Rule breaker, p.27
Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh
Gypsy straightened in her chair, leaning forward as a premonition began to tingle at the back of her spine.
“She was nervous about meeting with Jonas,” Gypsy said, remembering even at the time how odd her mother’s behavior had been. “This was more than a week ago, Ashley; what does it have to do with anything?”
“We found an audio transmitter hiding in the stitched lining of her purse, Gypsy, and her scent wasn’t one of nerves, it was one of deceit.”
Gypsy felt herself freeze inside.
There went that scent thing again, she thought distantly. Breeds were always smelling things. She wondered if they ever grew tired of having everyone’s emotions fill the air with such scents.
“You have to be wrong.” She couldn’t even look at the other woman as she whispered the words. Staring at the wall across the room, she remembered that meeting. How nervous her mother was, almost frightened as her purse was taken.
Even Gypsy had noticed her odd behavior and had been confused by it.
Her mother had tried to slip an audio device into the meeting with Jonas Wyatt? Why? Why would her mother or anyone else be interested in a simple business meeting? That didn’t make sense.
“That is not all, Gypsy,” Ashley told her. “Since that day, I, Emma and Sharone have been investigating the reason why your mother would do this. We learned that she was not unaware of the device, as we had hoped. Rather, she had agreed to have it hidden in her purse, and she and whoever she has aligned with plan to have another hidden even more discreetly at the next meeting.”
That couldn’t be true.
Gypsy couldn’t take her eyes off the wall across from her, couldn’t meet the eyes of the woman she called her friend. She could hear the sympathy in Ashley’s voice, the kindness, and knew if she saw pity in her friend’s eyes, then she simply wouldn’t be able to bear it.
“How . . . ? How do you know this?” she asked simply, wondering why she wasn’t vehemently denying her mother’s guilt in this. Why wasn’t she calling Ashley the liar she would have called her at any other time? Why wasn’t she fighting the crime her mother had committed?
“I know because Breeds are much better at hiding listening devices than are image consultants,” Ashley whispered, misery filling her eyes. “Emma, Sharone and I have the recording of your mother discussing this in her home with a male we could not identify. She intends to try again at the next meeting. She believes Breeds are responsible for her son’s death. She believes she will get away with this now, certainly, if she’s caught because of your association with Commander Breaker.”
Gypsy was well aware of Breed Law, just as she was aware of the fact that Jonas Wyatt could have had both her parents arrested for crimes against Breed Law for attempting to bring that device into the meeting. The fact that he hadn’t, and that Ashley was coming to her now, made her wonder just exactly what the director was planning, or what he would want from her at a later date.
“Is that all?” Gypsy asked then, hearing the exhaustion in her voice, the distance.
She had been in this place, inside her own mind, only one other time in her life. The night Mark had died. She had prayed to never find herself there again.
“No, it is not all,” Ashley stated. “Please look at me, Gypsy. Do not hate me for this. I demanded that I be the one to tell you these things because of our friendship. I do not want to lose the unique bond I’ve found with you, my friend. But if I must, to ensure that you are told the truth with the respect I believe you deserve, then I will risk it.”
Gypsy turned to her then, the distance still pulling her back from the situation, though Ashley’s statement forced her to return to reality.
“The respect I deserve?” she asked, confused.
Ashley swallowed tightly, her gray eyes filled with somber regret, though thankfully no pity.
Ashley’s sad little smile actually made her chest ache. “If there is any person in this nation that I know would never betray the Breeds, Gypsy, then I believe that person is you. Whatever the scent of deceit is that Rule detected, and that I have caught a hint of on occasion, I know it is not a desire to hurt or to in anyway see the Breeds harmed. That is not in your nature. You have helped me and Emma so many times during our visits here. You introduced us to friends, to those who have aided us countless times. You deserve to be given this information by a friend. By one who understands the pain you feel when you believe your honor has been betrayed by a loved one.”
“Believe it was betrayed?” Gypsy whispered past the tight ache in her chest.
“I have come to know your mother a bit in the time I’ve been coming to Window Rock,” Ashley reminded her. “Kandy’s sweet shop is a favorite of many Breeds, and many of us have spoken and laughed with her. She is not a cruel or mean person. And I can’t think she would mean the Breeds harm. But an explanation must be forthcoming. To see your mother suffer the public repercussions of her act would destroy Kandy’s store as well as your parents’ business. I believe that is not in the best interests of the Breeds, or in your best interests.”
Breeds weren’t often known for their understatements, but that one was a doozy.
Gypsy found herself nodding, making the action without a conscious decision to do so, still feeling cut off from what was happening around her.
“I’ll take care of this, Ashley,” she promised. “Thank you for being the one to tell me.”
Could she have borne having Rule give her this information? It was bad enough being aware that he knew.
