’d wanted to live and believed Mating Heat would cure the cancer and extend her life.

  “Chelsea, you don’t want to have this conversation sitting in your driveway,” he warned her, his voice oddly gentle.

  “Why?” She licked her lips, uncertain how to proceed. “Because you intend for your discussion to end up in my bed?”

  She turned to look at him then, her fingers clenched tight on the steering wheel, her body humming with tension.

  “It’s going to happen,” he sighed heavily. “Tonight, tomorrow night, but it’s coming.”

  A sharp, incredulous laugh left her lips.

  “I worked for you for four years and not once did you even hint at any desire for me. And now, a month after I resign, you’ve decided you just can’t wait to get into my bed? Really, Cullen?”

  “Really, Chelsea,” he mocked her, though gently. “And I think we both know it didn’t just happen. I just stopped fighting it.”

  “And just like your determination to ride home with me, your sudden determination to sleep with me is all that matters.” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Why don’t you just take my truck and leave. You’re just making me crazy, and I was tired of crazy when I resigned.”

  Turning in her seat to stare back at him, Chelsea was caught by the somber intensity in his expression and in his gaze. His green eyes gleamed back at her with savage fierceness while his tall, well-honed body appeared as tense as she felt.

  “You didn’t resign because I made you crazy. You resigned because you weren’t getting your way,” he retorted, his tone cool, almost unemotional. “You think you were ready for Ops. You weren’t.”

  His statement infuriated her. Every time he made that argument she wanted to scream in frustration.

  “I was twelve when Dad put me in self-defense and firearms courses,” she reminded him, her voice low but furious. “At fourteen Claire’s brother, Lincoln, who was in Special Forces at the time, took over my training whenever he was home. At eighteen I was considered well qualified to work with the Breed Underground. Two weeks ago I did something well-trained agents would have had a hard time doing, and you think I’m not qualified to even oversee operations with you in the command van. All you wanted me to do was file your damned paperwork.”

  A grimace pulled at his expression, but he knew he couldn’t argue her qualifications. He had never been able to argue them. In the past he’d shut her down by walking out of the office or simply staring back at her silently no matter what she said.

  He turned his head away from her then, staring back at the house, tension radiating from him though he maintained the appearance of casual relaxation. He wasn’t relaxed in the least. She knew him, knew the signs of his tension—

  Then he growled again. A low, dangerous sound that had her rolling her eyes in exasperation.

  “The growl isn’t going to change anything, Cullen. I trained my ass off to be a part of the Agency. I trained after I came into the Agency. Everyone there knew I had the qualifications to join Ops or Command, and you refused to hear it.” She gave a weary shake of her head. “And now it doesn’t matter. This is my life; you can’t order me out of it no matter how much you might want to.”

  He turned back to her slowly, the gleam of his eyes more intense now, the shadows filling the truck actually giving him the appearance of stripes across his face.

  “Tell me what you’re doing and who you’re working for. I’ll take care of it, finish the job, and then I’ll bring you into Command at the Agency,” he offered. “You’ll work directly with me.”

  At first she was certain she couldn’t have heard him correctly.

  “Are you serious?” He couldn’t have meant it. Even Cullen wouldn’t go that far to get what he wanted.

  “I’ll train you to take over Ranger’s position within two years. He wants to step into admin.” He continued with the promise. “You’ll be my second, Chelsea. You’ll oversee all ops with me and be an integral part of the planning. That was what you wanted. You can have it.”

  She turned away from him; she had to.

  “I’ll finish this job for you personally,” he continued. “You’ll go straight to Ops and begin training while I do it.”

  He was that desperate to close her in, to put her in a box and join her family in keeping her locked away from the life she wanted to live.

  Her father had seen to her training in the interests of self-protection, he always argued. His beloved sister had been kidnapped by the Genetics Council when she was only sixteen. He’d been terrified of losing one of his daughters.

  He hadn’t intended for her to use the training as a career. It had been to keep her safe, and he complained often that he would have less gray hair if he’d just hired bodyguards.

  “You need to go home, Cullen.” God, it hurt. He was dangling a carrot in front of her that she had worked toward for years.

  She would have enjoyed Ops, but Command would have suited her so much better. Being in on each operation from planning to completion, overseeing it, working with each agent and coordinating their reports after they went undercover. Working with Cullen on a daily basis, sharing every phase of the work they both loved.

  The price he was demanding was far too high, though.

  “I have a job now.” She forced the words out, forced the denial past her lips. “What I’m doing and who I’m doing it for is none of your business. Just as the operations that went through the Agency weren’t considered my business. Just go home and stop trying to protect me. It was never your protection that I wanted.”

  At the last moment, Cullen pulled back the harsh, brutal growl that would have escaped his chest. The scent of her pain was like wildfire racing out of control, and what it was doing to his self-control was shocking.

  Flexing his fingers, he stared at them for a moment, wondering at the ache he could feel in them and the anger rising inside him.

  “You’re important to me, Chelsea.” He’d tried to make sense of why his Breed genetics were suddenly rearing their sullen heads and making his life hell since Chelsea had left the Agency.

  “We’re friends,” she agreed, and he wanted to latch onto that excuse so bad he couldn’t stand it. “I get that. But friends don’t get to tell friends how to live their lives.”

  Cullen breathed out heavily as that scent of pain increased. And determination. Damn, she had to be the most stubborn woman he’d ever known. She even had Breed females beat.

  “We’re more than friends,” he acknowledged, silencing her, surprising her. “Letting you leave the Agency was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This is the right thing to do, you know it is.”

  She was shaking her head the whole time he was talking, with her hands latched onto the steering wheel like a lifeline. He could feel the denial racing through her, sense it moving on the air around him.

