Rule breaker, p.37
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       Rule Breaker, p.37
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  d.

  “I was working with the Council,” he whispered. “The Genetics Council. I was one of their spies in the Nation, had helped them identify several breeders with certain traits they were looking for, along with one of the Nation’s leaders. Mark was getting too close to me, but he was also getting very close to identifying the more important political contact within the Nation. I planted the video and audio devices at his workstations because you couldn’t put shit on that fucking computer of his without him knowing. When I saw him hacking into another spy’s cell phone records, I knew it was just a matter of time.”

  “You knew what he was doing? That he was hacking the Council’s records and hadn’t turned him in before that?” she scoffed.

  “God, Gypsy, he was my fucking friend,” he cried, his voice torn now, ragged. “I loved him like a brother. But he would have found out I was working with them. He would have learned things I couldn’t afford for anyone to learn.” He was crying now. It made her sick to see his tears, to see what she knew had to be false sincerity.

  “You didn’t love Mark,” she whispered. “Mark benefited you, nothing more.”

  “No.” He shook his head, his expression creased with pain now. “I did love him, Gypsy. But I loved my father, my life, and I loved Thea.” He inhaled raggedly. “My father worked with them as well, that’s how I ended up working for them. Dad was the one who chose Morningstar Martinez to be taken by them as well as several other young girls from other parts of the Nation. He and whoever his friend was within the Navajo Tribal Council.” His head lowered again, tears dripping to the urine stain on his pants. “I was assigned to gather information on any Breeds coming into the Nation. Just before he hacked into that covert agency officer’s cell phone files, Mark was tracking two teenage girls and two Bengals being slipped in by the Unknown. He worked with them a lot. Once I learned that, I knew I would have to keep an eye on him, so I set the audio and video at the two places I knew he worked most often.”

  “How did you know who he was helping?” She had to grip Rule’s hand with all her strength to hold back, to keep from killing him now, before she ever learned the full truth.

  “When I found out Mark was hacking Council files,” he said roughly. “The Council was searching for a hacker and had heard rumors of the Unknown. They were searching for him for years.” His head jerked back up. “I knew for over two years what he was doing and I never breathed a word of it,” he cried out. “Not once, Gypsy.”

  “Grody’s orders were to kill both of us.” The tears didn’t faze her. He was going to die. As Gideon said, it was just a matter of how.

  “I knew how close he was to you,” he said roughly, his head still lowered. “I didn’t know what you knew, and I couldn’t risk you suspecting it was me. When the Council sent out the order to take him, you weren’t included in it, even though I told them how close the two of you were. You weren’t considered a threat. I called Grody myself and gave the order.”

  “Then you moved right in, took over his life, his company, his parents and his fiancée,” she laughed mockingly. “Was it worth it, Jason? Did you get what you wanted?”

  He shook his head. “She never forgot him. She never loved me like she loved Mark.”

  There wasn’t even a second of warning. Between one heartbeat and the next she went from holding herself back from killing him to being pulled backward, sheltered by Rule’s hard body as a gunshot rang out.

  “Fuck!” Gideon cursed.

  Lights flared, low, but dissipating many of the shadows as Gypsy struggled to gain enough purchase beneath Rule’s body and the recliner he’d taken shelter behind.

  “Thea?” she whispered, shocked. “Let me go, Rule.”

  Diane was moving toward the other woman as she stood still, silent, the handgun now held loosely in her hands as she stared at the man she’d married seven years before.

  Rule let her rise slowly, holding on to her until Diane gripped the weapon and slid it slowly from Thea’s hand.

  “Thea.” Gypsy rushed to the woman her brother had loved so deeply that he’d begun to try pulling back from the shadowy group he’d worked with.

  “Thea?” she whispered again as the delicate blonde lifted her head, violet eyes staring back at her dully.

  “The night Mark died,” Thea whispered. “I was attacked outside my dorm room.”