“Rule was angry that Jonas ordered that you be told,” Ashley told her. “He wanted the information held back from you, just as I did as well, at first. I believed that whatever her reasons, your mother’s actions could be overlooked, as no harm was done. And I believe Jonas would have heeded our request had we not learned that for some reason, your mother was determined to slip that device into the next meeting with Jonas and that she blames all of us, despite appearances, for a death that affected us all. One that saddened so many.”
An audio transmitter? What could it do other than allow someone to hear what was being said?
A memory surfaced then. Slipping such a device that her Unknown contact had given her into a meeting with a suspected Pure Blood commander. She hadn’t been told what it was for. The meeting had been a mere business luncheon with a small advertising company that had been in Window Rock for more than a decade.
Within hours after Gypsy had left, the computers in that office had gone down and the next morning Navajo Law Enforcement had swarmed over the building, arresting not just the owner but many of the employees as well.
According to the report that had filtered out after the arrests, those computers had autonomously sent out files to the Covert Law Enforcement Agency that implicated not just the owner but many of the employees in strikes against the Breeds as well as collaborating with soldiers working for the Genetics Council to betray Breeds suspected of hiding from their former creators in the Navajo Nation.
It had confirmed the information she’d uncovered that the Unknown’s audio devices were much more than simply tools to listen in on various meetings. They were technological weapons and they were used with the utmost efficiency.
Had that device worked and Jonas Wyatt’s computers been attacked, then she and her parents would have been immediately arrested for crimes against Breed Law.
What was going on? Who was using her mother and how the hell had they managed to convince her to do something so insane, no matter her beliefs?
“Gypsy, I am not sorry I chose to be the one to tell you—”
It was that stoic, forlorn expression that had Gypsy moving. Jumping from her chair, she moved quickly to the little Coyote Breed female and immediately embraced her, barely holding back a flinch at the pain the contact brought her.
To say Ashley was surprised was more an understatement than before, but Gypsy acknowledged that she surprised herself even more. She hadn’t
“Stop,” Gypsy ordered as she pulled back and released the other girl slowly. “This wasn’t your fault, Ashley, and you’re right, I couldn’t have borne having anyone else tell me.”
The knowledge that her parents had attempted to betray Jonas, Rachel and that precious baby, Amber, was ripping at her soul. Her stomach was cramping with it, building a pressure behind her eyes that she hadn’t truly felt in years.
She hadn’t really cried since Mark’s funeral. Would the tears come now? She hoped not. The agony she remembered feeling the last time she cried was an emotion she never wanted to feel again.
“Gypsy, perhaps she has a very logical reason.” Ashley tried to comfort her, her delicate expression filled with pain.
“Perhaps, Ashley.” She tried to agree as she moved slowly to where her clothing was still crumpled on the floor and picked it up. “I’ll take care of it, though, I promise.”
“If you need to talk, Emma and I are truly your friends. I hope you will remember that and not become too angry once you’ve had time to consider what I’ve told you.”
She could only shake her head as she turned back to the girl. “Do you think I’ll change my mind and hate you later?”
“I think maybe that is how I would feel if I had a mother, and she had not confided in me over such a decision,” Ashley agreed.
“But mothers don’t always confide in their daughters, Ashley,” she told the girl bitterly, sadly. “Sometimes, things happen— Daughters make mistakes sometimes that their parents can’t forgive.”
“No, Gypsy—” The other girl moved to cross the room when the bedroom door opened.
Rule stood in the doorway, his expression heavy, torn. His blue eyes raged back at her, brilliant and concerned as Ashley turned to him quickly.
“Ashley, you should leave now,” he told her gently as he stepped inside the room, his gaze moving to the Breed female with a hint of gentle demand. “Lawe and Diane are waiting for you to accompany them to dinner, I believe.”
Ashley nodded, then turned back to Gypsy. “If you need me . . .”
Gypsy gave her a small facsimile of a smile, but she couldn’t promise to talk later. She couldn’t promise she would even see the girl later. All she wanted to do right now was run. She wanted the silence of the desert enfolding her, the solace she’d always found in the wild, barren land surrounding her to sink inside the ragged wounds that were being uncovered in her heart.
Laying her clothing on the bed, Gypsy faced the man who seemed determined to claim her now.
“Where’s my motorcycle?” She was shocked at the ragged edge of her voice as she smoothed her hands over the material of the shirt covering her hips.
“If you need to go somewhere, then I’ll take you.” He stood relaxed, but his eyes watched her too closely, and she was very much afraid he saw far too much as he held her gaze.
“How long do you think that will work, Rule? How long do you think I’ll stand for you taking my independence and choice away from me? I want my cycle in the front of this hotel in thirty minutes, and you will allow me to walk out of here alone. I need to see my parents.”
“Not alone.” His voice deepened, the growl that had seen her backing down earlier echoing in his chest again.
