Rule breaker, p.21
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       Rule Breaker, p.21
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  e his action, Dane found himself flat on his ass, the razor-sharp claw-tipped fingers Rule hadn’t known he possessed before tonight pressing into vulnerable flesh, tasting Dane’s blood.

  Rule could see the blood staining the claws. He could smell it, though he was reasonably certain the hardened tips pressing into the hybrid Breed’s throat weren’t causing fatal damage.

  Not that Vanderale acted as though he gave a damn. He was still smiling in cold, brutal mockery, despite the smell of his blood in the air.

  “Rule.” It was the sound of his brother’s voice, once the alpha who ruled the small pack Rule had been born into before the labs were overthrown, penetrating his senses.

  They weren’t in those labs anymore.

  And Lawe wasn’t his alpha.

  In this matter, no fucking man, or Breed, commanded him.

  The animal snarled.

  The enraged, primal sound that tore from his throat, directed at Dane, would shock him later. For now, he could only let the animal reign.

  Dane actually flinched at the sound.

  That reaction, as small and involuntary as it was, was all he needed.

  Bounding back, Rule fought the savagery mounting inside him until slowly he felt the claws retract once again, just as the lobby doors swooshed open and Jonas, along with six hard-eyed enforcers, stepped into the predawn night.

  “Do we have a problem?” Jonas made no move to give a show of strength. He didn’t cross his arms over his broad chest, prop his hands on his hips or glare.

  He voiced the question evenly while the silver in his eyes swirled like thunderclouds preparing to burst.

  “Ah, little brother.” Dane was back on his feet, relighting that damned cigar. “Did you come to rescue me?”

  Dane was seriously amused now. And that was dangerous. Even the animal inside Rule stepped back a safe distance until it could ascertain the hybrid’s next move.

  Jonas grunted at the question. “Actually, Dane, I think whatever sliced your throat should have gone for your tongue.” He turned to Rule then. “What the fuck is your problem?”

  “Goddamned nosy-assed Breeds,” Rule growled, refusing to back down. “Get the fuck out of my business.”

  “He ran his little mate off,” Dane drawled, though he kept a wary eye on Rule now. “In tears. I scented them even as she rushed from the lobby earlier. Newly mated, hurting and frightened. Shamed.” He turned to Lawe. “Sorry, Justice, but that jacket of yours that you placed over her shoulders did nothing to dilute the scent of the Breed that marked her.”

  “There’s no fucking mark,” Rule snarled.

  Dane gave a mocking little sneer, but it was Lawe’s reaction that held Rule. His brother frowned back at him as though disappointed.

  “I didn’t mark her.” Rule shook his head. “I would know if I bit her, dammit.”

  “You did something,” Lawe assured him then, and Rule knew if there was one thing his brother wouldn’t do, he would never lie to him. “It was weak, Rule, but the mating scent was there. And the Breed who drove her home reported that the scent only grew stronger after she left. Whatever you did, she’s in Mating Heat.”

  She would be in pain.

  He hadn’t fully satisfied her. Not enough to still the fires that would begin burning in her.

  He rubbed his tongue against his teeth to still that faint irritation—

  And he froze.

  The glands weren’t swollen, they weren’t really sensitive, yet it was there. A faint taste of sweet heat he couldn’t quite identify. An unfamiliar sensitivity.

  He shook his head sharply.

  What the fuck was going on?

  “He doesn’t believe he marked his little mate when she was no more than a child,” Dane drawled then, directing the comment to Jonas.

  Rule watched as Jonas’s gaze flicked to Dane before he shook his head warily, warning the hybrid from saying more. The truth was in the director’s eyes, though, as they met Rule’s once again.

  “I didn’t touch her,” Rule snapped as he turned on Dane again. “What the fuck kind of monster do you take me for? To suggest I’d touch a child in such a way?”

  Surprise flickered in the icy green eyes. “I don’t believe you mated her. I said you marked her. You found a way to have your scent placed on her, and it stuck. Just as nature intended it to.”

  “The hell—”

  “You gave the female enforcer present there your shirt to put on her as we pulled those Coyotes off her body. You collected her blanket and handed it to the enforcer who brought it in to her,” Jonas broke in. “He’s not lying, Rule. Even I sensed your claim on her that night.”

  Rule shook his head in confusion. “I only saw her for a moment.”

  They all turned to him then.

  “When?” It was Lawe who asked the question roughly. “You were never in the cavern other than those first moments.”

  “The hell I wasn’t,” Rule snarled back. “I was there long enough that the scent of her pain was like an insult to my senses. It was my weapon that fired, along with Jonas’s, and killed Grody. I saw what they were going to do to her. Do you think I stayed out of the cavern? That I’m not intelligent enough to know how to direct cleanup and keep my eye on what the hell is going on as well?”

