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Shocking. Del-Rey stared back at her as she whispered the code and information that he knew would set every living free Feline Breed on his ass. Perhaps this wasn’t a trick after all.
He could smell no deceit. But his senses could be tricked—Coyotes knew well how to trick human and Breed senses alike. A human could be taught, if the human were smart enough.
Anya Kobrin was smart enough. Sixteen years old and already working security and administration with the Siberian Chernov laboratories. He knew the location, knew by now many of the personnel, but rescuing the Breeds there would be much harder.
“These things don’t happen overnight.” He dropped any thought of killing her. “It could take years. I don’t go in blind and I don’t risk children. And I sure as hell don’t trust big blue eyes and a sincere face. Go home. I’ll contact you when I’ve decided.”
She looked at him in alarm. “This can’t wait that long. There are over fifty Coyote Breeds here. They die daily.” Distress filled her face. “You can’t just let them die.”
“And I know Coyotes, little girl,” he growled back at her. “I know their deceit and I know how easily they can trick pretty little girls. We wait, we watch. I’ll contact you. Until then your priority is maintaining the safety of those young women.” He pointed to the pictures. “You have no other job, is that clear? The males will know the score. Do they know you’re here as well?”
She shook her head quickly. “Only Sharone knows. We haven’t told the others.”
“Keep it that way,” he ordered her, leaning closer, staring into her wide blue eyes, giving her a look that most men saw only seconds before they died. “Betray me, Anya Kobrin, and you die. You die, your father dies, and any friends or family that I ferret out as yours will die as well. Do you believe me?”
She licked her lips and nodded. “I would expect it. But I won’t betray you.”
He nodded abruptly. “My men will escort you out of the city. Return to your home and await contact.”
“Soon?” she asked as she rose slowly from her chair. “Please, soon. So far, the girls aren’t mistreated, mostly because my father ensures it. But, they’re getting older,” she whispered. “The three oldest are already over eighteen. He won’t be able to protect them for much longer.”
“Then you better be persuasive with your father and your friends,” he growled. “Because I don’t jump through rings and risk myself and my men as easily as you seem to think I should. Female Coyotes are worth some risk. The men there willing to do what they must for freedom are worth the risk. But never doubt you have spies there, and I’ll know who they are before I come in. And I’ll know, lovely Anya, if you are friend or foe. Make sure you stay on the friend side of the equation. I don’t care about killing a female if she betrays me.”
She stared back at him, then her chin lifted in determination and feminine arrogance. Hell, this one should have been a Breed herself. She was that daring. That courageous.
“If one of those girls dies before you make your decision,” she whispered, voice trembling, “then you are the one that better be careful, Del-Rey whoever the hell you are. I might be a child in your eyes, but I’d make a very bad enemy.”
She was threatening him? He wanted to laugh in surprise at her sheer daring. Instead, he merely chuckled, rapped the wall and waited for Brim to step inside.
“Get her out of here quickly and quietly,” he ordered the other man. “Return her to the train station. She’s going back to her nice, safe little home.”
Brim gave the girl a hard look before nodding and standing back to allow her to leave the room. She moved past him, then turned and stared back at Del-Rey.
“You should smile,” she told him softly, surprising him yet again. “I bet you’re really cute when you smile.”
He held the smile back until she left, then shook his head as a grin shaped his lips. The little imp. He was going to have a bit of trouble on his hands with this one, he could see. And a bit of a challenge.
TWO YEARS LATER
“This is insanity.” Anya jumped from the chair in the back of yet another dirty room and faced the man that entered the room. “You have to move faster than this.”
Del-Rey. Dark blond hair grew to his shoulders, black eyes so deep that at times they reflected the faintest hint of blue.
A darker blond brow arched at her outburst as he watched her coolly. He watched her the same as he had two years before, when she’d met him the first time. The half dozen times she’d seen him since had changed nothing in how he treated her.
But something in her had changed. She dreamed of him too often. Thought of him too often.
“I told you this doesn’t happen quickly,” he warned her. “Those labs are not exactly easily accessible, darlin’. We’re doing our best. And if your Coyote friend is as smart as I suspect she is, then she knew the wait would be a long one.”
“Breeds are being rescued all over the world,” she argued fiercely. “Labs just as secure have been penetrated.”
“And many, many lives have been lost,” he warned her. “For the moment, your labs are safe from the killings that are everyday business with the other Breeds. They don’t kill Coyotes unless they begin to show mercy. So far, those in your group are too young to be in much danger.”
“They are already starting to transfer the older ones.” Her fists clenched at her side at the memory of the group that had gone out over a month ago. “We can’t continue to wait like this.”
“Six were transferred, and once they cleared Russian borders, they were extracted. Three died for warning their guards that they were being rescued as we made the attempt.” He lifted the camcorder from the desk and switched it on before setting it in front of her. “I believe you knew them.”
Shock, betrayal. Anya’s eyes widened as she stared at the recording. Three of the Coyotes that she and Sharone had protected countless times had betrayed the others as the rescue group moved in. They had turned weapons on their fellow Breeds. Their eyes hard, they spouted Council bullshit in cold voices.
“The other three are alive and safe at the moment,” he promised her when the video finished.
“Get the girls out like that.” She jerked her gaze back to his in desperation. “I can arrange their transfers.”