That growl didn’t scare her any more than she would allow anything else to scare her.
“Don’t make me run, Rule,” she warned him instead. “I promise you, neither of us will enjoy the experience.”
Fury gleamed instantly in his gaze. The whites disappeared beneath the full blue, the black pupil dilating, and she knew she was facing a Breed who was more animal than man.
“Run.” He was suddenly in her face, daring her, challenge evident in the animalistic rasp of his voice. “Go ahead, mate, run. I’ll enjoy the chase and when I catch you, I promise you I’ll make damned sure you never consider such a fucking foolhardy action again. Do you understand me?”
She backed up before she meant to. It wasn’t fear that filled her, but nerves.
Because this man, this Breed, would keep his word in ways she was sure she would never forget.
Exhaustion had seeped into Gypsy over the hours she and Rule had engaged in a silent, nerve-racking standoff in his room. The meeting scheduled with her parents was canceled. No surprise there, she thought painfully as Rule and Jonas discussed the option just after Ashley left.
Finally, desperate to find a moment to breathe that didn’t include his too-intent stare, she’d retreated back to bed.
She needed to think, to consider how to work around what she couldn’t go through. Rule would employ whatever means it took to keep her from leaving the room. That meant she would have to find a way to slip around him and make her way to her parents’ home.
God help her, what was in her mother’s mind to take such a risk? What had she done, Gypsy wondered, to make her mother chance her very life like this?
Where had she messed up?
Gypsy knew she had to have done something, she had to have made a mistake somewhere. What had she done to give anyone a chance to use her mother in such a way? And no doubt it was her fault. Her mother would do anything to protect her children after she lost her oldest child, and Gypsy knew her mother had suspected for years that there was a reason her elder daughter continued to attend the desert parties and clubs that had initially given the Coyotes the chance they’d needed to draw Mark out and kill him.
Would she now be responsible for her mother’s death? Were her actions risking the rest of her family despite all her precautions?
Could she bear to lose anyone else she loved to her own reckless decisions?
Huddled beneath the blankets, dry eyed, aching, she stared into the slowly darkening room, unaware of the moment her eyes finally closed and sleep claimed her. There was rarely peace to be found in her dreams, though.
Especially at night.
Gypsy had made a habit over the years of remaining awake until dawn began lightening the sky. She’d learned that if it wasn’t dark, then the nightmares didn’t come near as often.
The room was only just darkening as sleep took her this time, though, and that darkness began spreading through her, dragging her into memories she’d forced to the furthest depths of her mind.
Her parents had taken Kandy to New York with them that week. It was her sister’s first visit and teenage shopping trip. They’d left Gypsy with her older brother, Mark. Ten years older, strong, always laughing, he spoiled her, but he watched out for her. Everyone knew if they messed with Mark McQuade’s wild baby sister, then Mark would come calling.
That night she and Khileen Langer, the Wolf Breed Lobo Reever’s stepdaughter, had planned to attend a desert party that many of Gypsy’s school friends were attending. But it was also an adult party, and Mark always attended those with her, or she didn’t go.
“Mark.” She stepped into the living room, where he was working intently on his computer. “I’m going out with Khileen to a party in—”
His head jerked up, his green eyes feverish, making her wonder if he’d been drinking that night.
“No!” The harsh denial shocked her.
She’d overheard her parents talking about how much Mark had been drinking lately, and how worried they were for him. Staring up at him in shock, Gypsy felt the hurt that came from any sharp word that her precious brother gave her. Not that there had been many, which was why this one stopped her in her tracks.
“But you said—”
“I said no, Gypsy, get back to your room now! And stay there for a change instead of aggravating the fuck out of me.” Then he threw the whiskey glass he’d been drinking from at the wall to her side.
She felt herself pale.
Tears filled her eyes and for a moment, there was someth
“Go to your room, Gypsy,” he rasped, his expression hardening in an instant. “We’ll discuss these parties later.”
Her lips trembled as she ran back to her room, slamming the door behind her before moving straight to her bedroom window.
Her temper was the bane of her existence. She’d gotten into more trouble over the years because of her inability to control her anger than because of anything else. She was even worse when her feelings had been hurt.
Mark had hurt her.
Pushing some money into the pocket of her jeans, she moved to the window, slid it open soundlessly, then shimmied over the sill. Khileen would be there in a few minutes. The other girl had called minutes before when she’d turned into town. With Gypsy’s parents gone and her normally loving brother home, Gypsy had intended to beg prettily that he come with them to the party that they wanted to attend in the desert that night.
It was an agreement she and Mark had made after the first party he’d caught her sneaking out to. He would go with her whenever he could, watch over her and Khileen, make sure they didn’t get hurt or didn’t do anything stupid, and she agreed to never attend one without him.
That agreement had worked for a year now, until tonight.
