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Rule breaker, p.1
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       Rule Breaker, p.1

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh  



  For the self-proclaimed Sluts at the optometrist’s office, UO.

  Thanks for the wonderful conversation on books, tight male butts and hijacking room keys. You know the doctor’s office is a good one when you leave laughing and ready to write.

  And to you, the readers, for loving the Breeds.

  Thank you for the e-mails, the encouragement and the continual push for more in the series. I hope you continue to enjoy the books, and keep demanding more.

  THE WORLD OF THE BREEDS

  They’re not shifters or werewolves.

  They are experiments in genetic engineering. Created to be super soldiers and the advanced lab rats needed to research new drug therapies for the human population.

  They weren’t created to be free.

  They weren’t even created to live.

  They existed to serve the men and women who created them, tortured them, filled them with rage and a hunger for freedom.

  Now they’re free, they’re living and they’re setting the world, and their mates, on fire.

  For a glossary of Breed terms, please flip to the back of the book.

  PROLOGUE

  GYPSY RUM MCQUADE, AGE FIFTEEN

  Gypsy stared at the file her Coyote abductors had possessed. Stained by dirty fingers, the edges wrinkled, pictures half sticking out of it. The file lay on the wood box in front of the rough pallet of sleeping bags she sat on, its very presence a testament that what had happened had not been a mistake.

  Atop the pictures sticking out of the manila file was the most loathsome. The weak link, they had called her. The one their contact had assured them would do something stupid enough to allow her to be caught.

  It was a picture of her.

  A picture of her, then one of her brother, Mark.

  Laughing Mark, with his dark green eyes, light brown hair and everready smile.

  His picture was beneath hers, along with pictures of her sister, Kandy Sweet, and her parents, Hansel and Greta McQuade. Thank God they were out of town, out of reach . . . out of danger. Now she wished she had gone with them, wished she had begged her parents to take her with them rather than staying behind because of that damned party.

  Her abductor, Grody, had snickered and told her that she was known to be her brother’s only weakness. Poor Mark, he’d sighed. To have such a liability must be a terrible curse.

  She wouldn’t have been such a liability if she had just gone with her parents as they had asked.

  “Gypsy?” A Breed, taller than the others who now filled the cavern, spoke her name softly.

  Jonas.

  He was Jonas Wyatt.

  He was the director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs.

  He and his Breeds had saved her.

  In those seconds just before the Coyote would have raped her, she had seen the Breed who had come in with him and fired the shot that killed Grody as other Breeds fired on Grody’s companions.

  But they hadn’t arrived in time to save Mark.

  She stared up at Jonas, her eyes sore, her throat raw from screaming.

  Her face hurt where the Coyote had hit her, and the rest of her body was bruised and aching, but none of it compared to how bad it hurt inside her heart. There was no agony that could come close to the agony of losing the one person in the world who had loved Gypsy Rum McQuade, just because she was Gypsy Rum McQuade.

  Gypsy knew she should thank Jonas and his Breeds for coming when they did, but at that moment, all she wanted to do was hate him for not being there sooner.

  She couldn’t hate him, though.

  She had seen the grief, the pain in his eyes as he and the other Breeds had torn the dead Coyotes from where they had fallen around her.

  At least she was covered now.

  The Breed who had killed the Coyote preparing to rape her had been there when the dead Breed had been dragged from her. He’d obviously stripped off his T-shirt quickly. He was bare chested beneath his tactical vest, the black shirt normally worn with the mission uniform in his hand. He’d shoved it into a female Breed’s hands and ordered her harshly to get it on her as his mesmerizing gaze had touched hers, the blue spreading across his eyes, filling even the whites for the briefest second before they were normal once again.

  Or perhaps she had just imagined the completely blue orbs. She wished she had just imagined the rest of the night.

  The shirt was way too big for her, but it covered her. And it was warm, warm enough that her teeth weren’t chattering anymore. The scent that clung to it wrapped around her, and it comforted her. She wouldn’t have thought anything could comfort her now, let alone a long black T-shirt with the Bureau of Breed Affairs insignia on the left breast that smelled a little bit like chocolate and peppermint.

  It was like invisible arms wrapped around her, and she imagined it was all that kept her from just drifting away and not existing anymore.

  The warmth of the shirt, the softness of it, enclosed her. Like a wall around her. A shield that kept away the world.

