Rule breaker, p.9
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       Rule Breaker, p.9
 

         Part #20 of Breeds series by Lora Leigh

  in a week’s time amazes even me. I never use a computer, I never endanger myself or my friends, but you still get more information than you know what to do with. Would you really cut me off like that?”

  “Of course.”

  Disbelief coursed through her. “For God’s sake, why?”

  “The same reason we should have cut your brother off when he and Thea Lacey became lovers. He became careless,” he stated, his voice harsh now. “I won’t take that risk with you.”

  “Mark wasn’t the one who became careless,” she sneered. “And we both know it.”

  “Gypsy.” It was one of the few times he used her name.

  “Don’t Gypsy me.” Anger surged through her.

  Finishing the beer, she tossed the bottle in the trash before turning on the warrior furiously. “I was careless. And I refuse to discuss it. Now tell me why you’re here, or leave so I can shower.”

  Silence stretched between them. A lengthy, tension-filled silence that warned her that the warrior was seriously considering continuing the confrontation.

  God, don’t let him continue the confrontation, she thought painfully. She didn’t think she could bear it.

  Finally, he shook his head, breathing out heavily.

  “The information we suspected the Breeds have on the Unknown has been confirmed. We have a leak among our contacts, and we need to know who that leak is. We need you to find out who that leak is.”

  A leak?

  “How many contacts do you have, exactly?” she asked then, tamping down her anger from moments before as she stared back at him suspiciously.

  “The number wouldn’t help you,” he told her, the arrogance that was so much a part of him reminding her far too much of Commander Breaker.

  “Okay then, a list of known contacts?” she asked instead.

  “Such a thing doesn’t exist.”

  When she would have argued that statement, his hand lifted in a gesture of silence before he continued. “There are six of us, and each of us has our own contacts that we’re forbidden to identify. Even we have rules we have to abide by, Whisper.”

  How shocking.

  “Forbidden to identify,” she murmured, disgust curling at her lips. “Why doesn’t that surprise me? That would just make it far too easy, wouldn’t it?”

  “I thought you’d see it that way,” he agreed as though perfectly serious. “You enjoy doing everything else the hard way, I thought you’d appreciate that one too.”

  Clenching her teeth as her lips thinned, she propped her hands on her hips and faced him, knowing he would clearly read the mocking suspicion in her face.

  “So how am I supposed to figure out who this contact is?” she snapped. “Am I supposed to sleep with Rule and forever give up my own dreams to do so?”

  “Your dreams?” he argued with a muffled chuckle. “Working with us was never your dream, Whisper. It’s your albatross. Your self-punishment and nothing else. You gave up your dreams for your grief, and you and I both know it.”

  God, she hated him.

  “Go to hell.”

  It wasn’t the first time they’d had this argument, nor was it the first time she’d cursed him.

  “Been there,” he stated with an edge of boredom. “As for how you do it? However you must, but we have to know what information they have, and exactly where they managed to unearth it. Nothing else matters. To survive, we have to remain hidden. Remain a fairy tale to our people. Somehow, someone’s contact has managed to acquire enough information to identify at least one of us. If one of us falls, eventually we’ll all fall.”

  Blinking back at him in shock, she gave her head a little shake.

  “How do you know one of the Unknown has been identified?” she questioned him, suspicion and disbelief suspended for the moment. “You don’t let anyone know who you are.”

  “I don’t,” he agreed. “What one of the others has done, I can’t say for certain. All I know for a fact is that my contact within Jonas Wyatt’s force assures me that one of us has been identified. He was unable to learn who, or how.”

  “You have a Breed contact?” That did surprise her. “He’s in a better position than I am—”

  “Jonas is also aware that the Unknown has a contact on his force,” he snapped, anger edging into his tone now. “Whoever betrayed us knows far too much about us. Enough to assure me that the warrior that handles him has taken this person into their confidence. And that can’t be tolerated or allowed to continue. And I can’t trust the others to ensure that the identity of the warrior is not revealed. That leaves you with the task of identifying them. Because other than you and the Breed within Wyatt’s unit, I have no other contacts that my fellow warriors aren’t aware of.”

  So what happened to an Unknown when they were fired? Gypsy had a feeling the position didn’t come with an out clause.

  “You’re certain Jonas can identify one of you?” she whispered.

  “I was told that Jonas was overheard making the statement that the Unknown were no more a fairy tale than the Breeds themselves were and that he now had the information he needed to question one of them.”

  Yeah, that sounded like Jonas Wyatt knew exactly who he was looking for.

  She knew Jonas too well to ever doubt he knew exactly what he was talking about. She’d heard far too many tales about Wyatt, and listened to far too many Breeds discuss him when they thought no one could overhear. He didn’t make generalized statements. If he had what he needed to question someone, then he knew who the hell that someone was.

