Rule breaker, p.30
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       Rule Breaker, p.30
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  ver the elevator read one thirty-three,” her sister announced. “I noticed that because Loki said he only had a few minutes to talk before he was due for a meeting at one forty-five. But it was canceled—” Her sister stared around the room again. “Where could they have gone?”

  The breath seemed to become trapped in her chest, threatening to smother her as Gypsy suddenly knew exactly where they were.

  “No,” she whispered, the knowledge that her mother must have done something incredibly stupid again blaring out at her senses, screaming at her to do something, to protect them. “Oh God, no.”

  Before the words were past her lips she turned, threw open the door as she ignored her sister’s startled cry and began racing down the hall, heading for Jonas’s suite.

  Rule had been called away, the summons evidently imperative enough that he had left a confrontation she knew he’d had no intention of breaking off. He’d been enraged with her, and intent on convincing her of something she knew wasn’t true when he’d been called away. At the same time her parents should have been knocking at the door of Rule’s suite.

  Rounding the corner, she nearly barreled into Loki, surprising the Coyote who had obviously been rushing through the hall himself in the direction of Rule’s suite. He reached out for her, his expression startled, and the knowledge that flashed across his face caused her to duck, executing a slide that kept her well out of his reach before she shot back to her feet and sprinted to the end of the next hall.

  “Gypsy, no. Wait,” he called out, anger vibrating in his voice as she heard Kandy call out his name in confusion.

  Adrenaline was racing through her now, dread a close companion as she whipped around the next corner, racing full stride for the Breeds now blocking Jonas’s door.

  She came to a hard stop, realizing that the seven Breed males had no intention of moving as they had previously whenever she arrived.

  “Get out my way, Flint,” she ordered the one she knew best, glaring into his dark eyes as he watched her grimly.

  “I can’t do that, Gypsy.” He shook his head, his expression never softening as he kept a careful eye on her. “Just be patient . . .”

  “Patient?” she cried out, enraged now, knowing she didn’t have time to be patient. “Get the hell out of my way before I move you myself.”

  How she was going to accomplish that one, she had no idea, but she knew she would sure as hell try if he didn’t let her through.

  ...

  The nano-nit technology was ingenious, Rule thought as he surveyed the device the McQuades had attempted to bring in, inspecting it from beneath the microscope set within a secure, impenetrable shell just for such dangerous electronics or minute robotic devices.

  The nano-nit was attached to a microscopic line leading to a nano-reader pad inside the shell. Access to the technology was through a set of ports protected by sealed latex that adhered to the user’s hands as they entered and ensured that an air-free, no-exit environment surrounded the nit and the reader.

  “Storage capacity exceeds previous known standards,” he murmured as he finally managed to crack the encryption set on the nano-nit’s technology. That security wasn’t really strong. The nit could bypass almost all known security measures, but it couldn’t prevent access to its own programming. “Programming consists of activation upon a remote signal, whereby it would detach from the host device and make its way to the nearest electrical source before boring inside and making its way to the designated receiver signal to begin storing audio and video. In twelve hours it would then travel along the electrical current to the next floor, to the nearest device capable of transmitting, including satellite or the lesser used cellular phones.”

  Straightening from the microscope’s electronic eye, he faced Jonas; Lawe; the Prime Alpha of packs and prides, Callan Lyons; the Lupine of the Wolf packs, Wolfe Gunnar; and the Coye of the Coyote packs, Del Rey Delgado, as well as one of the strongest pack leaders, Dash Sinclair, who had arrived late the night before for meetings scheduled that week concerning the new Bureau division in Window Rock.

  The presence of the Breed hierarchy wasn’t a good sign for the McQuades, who were still being held in a secure room lacking any electronics, digital or otherwise, or electrical access. Blackout, as it was referred to, was standard in all hotel conference rooms since news of the nano-nit had been announced several years before.

  So far, there was no encryption or security that had been invented that could keep even the weakest nano-nit from accessing secured files or even network systems. If the nit managed to get in place, then the system was completely compromised with no way to destroy or even track the tiny bot once it was inside.

  Only the director’s paranoia and his habit of placing the strongest audio and video detecting technology in place outside secured areas had allowed the nit to be found.

