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    "Then he'll protect her with the same ferocity that he used when those bastards took someone he cared for," he snapped back at her. "This is not proof that he's returning to the feral state. And it's not proof that he will, so why are you so upset over it?"

    Ely was usually the calm head where the Breeds were concerned. The one who looked for alternative answers and for the reasons tests came out as they did. She wasn't the one to jump to conclusions on any test. That was his job.

    "Because you won't tell him." He could hear her teeth grinding. "I know you. You'll play games with him, and you'll endanger him . . ."

    "Son of a bitch," he snapped back as his own anger began to rise. "You think this is all a game to me, Ely? That I don't give a f**k about my men or the people I'm busting my ass to f**king save? Do you think I risk my goddamned life daily against the Supremacists and Breed Law for f**king thrills?"

    He felt like hitting something. And if Jackal's anger didn't burn down behind him, then he was going to hit him.

    Jonas inhaled sharply at the sign that his temper was unraveling. Forcing it back always took effort; releasing it had never gained him a damned thing, so why expend the effort?

    "I don't know why you do it, and I don't care," she whispered. "But you have to warn him."

    "No." He closed the file and snapped it back to the counter.

    "I knew it," she sneered. "You just answered your own question, Jonas. You enjoy risking your damned life."

    "I don't risk my men needlessly," he snarled. "Neither do I resort to paranoid fears and interfere with the job they have to do, and neither will you. What you will do, my fine little doctor, is keep a very careful eye on him while she's here. I want blood, saliva and se**n tested weekly for the feral hormone. If, and I say if, the mating hormone or the feral hormone makes itself known, then we'll apprise him of the situation. Until then, you will keep your pretty mouth shut."

    "That might not be good enough. I can't predict . . ."

    He broke in. "Then you better learn how to predict. Merc is alone, Ely. He's accustomed himself to being alone. But that doesn't mean he doesn't regret what he thinks he lost. As far as we know, Breeds mate only once. Mercury is convinced that lioness was his mate. Until we see otherwise, you will not give him hope. Until we see otherwise, you will not plant your paranoia in his head. Do you understand me on this?"

    She stared back at him in fury. "That lioness was his mate. The mating hormone proved it, Jonas."

    "Do you understand me?" He lowered his voice, determination threading through the tone as he stared back at her.

    Seconds later, her lashes flickered and lowered, and she nodded shortly. The small sign of submission would work for now. Once he had time, though, he was definitely going to rein in his little Breed scientist. She was becoming much too confrontational for the job they had ahead of them.

    "Very well. Ms. Rodriquez arrives within the next two weeks. When she comes in, take your own samples. There could be a problem with the ones Vanderale's provided, and run this again. I want to know what it shows when you do. If they haven't changed, then we'll watch the situation very closely. It's all we can do."

    "He could destroy her as well as himself if that hormone releases during a moment of stress." Her voice was strained as she attempted to override her natural submissiveness.

    Damned f**king Breed genetics.

    She submitted to him by design rather than choice. It grated at him each time it happened.

    "Or he could mate her and live happily ever after," he retorted sarcastically. "Until we know one way or the other, then our hands are tied."

    "I could warn him that the drugs that recessed the feral genetics may not have done their job," she suggested.

    "And have him run?" He pushed his fingers through his hair in frustration. "You don't know Merc very well, Ely. I do. Keep your mouth shut and keep me up-to-date on this. I'll take care of the rest."

    Dammit to hell. He didn't need this. He needed Merc to keep Vanderale's little paper pusher out of trouble, not to mate her or go insane on him. And he sure as hell didn't need Ely wigging out on him.

    He turned and left the lab, closing the door carefully behind him despite his need to slam it off the f**king hinges. At times like this, he wished he were a drinking man. A good drunk might have helped.

    CHAPTER 1

    TWO WEEKS LATER

    The private jet taxied into the hangar, pulling into the heated cavern awaiting it, and huge metal doors closed to trap the heat inside as its motors stilled.

    Long minutes later, the door opened, and Ria Rodriquez stepped out onto the top step the pilot had lowered. She stared around the hangar.

    A long black limo was parked well out of the way of the jet's wings, and as she watched, a door opened and Mercury Warrant stepped from the car.

    She wanted to groan at the sight of the man sent to meet her. Or rather the Breed.

    She stared at him curiously. She had seen his photos over the past months, knew as much about him as her boss Dane Vanderale could dig up, and still, the sight of him was like a punch of reaction deep inside her stomach.

    His features weren't those of a man's. Nor were they those of the lion his genes had been merged with. If a sexier than hell version of both could be created, then that was Mercury Warrant.

    Slanted amber eyes, the line of the lids black, as though someone had applied the lightest layer of eyeliner. She knew his lashes were thick. His nose was long and straight, though a bit flatter, a bit more arrogantly defined than possible in a normal male.

    His lips were just a bit thin, but that lower lip, it had a tempting fullness at the center of it that had had her tongue running over her own lips whenever she had noticed it in the pictures she'd studied of the Breeds she would be in contact with.

    "Ms. Rodriquez, we're heading to Venezuela to pick up Mr. Dane. Should you need us, don't hesitate to call for pickup."

    She turned and looked at her pilot. Bush pilot. Scruffy, his eyes flat and hard, but there was a twinkle of warmth in them when he looked at her.

    She was used to working with the hidden Breeds of the world. The ones the Vanderales has slipped from the labs, or from missions. The ones that were listed as dead. Such as Burke had been.

    "Tell Mr. Dane to please remember the bling he promised me," she murmured. "I'm about to earn it."

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