  “I know.” Gypsy frowned back at her, hearing the ragged pain still echoing in her voice.

  “I was carrying Mark’s baby.” Tears spilled from her eyes then, running in rivulets down her face as a cry tore past her lips. “I miscarried. I lost our baby and I always knew.” Thea’s fists clenched and pressed into her stomach as her expression collapsed in agony. “I knew whoever killed Mark sent someone to hurt me too.” Her gaze swung to where Jason sat limply in the chair he was tied to, the front of his shirt now soaked with blood from the bullet that had torn into his heart. “I knew, and I swore, if the chance came, I’d kill him.” Hatred filled her tone now. Her eyes were so dark they looked bruised, shattered. “He’s betrayed everything I’ve believed in my whole life and destroyed everyone I loved. If I could kill him again, I would.”

  She wrapped her arms around the woman she’d always regretted had never been her sister-in-law and held her. Rule moved behind Thea, staring back at her, compassion, somber regret and a question in his eyes.

  “It’s over,” she whispered, not just for Thea, but for Rule as well. “The monster’s dead now. It’s over.”

  With that, Rule gave a sharp nod, and as Gypsy and Diane eased Thea to the lone recliner in the room, he and Lawe began the work of disposing of Jason’s body.

  Gideon stood silently, watchfully.

  Waiting.

  Thank you, she mouthed silently, wondering if he would understand the gift he had given her in ensuring she wasn’t forced to battle Rule for the confrontation she’d been given with Jason.

  He nodded once, his gaze returning to Rule and Lawe.

  “Give us a hand, dammit,” Rule commanded him. “We need to have his body dumped—”

  “Leave it,” Gideon growled, and she swore the stripes across his face weren’t as dark as they had been when she’d gotten her first glimpse of him. “I know what to do. Get these women the hell out of here and I’ll take care of it. Just get the scent of their pain the fuck away from me.”

  Turning, he stalked to the far end of the cavern, crossed his arms over his chest and waited.

  “Let’s go,” Rule decided, obviously more than willing to take him up on his offer. “I’ve had enough of that bastard’s stink for the night.”

  Lawe lifted Thea into his arms as he and Diane moved toward the entrance of the cavern. Rule’s arm went around Gypsy, pulling her to his side and following quickly.

  Jonas could never know about this, she knew. It was the deal Rule had made with the devil nine years before, the first time he betrayed his friend when he’d identified the Bengal Judd and struck a bargain. What was one more, he’d breathed out roughly after Gideon’s message had come through hours before. After all, the files the Bengal had left Jonas had given them everything they needed to ensure Amber’s health. She would live. Something she wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been for Brandenmore.

  Who could have known Amber had been only weeks away from being diagnosed with the same virulent leukemia that had nearly killed one of the young women Jonas had searched for, Honor Roberts?

  But Brandenmore had taken the proof of it. Vials of blood he’d taken from the baby before giving her that first injection held the proof. Blood samples Gideon had left with the files, along with records of his own tests on it.

  Her age, the disease and a small chromosome Gideon had identified and notated, and an observation he’d left that it needed to be studied, were the reasons the serum hadn’t killed the baby but would kill an adult every time.

  The reason why Amber was slowly becoming a Breed as well.

  ...

  Sp
eeding away from the cavern and back to the hotel, she sat still, silent, a restlessness gripping her now that it was over. A restlessness she had no idea how to identify. She’d never felt it before. Never known it existed.

  But it burned in her chest, wrapped around her heart, and urged her to . . .

  She stared into the desert, closed her eyes and wondered how in the hell she was possibly going to be able to do it.

  CHAPTER 31

  Genetics were a bitch, especially Breed genetics.

  Rule sat in the shadows of the bar that night, tapping his fingers against the small round table where he sat and grimacing at the low growl rumbling in his throat.

  Gypsy was with her family again. Her parents, and then her sister, she’d stated. She had decisions to make. He had a feeling those decisions affected him more than she was letting on.

