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    PROLOGUE

    BUFFALO GAP, VIRGINIA BREED COMPOUND, SANCTUARY

    He was a beast, an animal. He was a creation, the blending of man and lion, and the beast was caged within him. Powerful, strong. The ability to run, to hunt, to scent the enemy on the wind and taste it in the breeze was chained in the dimmest part of the man's subconscious.

    How was it fair that it was locked away? it roared. The man was given leave to walk the land, and yet the beast was forced to hide. It stared out of the man's eyes, it pumped the blood in the man's body, and forever it was leashed, restrained.

    But it was growing stronger. The drugs that had kept it leashed had worn off; the years of freedom that the man had known, the false sense of security that the man had developed, would aid the creature hiding inside him.

    The beast waited. It prowled. It roared out in nightmares as it bided its time. The man was certain of his control. Certain that the drugs the scientists had given him in those labs, and his own control, had killed the animal that fought with such ferocity to survive.

    But it wasn't dead. It had never left. For a time, it had slept. A forced sleep. A sleep that built the anger growing inside it, and now it was awake. It was awake and clawing to be free.

    But it was patient, or so the animal thought. It could hold on until the man let it free. It was part of the man, part of who he was, what he was. The man would release the animal soon. As soon as the animal was strong enough. It was tired. The attempts to kill it had nearly succeeded. Only by slipping so deep within the man's primal unconsciousness that even the most vital parts of it were hidden, had it managed to survive.

    But when it slipped back, the drugs had built an unbreakable fortress of bars around it. They pressed into the animal. Drove spikes through its soul and filled it with pain. And weakened it. Weakened it as surely as a fatal wound would have killed the man.

    And the man stayed diligent. The man had no reason to give rein to his heart, or to open his soul. For the man believed his soul lost. Only the animal knew better. And the animal waited . . . Waited for the man to find his soul.

    * * *

    "Have you finished the tests?" Jonas stepped into the small lab, as Jackal trailed behind him. Damned security personnel. Callan had given the order that with Jonas's own force of men now protecting Vanderale's glorified clerk, Jonas had to have a bodyguard. A human bodyguard at that. It was a damned good thing he could at least get along with the other man.

    He stared at Elyiana Morrey's back as she tensed, her hand lifting to rub the back of her neck. The muscles stiffened beneath her white lab coat as the scent of her irritation began to bloom around her.

    She was doing that a lot lately. As soon as he found the time, he would remind her who was the boss here. He didn't have time to engage in power plays with her.

    "I finished the tests." She picked up a folder, turned and strode to the counter beside him before slapping it down and returning to whatever she was working on before. Completely ignoring both him and his bodyguard, Jackal.

    Silence filled the lab as Jonas stared at the file, quirking his brow at her obvious ill temper. Breed females didn't have PMS, so he couldn't explain her mood swings as well as he could those of the few non-Breed females in the compound.

    He had decided months ago that Ely was just contrary.

    He liked that about her though. Sometimes. He understood it and could deal with it. But she was being unusually contrary and that didn't set well with him.

    "Would you like to explain the tests you ran?" he finally asked her.

    "It's in the file."

    "I don't want to read your scientific gibberish." He allowed a primal growl to vibrate in his throat. "Tell me what I need to know."

    She turned back to him slowly, and he saw the anger burning in her eyes.

    "Your games are out of hand," she hissed, her gaze flickering nervously to Jackal. "Your manipulations and conniving machinations are going to get someone killed. And this conversation is none of his business." She pointed her finger at the bodyguard as her gaze snapped with ire.

    Jonas stared at her in surprise. Hell, he thought she liked Jackal. He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully as he tried to figure out what had her so incensed. He could only come up with one thing.

    "Are you still pissed over Dawn and Seth?" It was the only explanation he could find for her anger. He had ordered to have the hormonal treatments in Dawn's body leveled off when the mating hormone in Seth's system had begun disappearing. Dawn was losing her mate, and Jonas hadn't been willing to allow that to happen no matter how much he disliked Seth Lawrence personally. But then, there were few men that Jonas liked. Hell, few people he could say he liked period.

    The rest of that mission had gone to hell in a handbasket though. He had succeeded in ensuring Dawn and Seth stayed together, but the blood that had been spilled was cause for concern.

    Ely's lips pressed together in stubborn anger.

    Jonas breathed out in resignation, picked up the file and opened it.

    Within seconds his brows lifted and his gaze moved back to hers.

    "I thought the drugs the scientists gave him in the labs reversed this?"

    "He hasn't been on the drugs in seven years," she snapped. "And that isn't his actual state at the moment. That's what happened when I ran the mating test with that of Ms. Rodriquez."

    Now this was interesting. Jonas rubbed his jaw as he continued to read through the tests Ely had run.

    The tests she had designed to determine mating compatibility were complicated. A mix of saliva, blood and se**n samples from the male, combined with saliva, blood and female hormonal samples.

    "Jonas, he killed people when he rampaged in the labs," Ely whispered worriedly.

    Jonas waved his hand at that. "He had lost his friend . . ."

    "His mate," she snapped. "The mating hormone was in his blood. We've excused that episode the entire time he's been off the drug therapy, because it was his mate. This woman is not his mate and the feral adrenaline is there in his blood. He's going into feral displacement again and you can't deny it. That report proves it." Her finger stabbed in the direction of the file.

    Jonas shook his head again as he continued through the report.

    She cursed. "Damn you, you think you know it all. I saw the videos of his rampage when he learned that lioness had died. He killed a doctor, a trainer and two of the Coyotes that attempted to take him down. He was nearly rabid. If this woman is brought here . . ."

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