Rule breaker, p.34
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       Rule Breaker, p.34
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  that hidden part of his mate touched his senses as he felt her drift into sleep. It reached out to him, and still locked to her, buried deep inside her, he felt the tears she still held inside, felt the pain, the rage, and the ragged uncertainties that filled that dark corner of her soul.

  “Don’t cry. Be brave, Peanut,” Mark’s voice whispered through her mind, as it did each time she tried to sleep, tried to escape the guilt that had plagued her for so long.

  He was trying to give her a message that had been unable to penetrate the shocked, terrified senses of a fifteen-year-old child.

  He’d always told her that her tears healed all her wounds. He’d told her she didn’t have to be brave all the time, that was what big brothers were for. And he had hated the pet name, Peanut, that his best friend had given her.

  It was the only clue he had to give her.

  Jason had betrayed them.

  “I have you, Gypsy,” Rule whispered against her ear then. “You can cry now, baby. You don’t have to be brave alone anymore. Never again, sweetheart. You’ll never be alone again.”

  CHAPTER 28

  Kandy wasn’t waiting on her as Gypsy assumed she would be the next morning as she was taken from the hotel to the secured base where her parents were being held until Gypsy’s forty-eight hours were up.

  So far, neither Dane Vanderale nor Dog had come forward, but with a weary heart she knew it no longer mattered. Rule would take care of the situation before the time was up.

  Inhaling slowly, deeply, she stepped into the surprisingly comfortable rooms they were waiting in. The sitting room was tastefully appointed with a private bathroom and small bedroom off the side.

  Her mother sat alone on the sofa, while her father stood at the small window on the far left side of the room that looked out onto the desert.

  There were no security cameras, no electronic security period in the building she had been taken to. Old-fashioned locks and radios were used, though the weapons the Breeds carried were anything but old-fashioned.

  Her mother looked up as the doors closed, her tear-swollen face still appearing far younger than her years while her green eyes were dark with grief.

  “Gypsy.” It was her father who moved quickly to her, stopping a second before touching her, his gaze suddenly frantic as he stared down at her. “Mr. Wyatt said we couldn’t touch you,” he said hoarsely, the hand that had dropped to his side lifting, then falling helplessly before he raked both hands through his hair. “I haven’t hugged you in so long, have I, baby girl?”

  Baby girl. That was what Mark had called her. It was what her parents had called the tiny, delicate little bundle they’d named Kandy Sweet.

  Gypsy felt her throat tighten, the tears she could feel building in the ragged depths of her soul threatening to spill at any moment.

  She swallowed tightly as a hard, single shake of her head did nothing to dispel the emotions tearing her apart.

  “Jonas will release you sometime tomorrow,” she stated, unable to answer the question. “There’s a gag order on the crime you’re being held for until you can be questioned regarding the reasons for trying to betray the Breeds—”

  “They’ve always meant more to you than anyone else did.” Her mother’s tone was hoarse, tears and anger filling her voice as she rose shakily to her feet.

  “That’s enough, Greta,” Hans demanded, turning to her, his expression tortured. “For God’s sake, let this go.”

  “When you were five and the Breeds revealed themselves, you cried for them and told Mark all you wanted was for someone to save them. Until then, Mark hadn’t involved himself in hacking, or in trying to save anyone. He was a good boy who loved his family . . .”

  “Mark still loved his family,” Gypsy stated, her heart breaking, burning in pain as the accusation deepened in her mother’s eyes.

  “For God’s sake, he acted as though you were his child,” her mother cried painfully as her father turned and paced away, a grimace contorting his face. “From the moment you were born. He even diapered and bathed you.”

  “Because otherwise she cried in constant pain because her diaper wasn’t changed often enough, or stank of urine because she wasn’t bathed regularly,” her father finally bit out, turning back to the room as Gypsy’s gaze swung back to him in surprise. “We were too busy building a business that went nowhere and running a store that was no more than a fucking joke.”

  Anger filled his tone as tears fell down her mother’s face once again.