  For all its advanced ability to access a system, the nit was weakened by the fact that it could only be attached to certain devices. The simpler the device, the easier it was for the nit to detach and obey its programming without becoming confused by the programming already in place in the host device it rode in on. The only way to find the nano-nit was to detect the host; then, by using the digital microscope and attaching a nano-reader, it could be detected. The expense in technology and manpower to scan each and every device that could be used to host the nano would be astronomical for most companies.

  Thankfully, the Breeds were a hell of a lot more experienced than any company and had a nearly unlimited source of ready, expert manpower.

  Each and every Breed was taught nano-technology before they reached their teens. Council minds had created it, and now the Breeds were working to make it obsolete.

  Jonas had gone primal upon the realization of what the McQuades had attempted to bring into his suite. His claws had yet to retract from beneath his fingernails; the tips of the razor-sharp bonelike extensions were still bloodied from having broken through the thin flesh that healed rapidly once they retracted.

  The silver of his eyes swirled and massed like living mercury while the pupil seemed to almost blend in with the color of his eyes. Eyes that bored into Rule’s demandingly, refusing to allow him to back down from the confrontation they both knew was coming.

  A confrontation with not just the Breed who had stood at his back no matter the battle, but also the mate Rule refused to turn his back on.

  “I won’t let this pass,” Jonas stated; the message he was sending Rule was clear. Gypsy’s parents would be charged with Breed Law. “They will be punished for attempting to betray the people that they’re well aware saved their daughter from a fate no child should have to suffer. Every Breed in the area has known she has personal favor with me for the past nine years, and they’ve treated her accordingly. Protected her accordingly. This act by them was unconscionable.”

  And that would destroy Gypsy in ways Rule knew she would never recover from.

  “Gypsy’s suffered enough, Jonas,” he stated quietly, knowing there wasn’t a chance in hell that the argument was going to hold any weight with the other Breed.

  For once, his animalistic instincts were holding back, poised just as the man was, and waiting to see the danger his mate faced rather than letting rage overshadow what logic might be able to save.

  “And Amber hasn’t?” The primal rasp of Jonas’s voice assured everyone listening that the man and the beast were in perfect accord at the moment in this particular Breed. “What of my mate, Rule? What of the child she’s forced to watch suffer each day, wondering how much more her tiny body can take? What would you risk? Who would you risk, to save your child?”

  He would risk everything but his mate, even his honor, to save their child, and Rule knew it.

  Amber might not be Jonas’s biological child, but that didn’t matter to the director. His bond with that child was as strong as any that Rule had sensed between a Breed male and his own babe.

  Rule couldn’t fight Jonas’s argument.
<
br />   Gypsy had suffered, but her suffering, all but emotional, had ended that night nine years before, after the Breeds had poured into the area.

  Amber’s and Rachel’s continued with little hope that it would end in anything but the horrifying death Phillip Brandenmore had suffered seven months before.

  “Let the parents go.” Dane spoke up then, his voice low, the demand firm as the South African accent seemed to deepen. “Ban them from all Breed facilities and ban all Breeds from interacting with the family or their businesses.” His gaze met Rule’s. “As well as any Breed mates, or their daughter. Sever all connection to them, and that would contain the threat they represent.”

  Jonas snarled at the suggestion. “You believe that cutting them off from their daughter will convince them to tell us anything?” Fury tightened his expression. “Hell, you weren’t there the night their son was killed and their daughter nearly raped. They stared at her as though they didn’t know her while trying to warm their son’s hands. She stood in the fucking cold by herself, Dane, the scent of her pain and the rejection she felt running so deep it was enough to make me want to cry for her. She’s damned sure not cried for herself since, and I highly doubt they shed a fucking tear for her.”

  Jonas turned away from his half brother as Dane’s fist clenched atop the table where he sat, a grimace pulling at his features while Jonas stalked to the heavily reinforced windows at the side of the room.

  “I swore to her she would always be protected by the Breeds if her parents didn’t want her,” he sighed. “That she would always be safe with me.” Running the claw-tipped fingers around the back of his neck, Jonas breathed out wearily. “Then I left and never looked back. I didn’t check up on her, I didn’t send anyone out to watch over her. And I should have.” He turned back to them, his expression heavy. “As much as I regret their actions, though, I’m not responsible for her parents’ betrayal of her, then or now.” His voice hardened. “And I won’t be responsible for releasing them and giving them the chance to destroy the Breeds.” His gaze locked on Rule once again. “Or a friend, at a later date.”