  “It’s my job,” she whispered, the scent of tears raking over his senses now, almost pulling a snarl from his lips. “And it’s just not realistic to assume that I can do it on my own or aid in any op you could come up with, is it?” Scorn filled her voice. “God, Cullen, I already have one overprotective father, I don’t
need another one.”

  Father? He’d be damned if he felt anything fatherly toward her.

  “And if you die doing this your way? What about the grief you leave behind? The loss?” he demanded.

  What could he say or do to make her understand how much it would hurt to lose her in such a way?

  “And what about my grief?” Her question had his eyes narrowing on her in confusion.

  Her eyes were filled with that grief, with a tormented hurt and longing whose cause he didn’t understand.

  “You want me to deny who I am, what lives inside me.” One hand lifted from the steering wheel to press between her breasts. “You want me to deny the dreams I’ve had all my life. Deny who and what I am. It’s no different than imprisoning me while you ride off into the sunset to do it all yourself. Why don’t you spend the next two years doing my filing while I do your job, and see how well you like it?”

  His jaw clenched to the point that his teeth ached. She was right, and he knew she was right. She had been right for years, yet each time he’d considered giving her a place on Ops or Command, he’d forced himself to pull back. Neither position was secure enough to make him feel confident that she was safe.

  “It’s what you wanted,” he growled instead. “Command is what you wanted, Chelsea.”

  “Not at the price you’re asking,” she cried out. “It was what I wanted when I was with the Agency. What I wanted before I left and learned how much I enjoy working with people who actually consider the possibility that I might know what I’m doing.”

  As his lips parted to reply, lights cut through the back window of the truck and Cullen recognized the Agency Dragoon pulling in behind them. Dammit, he didn’t need this. This wasn’t finished. He hadn’t touched her, tasted her again. He hadn’t found a way to convince her to drop whatever she was doing until he could figure out why some damned Council-bred Coyote had come after her with a knife.

  With a muttered curse he stepped from the truck and strode to the Dragoon as Ranger stepped from the powerful desert-capable law enforcement vehicle.

  “What?” he snarled.

  Ranger’s dark brow lifted in surprise. “The Peterson op is heating up. We need to get Command in place and get ready for that buy, Cullen. Our window in is limited. We’re going to have to roll.”

  “Fuck!” They’d been working that op for six months. A small Coyote Breed unit they were working with was setting up a drug buy with one of the bigger movers in the West. He couldn’t afford to drop the ball on this one. “Give me a minute. Have the unit ready to roll and get Dog on the radio. I’ll be right back.”

  The Coyote, Dog, was their eyes and ears in the small group of Genetics Council Coyotes selling the drugs. Working with the other Breed had made this operation move incredibly fast. Cullen knew if they lost this opportunity, then the Genetics Council would receive an influx of cash that would fund more operations against free Breeds than Cullen wanted to contemplate.

  Chelsea was stepping from the truck as he turned back and strode to her. Her expression, despite the mutinous set, was disillusioned, though, the hurt still lingering.

  “This isn’t over,” he assured her, reaching out to grip her upper arm and pull her to him. His arm went around her waist, his head lowered and before she could resist he let his tongue taste her lips, then pushed between the curves and claimed her mouth with a kiss he was craving.

  There was no time to sate himself, no time to claim her, but he’d be damned if he’d let her forget what was burning between them.

  Forcing himself to pull back, he glared down at her for a moment before releasing her. Turning, he stalked back to the Dragoon, waved Ranger to the passenger side and slid into the driver’s seat.

  God only knew how long this was going to take.

  As they reversed from the driveway and accelerated away from the house, he pulled his sat phone from the clip at his belt and hit speed dial.

  “Do you know what fucking time it is?” his brother snapped as he answered the call.

  “You’re obviously still awake,” he pointed out in annoyance. “Don’t worry, I’ll make it quick.”

  “You’re getting too uppity for those recessed genetics of yours,” Graeme groused. “What the hell do you want?”

  Cullen ground his teeth before once again smothering a growl.

  “I’m going to be out of town for a while. I’m not certain how long,” he informed the other man. “Put a shadow on Chelsea for me.”

  “She has two,” Graeme reminded him irritably. “And you told me to keep my nose out of it.”

  “Then make it three, dammit,” he snarled. “Keep her safe, Graeme; it’s no less than I did for you.”

  Silence filled the line for long seconds before he heard a heavy sigh.

  “I did that when I heard of the attack,” Graeme finally admitted. “And if you want to know what she’s doing, check with Rule Breaker, the new director of the Western Division of the Bureau of Breed Affairs. According to my informant she’s working with his Covert Breed Management Division, currently headed by that little witch Cassandra Sinclair. And I just received that information a few hours ago, before you start snarling your displeasure that I might have been holding back on you.”

  The Covert Breed Management Division?

  Fuck, she was looking for Council-held Breeds; no wonder she was attacked. And the attacks wouldn’t stop either.

  “I have two men shadowing her, out of sight of the two Breeds assigned as her backup. Just let me know when you return.” Graeme breathed out heavily. “And I wouldn’t be gone long if I were you, Cullen. That girl’s stubborn, and she knows her directive. She won’t wait for you to return before heading into trouble.”

  No, she wouldn’t.

  Disconnecting the call, he tossed the phone to the console as he glowered into the darkness, the silence in the Dragoon becoming heavier by the second.

  “Don’t say it,” he finally warned the agent riding with him. “I don’t want to hear it.”

  “Of course you don’t,” Ranger scoffed mockingly. “Sucks knowing you fucked up, doesn’t it? I told you to talk to her and get her back at the Agency when she first resigned. That damned pride of yours gets you in trouble every time.”

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