Rule breaker, p.3
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       Rule Breaker, p.3
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  Especially Rule.

  Narcs.

  That was what they were.

  The old-fashioned term flashed into his mind.

  They were nothing but damned narcs, both of them. If they weren’t extremely careful, he’d show them exactly why they should be very wary. Because Jonas knew things of their futures that neither man could ever imagine.

  So far, he was playing nice.

  But the day was swiftly approaching for one of them that nice would be a thing of a past.

  It was just a matter of time before he learned how to cure his daughter. He could then focus on restructuring the Bureau of Breed Affairs. Once that was completed, Jonas, Callan and Wolfe could rest assured that their vision of the Breeds’ future could continue should anything happen to one, or all, of them.

  Then Jonas intended to show his legitimate half brother, Dane Vanderale, exactly why Breeds and humans alike feared him to the extent they did.

  He was just completing the final additions to each file that he’d put together when the door to the suite opened and the Lion Breed on duty, Flint McCain, stepped inside.

  “Commander Breaker’s here, sir,” he announced.

  Jonas nodded back at him firmly. “Let him in.”

  Stepping aside, Flint nodded to Rule as he strode into the suite, his neon blue eyes flickering with amusement at Flint as the other Breed lifted his lip into a subtle snarl.

  Rule had put his time in guarding many of Jonas’s doors over the past ten years. Jonas didn’t begrudge him a second to torment Flint now.

  “Jonas.” Rule stepped to the desk, the years they had worked together pretty much obliterating protocol at this point. “How’s Amber doing this morning?”

  It was no secret she’d been deteriorating rapidly in the weeks since the attack on Liza. For some reason the unknown hormone Brandenmore had injected her with had suddenly increased overnight within her little body, after leveling for several weeks.

  They’d had hope for a while, that she was fighting off the effects, only to watch her descend again into that world of pain and confusion.

  “She’s resting this afternoon,” he answered. “Have a seat, Rule, I have something to talk to you about.”

  Rule sat down in one of the comfortable chairs facing the desk, his back straight, feet planted firmly on the floor. Dressed in the Bureau’s black mission uniform—the insignia of his Breed placement, a snarling lion, on one shoulder, his commander’s bars gracing the other—he looked like the expertly honed killing machine he was created to be.

  Shoulder-length black hair was pulled back and secured at his nape; neon blue eyes surrounded by heavy black lashes and fierce, sharply defined features made him popular among the female sex, while the corded strength of his body and exacting control made him an excellent commander among his peers.

  Pressing the command button to send the files to Rule’s e-pad before deactivating the computer and sitting back in his chair, Jonas watched the Breed silently for long moments.

  Rule didn’t even look at the electronic pad he carried on a holster at his thigh. He just waited, perhaps not patiently, but silently.

  “Have you been able to find any information on the Unknown yet?” he asked Rule then, watching intently as the Breed gave a negative shake of his head.

  “Nothing more than the fairy tale,” he finally answered. “Each generation, six warriors are chosen to protect the heart of the Navajo. No one knows what the heart is, though. They’re gifted with ancient powers and secrets that will aid them in hiding and protecting what’s most important to the People. That’s it. What about your contacts? Have they come back with anything yet?”

  Jonas shook his head.

  “Any suspects yet as to their contact?” Jonas asked, tapping one finger against the arm of his chair as he watched Rule thoughtfully.

  Rule shook his head again. “Nothing yet. And we won’t have, until someone actually admits to believing they’re real.” He frowned then. “It would have been nice if the message you received about them had been a bit more forthcoming.”

  A grimace tightened Jonas’s features. “A name would have been really nice,” he agreed before leaning forward and bracing his arms on the desk once again. “I just sent the files you’ll need for your upcoming mission to your e-pad.” Jonas nodded to the device, though Rule made no move to remove it. “Several hours after the assailants busted into the windows of Liza’s suite last month, she experienced a flashback to the ritual that hid an additional presence within her own body. In that flashback, she saw six painted warriors—the Unknown, she remembered Orrin Martinez calling them. They told her they would protect her and Claire, as well as the one who watched from afar and the one who would follow when the time was right.”