  “That isn’t true,” her mother sobbed.

  “God, Greta, it is true. Mark was barely ten when Gypsy was born, and within months he was the one caring for her, because we were too damned busy or too damned drunk,” he assured her with such loving gentleness that Gypsy had to turn away from the sight of it or lose control of the tears she was barely holding in check. “By the time Gypsy was fifteen, neither of us even knew who or what our child was becoming, except that she was Mark’s. And Mark made certain we didn’t forget it if we tried to step in.”

  “No . . .” Greta fought to disagree, the pain that filled her expression so great that the hollow grief in her eyes was almost alive.

  “For God’s sake, admit it.”

  Gypsy flinched at the anger in her father’s voice as it rose in response to the continued denial.

  Greta lowered herself back to the couch, shaking her head as she lifted shaking hands to cover her tear-drenched face.

  “Wyatt told us that night what happened,” he said furiously, moving to the couch to stand over her mother, his rare display of anger shocking Gypsy. “If Gypsy had been home that night she would have died as well, and you know it. Just as Mark would have . . .”

  “If she hadn’t made him hack those bastards, then it wouldn’t have happened.” Her mother came off the couch, rage engulfing her as she pointed a shaking finger at her daughter and faced her husband in blind grief. “She made him do it.”

  “I’m starting to wonder if your parents weren’t right where your mental abilities are concerned,” he accused her roughly. “Because God as my witness, Greta, we both know even now that there wasn’t a force on this Earth that would have convinced him to do something he didn’t want to do. And that’s the same lesson he taught the child he raised. He raised her, and he did a damned fine job doing so, because from what I’ve heard, she’s done nothing but honor him since his death.”

  “You’re as blind to her as Mark was,” Greta cried out as Gypsy watched the anger now flowing between her parents.

  “And you’re still just as blind to the fact that you’ve always blamed an innocent child for the fact that Mark had far more of a life than the one we forced upon him when he took her to raise.”

  She’d never seen such displays from them, but as she watched them, she realized the tension she’d always felt around them might not have been just the anger her mother felt at Mark’s death but perhaps their anger with each other as well.

  “The person who betrayed Mark is at fault, no one else,” Gypsy interceded during the apparent lull in the argument. “Mark lived the life he wanted to live, even I know that.

  “I was too irresponsible.” Her father shoved his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts before pacing to the window once again. “Too damned stupid to be the father I should have been.” He shook his head as he turned his back on them. “And your mother was no better. She simply refuses to accept it.”

  Her mother’s breathing hitched on a sob as she sat down once again, staring at the floor.

  “Where’s Kandy?” Greta whispered a second later, her head lifting to stare back at Gypsy miserably. “I kept trying to keep ahead of her at the hotel so she wouldn’t be in the elevator with us, just in case we were caught. She didn’t know about the device. You can’t punish her.”

  “I’m not punishing anyone, Mom,” she breathed out painfully, aching for the parents she’d never had, and the ones that had never existed. “I thought Kandy would be here, but sh
e must have decided to wait.”

  “She decided she can’t face either of us,” Hans sighed, his back still turned to them. “And I don’t blame her. I don’t blame either of you.”

  Weary acceptance stooped his shoulders as Greta covered her face with her hands once again and lost the battle with her sobs.

  He turned back, glanced at his wife heavily, then stared back at Gypsy. “What will happen to your mother, Gypsy?”

  He loved her, Gypsy knew. Loved her mother until nothing or no one else mattered. Or had mattered.

  “As I said, you’ll be released soon, by tomorrow afternoon, though mentioning this to anyone will see you very publicly arrested and formal charges filed.” She pushed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “Don’t say anything, pretend it never happened, and if we’re extremely lucky, perhaps I can make it all go away.”

  “You?” Her mother questioned her, voice rough and filled with doubt. “How can you do anything?”

  “The same way I managed to get you released pending a review by the Breed Ruling Cabinet of the charges and a decision made regarding whether justice would be best served by killing my parents for breaking Breed Law or convincing them to cooperate by turning over the person who gave you a nit equipped with a technology more advanced than any they’ve seen so far,” she informed the other woman, realizing that the bond she’d always ached for with her mother had never been there.