  At least for now.

  Maybe, in this shield, she thought, she could find a way to just slip back to that time when the nightmares didn’t exist anymore.

  “I want to go home.” She hadn’t meant to say the words. They seemed such a travesty. But maybe, there she could find a way to make it better.

  She wanted to find a way to make this night not exist and to bring her brother’s laughter back.

  She wanted to just go to sleep and not have to ever wake up again. Maybe then, she could just dream. She could dream of what life was like before she’d slipped out of the house to go to a party that didn’t really matter.

  Distantly, in some unfocused part of her mind, she wondered if that was how these Breeds had felt when they were held captive? Tortured?

  God, how had they kept fighting? Kept trying to survive?

  Had they just found a place in their heads where the pain hadn’t happened yet? Could she do that too?

  “You can go home soon, Gypsy. A heli-jet’s picking your parents up now,” Jonas assured her.

  The news jerked her out of her numbness for a moment. She flinched at the surge of agony that pierced her soul.

  Oh God, how was she going to face her parents?

  The fact that they were coming wasn’t of any comfort to her. They would come here to get her.

  They would see Mark’s body in the dirt outside the cavern.

  They would see the blood that had soaked into the ground and stained the hands of the huge Coyote Breed who had killed him.

  The blood that had been smeared over her face and breasts as the Coyote’s laughter shredded her soul.

  Those Coyotes were all dead now, she reminded herself desperately. They couldn’t come back. They couldn’t hurt anyone anymore.

  It wasn’t enough compensation for the loss of her brother, though.

  Nothing she could ever do would make up for the mistake she had made.

  She heard Jonas’s heavy sigh a few seconds before he picked up the file she’d been focused on, then sat on the box and stared at where she sat—where the Coyote had been killed.

  Turning her head away from him, she tried to ignore him.

  She tried, tried so hard to just wish it all away.

  Tightening her arms around her knees, she huddled closer to the wall, wishing she could cry.

  If she could cry, maybe her chest would stop hurting so bad.

  Mark always told her that sometimes, only tears could heal the heart and soul. He would tell her to cry whenever she needed to; that way, she would always be sweet and innocent and he would always try to find a way to make the tears all better.

  Maybe if she started screaming and crying, if she begged God hard enough, loud enough, then it would all just be some horrible nightmare.

  Oh God, she just wanted it to stop hurting. It was like an iron band tightening around her heart and her ribs, constricting her breathing and making it hard for her heart to beat.

  Maybe her heart would just stop beating. Hope flared inside her for a second.

  Maybe someone would have mercy on her and kill her as well.

  She was trying so hard to be brave, as Mark had told her to be, even though he’d told her for so many years that it was his job to be brave, and her job to cry and be sweet.

  But now he wanted her to be brave. He’d told her not to cry.

  It was the last thing he’d asked her to do.

  “Gypsy, I need to ask you some questions,” Jonas told her gently, watching her with a heavy sympathy that sickened her.

  She didn’t deserve his sympathy.

  She didn’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness.

  Least of all this Breed’s.

  Or her parents’.

  Even Mark’s.

  “It was my fault,” she told Jonas, staring into the back of the shadowed cavern now, her gaze unfocused, her need to escape threatening to overwhelm her. “It’s all my fault.”

  “No, sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault.” From the corner of her eyes she could see him wiping his hand over his head, the short strands of his black hair gleaming in the low light of the cave. “None of this was your fault.”

  Oh, but how very wrong he was. It was all her fault.

  She was childish, and her temper had done far more than just get her in trouble this time. This time, it had destroyed the person she loved more than anything.

  “I wanted to go to the party,” she tried to explain, but even to her own ears, the excuse was so stupid. So immature.

  Why had that party been so important?

  “Gypsy, what happened here wasn’t your fault.” His deep voice was rough, and she bet he managed to convince a whole lot of people of a whole lot of lies.

  But he couldn’t convince her of that lie.

  “I slipped out of the house. My friend Khileen was picking me up. She lives in the desert.” Khileen Langer was from England.

  She and her family were staying in New Mexico on her stepfather’s desert estate, where they were visiting for the summer. She liked Khileen. Liked the way the other girl was always laughing and daring her to have fun. To not be so serious.

  She couldn’t ever let anyone convince her of that again.