  “Judd and Gideon,” Rule murmured as he propped an ankle on his knee before leaning his elbow on the arm of the chair and narrowing his gaze thoughtfully. “We know Gideon’s already here, and I’ve managed to find a few leads on a Breed who arrived twelve years ago, only to disappear a few days after Liza and Claire’s accident.”

  Jonas clenched his teeth as he fought for patience. Dammit, he wouldn’t have to play these fucking infernal games if everyone would just stop trying to evade fate and the fact that he knew what the hell he was doing.

  He breathed in deeply. “When we were here nine years ago, we were originally searching for a transmission we traced to a young man, Mark McQuade. He was an exceptional hacker, and for a number of years he fed us information and files that he stole from the Council’s secure computers. Files so top secret that if they were released at the time, they would have destroyed some of the world’s top leaders. We used them to blackmail those leaders instead.” Jonas smiled mercilessly. “Some enemies are better used than destroyed.”

  It was a philosophy he knew Rule agreed with. Still.

  “I knew we were searching for a hacker when we first arrived,” Rule stated. “He was killed by Coyotes that night before we could reach him and his sister, though.”

  Rule was going to continue to play the charade, Jonas thought.

  As though he weren’t well aware that the Breed had made several trips a year to the area to check up on the girl since that night.

  “Yes, he was,” Jonas sighed. “He was killed trying to protect her when the Coyotes found her first.”

  Here it was.

  Jonas pushed back a flare of satisfaction, knowing it was far too soon to feel any triumph. Only when Gideon faced him with the answers he needed, and Amber’s cure, would he allow that triumph free.

  But here, finally, was one of the final steps to ensuring it.

  “Gypsy McQuade.” Rule sat back in his chair somberly, though Jonas wasn’t unaware of the phantom form of the natural lion that eased slowly into view until it sat beside Rule, watching Jonas suspiciously, powerful teeth prominently displayed.

  Jonas had no intention of warning Rule that his mate awaited. Hell, if the Breed hadn’t figured that out, then he deserved whatever he got.

  Hell no, Jonas wanted the man who had betrayed Mark McQuade and his sister Gypsy.

  He knew who it was.

  He knew he had no proof.

  But he knew how to pull that information from the darkness into the light. That was his strength and he would use it exactingly.

  “What do you know about Gypsy McQuade?” Jonas asked, as though he had no idea that Rule likely knew far more than he would ever let on.

  “Not a lot,” Rule answered without so much as a flicker of the eye or the slightest scent of a lie. “Dane and I have run into her fairly often at many of the nightspots and parties used by our contacts to pass information to us. She’s a regular at the clubs and bars, both legal and underground, and has been for years as I understand it. She likes to party, though she doesn’t mess with the drugs and never drinks more than she can handle. She’s actually become very good friends with the Coyote females from the Delgado pack, Ashley, Emma and Sharone. Surprisingly, he
r friendship with Khileen slowly faded, though they still seem to get along well whenever they see each other. I would think you know more than I’ve pulled, considering her friendship with your mate and child.”

  Jonas snorted. “As you probably already know, then, she’s amazingly reticent about discussing her own life.”

  Rule nodded.

  “Her brother was an exceptional hacker,” Jonas sighed, continuing to ignore the reference to Gypsy’s friendship with his family. “The Breed community still owes him a hell of a debt. Because of that debt, I’ve ensured she’s always had friends to turn to. Not that she’s taken advantage of it. She’s as distrustful as her brother was.” Jonas frowned; surely Gypsy had managed to cry out all that guilt and pain by now. “Gypsy was convinced she was the reason her brother was killed.” He breathed out roughly. “Her file is on your e-pad, as well as my notes and observations, along with Liza’s, Claire’s and Terran Martinez’s. Along with her file are the ones on her sister, Kandy Sweet McQuade, as well as Mark’s former fiancée, an assistant DA in Window Rock, Theadora Lacey. They’re the short list of contacts the Unknown are suspected of using to learn our movements in the area, as well as the rogue Breeds the Council sends out. The Unknown are suspected to be directly responsible for our inability to locate or capture Gideon, and we suspect they also know Judd’s location. Find just one of them, Judd or Gideon, and we’ll have what we need to pull both of them in and finish this. Barring that, identify just one of the Unknown, and we achieve the same result. And if we’re very lucky, maybe I can learn who betrayed Gypsy’s brother and destroyed that kid’s life in the course of the investigation.”