  Rule had always believed that the responsibility Jonas carried for the Breed community was one the director carried, perhaps not easily, but without regret. In this moment, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the regret lay just as heavily upon him as the responsibility did. It was that he accepted both, knowing it was the only way to ensure the survival of the Breeds.

  “But you want me to stand aside and let you destroy my mate now?” Rule demanded, wondering if he would ever be able to handle the portion of that responsibility that he had accepted as division director. “If you convict her parents, Jonas, you’ll destroy her.”

  “I’ll crucify them,” Jonas snapped in ready agreement, his canines flashing in a promise of retribution. “If they can’t or won’t tell me who gave them that device, then I will make damned certain they’re punished for it. If I don’t, then I’m giving every son of a bitch with a grudge against the Breeds permission to use any of our mates’ families against us. And that I won’t do, Rule. Even for a friend. Even for your friendship.”

  Jonas was known to make concessions for his enforcers, especially those who gave their loyalty to him, that he would never make for another living being outside his mate. He’d always said there were few lines he wouldn’t cross for them.

  Evidently, Jonas had finally found a line.

  “Rule, he’s right.” Lawe spoke from the other side of the room, where he stood with his own mate, his senses reaching out to Rule, urging him to open, to allow the twin bond Rule had denied for so many months to merge with his. It was a demand Rule continued to deny. “If we don’t move now to show our determination to protect ourselves, then we’re giving future enemies the ammunition they need to escape justice later.”

  Breed Law was like a living, breathing entity with the potential to grow, or to wither, with each decision the Breeds made regarding it.

  “Unfortunately, even I have to agree with Jonas,” Callan sighed, his amber gaze holding a wealth of compassion as he sought out Rule’s. “If Jonas relents here, then any mate whose family members strike against us has precedence to get away with it unscathed later if it goes to trial. Just as with human law, we’re setting the strength or weaknesses of our own mandates with each action we take, just as we’re setting the strength of our honor and the example we make to our people if we attempt to subjugate the laws we set up ourselves.”

  “That’s a complete crock.” Dane leaned forward, his green eyes flashing furiously as he faced the group. “No one knows but those of us in this room, and your enforcer Thor, that anything is even amiss. By admitting to it to anyone, the McQuades would be signing their own death warrants. There’s no sense in destroying a young woman who has, from your accounts, Jonas, done everything she could to ensure the success of the Breed communities and the Breeds by working with this sect of warriors you’re so certain can lead you to Gideon. Show your willingness to stand by the loyalty she’s given by attempting to rectify this in a reasonable manner, and perhaps it would build enough trust that Rule could convince her to give him the information she may hold.”

  At this moment, for this meeting, Dane was a direct link to his father, the first Leo, who was overseeing the meeting via the comm link Dane wore with a specially designed additional video monitor attached to the audio wand. And the Leo’s opinion was never discounted.

  Often argued, rarely obeyed, but never discounted.

  Jonas glared at his brother before turning back to Rule. “Would it work?”

  The question was in no way an agreement, but it was a sign of consideration. And for that alone, Rule refused to lie to him. He owed Jonas far more than just the truth to this question.

  “At this time?” Rule breathed out heavily as he gripped the back of the chair that sat in front of him. “No. She’s loyal to them, believes implicitly in them. I can’t even get her to admit she works for them, let alone give you what you need to identify one of them.”

  Jonas turned back to Dane. “Any other suggestions, Junior?” he questioned him mockingly.

  “Arrogant little fuck,” Dane muttered as he sat back in his chair heavily. “You’ll be the death of me, you know.”

  God only knew what their father was muttering. Both father and legitimate son had their issues with Jonas. And it was well known that he had his issues with them as well.

  Jonas only glared at him for a moment before turning back to the room.

  A chill of foreboding raced down Rule’s back as the director’s gaze hardened and turned icy, and he knew what was coming.

  Just as he knew that the pain it would cause his mate was more than he could allow her to face.

