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    Prologue

    Sandy Hook

    Sherra stood silently in the shadows of the motel, watching carefully, her eyes narrowed as the nine men parted company and went to their respective rooms. They were furious, but one was coldly dangerous. She had watched them at the airport after dropping Doc off at the safe house, then followed them to Sandy Hook and watched as they checked in.

    Kane didn’t remind her of Merinus in any way. He was darker-haired, the color nearly black, with intense, cold blue eyes. His strong jaw and high cheekbones gave a hint to Native American ancestry, his hard, graceful body hinting at extensive military training. She knew the look, the way a killer moved. She had grown up among them, been raped by them more than once. But this one she knew personally. This man had brought her pleasure. Despite her pleas, despite her wishes to the contrary, he had taken her beneath the unfeeling eye of a camera, riding her from one cl**ax to the next, his lust fueled by hers, and hers by his touch.

    Had it only been eleven years ago? Sweet heaven, that night tormented her even now, as though it had happened only yesterday. The dark soldier who had sworn to help her, to rescue her. He had come to her, holding freedom in one hand, her heart in the other, and spent the night teaching her the pleasures of her woman’s body. When he left, he never returned. But the doctors had. They had returned to her cell with the video they had taped of the night she spent with him. They had snickered at the things Kane Tyler had done to her, that she had done to him, all in the name of science. Rape had not impregnated her. They had wondered if pleasure would.

    She was a Breed. As she had been taught in the Genetics Council’s labs, she wasn’t human, she was an animal in human form, nothing more. Even now, ten years after her freedom from those labs, she wasn’t certain which she was. Human or animal. She knew, for a very brief time, in this man’s arms, she had become a woman. And she would hate him for it until she drew her last breath. She had been created, not born. Trained, not raised. When Kane touched her, she had lived. When he deceived her she had lost the only thing that ever mattered in her life, and now, life or death, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the survival of the Pride itself. Their sanctuary here in Sandy Hook had been compromised in ways that could never be repaired now. They were, once again, homeless. Homeless and hunted.

    Her hands clenched into fists of rage as Kane lingered outside his room, lazily finishing a cigarette he had lit moments earlier. She wanted to kill him now. She had sworn she would kill him if she ever found him again. Sworn she would see to it that he paid for every moment of pain she suffered all those years ago. She had sworn he would pay for lying to her, and for doing it so easily without her knowledge. He had betrayed her, just as he had betrayed his sister.

    His expression hardened when the last door finally closed and he was left alone with her.

    “Where’s Merinus?” His voice was savage, pulsating with a fury that sent a frisson of unease through her body. How had he known she was there, watching him, waiting? “And why the f**k weren’t we met at the airport as promised?”

    “I have a better question,” she said from the safety of the shadows. “Why would a brother betray a sister he swears to love, on the eve of promised help?”

    He turned around slowly, casually, until he was facing her. She saw hard purpose in his face, and surprise.

    “What the hell are you talking about?”

    “A full team of soldiers swept over Callan’s house. A dozen men. All I know for sure is that they didn’t get him or Merinus. But I know they want her. They know about her.”

    “Know what, for God’s sake?” He raked his fingers through his hair, his voice quiet but rough with fury.

    “Why the hell would they attack now?”

    “They know your sister has mated with Callan,” she told him carefully. “Just as you knew.”

    Or had he? She watched his face pale alarmingly, his blue eyes widening.

    “That bastard touched her?” he snarled.

    “No,” she drawled mockingly. “He mated with her. Surely you remember the concept? And now the Council no longer cares if they take him alive or dead. They want the woman and any child she carries. But you already knew that, didn’t you, Mr. Tyler? Why else would they attack mere hours after talking to you?”

    He shook his head slowly.

    “I never betrayed my sister. I wouldn’t.” His voice sent a chill down her spine. Sherra frowned.

    “I came to kill you, Kane Tyler,” she said carefully.

    He didn’t seem surprised now. His mouth was edged with mockery.

    “Perhaps you could delay that little attempt long enough for me to save my sister’s ass,” he growled.

    “What the hell is this mating shit?”

    “Later,” she snapped. “Now is not the time for explanations. Now is the time for you to tell me how the Council learned of the mating, if Merinus didn’t tell you of it.”

    And Sherra was nearly certain he hadn’t known. He was a liar, but in this one instance, he was telling the truth. Her gifts had grown through the years, with maturity and desperation. She could now smell a lie as others could diseased trash.

    “Who are you?” His voice sizzled. “And you’re going to have to be a little more forthcoming than you have been, woman. I can’t help Merinus or Callan with so little information.”

    Taking a deep breath, Sherra stepped from the shadows. She watched his eyes widen, saw the suspicion turn to knowledge.

    “You aren’t dead,” he whispered, blinking, as though trying to assure himself she was there. His expression went slack with shock, his eyes gleaming beneath the low lights with at first something resembling hope, then with fury.

    Bitterness filled her with a wave of pain so intense, she nearly drowned beneath it. He was furious now, and he had no right to be.

    “No, lover, I wasn’t killed. But that doesn’t mean you have much longer to live.”

    Sherra faced her past now as she never had before. Nightmares and broken hopes fragmented around her, drawing her soul into a bleak, dark void she feared she could never escape. She felt the surging lust, the need, just as Callan and Merinus knew it, thundering through her blood, through her very being. Before her stood the man who had betrayed her years before. In a bleak, cold lab, his body laboring over her, throwing her into pleasure despite every barrier she put up against it. Her mate. The father of the child she had lost. The one man she had sworn to kill.

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