  And Jonas could officially give Rule leave to run an investigation that he’d been running under the radar for far too long.

  The search for the person or persons responsible for revealing Mark McQuade’s activities to the Council Coyotes searching for him nine years ago.

  Because as sure as that Breed was playing one of the most intricate manipulations Jonas had ever seen—outside his own, if Rule wasn’t extremely careful—then he was going to get his ass burned if he was revealed to be doing so.

  ...

  Rule stared back at Jonas for long silent moments before pulling the electronic pad from the holster he wore at the side of his thigh. He activated it and pulled up the files Jonas had sent. He scanned each one quickly while giving the appearance of patiently reading.

  Hell, he knew this file like he knew his own life.

  Probably better.

  How the hell had Gypsy become suspected of working with the Unknown?

  He was going to end up kicking someone’s ass for letting this happen. Years of maneuvering, watching her pretty butt, and protecting men—both human and Breeds—Jonas would give his canines for, could come to a quick and painful end for not just himself, but Gypsy as well.

  He knew each of the other young women in the file, though he’d taken little interest in them over the years. He had no reason to.

  Kandy Sweet McQuade—someone should have shot her father for that name—ran her parents’ candy and gift store, while Hansel and Greta McQuade, along with Gypsy when needed, and their deceased son’s best friend, Jason Harte, ran a small but successful personal image building business.

  Two sisters and the ex-fiancée of a dead man suspected to be working with a group so covert that, until now, they were only regarded as a damned fairytale. They should have stayed a fairytale. Someone was dropping the ball here, and they damned well better pick it back up before he began kicking assess.

  The Unknowns contact, code name Whisper, was suspected to have begun working with the group between nine and ten years before, during the year after Mark McQuade died she was directly responsible for contacting the Unknown in time to keep the rogue Coyotes from moving in on the location where Honor, Fawn and Judd were hiding three years after they escaped the plans the Genetics Council had for them. Had it not been for Whisper, they would have been taken.

  Eyewitness reports in New Mexico at the time described a small group of Native Americans disguised in war paint and battling a team of Coyotes as two others sped away with two teenage girls and a young adult male. And they were never seen in the area again.

  Trails had been laid leading from New Mexico. There had been sightings in Venezuela, but neither Council nor Breed forces had ever gotten close enough to actually have a chance of capturing them.

  Nine years of covering trails, manipulating truths and laying in lies— If he wasn’t careful, Jonas would unravel it all before he could ensure Gypsy’s safety.

  He needed to assure Jonas of the ridiculousness of even imagining that Gypsy was involved with a group as well hidden and undetectable as the Unknown, if they existed.

  Jonas had to be convinced he was wrong about this—wrong, or Rule had to uncover the fact that the other Breed was up to one of his fucking matchmaking games.

  “You’re certain about this list?” Rule finally looked up, finding no clear reason or even strong suspicion in the files for Gypsy to have been tagged as the suspected “Whisper” spy.

  Jonas had no proof that Gypsy was involved in anything. And if Jonas didn’t have proof, then there was no proof to be found. That was all that kept Rule from immediately having Gypsy taken and hidden so deep, so fast that finding her would require more resources than Jonas could pull together at the moment.

  The Bureau couldn’t use what they couldn’t prove, or at least insinuate very well, Jonas always claimed. Rule would make certain Jonas had no chance to “use” Gypsy.

  “Why? Aren’t you?” Jonas closed the computer down and leaned back in his chair again, absently gripping a pen between his hands and idly manipulating it between his fingers as he watched Rule.

  Rule ignored the distracting tactic even as he hid a knowing smile.

  “Gypsy doesn’t fit the profile such a contact would have,” he explained patiently. “She’s too friendly, and too interested in being a woman to worry about being a spy.”

  Fuck.

  Jonas wasn’t buying that one despite the fact that Rule knew it was a damned good argument.