  “There was this party,” she continued, forcing herself to speak. “And a band and everything that some college boys were having in the desert. I just wanted to go see my friends, and the band.”

  And maybe drink a little.

  Maybe flirt with some of the boys from school.

  “So you left for the party?” he asked her.

  Her breathing hitched and she shuddered.

  It was like her soul was crying, but she couldn’t cry herself because Mark had asked her not to.

  “He was angry at me for some reason.” Her fists clenched in the material of the shirt as her lips trembled and she hugged her knees closer to her breasts. “We had a deal.” She rocked against the agony burning brighter inside her. “I would always tell him if I was going to a party and he would make sure he was there, so he could . . .” The whimper that escaped her surprised her. “So he could make sure I didn’t get in trouble or get hurt.”

  “But you didn’t tell him you were going?” he asked then.

  Gypsy frowned. “I did. I tried, but he yelled at me.” Why had Mark yelled at her? “He told me to just go away, that I was irritating him.” She stared into the darkness intently. Why hadn’t Mark ever told her that she irritated him? She would have tried to stop. She really would have. “Mark has never yelled at me before.”

  He had always loved her, always been patient with her.

  “Were you aware your brother was in trouble?” he asked her then. “Did he tell you there were Coyotes searching for him? That the Genetics Council had identified him and sent a team to ensure that he couldn’t steal the information he was hacking into anymore? That they were looking for him tonight?”

  She turned to him slowly, blinking back in confusion. “I swear I didn’t know. Mark was just acting so weird. He wanted me to stay in my bedroom and he wouldn’t talk to me. He was being sharp and didn’t want to be bothered. And he wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to tell him I just wanted to go to the party. He wouldn’t let me tell him anything.”

  She was going to throw up. She didn’t want to move. She didn’t want to have to find a place to throw up in privacy. Mark hadn’t acted frightened or scared or worried. He’d been very, very angry, though, and he was snapping at her whenever he caught her out of her bedroom and ordering her back into it.

  He’d hurt her feelings and made her angry at him. She’d decided to just go without telling him. He wasn’t talking to her, why should she talk to him?

  “Then how could you have known what would happen?” he asked, and the question sounded reasonable, but she knew it didn’t matter.

  She shook her head in confusion again before laying it against the rough stone wall beside her head. Mark had no doubt come to try to save her as soon as the Coyote had managed to get hold of him.

  He’d have come straight to the desert, knowing he was going to die. He would have known he couldn’t save her, or himself.

  He should have just saved himself.

  “Is Khileen okay?” she asked the Breed who still watched her thoughtfully. “She was so scared. She got away, though. When that Coyote pulled me out of the car, she was trying to get it back into gear after they forced us to stop. She’s not used to a manual shift yet.”

  Her friend had managed to save herself, but she hadn’t been able to do so before the Coyote had forced Gypsy out of the little sports car her friend had picked her up in.

  She didn’t blame Khileen.

  She was thankful her friend had gotten away. It was bad enough that Gypsy had gotten her own brother killed. If she had gotten Lobo Reever’s stepdaughter killed, then Jessica Reever, her mother’s best friend, would never have forgiven her mother.

  Her mom would need her friend when she realized what Gypsy had done.

  “Khi’s fine,” he promised her. “If it hadn’t been for her, we would have never known where to find you. We were at her stepfather’s ranch trying to find your brother when she made the call to him.”

  Gypsy remembered her friend had said that her mother and stepfather had some kind of Breed company. A delegation from the Breed community or something.

  Oh God, what was she going to do? Her parents were coming, and they didn’t like putting up with her anyway. How many times had her mother laughingly told Mark how easy it would be to just get a babysitter when she was little? Or how easily she could just stay by herself after she turned thirteen?

  They had wanted Mark to do stuff with them. Things that they said Gypsy wouldn’t adapt well to. How could her sister adapt but Gypsy couldn’t, she’d wondered.

  This was why, she reminded herself cruelly. Because she was stupid and she did bad things.

  How was she going to tell her parents what she had done this time? How was she ever going to explain to Kandy how selfish she had been?

  That she’d sneaked out to go to a party when Mark was in such danger?

  Her parents were going to hate her.

  Mark was their only son, and though they often said they loved all their children, it was Mark they were best friends with. He was the one they had so much pride in.