  Her own experience with Wyatt nine years before, and again after he and his family arrived in Window Rock, confirmed her supposition. She’d even managed to secure two invitations over the past two weeks to lunch with Rachel and Amber, as well as Isabelle Martinez and Ashley, one of the Coyote females with whom she’d become friends.

  She knew Jonas was determined, single-minded, and nothing mattered to him but his family and the Breeds. Their survival was his only reason for living.

  Rather like the Unknown.

  The Breeds were considered part of the People, their genetics a direct tie to past chiefs, medicine men, the sisters, and children who had been taken from the tribes during the years the Council was building its so-called army.

  Her brother had revered these warriors. He’d dreamed of eventually becoming one himself if a position among the six ever opened up.

  “Getting that kind of information will be extremely hard. Hell, it could be impossible,” she muttered, making a quick mental list of the Breeds who might know what Jonas was doing. Though she doubted more than one, possibly two, would be privy to the information he had.

  Rule Breaker would definitely be one of those Breeds, as would his brother, Lawe.

  Jonas had several bodyguards; no doubt they knew quite a bit, but Rachel Broen was his lover. She would know everything Jonas Wyatt knew, and Gypsy knew Rachel.

  A sickening feeling of self-disgust overtook her.

  She couldn’t reveal anything Rachel told her, even if the other woman did tell her something important. She knew what the Breeds were searching for and why, just not their actual identities. She had no information to give Jonas that would help him; her contact never told her anything, he merely took what she collected. And she believed him when she’d asked him if he could help Amber and he’d denied the ability. His voice had resonated with regret when he told her he couldn’t.

  “Watching your mind work is fascinating,” the warrior said then, his voice reflecting amusement and disbelief. “At some point, my friend, you’re going to have to realize how much your talents are being wasted as my contact. You could do far more with yourself.”

  Gypsy shook her head.

  “Rule’s suite was completely clean when I went through it last week,” she stated, brushing aside his comment. “He keeps his e-pad on him, at least whenever I’ve seen him. It’s never turned on when he has it, and he never pulls it free to use it.”

 
She knew that because one of the programs the warrior had added to her secure satellite phone had been designed to hack into the device the Breed commander carried and download the information contained on it. But it would only work if the e-pad was turned on.

  “You had to have overlooked something,” he told her then. “When Breaker returned to his room, there was a definite indication of data being accessed or routed into his room from the hotel’s cameras. He couldn’t do that if he didn’t have a computer there. The e-pads aren’t capable of running a program like that. They can only read what’s routed to them from a program existing on another device. And he wasn’t carrying it in with him when he returned.”

  Her jaw clenched in frustration then. Getting into Rule’s suite was easy, but getting caught would be easy as well.

  Very easy.

  The only person she knew close enough to Jonas Wyatt who might have the information, or a clue to it, was his lover, and the two women who had only recently become Breed lovers. One of whom was Liza Johnson.

  She and Liza had visited once or twice since her Breed lover, Stygian Black, had brought her to the hotel for protection. Though the attack on her previously had caused more stringent protective measures to be taken, it might be possible to meet with her now.

  Isabelle Martinez, the other Breed lover, was actually a relation. They were second cousins and close friends, though Isabelle hadn’t been very social since the attack that was made on her as well.

  Being a Breed lover wasn’t exactly a safe position to have.

  “Find out what you can, Whisper,” the warrior sighed heavily as she watched him thoughtfully. “And quickly, if you don’t mind. If Wyatt’s contact has his warrior’s confidence, then they could reveal all our identities. And I don’t believe I’d enjoy being hauled into Breed headquarters and interrogated by the bogeyman of the Breeds.”

  She couldn’t blame him for that one.

  “As quickly as possible,” she promised. “It may take a few days to make contact with my own sources, though.”

  “I’ll look forward to your report.” He nodded.

  “Just don’t hold your breath,” she sighed.

  He chuckled. “Never.” He started to turn away before pausing and turning back to her. “I heard you’ve been trying to find out where Kandy disappears when she can’t be found.”

  She had nearly asked him to help her when she began looking but had rejected it. She was certain Kandy wasn’t in any trouble, but she could sense something wrong.

  “Do you know where she’s at?” Gypsy clenched her fingers on the edge of the counter as she prayed she’d been right.

  “Mark’s grave,” he answered. “Maybe you should join her, Gypsy. Perhaps it’s time to see the past from a new perspective.”

  Gypsy didn’t move as he turned and disappeared into her bedroom, knowing that joining her sister at that lonely, desolate place was something she couldn’t do.

  Not now.

  Perhaps not ever.

  Something inside her tightened to the point that pain lanced her heart, drawing a ragged sob from her chest.

  She didn’t cry.

  She never cried.