  “Rule.” Jonas leaned forward in his chair, laid the pen on the desk and clasped his hands on top of it. “Even after her brother’s death and her belief that she caused it by slipping out to that party, Gypsy still attended every party she could make. She was there when the Coyote soldier that led that group after Honor, Fawn and Judd met with one of his spies in the area. She was part of the group that soldier partied with that night despite her tender age. The next day, that spy was found just outside town, his tongue cut out and his throat slashed, with a note to the Council pinned to his shirt, stating, resigning for reasons of permanent death and dismemberment.

  “Gypsy socializes with a high number of suspected Genetics Council members who live in the area, their contacts and employees. She’s friends with purists, rogue Breeds and tribal law enforcement members. She has all the contacts needed to do the job.”

  Rule had to give whoever had penned that contact’s resignation kudos for being efficient as well as amusing. He was actually rather impressed with the wording of it.

  That didn’t mean he didn’t have an argument ready for Jonas.

  “The list of young women who attended the party that night and are still attending such parties is a large one. There are several candidates I would have looked at first,” Rule pointed out before allowing suspicion to narrow his eyes, hoping distraction would work where debate wasn’t. “Who created this list anyway?”

  Jonas acknowledged his point, as well as his suspicion, with a mocking tilt of his head. Rule knew Jonas would be well aware of why he suspected a setup. There were far too many Breeds who called Jonas the Mate Matcher.

  He schemed, connived and manipulated Breeds until he had them aligned perfectly with their mates. Then he made damned certain those Breeds couldn’t and wouldn’t attempt to walk away.

  “I had independent sources from with
in the Bureau as well as connected to the Navajo Council compile that list, from over a dozen suspects. Individually, then as a group, they weeded out each suspect and cleared them of suspicion, with the exception of six. Of those six, Gypsy was the only one they were unable to clear.

  Rule turned his attention back to the file.

  Rule knew the group Jonas had assigned that task to. Liza Johnson, daughter of the Navajo president’s head of security, and her mate, Stygian Black. Isabelle Martinez, niece to the president and daughter of the nation’s legal council. Malachi Morgan, Isabelle’s Coyote Breed mate. Terran Martinez, Isabelle’s father and said legal council. Dane Vanderale, Jonas’s half brother and a hybrid Breed so well disguised by his far-too-influential father to ever be suspected of being a Breed. And one of the Coyote Breeds’ most dangerous members, Dog.

  Both Isabelle’s and Liza’s mated status to Breeds and their history in the area made them the perfect choices to compile the final list, as did their mates and Isabelle’s father, Terran. Still, it smacked of a manipulation.

  And it stank of danger running headlong in Gypsy’s direction.

  Pinching the bridge of his nose, Rule pretended to continue to read while he cursed inwardly at whatever trick or sleight of hand had been used to put Gypsy on that list. Whichever it was, it ended with Gypsy smack under the director’s regard.

  The last place Rule wanted her to be.

  For both their sakes.

  “You’ve been in her company more than once, so I’ll assume there’s no chance of a mating?” Jonas all but sneered.

  “Lucky for you,” Rule agreed, never taking his attention from the file.

  Rule flat refused any missions Jonas had a hand in that involved a woman. Luckily for Jonas, Rule had actually spent quite a bit of time in Gypsy’s company in the past couple of months since coming to Window Rock, and had been around her many times in the past years as he checked up on her.

  “You know, you take that district directorship position out here, and Dane and Seth will cut that clause that gives you permission to run away should you suspect a mate, right out of that contract.”

  Rule didn’t look up once and was quite proud of the fact that he hid his smirk. “The one concerning you and any assignment regarding a female, Breed or human, will stay. I’ve already discussed the particulars with them.”

  Jonas growled, an irritated sound. “That’s ridiculous.”

  Rule lifted his gaze slowly. “So says the Breed they call the Mate Matcher.”

  Jonas glared back at him, his silver gaze swirling with ire. Rule opted to distract the director at that point rather than continue what was sure to turn into a less than friendly debate.

  “Jonas, why are you so convinced the Unknown actually exist?” Rule asked before Jonas could deny the charge. Or worse, admit to it. “I’ve been searching for weeks now, and there’s not so much as a hint of the Unknown being anything but a fairy tale, let alone finding any ties to any of your suspects. Tell me what the fuck is going on here or find someone else to play games with because I don’t have time for this shit.”