  She’d indeed become an orphan when her brother had died.

  “And you were able to do this how? A good-time party girl. How did you make the Breeds owe you so much that they would do that for you?” Her mother’s disbelief in her ability to do anything but party was apparent.

  “I guess party girls have their uses,” she sighed, resigned to the fact that her mother would never accept the truth.

  Why hadn’t she seen any of this over the years? she wondered. Hell, she hadn’t even heard rumors to suggest the woman her mother truly was beneath her quiet, generous façade. Or perhaps it really was just her elder daughter she so hated.

  “Thank you, Gypsy,” her father said softly, the regret and, surprisingly, a father’s love, echoing in his voice. “Even I saw the rapport you’ve developed with them. And I meant what I said earlier, Mark would have been incredibly proud of the woman he raised.”

  “Give them what they need, Dad,” she all but begged him. “Please. Don’t let this happen to you.”

  He gave her mother a weary look then. “I didn’t even know she had the damned thing,” he said softly. “Only she can answer that, and she won’t even tell me.”

  Because she believed she’d found the closest she could get to the son she had lost, Gypsy thought sadly.

  Maybe, she thought. If it just hadn’t taken her nine years to figure out what he had been trying to tell her.

  “We need to call Jason,” her mother said then. “He’ll have to make some decisions regarding the company. Perhaps Kandy can handle the Breed account . . .”

  “Mother, you know that account is gone now,” Gypsy sighed as she fought to push back the fury at the sound of Jason’s name. “The contract you signed became null and void the second you brought that first device into Jonas’s suite. Surely you realize that?”

  The look her mother shot her was one of resentment and anger.

  “How do we handle losing the contract if we can’t say anything?” Hansel asked then, confused, wary. “What do we do, Gypsy?”

  “They can’t afford to take that contract,” her mother burst out then, her expression becoming calculating, conniving. “There’s more to this than merely helping us because of her.” She flung a hand in Gypsy’s direction. “She’s lying and we all know it.”

  Guilt, anger and grief had destroyed her mother, Gypsy thought sadly, wondering if there was any way to repair the damage Jason Harte had inflicted when he betrayed his best friend.

  Hansel McQuade ignored his wife’s declaration but continued to stare back at Gypsy.

  “Jonas will discuss everything with you before you’re released,” she promised, tired, drained by the knowledge that nothing could ever convince her mother that there had been no way to save her only son once his best friend had learned his secrets.

  “Gypsy,” her father sighed, the regret, the desperation in his gaze breaking her heart.

  She shook her head at whatever he would have said.

  “I need to know who she was working with, Dad.” She didn’t bother asking her mother. There was far too much anger there. And she needed to hear it. She needed to hear his name.

  “He doesn’t know,” her mother bit out then, furious. “I never told him. And I won’t tell you.”

  “You’ve already lost a son,” Gypsy stated, the chill building inside her unrelenting now. “Dad will be convicted beside you. He’ll die with you. Is that what you really want?”

  Greta’s eyes widened as tears began to fall once again, sobs shaking her shoulders. “If you had just stayed home,” her mother cried brokenly. “Mark called Jason that night. He told him he had to find you. You didn’t even tell Mark you were leaving as you were supposed to. Jason told us all about it, Gypsy.” Greta’s strangled scream was accompanied by an accusing finger pointing to her with shaky determination. “Jason told us how you were responsible.”

  Gypsy shook her head, fury building, tearing at her.

  “Mark knew where I was going,” she snapped back at her mother, furious now. “I would have never left without telling him, Mother. Never. He knew of the only party in the desert that night, and he knew I had wanted to go. Just as he knew that if he yelled at me and ordered me not to go without discussing it with me, I would sneak out and go anyway.” Gypsy had to swallow past the hatred burning inside her now. The need to kill. To destroy Jason as she had been destroyed. “Mark knew me. He raised me. Just as Jason knew you.” She couldn’t hold back the contempt in her voice now. “Knew you so well that he knew he could lie to you and you’d never even face me with it,” Gypsy cried out. “You couldn’t even face me with his lies. You let me rip myself apart day after day for nine years and never told me . . .”

