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    FOREWORD

    They were created, they weren't born.

    They were trained, they weren't raised.

    They were taught to kill, and now they'll use their training to ensure their freedom.

    They are Breeds. Genetically altered with the DNA of the predators of the earth. The wolf, the lion, the cougar, the Bengal; the killers of the world. They were to be the army of a fanatical society intent on building their own personal army.

    Until the world learned of their existence. Until the council lost control of their creations, and their creations began to change the world.

    Now, they're loose. Banding together, creating their own communities, their own society, and their own safety, and fighting to hide the one secret that could see them destroyed. The secret of mating heat. The chemical, biological, the emotional reaction of one Breed to the man or woman meant to be his or hers forever. A reaction that binds physically. A reaction that alters more than just the physical responses or heightens the sensuality. Nature has turned mating heat into the Breeds'

    Achilles Heel. It's their strength, and yet their weakness. And Mother Nature isn't finished playing yet. Man has attempted to mess with her creations. Now, she's going to show man exactly how she can refine them.

    Killers will become lovers, lawyers, statesmen, and heroes. And through it all, they will cleave to one mate, one heart, and create a dynasty.

    I dreamed of a man, lost, broken, and alone.

    I dreamed of a woman, disillusioned, weeping,

    and forced to roam.

    I dreamed of a child, cold, hungry, and without a home.

    A wolf cried out.

    A lion roared.

    And the lonely eagle screamed upon the winds,

    where he soared.

    And in a dream, a story was born.

    Thank God for the dreams.

    CHAPTER ONE

    New York City

    Dubbree Suites Hotel

    2023

    Two assassinations in one month, each tied to known or suspected Genetics Council members. It was going to be a public relations nightmare for the Feline Breed contingent of the species. First General Cyrus Tallant. Of course, his assassination had been laid at the feet at the Genetics Council upper-level members. As would this one be. After all, Dr. Benedikt Adolf Albrecht was under just as much, if not more, suspicion of being aligned with the shadowy twelve-member directorate of the council. Matthias Slaughter knew Albrecht was more than just aligned. Albrecht was an actual member of the council directorate. He was also the director of training. It was his, his father's, and his father's before him, legacy to the hellish existence the Breeds had endured in the labs. The Breed species hadn't been lucky enough to be born. No, nature hadn't, in all her insight and mercy, thrown a genetic kink in the works of an everyday human. Quite the contrary. In one of her rare fits of humor, she had decided instead to work with what man had created. What monsters such as Albrecht had pieced together. With their genius in genetic engineering and the past atrocities of their forefathers, the council had managed to create the human and animal species they had envisioned as their own personal army. An army that would be the muscle behind their quest for power. How nature must have chuckled over that one.

    Matthias imagined over the years that he had heard a giggle or two from her as well. Physically, mentally, genetically, the Breeds were everything the council had hoped for, paid for, killed for. Psychologically, they fell far short of the mark. Like their natural cousins, the predators of the earth, the Breeds worshipped freedom, and they worshipped their own honor. Many had died remaining true to that inner code, an ideal rather than a set of rules. An instinctive hunger and drive to attain the freedom their wild cousins knew.

    They were animals in men's bodies. Primal, savage, predatory. And intelligent. That intelligence had been the downfall of the council's plans. And it found him here now, more than a century after the first Breed had drawn his first breath.

    The technical wizardry of another Breed enforcer was ensuring that the security cameras didn't record Mathias's entrance or later his exit. It was ensuring that the council itself was blamed for this death, as well as the generals before him.

    The council must be cleaning house.

    Matthias grinned at the headlines he imagined. The grin was quickly gone, as the sound of the penthouse's double doors opening had him waiting expectantly.

    He didn't tense. Not so much as breath disturbed the air, as he inhaled carefully. Albrecht was known to travel with several bodyguards, though tonight, as they had every night, during this short stay in New York, Albrecht's bodyguards were heard entering their separate room farther down the hall.

    Excellent. Albrecht was known to depend on the Dubbree Hotel's security. Arrogant bastard. He thought his position protected him. That his genius in genetics and his fortune in pharmaceuticals could possibly shield him from retribution. But he had always flaunted security. Just for the hell of it. After all, who would dare attempt to harm him?

    "Cretins." The heavy German accent had Matthias's lip curling to reveal the wicked canines at the side of his mouth.

    Benedikt Adolf Albrecht wasn't well known for his respect toward his bodyguards. Lights flared in the entryway, the doors closed, Mathias waited.

    His prey was a creature of organized habits. Albrecht believed an organized mind was a stable mind. That could explain the accusations Matthias regularly received in regards to his own sanity. Or lack thereof.

    He waited patiently in the darkened living room. The bar sat across from him. Albrecht would go there first.

    And just like clockwork, the low lamps flared to life, all but the two that sat near Matthias, and Albrecht moved slowly toward the bar.

    Albrecht looked like a cadaver. Tall, skinny, thin gray hair, lying close to his scalp, and pale, almost bleached flesh. He stalked to the bar, as Matthias lifted his weapon from his lap. Ice clinked in the glass, liquor splashed into it. Matthias aimed, pulled the trigger, and watched the back of Albrecht's head crack from the bullet. A second later the council member fell over the bar. Crystal carafes rolled, broke, scattering glass and the scent of liquor. But even that couldn't drown out the sound of horror from the entrance.

    A woman's shocked gasp, the scent of fearand of recognition. For the first time in his thirty years of life, Matthias felt regret, and a tinge of sadness. Because he knew his own fate had just been decided. Matthias turned to his side, a snarl on his face, a growl in his voice.

    "Goddamnit, Grace."

    Static crackled in the communications link at Matthias's ear.

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