  He’d shot before he’d even processed what was going on.

  That huge fucking Coyote had been between a child’s thighs as she screamed for her brother. Those jagged, wrenching screams of rage and pain had been more than the animal inside him could allow. Two others held her down while two more waited behind their leader to have their turn with her.

  Rule barely remembered those moments. Seeing the horror of it, the scent of her pain and fear, the agonizing scent of her self-blame and terror that had wrapped around her like a living blanket, had enraged him.

  He’d taken out two of the Coyotes before the other shots had been fired.

  “Hell, I didn’t even realize—” Jonas shook his head, staring at Rule as though seeing him for the first time. “When I first realized she’d been claimed, even I was unaware it was you for a while.”

  “I didn’t fucking claim her,” he snapped. “She was a child.”

  What did they take him for anyway?

  Rule scratched at the irritating little itch beneath his tongue by rubbing it against his teeth again.

  Fuck this.

  He’d had enough.

  He turned, stalking off into the parking lot and heading for the secured parking area where he’d left the Dragoon he’d driven in the night before.

  “Where the fuck are you going?” It was Lawe, moving in beside him, who dared to ask that question.

  Rule paused long enough to snarl out, “To get my fucking mate.”

  His mate?

  To ensure that the cackling South African bastard with a death wish didn’t make the mistake of touching what wasn’t his to touch. Because Dane’s death could cause Jonas more problems than he caused the director breathing.

  “It may be too late, Rule.” His brother caught at his shoulder, forcing him to a stop despite the animal snarling inside him. “Listen to me, dammit, I don’t know what you did to her, what you said to her, but the woman who left here tonight was not the woman who went up with you. Whatever happened, she was . . .” Lawe breathed out roughly. “It was like you broke something.”

  Rule’s jaw tightened. “She’s still the same woman. I didn’t break anything, dammit. She’s pissed.”

  “She’s not pissed,” Lawe denied in confusion. “You changed her, Rule. You took something from her, and I don’t know if you can fix it.”

  Jerking from his brother’s grip, he threw a disgruntled snarl his way before turning and moving more quickly than before for the Dragoon. Lawe was wrong, he had to be wrong. Gypsy would forgive him, she wouldn’t have a choice.

  She was his mate.

  CHAPTER 16

  The Unknown had trained her once they’d realized they couldn’t contro
l her. As Gypsy stepped to the window that looked out on her parents’ home, she had only a second to wonder at the instinct they’d used to prepare her for any eventuality. Because Breeds were slipping around her apartment like shadowed wraiths.

  Quickly pulling the satellite phone she’d safely stored in a hidden pocket of her dress, she dialed her contact’s number.

  “Whisper?” he answered before the first ring had completed.

  “Extraction needed from primary residence,” she requested softly. “Importance classified as immediate.”

  “Negative. Extraction denied.”

  Denied?

  She couldn’t have heard correctly.

  “Breeds are surrounding the primary residence,” she fought to speak, her throat tightening in near fear. “Extraction imperative.”

  “Extraction denied, Whisper,” he answered again, this time, more gently. “You slept with Breaker. You’re marked as his mate.”

  She was barely aware of her head shaking slowly, denial ripping through her senses at the knowledge that no extraction would be forthcoming.

  “What? . . .”

  “You were told no lovers for a reason. Take a human lover and his prejudice could prejudice you. A Breed lover, and the chances of becoming mated and giving that lover complete loyalty was far too high. This is the last time this number will be answered.”

  “You promised,” she retorted, her voice hoarse. “You said you would never desert me . . .”

  “I said I would always listen to my voice mail. You didn’t just take a lover, Whisper. You made certain I can’t interfere. Not for a Breed mate,” he informed her, his voice soft, though without mercy. “The Breeds coming for you were sent by your lover. Our protection is no longer required.”

  The line disconnected.

  Gypsy didn’t pause to think.

  In a matter of seconds the dress was lying on her bed in a heap of rich material as she dug into the side of her mattress and pulled the black skin suit she used to slip through the night when she herself didn’t want to be seen.

  Pulling the tough material of the form-fitting pants and long-sleeved shirt on, she slipped the scent blocker from a hidden pocket, tucked it quickly under her tongue and hoped she had enough time for it to take effect.

  She was praying they weren’t expecting her to leave the apartment and weren’t watching for her. If they were, as well trained as they were, then her chances of escaping would be limited. And she was betting they would be watching for her.

  Was that why Rule had jumped from her?