  “No one here regrets this more than I,” Jonas stated as he turned to the alphas who were listening silently, considering each argument and its merits. “As director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs, gentlemen, I’ll need your signatures on both the arrest warrant as well as the—”

  “I’ll stand in the McQuades’ stead.” The decision sliced at his soul, and Rule knew, if accepted, the decision would ultimately destroy him. It would separate him from his mate, his brother, and the freedom he’d risked his life to attain. It would all be taken from him and he’d serve the rest of his life once again confined to a cell.

  It was a decision the man was willing to make.

  It was a decision the animal accepted with a sense of quiet resignation.

  Breed Law was a complicated, honor-driven set of mandates created to adapt and strengthen the Breed community as a whole. But it was written by compassionate men who believed in the inner strength and honor of the Breeds it was made to protect. It was also written to protect what they considered the very heart of the community as a whole. Their mates and their children. And the fact that there were times when certain circumstances could arise that would threaten their mates or their children within Breed Law. For those eventualities a Breed could purchase
a onetime pass for whatever the mate would have to face. A pass that would forever imprison him and ban him from any Breed associations.

  Shock held the room silent for long moments. Never had a Breed requested Self-Warrant, or even suggested requesting it for anyone. That one was now doing it, not for his mate, but to ensure that his mate did not face the pain of her parents’ actions, was unthinkable.

  “The hell you will.” Lawe surged forward, suddenly enraged as his mate gasped, gripping his arm and being nearly dragged behind him before Lawe came to a hard stop. “I won’t allow it, by God, you will not do this.”

  “You have no say in it,” Rule informed him, though he never once took his gaze from Jonas’s. “If the McQuades refuse or don’t have the information that will exonerate them, and if Gypsy refuses to give it, then I demand Self-Warrant. I’ll take their punishment as my own.”

  “Why?” Lawe roared out, enraged now, his eyes burning as Rule met his gaze calmly. “For God’s sake, Rule, tell me why you would give your life for those fucking bastards.”

  “She’s my mate,” Rule sighed heavily. “The burden she carries each day where her brother’s death is concerned is destroying her a little more every year, Lawe. It eats away at her soul like acid. If she lost her parents to Breed Law, she would never be able to live with the guilt of it. I’d lose her anyway. At least this way, she has a chance . . .”

  “No,” Lawe snarled, trying to break his mate’s grip to rush to his brother, to try to knock the sense back into him that Mating Heat seemed to have knocked out of him. “Goddammit, Rule, I won’t accept—”

  “There’s no one else I can trust to look after her, Lawe,” he stated heavily, knowing the burden his brother would carry with the request he was making. “No one else I could ever make see what I see in Gypsy, but you.”

  “I won’t do it,” Lawe snarled, enraged. “There’s not a chance in hell.”

  Sorrow surged through Rule as he opened a small part of himself to the emanations of the bond swirling around him. He gave his brother but a few small seconds to glimpse what had lived inside him since the moment he’d met Gypsy’s eyes across that crowded bar.

  The aching sorrow for the pain he sensed inside her, but also the depth of the pain he sensed that gouged at her tender soul. The nightmares the animal inside him sought to ease for his mate, and the love he’d felt for her since the night his animal instincts had bonded with her, nine years before.

  The sound that broke from Lawe’s throat was a roar of pure rage, shocking everyone but Rule. There was a reason he hadn’t allowed his brother in for the past two months. A reason he’d kept that shield firmly in place. Because his mate’s pain, her nightmares and her inability to accept that she deserved every ounce of the pure, steel-core devotion he felt for her was gouging those same wounds into his spirit as well.

  Gypsy didn’t love him, not as he loved her. The potential for it was there, he believed. Given a bit more time, he could have helped her heal enough of her inner self that she would have accepted his love for her, and accepted that she could love in return. But now, the chances of that time ever coming were diminishing by the second.

  Jonas didn’t speak for long seconds. Then he strode stiffly to the monitors on the wall and activated the link.

  “Yes, Director?” Thor stepped to the video console immediately.

  “Bring them out,” Jonas snapped.

  What the hell was he up to?

  Less than a minute later, Hansel and Greta McQuade stepped from the blacked-out room into the videoconferencing module.

  Greta had been weeping, while Hansel stood resolutely beside her.

  “You admitted to knowingly bringing a stealth device into a secured Breed location, is this true?” Jonas snapped.

  “We did,” Hansel answered for both of them.