  She’d shed all her tears the night Mark had fallen to the ground, staring back at her with such bleak sorrow.

  His face flashed before her as her fists jerked up, pressing into her closed eyes as she fought against the image she couldn’t seem to get out of her head.

  Her stomach churned with memories she kept buried until these flashing moments of weakness, of agonizing realization. She couldn’t breathe, and her throat felt so tight that swallowing nearly had her retching.

  Why? Why had he told her that?

  She would have preferred to just not know where Kandy was disappearing to and why she was staying out so late.

  God, why was her sister doing that?

  Why was she going to that place?

  Gypsy hated that piece of ground.

  She refused to go near it now, wouldn’t even drive past it whenever her destination called for it. She always took an alternate route.

  She couldn’t bear the thought of looking over to that beautiful rise to see the black onyx stone that marked it.

  “Why?” Before she could suppress the shattered scream inside her, it escaped her lips as her hand gripped a glass vase on the shelf next to her, which she threw with enough force to launch it across the room. “Damn you, why?”

  Enraged, knowing she couldn’t bear the walls closing in on her, she turned and made her way from her apartment and into the darkness.

  Where secrets hid.

  ...

  The haunting, hollow cry of the young woman hiding in the apartment across from the sheltered copse of trees and the shadows where he hid had Dane grimacing with regret.

  She was one of his greatest failures, he thought regretfully. Her brother was his greatest. How in God’s name had he not been able to anticipate the betrayal that killed Mark McQuade, and in nine years of searching, why hadn’t he found the bastard who had betrayed the young man and allowed that child to carry the blame?

  It haunted him, knowing that whoever had turned McQuade’s identity over to the Genetics Council wasn’t the Coyote Breed who had died for it, though he had been no less guilty. The man who had destroyed that child’s life had gotten away clean, at least for now.

  Dane stared at the apartment, aching for the loss he hadn’t been able to stop as a shadow shifted at the side of the building, then disappeared.

  Remaining silent, Dane caught sight of the warrior again seconds later, moving toward him. He watched as his contact paused and removed the thin painted mask he wore before folding it and shoving it into his pocket.

  His lips quirked at the thought of that mask. It had been fooling humans and Breeds alike for decades. It was a creation of the first Leo’s, and one whose workings Dane had been unable to figure out to this day.

  Removing a cigar from his pocket and bringing it to his lips, he then handed one to the Breed standing against the tree beside him.

  Lighting the cigar, Dane then handed the lighter to the Coyote as well, waited as he lit his own, then accepted it back and pocketed it.

  “The two of you are going to piss me off.” The warrior moved over to them, glaring at them irately.

  Pulling another cigar free of his pocket, Dane handed it to the newcomer before watching him use his own lighter to ignite it.

  “How’s she doing?” Dane nodded to the apartment as the warrior exhaled, irritation inherent in the sound.

  “That has to be the most stubborn damn woman I’ve ever laid my eyes on,” he bit out, grinding his teeth over the words. “She’s been at this nine years now and has no intention of letting up. I thought you said that bastard who was all over her ass tonight was her mate?”

  Dane couldn’t help but smile. “He’s her mate, I assure you.” He did nothing to hide the heavy South African accent he carried.

  “Yeah, that’s why she’s up there trying to figure out how to learn who’s betrayed the Unknown when she’s staring at the bastard who did the betraying.”

  Dane stared at the warrior, knowing far more about him than he was sure the man would find comfortable.

  “All for the greater good, my friend,” Dog drawled with a curious lack of accent. “We can’t have a traitor in the ranks.”

  “Using her like this doesn’t sit well with me,” the warrior informed them, not for the first time. “And what the hell kind of mating was that anyway? Why is she up there by herself screaming like her soul is being cut out, if he’s her mate? And ignoring the question’s not going to make it go away, Dane.”

  No, this—warrior—was more stubborn than most. He wouldn’t stop looking for an answer if he thought Dane was deliberately not answering him.

  “I’m not certain yet why the mating didn’t occur,” he answered, his gaze returning to the apartment thoughtfully. “I am entirely certain, though, that she’s his mate.”

&
nbsp; “How?” It was Dog who asked that question, confusion apparent in his voice. “How can you be so sure?”

  How could he be so certain? Dane almost grinned, but he was far too aware of the other two watching him. He couldn’t claim to have smelled it, because Dog was a Breed as well; he would instantly question why he hadn’t smelled it.

  That left the truth, which was far stranger than fiction.

  Lifting his hand to rub at the back of his neck, he stared at both men a bit uncomfortably. This wasn’t going to be an easy explanation and it was one he rarely made.

  “I sense it,” he finally muttered.

  “Excuse me? You what?” Dog asked with his ever-present mockery, albeit thicker than normal.

  “It’s complicated,” he gritted out, not enjoying the sensation of having others watch him as he so often watched them.