  Had he somehow sensed or scented something that gave her away? Had she somehow managed to leave her scent behind the night she had searched his rooms? Whatever she had done, if she had done anything, there was no doubt no chances would be taken in their effort to take her now, if she was indeed his mate.

  She’d heard whispers of mating, though not since Jonas Wyatt and his men had arrived in Window Rock.

  Mating was forever, it was told. White-hot sexual need, blinding hunger, complete loyalty. Not a single Breed wife, lover or so-called mate had ever given the secrets of the Breeds to anyone willing to tell them.

  Each one had fallen easily beneath her Breed’s spell.

  She sure as hell wasn’t going to make it easy for them. She was going to get the hell out of there and get out fast. She had never depended upon her contact or the Unknown to ensure her safety. Mark had taught her better than that. He had died awaiting help, awaiting extraction. She’d always sworn she would never make the same mistake.

  Less than a minute later she was moving silently down the narrow, dusty steps set between the walls, a little hidden access her brother had shown her in the old store when she was barely a teenager. This was the reason why she had taken the second-floor apartment rather than the first. There was no access to the staircase from the first floor. And no way to know that it led to a small tunnel that exited on the same small street where the only other person who might help her lived.

  Cullen lived in a small house at the end of the street, his sheltered backyard less than ten feet from the exit.

  Her contact had told her once that if she was ever in trouble with no way to contact him or, for whatever reason, unwilling to contact him, Cullen would help her. Besides, Cullen was her boss, and she knew he liked her. Surely he wouldn’t turn his back on her too?

  But was it really only what she deserved?

  The distant thought had her breathing hitching on a sob.

  She’d never paid for leading her brother into a trap, not really. Not as she had expected to. Was this her penance instead? To realize that despite years of trying to ensure loyalties, she’d failed at the most elemental level and was just as alone as she had been the night she stood in the dark watching her parents turn from her?

  If it was her punishment, she’d accept it. She couldn’t fight what couldn’t be changed.

  But God, surely there was someone she could depend on.

  She knew Cullen, and she trusted him.

  At this moment, she had no other place to turn. The Unknown considered her compromised, Rule had thrown her away. He wasn’t sending Breeds to protect her. To secure her perhaps, but not to protect her. Somehow, she must have betrayed herself, that was all it could have been. There was no reason for Breeds to be surrounding her apartment other than to arrest her for some reason.

  She’d read nothing in Breed Law about any statutes against running from the asshole Breed who didn’t know how to be a lover.

  Climbing silently from the ravine above the storm drain the tunnel led into, she checked the area quickly before making her way into the tree line that surrounded Cullen’s adobe house.

  The small house was inconspicuous. It was a bachelor’s home, but Gypsy knew things about that house that she doubted anyone else knew. Things her brother had told her about ways into it, out of it and a maze of hidden caves beneath it. She had no doubt in her mind that Cullen was well aware of them as well.

  It wasn’t the only house in town with hidden access, or hidden tunnels. It wasn’t the only house with a history, and her brother had, for some reason, made certain she’d known about all of the ones he’d been aware of.

  Moving slowly to the back of the house, she kept her eyes moving constantly, watching the shadows she hovered within, certain no one would be watching for her there, but unwilling to take any chances.

  Sweat gathered along her body beneath the wicking fabric of the outfit she wore. The unusual summer heat soaked her skin and her hairline far quicker than usual. The fabric felt itchy against her flesh, the arousal Rule had left burning in her body tormenting her now. The fact that she couldn’t just ignore it was pissing her off too.

  She wanted to hate him.

  Tears threatened to spill from her eyes as she paused next to one of the large trees at the edge of the house. Forcing herself to catch her breath for a second, she watched the area carefully, desperately searching for some sign of Cullen.

  Or any Breeds that could have followed her.

  Nothing moved but a light breeze. Nothing could be heard but the sparse traffic several streets over and the crickets that chirped playfully among the leaves of the trees.

  Reaching to her hip, she slid the sat phone from her belt and activated it silently to call Cullen before barging in on him.

  “No need to call. I’m right here.”

  The low, cross male voice had her ducking quickly and moving to the other side of the tree as her weapon cleared its holster.

  “It’s Cullen, Gypsy,” he sighed.

  Stepping from behind the tree, she faced him warily, her emotions uneven, fear, anger and desperation filling her.

  “I’m being hunted,” she whispered. “And denied extraction by someone I’ve been helping. I was once told you would help . . .” But not if the Unknown themselves denied her.

  Her voice was too rough, the tears she held back too close to falling. She’d been betrayed by the lover she’d given up r
etribution for, and by the small sect of warriors she’d dedicated her life to for nine years.

  What was there left to lose?