  CHAPTER 25

  “My patience is at a fucking end, Flint,” she informed the Breed furiously. “Those are my parents in there and I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow Jonas Wyatt or Rule Breaker to browbeat them into admitting to something they may not have had a choice in.”

  A frown marred Flint’s brow as his surprise gleamed in his eyes for the barest second. “Is that what they do, Gypsy? Strange, I’ve always known both Jonas, as well as Rule, to be highly unlikely to browbeat anyone, especially where a mate is concerned. Jonas has bent over backward to accommodate every Breed Enforcer on his teams and their mates. And Rule is one of his most trusted commanders; I can’t see him doing anything less with his own mate. Or her parents.”

  Shame threatened to suck the fury from her, but nothing could penetrate the cold hard core of fear tearing her guts to shreds.

  “If they’re in trouble . . .” Her breathing hitched. “Please, Flint, let me see them. Let me help them,” she whispered, aware of Loki and Kandy coming in behind her. “They’re my parents.”

  “Are they?” he asked, gently, perhaps too gently. “I’ve seen very little proof of that, Gypsy. But if you’ll give me two minutes I’ll contact Assistant Director Brannigan and see if he can’t get in to talk to Jonas. Because this suite is on total lockdown. The only way to get through any of us is to kill us. Can you do that?”

  She hadn’t cried in nine years. The agony trapped inside her hadn’t had a release in so long that Gypsy had forgotten what the moisture in her eyes should feel like.

  Until she had to blink it back.

  She looked over his shoulder to the door, knowing she wasn’t getting in there, even if she did manage to kill every Breed blocking it. “You don’t understand.”

  “I’ve known you a long time, Gypsy,” he stated, that soft, compassionate tone tearing at her, reminding her of how many times Rule had spoken to her with the same gentleness, that same understanding, that she had made herself ignore. “And you know what? I’ve seen Kandy’s parents rush to her side many times. I’ve yet to see them rush to your side once. Even when I know for a fact that you needed them.”

  That didn’t matter. Kandy had needed them, she had deserved them. What had Gypsy deserved after leading Mark to his death? Besides, she had never asked her parents to come to her, had she?

  “Just get me in there, Flint,” she demanded, her voice so hoarse, so filled with dread that she barely recognized it.

  “What is he talking about, Gypsy? Gypsy, what’s going on?” Kandy whispered behind her, fear trembling in her tone. “What’s happened to Mom and Dad?”

  Gypsy’s fist clenched at her sides. She didn’t need Flint or Rule to tell her what had happened. She knew her parents. Or rather, she knew her mother. Greta McQuade had gotten away with slipping the device in before, she believed. She would have been convinced she could do so again.

  God, why hadn’t she gone last night when Rule had refused to allow her to leave alone? If she had confronted him, if she had demanded it, he would have taken her, she realized. She knew Rule, almost as well as she knew many of the other Breeds. But she had slept with Rule, and she knew things about him that a woman only knew about the man she chose as her lover.

  Stepping to the side of the door as the other six Breeds covered the panel, she watched as he touched the comm link at his ear and flipped down the small wand to rest at the side of his cheek.

  “Yes, sir, Mr. and Mrs. McQuade’s daughters are at the door. Gypsy requests access to ascertain the charges being brought against her parents and to assure herself of their well-being.”

  God no.

  Oh God, if they charged her parents with Breed Law, there would be no fixing the damage it would make to their lives.

  “Gypsy, what is he talking about?” Kandy cried out, though her voice was low, from behind her. “What charges?”

  When she didn’t answer, her sister grabbed her arm firmly, sending a rush of almost violent pain stabbing at her flesh before she hurriedly jerked back, turning to face the young woman she had always tried to protect.

  “What is he talking about?” her sister demanded, tears bright and th
reatening to fall from her eyes as the Coyote behind her, Loki, stood with his back to the wall, his head lowered as he apparently stared at the tips of his dusty, worn boots.

  For a second, she could swear she had met him before his arrival in Window Rock two months before. Something about his shaggy, dark blond hair kept tugging at her memory before she was forced to focus her attention on her sister instead.

  “It’s a long story, Kandy,” she muttered, swiping her fingers through her unbound hair, and glanced back at Flint.

  She wanted to hear what he was saying, but her sister refused to wait.

 
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