  She was his fucking mate. What the hell was the problem here? It wasn’t like there was divorce. She couldn’t run and never see him again.

  And she wanted him. The sweet smell of her pussy had tempted him to convince her to wait to deal with her family. The heat building in her, in him, tempted him to claim what was his and just fucking tell her how it was going to be.

  That wouldn’t work with Gypsy, though, he thought with a sigh. Order her, and she’d do the exact opposite. In those precious moments he’d spent buried so deep inside her soul that there was no beginning, no end between them, he’d learned quite a bit about his stubborn, determined mate.

  He’d learned enough to know that the distance she’d put between them could only mean one of two things. Either she was deciding how to accept a future with him, or she was deciding how to throw him out of her life.

  He realized he was growling again, that low dangerous rumble building in his chest.

  Son-of-a-bitch Lion genes. The bastard inside him was pissed and wouldn’t just let it go any more than Rule was willing to let his mate go. Unfortunately, the beast inside him was snapping at the man Rule was, enraged with him for giving their mate the time she needed.

  He almost rolled his eyes at the thought. As though they were fucking separate entities or something.

  The irritation building in the animal sent an overwhelming urge inside Rule to pace, to satisfy the clawing restlessness.

  To find Gypsy.

  To fill their kiss with the taste of peppermint and chocolate that the mating hormone seemed infused with—no wonder he hadn’t recognized the minute amount that had slipped from the glands as he chased her.

  His lip lifted, a snarl almost sounding in his throat again.

  Damn you, settle the fuck down.

  Directing the fierce order to the animal crouched and ready to spring, he was on the verge of snarling himself.

  Don’t even think about it.

  That involuntary, muted growl rumbled in his chest as his instincts snapped at him again, like sharp teeth raking his mind.

  He could feel each instinct as though it were an alternate personality, sharing with him the irritation and restlessness burning inside it.

  He’d never bothered to ask other Breeds if they could sense their animal in such a way. Hell, he wasn’t sure he’d get the answer he wanted to hear, and in this case, he wasn’t sure he wanted to accept any other answer.

  Intelligent. Cunning. Sometimes enraged. Always restless.

  Where Gypsy was concerned, just damned pissed and eager to get back to her.

  The animal was ready to pace at this point, or fight. A fight would feel damned good. Fists bunched and slamming into flesh, enraged roars echoing around him.

  Hell. The fight would just alleviate the burning aggravation of being locked out of his mate’s senses. How the fuck had she managed to do that anyway?

  Rubbing his tongue against his teeth to ease the irritation in the small, swollen glands, Rule grimaced as he realized he was only torturing himself. After all, each time the glands were stroked, more of the mating hormone spilled.

  Hormonal Mating Glands.

  He wanted to snort at the title as he slouched back in his seat once again and lifted the beer in front of him to his lips. Tilting the bottle, he relished the chill bite of bitterness as it raced over his taste buds, wishing its effects would sedate the animal that suddenly wanted to snarl in displeasure.

  What the hell do you think you want? he thought with a snap of anger, wondering at his own sanity as he attempted to push back the irritated presence.

  A growl rumbled in his chest, bringing an immediate scowl to his face as he glared into the dimly lit bar he’d entered about four beers ago.

  Go back to sleep, why don’tcha? he ordered the creature. That’s what you fucking get for playing “Jonas” games with me for nine fucking years.

  Manipulating, calculating sons of bitches. It bit his ass to imagine a creature smart enough to fucking hide what it was doing in his subconscious from him. As though the animal genetics were separate. What the fuck was up with that?

  He looked at the beer. How many had he had again?

  One too many, he was starting to believe.

  Another rumble burred just beneath his breath.

  A sound of irritation and impatience.

  Shut the fuck up before I go hunt those pills Merc took so he wouldn’t have to deal with this shit!

