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He was the one the others had fought to save. She had seen that much. She had watched as they had sacrificed themselves to save this one.
A mechanical warning sounded through the room. “Alert! Alert! Enemy forces are now entering level zero corridor. You have fifteen seconds to evacuate. Fourteen. Thirteen.”
Cassa stared at the creature that turned on her now. Long, once golden hair was streaked black with blood. It hung limply to his shoulders as the golden flecks of rage gleamed in a backdrop of forest green eyes.
His lips drew back on a snarl, exposing the wicked canines at the sides of his teeth.
She shook her head. He would kill her now. He’d heard everything Douglas had said, every charge he had made. She had betrayed the very creatures she had fought so hard to save. It didn’t matter that she had done so unwittingly. It didn’t matter that she would have died to protect them.
“I’m sorry,” she cried hoarsely as he paced closer. “Oh God, I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry is a weak man’s excuse,” the creature growled, his voice filled with dark purpose.
Her shoulders shook with the sobs she fought to hold back, the terror that cascaded through her. Blood dripped to the floor in front of her, each small droplet a brilliant, enraged red, as he paced closer.
It dripped to the toe of her boot, the hem of her jeans. The next splattered on the jersey material of the T-shirt that covered her br**sts.
She swore that small droplet seared her flesh as she stared up at him, grief and pain racing through every nerve in her body.
“Twenty-four Breeds dead,” he growled, the sound of his voice so rough, dark and rasping it scraped over her senses. “Bengals. Each one fought every second of their miserable existence for freedom.” His lips lifted into a snarl as he glanced to the pit, then back to her. “All dead.”
A sob tore from her throat a second before his fingers were latched around her neck, pulling her to her feet as she struggled against the knowledge of death.
He didn’t hurt her, when he should have. She had been responsible. She had trusted. She had betrayed.
“I should toss your body in there with them,” he roared in her face as she screamed in fear.
His lips curled back from his teeth, and she could almost feel the sensation of those wicked incisors tearing at her neck.
She wanted to excuse the betrayal. She wanted to explain, but there was nothing she could say, nothing she could do to excuse it. She had told her husband. She had discussed it with him. She had overlooked the fact that he wasn’t the man she once believed he was; she had tried to believe in that last vestige of humanity she thought he possessed.
Her hand lifted. She touched the blood that ran in a slow, crooked stream down his hard cheek. She touched it, fingers trembling, and bringing it to her lips, closed her eyes.
She tasted the blood she had spilled. Her father had said before his death that men should be made to taste the blood they spill, to experience death, to know the horror they perpetuate.
She knew. She accepted her fate. She tasted his blood as another sob tightened in her throat yet never fell past her lips. She hung in his less than gentle hold, expecting the pain at any moment. Expecting death. She had trusted the man she had given her heart to, and she had learned the cost of that trust.
“I own you.”
Her eyes jerked open to see his, too close, glaring back at her. Nearly nose to nose, the heat of his breath caressing her cheek, the sharp canines too close to her flesh.
“What?” the question was instinctive.
“I own you,” he growled again. It was the animal, not the man, that she faced. This Breed was nothing like the civilized Breeds she had been following for so many months for the newspaper she worked for.
“No.” She tried to shake her head, but the fingers wrapped so cruelly around her throat refused to allow her to move.
“I know your secrets,” he snarled. “And I’ll know more. This.” He looked around the control room, rage flashing in his face as his gaze landed on the entrance to the pit once more. His eyes flashed back to her. “You owe me for their lives. You owe me for his sins.” His gaze returned to Douglas’s fallen form.
She tried to shake her head again, but his hands only tightened mercilessly, as his expression became harder, colder.
“Brothers and sisters,” he snapped at her. “My family, not my pride, and they lie dead because of his perfidy.”
More tears slipped free. Guilt was a ball of flame in her chest. Grief was the knot of agony in her throat that his fingers clenched into.
She was going to die here. She could feel it, and perhaps a part of her would even prefer it. If she lived, she would have to face this, she would have to deal with it. She had seen the blood, the lives wasted in that pit, and she didn’t know if she could bear the weight of knowing they had ended because of her ignorance.
Dear God. She might as well have killed them with her own hands.
Cabal St. Laurents. They were named in these labs. They were given an identity when it would have been far kinder if they hadn’t been. It was a reminder of what they were not. Never free. A reminder of what they were, always tied to their creators.
He was a Bengal, and the animal inside him refused to relent. It rejoiced in the blood of the enemy. It plotted with his humanity, planned and sought the death of every creature that would stand in the way of escape.
Now the man was ready to kill. The human wanted to taste the blood, and the animal held back.
His captive was female. It was the most corrupt of any species. It was the reason those that shared his blood now lay in that same blood that had gushed from their bodies. He held her now, his fingers gripped around her throat, his teeth aching, his tongue nearly tasting her flesh. And he couldn’t harm her. The animal drew back, the feral intensity that had driven him to escape the pit receding.
He released her slowly, watching as she crumpled at his feet. She wasn’t sobbing for mercy. Her head bent, her long, burnished, dark blond hair flowed around her. It touched the floor, and his blood stained the ends of it.
An agony of rage shuddered through him. The roar that raced through his throat and exploded from his lips brought an unwilling sob past the female’s lips. But still, he didn’t strike. The animal stood back, watched, waited. For what it was waiting, he wasn’t certain, but he admitted he had no desire to take this woman’s blood.
She had been foolish. He could smell the scent of her husband on her body, knew the pain that tormented her. She had betrayed them unknowingly, but how could he ever forgive the death of those he had held dear?