  “You don’t say,” Dog commented wryly. “Why not explain it to us anyway?”

  Shooting him a glare, Dane bit down on the tip of his cigar before clenching it between his thumb and forefinger and lowering it slowly.

  “I told you, I just sense it,” he repeated, forcing back his discomfort.

  He’d be damned if he’d let that grinning jackass of a Coyote know that he felt a bit at odds trying to explain the little talent he had.

  “Do tell,” the warrior suggested, a bit more firmly than Dog had.

  “Telling’s the hard part,” he admitted with a twist of his lips. “It’s a knowledge that’s there once I see them together. Rather like a gut feeling.”

  “Gut feeling, huh?” Dog was definitely laughing at him; thankfully, it was silent laughter.

  Dane couldn’t help but let his lips twitch, because with this Breed, he would definitely have the last laugh.

  “And sometimes, all I have to do is hear a certain name on a Breed’s lips to know who his mate is. Want to start naming names, boet?” The South African slang for “friend” slipped before he could stop it. A problem he was having more often of late.

  Dog’s eyes instantly narrowed as suspicion lit them, the gray darkening, flickering with a hint of anger.

  “Stop letting him rile you, Dog,” the warrior grunted in disgust from Dane’s other side. “He tried that one on me last year. You have to know him well enough not to let him mess with your mind.”

  Oh, he could do far more than mess with Dog’s mind. There was a reason he had sought out the Coyote and formed a friendship with him when he had. If this Breed didn’t have friends soon, not just acquaintances or other Breeds who didn’t care to fight with him, then he was going to be in a spot of trouble.

  “You’re going to end up in a world of hurt if you make the mistake of messing with what you assume is my mind,” Dog warned him quietly.

  “There would first have to be a mind within that thick skull of yours to mess with,” Dane suggested mockingly before turning back to the warrior. “Rescind the virginity clause and give her a choice. I never understood why you put her under such constraints to begin with when you’ve done it with no one else.”

  Surprise reflected on the other man’s face before instant denial filled his gaze.

  “The hell I will.” The warrior suddenly tensed, his brows jerking together in a frown as the tinted contacts he wore picked up the faint hint of color that Dane was certain he’d want no one to glimpse.

  “Virginity clause?” Dog was far too easily distracted tonight, Dane thought with silent sarcasm.

  Did Breeds have trouble with ADHD that he was unaware of?

  “If I rescind the clause, she’ll become suspicious,” the warrior said, ignoring Dog’s query. “She’s too well trained for that, Dane, and you made certain of it. She’ll instantly know she’s being set up, and don’t think she hasn’t been listening long and hard for proof of Mating Heat whenever she listens to the Breeds talking. If she catches a whiff that it could be true and Rule’s her mate, then she just might turn tail and run for good long before he does.”

  “She’ll not hear anything there.” Dog’s assurance had Dane staring back at him now.

  “Breeds gossip worse than old women,” he reminded the Coyote.

  “Not here, not about Mating Heat.” Dog shook his head firmly. “Jonas put the word out before the first Breed headed out here nine years ago, I hear. He reinforced it when the search for Brandenmore’s research pets led them out here again. And he made it clear, if word of Mating Heat is gossiped about, or the words ‘mates’ or ‘mating’ are mentioned, then he is going to start chopping off heads. Literally.”

  Dane shook his head before looking to the stars in search of help where his brother was concerned. That boy was a danger to himself sometimes, not to mention Mating Heat in general. The legend of the Mate Matcher was definitely sealing itself within stone. And Jonas with it if the other Breed wasn’t extremely careful.

  “Assuming she really is his mate,” the warrior said then, “what happened tonight? Because he’s damned sure not in bed with her.”

  To that, Dane could only shake his head, because he didn’t have a clue. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t figure it out.

  “Rule will run if he even suspects that’s his mate,” Dog stated then, causing that “something,” that extra sense to shift inside him.

  “His animal instincts won’t let him run, from what I understand,” the warrior argued, with a hint of a question in his voice.

  Ahh, there was the key.

  “It wouldn’t matter if his instinct was a full-grown in-his-face Lion,” Dog grunted. “That Breed even suspects his mate is in the area, might be in the area, or could be arriving at any time in the near future, and trust me, he’s gone. He’ll run.”

  “Why the hell would he do that?” The disbelief in the warrior’s tone ran thick with amazement. “I thought male Breeds worshipped their mates or some shit.”

  “Or some shit,” Dog grunted. “But Rule watched not just his mother’s mate be dissected alive, but also his mother, because of the Mating Heat and the scientists’ determination to view the effects of it on the living body. According to those gossiping Breeds you mentioned, he’s that determined to protect his mate from even the chance of that happening to her. His belief is that the best way a Breed
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