  For years, Mercury Warrant, one of their most primal Lion Breeds, had been forced to take daily medication to hold back the last phase of Breed insanity known as feral fever.

  Those drugs had kept his animal instincts in check in such a way that it was like putting the animal inside him into a deep, cold sleep.

  He almost gave a rather insane bark of laughter as the highly advanced Lion genetics suddenly stilled as though surprised by the threat. He had the sudden, vague impression of the animal lurking inside him sitting back on its haunches and glaring at him uncertainly, as though debating whether he would actually carry out the threat.

  “There you go,” he gritted out, taking another lengthy drink of the cold beer before breathing out heavily.

  The reaction might be a little too weird to suit him, but at least the beast seemed willing to sit back rather than aggravate the shit out of him.

  Hell, he shouldn’t be here drinking. He should be with his mate. Touching her. Loving her. Doing as he’d intended and whispering his love to her, giving her the chance to realize that was what she felt for him as well.

  He knew she did. He’d felt it on the way back to the hotel earlier that night. Like a pulse of heat she’d lost control of, burning through his heart, his soul, for the slightest second.

  Just enough to make him hungry, greedy for more.

  His chest clenched, and the animal jumped forward again as though to take complete advantage of the slight weakness.

  Back the fuck off!

  Nostrils flaring, tensing, he restrained the inner animal forcibly as he wondered if he should attempt to learn the cause of the genetics suddenly rising inside him.

  But doing that would require scheduling a session with Dr. Morrey, the Lion Breed physiological specialist and Jonas’s little medical spy. And he didn’t trust her so well after she’d attempted to destroy Mercury.

  Admittedly, she’d been drugged and not exactly working with a fully operational hamster wheel there, but still. It had happened. Rule was pretty sure he didn’t want to have to experience it himself.

  As he finished off the beer and placed the bottle to the side with the other four empty bottles, his gaze was drawn to the Breed entering the establishment.

  Lawe didn’t join him for a drink anymore, as he used to.

  That mating bullshit, Rule thought angrily, as he had the vaguest impression of the Lion inside him snapping back at him angrily.

  Go to sleep, prick.

  Lawe’s blue eyes were narrowed on him, his expression thoughtful.

  Catching the bartender’s eye, Rule gave a short little nod to indicate another order of the whiskey shots and beer he’d been drinking. Lawe pulled out
a chair, sitting down before catching the bartender’s gaze as well and pointing to the four empty bottles Rule had set behind the shot glasses to indicate the beer he wanted.

  Turning back to him, Lawe propped his arms on the table, leaning forward intently as Rule remained slouched back with all apparent laziness.

  The laziness was an illusion. The animal inside him was growling, snarling, snapping furiously because he refused to seek out his mate. Refused to demand, to beg, whatever it took to ensure she didn’t walk away.

  She’s mated to us, he reminded the creature absently. She can’t walk away.

  As stubborn as she was . . .

  Fuck. Another growl sounded, this one more dangerous than the one before.

  Lawe lifted a brow mockingly. “Rule, have you considered the fact that there’s a high probability, as far as I’m concerned, considering your penchant for these little games you play, that you could be related to Jonas?”

  Was he serious?

  Rule glared back at his brother resentfully.

  “Go to hell,” he grumbled, wondering seriously if Mercury had any of those instinct sedatives he’d once taken left in his possession.

  Just that quickly his instincts settled back, making him wonder seriously if the animal genes weren’t somehow trying to detach into a separate personality.

  ...

  Lawe scratched the side of his jaw, still watching his brother closely.

  “What’s going on, Rule?” he asked quietly. “Why are you here rather than with your mate?”

  Rule shook his head slowly before running his fingers through his hair in a gesture of irritation. “I needed a drink.”

  Had he? Lawe watched him closely, still sensing that closed door to his brother’s thoughts.

  “I can’t even sense when you’re lying to me anymore,” Lawe stated, pausing as the waiter brought their drinks.

