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  • Home > Lora Leigh > Christmas Heat     

    Prologue

    Haley McQuire was hiding in Sanctuary's extensive, beautiful library the night of the pre-Thanksgiving party. She didn't do parties well, and she didn't enjoy them. Jonas Wyatt, Director of Breed Affairs, had given her permission to peruse the extensive collection of first-edition classics, but he had warned her that if one of his enforcers caught her there, they would drag her back to the party.

    If she was found, she hoped that it wasn't by Noble Chavin. She smiled a bit at that thought. Noble loved books too, though. He would understand.

    He was always at the library, choosing books she would never have expected him to read. Carpentry books, books on world history. He devoured them, it sometimes seemed. And when he returned them, she could quiz him playfully, and he always had the answers.

    And he talked to her about the books. She liked that. Perhaps too much. And though he would probably talk to her, she doubted he would let her stay.

    So when the door opened, she hid quickly. She expected the breed entering the room to smell her instantly. She was a human, and fairly easy for a breed to detect. Haley didn't understand why she didn't. Maydene Brock was a breed older, a nurse in the labs. With her graying brown hair and pinched expression, Haley had never really seen her as much of a caregiver.

    And perhaps she might have sensed Haley if the men following her hadn't overpowered the room with the scent of cologne.

    Haley wrinkled her nose at the smell. Even across the room, hidden behind a low shelf as she peeked between the books, she could smell the obnoxious scents.

    "Do you have payment ready?" Maydene snapped.

    "We need the code," Phillip Brackenmore, the head of Brackenmore Pharmaceutical Research, informed the nurse dangerously. "No code, no payment, breed."

    Maydene sniffed. "We'll meet you at the hotel with the code. We'll slip it out when Dr. Morrey arrives at the party. Everyone will be busy with her," she told them smugly. "When you transfer payment, we'll hand you the code. I don't trust the two of you as much as you would like to think I should."

    "As long as you're there," Horace Engalls, president and CEO of Engalls Pharmaceuticals, replied. "Don't bother trying to betray us. We have our own spies watching you, Maydene." Maydene growled at that. "I know who your little bitch is. She can watch until hell freezes over. All we care about is the cash."

    "And all we care about is the information to complete our own research. The live trials on the breeds you suggested aren't working out as well as we had hoped."

    "I warned you." Maydene's voice was smug as Haley felt chills race up her spine. "Even Morrey isn't responding as well as you had hoped, is she? I told you, you need us."

    "So we do," Brackenmore drawled. "We'll meet you at the hotel and transfer the money to your account, but we'll see what we're paying for first. Understood?"

    "Quite well," Maydene sneered. "Return to the party now, before you're missed." Haley peeked over the top of the books that lined the shelf she was hiding behind. She could barely see them, and as the door opened, she eased back down carefully, certain that if Maydene looked back, she would sense her.

    She waited. She waited so long. She could feel her muscles cramping, feel the sweat that eased along her spine, but she could still feel the danger.

    She looked up at the vent above her and inhaled slowly. Was that why Maydene hadn't smelled her? The vent pulled the air out of the library and circulated it, while another vent fed dry air into the library to protect the expensive books. That combined with the scent of men's cologne must have hidden Haley's scent. But Maydene must have suspected that someone was in the room. As Haley began to consider the risk of peeking over the books again, she heard movement, a doorknob turning, a muttered curse. She took a chance and watched as the breed made her way from the library. Just a few more minutes, she told herself. If Maydene was suspicious, she might watch the door from outside. She might be waiting for whoever she had sensed.

    My God, what were they talking about? Drugging breeds? Selling information? She had to find Noble. The breed enforcer would know what to do—he would know how to handle this. She had to find him before Maydene and whoever was helping her managed to slip from the estate.

    Carefully, she moved from behind the shelf, thankful that someone had made the little hidden reading nook that Merinus had shown her a few weeks before. It had possibly saved her life. Now, to sneak out of the library and get to Noble.

    There was something about librarian Haley McQuire and her staid little outfits that just made Jaguar breed enforcer Noble Chavin insane.

    He should be watching the ballroom, keeping his eyes trained on the two men they knew would make an attempt tonight to gain confidential breed information from a source within Sanctuary. Breeds betraying breeds, for money. For greed. And the humans determined to destroy them. Several breeds had already been killed in the past day, and if they didn't stop that information from going out, then more would die.

    It had to be insanity, he decided again, as Haley stepped into the ballroom from the direction of the ladies'

    room down the hall, because nothing else could describe his reaction to how completely luscious she looked in the simple black'long-sleeved ball gown. Or how she snagged his attention against all his best efforts. The gown swept the floor, the hem floating around her like a dark, sexy dream as he tried to keep his eyes off her. He was there to increase security, not to ogle the little librarian, who seemed to hug the wall more than she danced.

    But his eyes had a will of their own. His gaze swept over the full skirt of the gown, lifted to her curved hips and trim waist, and he had to swallow as he came to where the material draped from her shoulders and barely hid the hint of curvy, sweet br**sts beneath. She might have believed she had succeeded in hiding those curves with the folds of material that draped over them, but he could have assured her, nothing was further from the truth.

    He should have stopped there. Dammit, he had no business looking further. But he did anyway. He let his eyes caress the smooth, creamy flesh above the material, the graceful arch of her throat. A stubborn chin. There was fire in her. Soft rosebud lips, a pert nose, and eyes that mesmerized. Dammit to hell, he knew better, but there he was, staring into eyes that seemed to be looking right back at him. Dove gray and ringed with the merest hint of blue. Thick chestnut lashes surrounded them, and they stared back at him as though as helpless as he to break the connection.

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