  “Come on.” He strode past her to the back door. “I knew you’d end up here when I received the report of those Breeds positioning themselves around the store. I’ll put some coffee on and you can tell me what the hell’s going on.”

  Tugging at the neckline of her black shirt before rubbing at her shoulder and the irritation of the material, she followed him silently until they were safely locked on the other side of the door. The room they stepped into was shadowed and cool.

  He didn’t turn any lights on, but it was far easier to see him now. He moved through the kitchen they’d entered before stopping at the coffeepot and flipping it on. The sound of hot water flowed into the filter as the scent of coffee reached her senses.

  “Did you take one of the scent blockers?” he asked, his back still to her.

  “Yes,” she answered, staring around the kitchen curiously. “I came through the tunnels, but the entrance to them should be safe.”

  For the most part, Cullen’s home was devoid of personalization. The normal appliances were there, but little decoration with the exception of a small crystal fairy and a six-inch dagger with a mother-of-pearl hilt sitting on the small breakfast counter between the kitchen and darkened living area.

  “It’s your apartment.” He shrugged. “Your scent permeates it anyway. Your escape should have been undetectable if anyone entered it.”

  Turning back to him, she frowned at the comment. “If? Why would they have been there if not to come after me? They were surrounding the place like SWAT or something.”

  He grunted at that. “They were there in a surveillance capacity alone. Trust me, if they were there to take you, you wouldn’t have seen them before they were in the apartment. The threat wasn’t from the Breeds sent to watch out for you, it’s the Breed who should be arriving at your place the moment he’s realized you’ve run from him. The security team was sent to protect you until he managed to get his head out of his ass.”

  Her heart jumped in her chest. “What do you mean by that?”

  Choosing two cups from the cupboard, he poured their coffee before picking them up and turning back to her to nod at the breakfast counter. “Have a seat. We have to talk.”

  She suddenly felt like a teenager being called down by the principal. She’d not even experienced that in school.

  “Why are Breeds surrounding my house, Cullen?” she asked as she slid into one of the high stools and pushed back the hair that had fallen over her shoulder.

  She hadn’t even had time to braid it before running. It still hung down her back in a riot of carefully arranged curls as the front and sides fell from where it was secured at the crown of her head.

  “This is a fucking mess,” Cullen sighed roughly as he lifted his cup, pausing at his lips as amusement flickered in his gaze. “Amusing, but a fucking mess.”

  Her eyes narrowed at the casual arrogance in his voice.

  “And what has you so damned amused?” Leaning forward, her forearms braced on the counter as her gaze narrowed on him, Gypsy promised herself she wouldn’t tell him what a complete asshole he was being.

  “You have me amused.” Once he made that cryptic comment, the cup touched his lips and he sipped from the heated liquid.

  He didn’t appear in any hurry to tell her exactly what had him so damned amused at her expense, though.

  As he returned the cup to the counter, still watching her silently, Gypsy sat back on her stool, her head tilting to the side.

  Crossing her arms over her breasts, she watched him angrily, waiting, and it wasn’t patiently.

  He merely stared back at her with a hint of a smile on his face.

  “What kind of game are you playing with me?” she asked him, suspicion beginning to grow within her. “And why?”

  She’d known him for years, had worked for him at the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement office for the last few years. He had been a friend of her brother’s, though he hadn’t arrived in Window Rock until after Mark’s death. He’d quickly become a friend of her parents’, and of hers and Kandy’s. She had always known he was arrogant, but this cool, merciless amusement she hadn’t seen in him before.

  “No game, Gypsy,” he promised, flashing her a quick smile as he lifted the coffee cup to his lips once again and sipped. Lowering it, he sat back as well. “My only intent is to do whatever I can to help you. I knew Mark was an informant for an unidentified group that aided the Breeds, and I greatly admired him for it. Just as I’ve always suspected you were as well.”

  Well, didn’t he just know a whole lot of nothing.

  At least, according to him.

  “You aren’t part of that group, then?” She had wondered, she had hoped he was part of it, just for her own safety.

  “Don’t ask questions.” His voice hardened, as did his gaze. “You’re only going to waste our time, and we don’t have long before that Breed you ran from finds you.”

  “I took the scent blocker.” Her head was shaking before she could stop it.

  “There are instances when the scent blocker doesn’t work,” he informed her, his voice still as hard as stone, his gaze icy. “I rather doubt it’s working now. Any Breed who gets within a quarter mile of this place will know a Breed mate is in the vicinity once he catches the scent of Mating Heat I’m sure is rolling off you at the moment. At the most, we may have an hour before he arrives, simply because it should take that long before a team passes by here. If we’re lucky.”

  If they were lucky.

  The irritation along her flesh was growing worse, amplifying the longer she sat there. The arousal Rule
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