Moving quickly, Gypsy made her way from the house across the street, then around the candy shop her parents had named the Gingerbread House.
The large two-story house and attached apartments had once been her parents’ home, a gift from her mother’s family when they married.
She was waiting in front of the store when Khileen made the turn onto the street in the little convertible her stepfather owned, music blaring.
Gypsy watched herself from within the dream. She could feel the tears she’d been holding back that night and the fear she’d felt that her brother had acted so oddly.
She watched as she jumped into the little car with her friend, apprehensive that they were going to the party without Mark to watch over them. He always watched over them and made certain the older boys and young men who attended the parties didn’t bother them.
The music was blaring, and they were laughing, though Gypsy had still felt that edge of fear riding her. They weren’t aware of the motorcycles that shot from behind the rising stones until their lights were suddenly shining brightly in the rearview mirror, blinding Khileen.
Everything happened so fast then.
Two of the riders jumped from the cycles to the car as Khileen screamed and began jerking the wheel. One of them was slung to the road, but the other managed to jerk the wheel, causing the vehicle to nearly flip as it came to a shuddering stop at the side of the road.
Rough, cruel hands were gripping Gypsy’s hair as the remaining rider began pulling her from the open top. Behind them, an older-model Dragoon came to a hard stop as Khileen cursed rougher than her stepfather’s cowboys and the gears of the car made a harsh, screeching noise.
As Gypsy screamed and fought, she could still feel herself being forced from the car, her feet slipping over the top of the door as the little car shot back onto the road. It swerved dangerously, then in a burst of speed disappeared from sight.
Khileen had gotten away.
Thank God, her friend had managed to escape.
But Gypsy hadn’t.
Screaming, terrified, she was thrown to the ground as a pair of heavy boots were planted in front of her. Hard hands gripped her hair, jerking her to her feet as agony lanced her head.
“Gypsy Rum McQuade.” A harsh voice laughed down at her as a smile filled the cruel, scarred face. “Shall we see if you’re as sweet and innocent as you look, baby?”
She stared up at him, seeing the curved canines, the cruelty in eyes that gleamed red in the light of the full moon and the vehicle running several feet from them.
“Let me go,” she cried, struggling to break the grip he had on her.
And he laughed. “After looking for you for so long? I don’t think so. I’ve waited far too long to invite you to my little party tonight.”
She hadn’t seen his other hand draw back, but the blow he delivered to the side of her face numbed her mind, her senses, with the torturous pain that suddenly exploded through it.
Darkness filled her vision as the lights suddenly went out, and Gypsy was left in a mindless black pit of agony of near unconsciousness.
They hadn’t been merciful.
It had taken her hours to force herself back to awareness. When she returned to consciousness, she realized she had been taken deep into the desert. She was only dimly aware of being dragged from the vehicle, then tied to the bumper. Drifting in a world of dark pain.
Blinking, her gaze blurred at first, it had taken her precious seconds to focus her eyes on the man kneeling in the dirt about twenty feet away from her. He looked older somehow, and hurt. The bruises and blood on his face were horrifying to see.
“Mark?” Her voice had been weak, shaky. “Mark, I want to go home.”
She was so sorry she had left the house. She shouldn’t have. He’d have listened to her if she had just waited to talk to him again.
“I know, Gypsy.” He stared back at her, his eyes so sad, so filled with pain.
“You fucked up, McQuade. Trusted the wrong person.” The harsh voice of the Coyote who had knocked her out caused her to flinch in terror as her brother’s gaze suddenly became so bleak, so pain ridden that Gypsy knew she would never forget the sight of it.
“Let her go, Grody,” her brother demanded, though his voice wasn’t strong like it usually was. It sounded very defeated.
Grody just laughed, a sound so evil that Gypsy couldn’t help crying. And she hated those tears. Because when Mark saw them he grimaced, and she was certain he was disappointed in her. He always told her she was allowed to cry, that it was his job to be brave. That girls needed to cry. She could still think and plan, even with tears, he’d promised her. But her head hurt so bad, and she was so scared she couldn’t think.
“I couldn’t believe it was you, McQuade.” Grody laughed again as he moved from behind her and walked slowly to where her brother was kneeling. “I was shocked as hell when our contact identified you. You just didn’t seem like the geek type, ya know?”
Her brother wasn’t really a geek, he just knew how to make a computer do whatever he wanted it to do. His broad, strong hands could fly over the keyboard and within seconds he would be crooning to it, caressing it with his voice in a way that made Gypsy laugh at him.
“Who identified me?” Mark asked then, and even Gypsy could read the defeat in his voice, in his expression.
Oh God, if Mark was giving up, then this was really bad. Mark couldn’t give up.
She couldn’t hear what Grody said when he leaned close and whispered the name in her brother’s ear. But she watched his lips. She had paid very close attention to hi
Rule Breaker by Lora Leigh / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on47 votes