  Because he was strong and smart and never lied or sneaked out of the house. But whenever Gypsy did, he was always there, watching her, protecting her.

  He wouldn’t be there anymore.

  All the security she had ever known in her life was gone now.

  “I want to die.” She wanted to close her eyes and just go away. “I wish they had just killed me first.”

  If they had killed her, then she wouldn’t have to face what she had done. And she wouldn’t have to live her life without Mark in it.

  “Look at me, Gypsy.” The demand in his voice was impossible to deny, but she was so tired that turning her head to meet his gaze seemed to take forever.

  The gentleness in his expression, the sympathy and regret that filled those silvery eyes, urged her to believe him, commanded her to obey him.

  “You can’t die, Gypsy, you have a far too interesting future ahead of you,” he said, glancing to her side for the briefest second before focusing on her once again.

  An interesting future? No, there was no interesting future. There would always be the memory of the horrible mistake she had made.

  “I don’t want an interesting future,” she answered him mechanically, stepping eagerly into the strange, unemotional shell she could feel beginning to wrap around her. “I just want Mark to come back.”

  Yes, she opened herself to that heavy weight, urged it to cover her quickly, to dim the agony resonating through her soul, just a little bit.

  Jonas grimaced, rubbing at the side of his neck in a gesture of helplessness that she was certain was a completely alien feeling for someone so strong.

  “Your brother was one of our best informants,” he finally told her, and though she hadn’t known that, she wasn’t surprised. Mark had so admired the Breeds and all they had been forced to do to survive. “He was a high-level hacker who had found a way into their computers and was feeding us information on hidden labs and the identities of the Council’s scientists and managing to steal dozens of their top-secret files,” he continued as she watched him. “He refused to let us protect him. He refused to even let us know who he was. We were here because we had tracked him this far, unaware that the Council had managed to do the same so quickly. They would have found him whether you had slipped out of the house or not. The fact that you had slipped out and were with Khi is all that saved you, honey. No one could have saved your brother.”

  He was wrong.

  Mark was smart.

  If it hadn’t been for her stupidity, he would have found a way to save himself.

  She shook her head. “He was going to leave. I heard him on the phone the last time I tried to talk to him. He was telling someone he’d meet them in a few hours. He had to finish something.” If she hadn’t left the house—

  If the party hadn’t seemed so important at the time, her brother would still be alive.

  She was only barely aware of Jonas rising to his feet and moving away from her. Seconds later she could hear the sound of his voice as he spoke to someone.

  She was shaking as she fought to push back the memory of her brother’s death. How he’d stared at her, his dark eyes bleak and filled with hopelessness. And helplessness, as he told her how sorry he was.

  He was sorry? Why had he been sorry? It had been her fault.

  The Coyote had laughed at him. Standing behind her brother, that big knife against Mark’s throat, he’d laughed at Mark, then told him what they were going to do to her after he was dead.

  She had begged them not to hurt Mark. She didn’t care if they killed her. She didn’t care, as long as they just let him go.

  “Don’t cry, Gypsy,” he told her as that Coyote, Grody, had laughed at him. “Don’t cry, and be brave, Peanut. Do you hear me? Don’t cry. Be brave, Peanut.”

  She had heard him, but still, she had watched that knife bring blood and she had screamed. Screamed and begged, Please don’t hurt him.

  The knife had bitten into Mark’s throat, blood welling at the side of his neck, and then there was a long, bright red line of dark scarlet that began to flow with sickening speed as the Coyote released his body. Mark had fallen to the ground as though in slow motion, boneless, his gaze locked with hers, dimming, then finally staring back at her with a blank look of sorrow.

  She jerked, her eyes flying open as she realized she had let them close.

  She just wanted to go to sleep.

  She wanted to sleep for a very, very long time. Long enough that maybe her mom and dad would forgive her. Maybe her baby sister, who loved Mark just as much as Gypsy did, wouldn’t hate her forever.

  But every time she closed her eyes she could see that moment when Mark had died. That second when his blood had spilled down the front of his white shirt.

  “Your parents will be here soon.” Jonas spoke from beside her once again. “My team has just loaded them into the heli-jet.”

  They would be here soon.

  They would be so angry with her.

  Oh God, what if they didn’t let her go home? What if they didn’t even want her anymore?

 
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