  “Orrin Martinez,” Jonas finally answered, his jaw tightening at Rule’s demand. “When I mentioned the Unknown to him, the scent of fear was unmistakable. As was the scent of desperation as he attempted to convince me that the Unknown were just as you said, a fairy tale. They exist, Rule, I promise you. And they were the same group that hid Judd, Honor and Claire, and countless other Breeds that made it to the Navajo Nation over the decades.”

  Rule rubbed at the back of his neck, considering the information. “Are we sure we can trust that response, though?”

  Orrin should have been Jonas’s grandfather rather than Rule’s and Lawe’s. The man was just as manipulating and just as calculating as Jonas could be.

  “The truth was in his eyes, and his scent,” Jonas growled before his gaze turned intent, somber. “Rule, I need you on this. I don’t want you going off half-cocked because you think someone might be your mate,” Jonas stated, his voice echoing with concern now. “This is Amber’s life. Liza’s memories of her life as Honor Roberts are still too scattered and broken to help much further. Claire’s have returned in even smaller portions, and we have no idea how to find Judd and Gideon. Without the information they hold about those experiments and the key to Brandenmore’s encrypted files, Amber doesn’t have a chance of surviving this.”

  Rule deactivated the e-pad and returned it to the padded pocket he stored it in before staring back at the director. “I never go off half-cocked, Director,” Rule reminded him. “Now, how do you suggest we identify Whisper, and who her contact within the Unknown is?” he asked, regarding the director curiously. “Or even if either of them are the contact you’re searching for?”

  Son of a bitch and dammit to hell. He did not need this, Rule thought with an edge of carefully concealed anger. Investigating Gypsy’s sideline wasn’t his preferred course of action. Not when he’d prefer investigating that sensual, erotic side of Gypsy instead.

  Jonas frowned, a severe, dark look that tended to make most Breeds extremely nervous. Rule had known him far too long, and knew far too much on him, to be nervous.

  Wary in some instances, but never nervous.

  “Commander Breaker, do I ask your advice on how to run the Bureau?” Jonas growled when the look had no effect on Rule.

  “You don’t have to ask,” Rule quipped deliberately. “I believe I offer on a fairly regular basis. One of the reasons I’m considering that division directorship, remember? By the way, should I take it, Lawe, Diane and Thor will join me in the top-tier positions that have been outlined.”

  Jonas grunted at that as he tapped a single slowly extending claw tip against the desk. “Taking my best people, Rule? Now you’re just trying to piss me off.”

  That was entirely possible, Rule admitted silently. If only he could piss the director off enough to make him drop this damned case.

  He knew that wasn’t happening, though.

  “Distract you maybe.” Rule shrugged as he admitted to the accusation but not his reasons why. “You’re looking stressed, Jonas.”

  And Jonas had never looked stressed in all the years Rule had known him.

  He watched as Jonas shook his head before wiping his hands over his face. “Just find the Unknown, Rule. They’ll lead us to Gideon. Maybe then, Rachel, Amber and I can get some rest.”

  Gideon was the last link.

  Anonymous files had been sent from Judd to the Bureau, after Liza had remembered parts of that ritual that hid her for so long.

  The files had detailed the codes he remembered, outlined clearly the research notes he’d seen and advised Jonas that if Amber had been given the first injection and was still living, to make damned sure the injections continued on a schedule he’d listed as the same that the scientists overseeing Honor and Fawn had used.

  There was no serum to continue, though. No one knew the formula and there were too many files of children, young adults and adults who had been a part of that research and had been a casualty of it.

  So why was Amber still living?

  Rule knew the questions, he knew where to find some sources for the answers, but what those sources knew, Jonas already had. They needed Gideon, and Rule was afraid Gideon just didn’t want to be found.

  Not even the one small favor the feral Bengal owed Rule would be enough to fix this problem.

  “I’ll get to work then.” Rule rose from his chair.

  He prayed he could find something, anything, to get Gypsy off that list.

  “Rule.” Jonas spoke his name carefully, hiding his wariness at the tone.

  “Yeah?” Rul
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