  She turned away, fighting to breathe, to find that place in her heart where she would always remember, they were her parents!

  “I have to go,” she finally whispered, the realization that Jason had destroyed more than he probably ever knew burning through her mind.

  “Gypsy, I’m so sorry,” her father whispered, and the sorrow he felt filled his eyes, his expression. “Tell Mr. Wyatt we’ll do whatever he needs.” He glanced at her mother before turning back to her. “We’ll tell him everything he needs to know.”

  He watched her with such resignation and regret that her heart broke for him.

  “I wish . . .” Her voice broke, taking precious moments to find her control once again. “I wish I could have stopped this from happening.”

  “You can’t stop what you’re unaware of, sweetheart. The blame doesn’t lie with you, it lies with me.” His voice was heavy with regret, with pain and a resignation born of the knowledge that some things could never be fixed.

  She nodded shortly, turned and moved to the door.

  “Gypsy?” Her mother’s voice had her pausing, her fingers on the doorknob, though she didn’t turn back. “Stay away from Kandy, don’t destroy her too.”

  “God, Greta.” Shock filled her father’s voice now.

  She didn’t wait to hear more. Pulling the door open, she stepped out, closed it behind her, then stood as still as stone to pull in a ragged breath.

  “Mark adored you, Whisper.”

  Her head jerked up, her gaze meeting the emerald depths of Dane Vanderale’s quiet, compassionate one as he leaned against the far wall, his arms crossed over his broad chest negligently.

  “I know he did.” She nodded before glancing around, realizing that the Breed guarding the door had quietly disappeared.

  “I have in my possession a video taken from your home the night your brother d
ied,” he told her as she blinked back at him. “He was actually on the phone with me that night as I ordered forces to his location. As Jonas told you, the Breeds were unaware of his location. Until he learned you were in danger. He called me just before you left the house and told me how he intended to get you to Lobo Reever’s ranch by speaking so cruelly to you. I advised him to take you and run instead, but he was far too certain he would be unable to protect you long enough for my forces to reach you.”

  One shock after another, Gypsy thought. Would she be able to bear many more surprises?

  “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked him, unaware that the words were even a thought. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

  Breathing in deeply, he lowered his head for long moments, the tension she’d never seen around this man shimmering in the air for but a moment before he once again became the lazy slouch he pretended to be.

  “Would it have made a difference?” His gaze lifted to hers quickly, no doubt catching her answer before she was aware of it herself.

  “He was my brother . . .”

  “He told me once he was the father he’d always imagined he would be,” he broke in, his tone soft, gentle as a reminiscent smile tugged at his lips. “He told me of the young girl he’d taken as a babe, bathed and powdered her, comforted and held her when he was but a child himself. Ten, I believe.”

  She nodded. “He was ten when I was born.”

  “And he took one look at the tiny scrap you were and cherished you from that first look,” he told her. “We talked many times. I may not have known where he was, or who he was exactly, but I knew many things about him.”

  “Did you know who had betrayed him?”

  Had this man allowed Jason to live after Mark had died?

  A flame lit in his eyes then, only to disappear a second later. But she saw it, the rage that flared for that briefest moment.

  “Had I known who betrayed Mark McQuade, I promise you that I, Dog, and Cullen Maverick would have torn him apart, piece by bloody piece.” The South African accent deepened, thickened with the fury he didn’t bother to hide now. “There would have been no hole, no crevice he could have hidden within, Gypsy. I swear this to you.”

  She nodded.

  “Tell me who it was.”

  She almost answered. At the last second, the words locked in her throat as determination tightened inside her, overwhelming her.

  “He’s mine,” she swore flatly. “He owes me far more than he owes you.”