  Rule went for the whiskey first, tossing it back with a grimace and clench of his teeth as the fiery burn seared his insides.

  Lawe’s gaze narrowed, following his hand as he placed the shot glass next to the four others sitting in front of the four bottles of beer he’d already consumed.

  “What the hell makes you think I’m lying?” Rule snorted as though the statement were nowhere close to the truth.

  “Gut instinct?” Lawe suggested. “I know you, Rule. You shut me out of your mind the minute you realized I’d found my mate. I appreciate the time it gave me to build boundaries around Diane, but I’d done that within weeks. You still won’t let me in, though. Why have you shut yourself off from me, Rule?” He finally asked the question Rule had to have known was coming.

  Picking up the beer, Rule took several long, hard drinks before letting the bottle thump heavily back to the table.

  Lawe’s gaze moved from the bottle, then back to Rule as he eased forward slowly, his tall, broad body moving in until his position was the same as Lawe’s. Arms folded on the table, leaning forward intently.

  “Do you know why I closed that bond, Lawe?” Rule growled, the sound so animalistic, so filled with some unnamed emotion that Lawe nearly flinched.

  “I’ve asked,” Lawe reminded him. “You’ve refused to tell me.”

  “Would you enjoy knowing I sense your lust and hunger for your mate? Or that I sense your pleasure in her when you take her?”

  Lawe straightened, barely holding back the shock and instinctive snarl of rejection that rose to his lips.

  The chuckle that came from Rule was deep, dark, a mocking reminder that sometimes Lawe had suspected the link they’d established could possibly go deeper than he had thought where Rule was concerned.

  “Don’t worry, brother,” Rule leaned back, a mocking curl to his lips that Lawe had never known his brother to turn on him. “That prick-assed Lion inside me made sure we didn’t spy on you. Besides, he was too busy pestering me with excuses to make trips out here to check up on my own mate.”

  Lawe blinked back at Rule as he picked up his beer and finished it in one long drink.

  Rule hadn’t been with him on that mission to track down the sister of Jonas’s mate. Lawe had gone in with Mercury, Dog and several other Bureau Enforcers to find Diane.

  The second he’d caught the scent of the lone prisoner shackled in a dark, damp cell, he had known she was his mate. He’d known she was hurt, he had scented her tears. A second before his instincts, enraged by the affront of his mate’s tears, her pain, had been overcome with rage, he remembered that link snapping in place.

  They rarely fought separately. He and Rule had always known that fighting together made them stronger. Lawe hadn’t known their link could reach across such distance until that moment, though. His brother’s strength had been his in that second. His control, his ability to restrain all emotion, to push back any weakness, had infused Lawe.

  He’d felt Rule’s animal then as well. It had centered his own, holding it back with steely purpose as Lawe managed to lead his team in to rescue the woman whose scent wrapped around his soul and opened his heart.

  The second, the very moment he’d had Diane in the heli-jet and the danger to her significantly decreased, the bond he hadn’t known was in effect the entirety of their lives was suddenly gone.

  He’d known it was there when they faced danger, when their instincts reached out and combined, creating the fearsome warriors they had become. But until that moment, he hadn’t realized that he and Rule had never been completely separate entities.

  Until the moment he had felt a total and complete isolation.

  A breath later, that isolation had been infused with the knowledge and the scent of his mate, though. He’d been so amazed by it, so taken aback by the warrior his woman was and his inability to control the animal’s need to protect her, that he’d forgotten the only breath of time that he’d felt the total darkness, the total aloneness within his memories, his torments.

  That aloneness his brother had known since that moment.

  The curse that sizzled from him had Rule staring back at him with a distance Lawe no longer resented.

  How could he even apologize? To say he was sorry would be more a lie than any he had ever spoken, because it would mean telling his mate he was sorry for the understandings, the love, the complete togetherness they had f
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