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Del-Rey Delgado, the Coyote Ghost, was alpha leader of the team of twenty-eight mercenary soldiers he had gathered around him from various parts of the Council’s ranks. Coyote Breeds that he had rescued, men he had trained himself—hardened, cold-eyed soldiers that the underground world knew only as Team Zero, the mercenary force willing to take on the most suicidal of missions.
They had rescued heiresses, assassinated despots and posed as security for some of the greatest leaders in the world. Men who never knew they were dealing with a shadowy force that had been created rather than born.
There had even been a few times that they had protected Council members themselves. For a while. Long enough to get the information they needed and still keep their reputations intact. Those leaders had always died once payment was collected.
As Del-Rey had told his men, vengeance came after the bills, and supporting the plans they had took an excessive amount of money.
Plans such as rescuing other Coyotes who managed to find a way to contact Del-Rey’s shadowy force. This day, he stared into winsome blue eyes and wondered if perhaps the Genetics Council hadn’t truly created a creature without a soul when they created him. Because as he stared into the young woman-child’s eyes, he knew he would end up betraying her.
Sixteen and as beautiful as a sunrise. Long red gold hair flowed over her shoulder in a silken braid as she stepped into one of the dirtiest, meanest, jacked-up bars in Russia. Damn, it took courage for her to actually come here.
A breath of fresh air, a single fragile flame of innocence among the most corrupt of men. He tapped his fingernails against the bar in a signal to his second-in-command, Brimstone, and looked to the door as the entire room went quiet.
Even a five-year-old would have enough instincts to run in this situation. But this girl didn’t run. Her chin lifted as she stepped into the establishment and moved through the room.
She was a gang rape waiting to happen here. Son of a bitch.
He nodded to his men and watched as they moved from tables, from the corners of the shadowed room, and converged on her, surrounding her as Del-Rey and Brim moved from the bar to the back room that he had selected for this first meeting.
He was waiting when she was pushed through the door, sitting on the corner of the small table, one leg braced on the floor, the other swinging lazily as he watched her. Rounded eyes, parted pink lips, her breathing harsh. And a hint of fear in those eyes.
She should have known fear well before she made it here.
Using his foot, he pushed the single chair toward her.
“Sit,” he growled, deliberately letting the animal he was rumble in his voice.
But did she run? She didn’t run. She moved slowly to the chair, sat down and gave him a fragile smile. “Del-Rey,” she whispered. “It’s Spanish, you know, for ‘of the king.’”
His brows arched. He was of a king all right, one long betrayed and dead. He didn’t mean to follow in that genetic ancestor’s footsteps.
He leaned forward, braced his elbow on his knee and let his gaze run over her slowly. Very slowly. Touching on fragile, youthful and yet womanly features. A f**king child. Hell, that Siberian lab had been truly desperate, or depraved, to have sent a child to him.
“I’m going to kill you before I leave here,” he sighed, watching her smile falter.
“Kill me?” She licked her lips nervously and stared back at him with a hint of wariness. “You promised I’d be safe.”
“And you believed me?” A ghost of a smile played at his lips. “How foolish of you.”
“But, you never break your promises.” She blinked back at him with such innocence he nearly laughed.
He merely arched his brow instead, a warning that perhaps her information hadn’t been entirely accurate.
She looked down at her hands, linked her fingers together then lifted her gaze once again. “There are five females at the lab where my father is security officer.” She bit her lip worriedly before continuing. “They said they sent you a message, and you swore that you wouldn’t harm the contact sent to you.”
His head tilted as his eyes narrowed. “There are no female Coyotes.”
“There are five,” she told him. “Sharone, she contacted you. It was she that you spoke with in the secured emails. There are four others. Twins, Emma and Ashley. Two younger, Marcy and Chanda. They’re the babies of the group.”
He stared back at her curiously now. “Where are the males of their group? Coyotes don’t let females speak for them, little girl.”
She swallowed tightly. “The males are more heavily guarded. The scientists, they like me rather well. I’m one of the few women at the labs. I’ve been raised with them.”
How interesting. She had to be lying; there was no other option. Hell, killing children was one of the few sins he hadn’t committed in his life, but this child knew his face. He couldn’t risk being identified.
“Sharone said you would save them.” She stared back at him, her blue eyes darkening with more than worry now; there might even be a hint of anger in those pretty depths. “Do you know the risks we’ve taken to contact you? To come to this meeting?”
Yes, that was definitely anger. He stared back at her, frankly amazed. Even his men hesitated to speak to him in such a way. Surely no one else had dared since he had reached maturity. Perhaps even before.
“You risked much,” he agreed. “But I warned you in the email I would kill anyone attempting to trick me. Whoever set you on this plot, child, has ended your life for you.”
Did she show fear? No. Instead, slowly, she parted her jacket and from inside withdrew several photos. Her hands were shaking as she handed them to him.
Her face was pale, but her eyes were still filled with anger. He glanced at the pictures, brows lifting at the sight of the five young women. Definitely Coyote females if their forced smiles, which revealed their curved canines, were any indication.
“They could be faked.” He threw them to the table.
She inhaled roughly. “If I don’t return, a message will be sent to the Feline Breed compound Sanctuary that the Coyote Ghost has murdered me. I came to you under the auspices of the newly formed ideals of Breed Law, which you claimed in your email to adhere to. That message will state my name, my age, the labs I am from and a message: ‘Breed Law doesn’t always survive. Masters control the puppets, and the puppets whisper the wages of death.’”