  Dane’s eyes narrowed on her, the green flickering eerily as she stared back at him, her fingers curling at her sides as she fought to rein in the pulsing fury, the lancing pain . . .

  Suddenly, the sweeping emotions threatening her control calmed, eased, and she felt Rule.

  God, she felt him. Right there in her heart, wrapping himself around her, somehow aware of the struggle playing out within her soul.

  Dane’s lips twitched as though aware of what was occurring. Could he know, she wondered? “He won’t let you go alone. You know that, don’t you, Gypsy? Vengeance will be diluted by a mate who will refuse to allow you to kill. One who will push you back and shed that blood himself.”

  “How do you think this will convince me to let you shed it instead, Dane?” Quizzically, she watched him, seeing the calculation, the gentle manipulations the Breed used as others would use a weapon. Efficiently, unmercifully.

  “I was merely hoping.” He shrugged.

  “Strangely,” she told him, “I really don’t give a fuck who cuts his throat, as long as someone does. And as long as they wait until I get the answers I want. Then I don’t care how he’s sent to hell.”

  “Understandable,” he agreed before breathing in deeply and straightening against the wall. “Do me a favor, dear, don’t tell anyone but your mate I was here, if you don’t mind. I rather enjoy my American family, and learning who you saw the night your contact met with Dog and me could endanger our slowly merging bonds.” His grin was mocking. Too mocking.

  “None of my business, Dane,” she promised him. “As long as Jonas gets what he wants and my parents walk away from this, then it’s really none of my business.”

  “And they deserve to walk away?” he asked as she turned to leave.

  Gypsy lowered her head, all too aware of the fact that she’d linked her fingers in front of herself nervously.

  “They don’t deserve it,” she answered honestly. “But no one was hurt, Dane. No harm was done. And I don’t think I could survive seeing them punished when I should have known what was happening. When I should have remembered what Mark was trying to tell me.”

  If she had, then she would never have spent nine years believing in a guilt she hadn’t owned. And maybe, just maybe, her mother wouldn’t have ended up hating her.

  With that, she turned and moved along the short hall to the main room of the facility where her parents were being held. There, Lawe and Diane waited along with half a dozen Breeds to escort her back to the hotel.

  “Ready?” Lawe came to his feet, his expression concerned.

  “I’m ready.” She nodded before turning to Diane. “Has my sister been found?”

  “She’s still at the hotel.” Diane nodded. “She’s refusing to see them.”

  Gypsy understood that one. She wished she had stayed at the hotel herself now.

  “Has anyone contacted Jonas yet?” she asked Lawe then, knowing Dane had been there for a reason.

  Lawe grimaced. “Sorry, Gypsy, not yet. Are you sure they will?”

  She nodded shortly, remembering the look in Dane’s eyes as she turned away from him.

  He was a calculating son of a bitch, she suspected, but his compassion, the empathy she sensed he felt and his love for not just his species, but also the family he spoke of, had been like a flame refusing to be quenched.

  “They will,” she stated resolutely. “Someone will. They can’t afford not to.” Then, squaring her shoulders, she moved for the door. “I need to leave now, there are things I have to do.”

  She had to see a man about a betrayal and the blood he owed her. But first, she had to find the man stroking her senses from a distance that should have made such a thing impossible.

  The Breed who owned her heart.

  ...

  Rule stepped into Jonas’s suite, finding the director instantly where he stood, staring through the tall windows onto the desert below.

  “I should fucking kill you.” The animalistic growl in Jonas’s voice should have filled him with wariness. It was a sign, a signal that Jonas could be making a trip to a hungry volcano very soon.

  He wasn’t a fit meal for Madame Lava, though, Rule assured himself as he stared at the stiff set of the other Breed’s shoulders.

  “You have all the information he has, Jonas,” Rule assured him. “I’m certain of it. There’s nothing the Unknown, or the Bengal Judd has, that can help Amber or the Bureau.”

  “And you know this as a fact, how?” Jonas turned then, the pupils of his eyes obliterated by the dark, stormy
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