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This was the last thing she needed this year, Liza Johnson thought as she moved along the deserted jogging path that cut through the Window Rock Navajo Nation Park.
This was supposed to be her year.
It was supposed to be the year her life truly began, or so her best friend’s grandfather had promised her.
Orrin Martinez, one of the secretive spiritual advisors of the Six Tribes, had sought her out. She hadn’t gone looking for his advice, now had she? He’d had no earthly reason to lie to her and yet he had done just that.
Or at least, that was how it seemed.
Because this wasn’t her year.
It was the year of the Breeds.
The arrival of the Breeds and the director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs demanding access to one of the Navajo’s most sacred possessions, a database of DNA profiles the Navajo Nation Council kept under the strictest security, had set in motion events that unsettled Liza in ways she couldn’t explain.
The calling together of the chiefs of the Six Tribes, whose sole mission was the acquisition and protection of the profiles, had thrown her entire family, as well as her friends’ families, in upheaval.
Such a sacred part of the Navajo wasn’t left to politics to protect.
And the protection of it was becoming dangerous not just to her friends, but also to herself.
One of Liza’s best friends had nearly been abducted by the man who had attempted to rape her weeks before. Another friend had been shot trying to defend her. And now here she was, risking not just herself but also her undercover status to draw out soldiers who were stalking her for unknown reason.
She’d been working, training, and honing her abilities to work with the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement Division.
“They’re moving in,” the voice stated softly over the tiny—all but invisible—electronic link tucked in her ear. “Just bounce those pretty ta-tas, sugar girl, and look pretty. We’ll take care of the rest—Oh shit, Cullen.”
Liza managed not to laugh but she could see exactly what had happened. Their communications and electronic guru, Reever Jacobs, had obviously taken a blow from their commander, Cullen Maverick.
Flirtatious, sensual, teasing as hell and a complete killer, Reever absolutely loved a good fight, and—as he more often claimed—corrupting a good woman.
Their commander, Cullen, rarely agreed with his various philosophies, but Reever was a hell of a communications expert and a warrior comparable to those who lived during the golden years of the Apache Nation.
The large circular design cutout in the hill, the aptly named Window Rock, rose behind her. The first rays of warming sunlight were barely caressing the earth and had yet to peak into the small valley of cottonwoods and pinon trees that the path wove through.
“Heads up, you have Diane Broen coming up on you. Behind her, moving in fast, are your shadows. Get ready for a party, Munchkin.”
Liza almost smiled at the nickname Cullen and Reever had given her when they had first met, nine years before.
She was still short, but now, he only called her Munchkin when they were on a mission or assignment together—thankfully.
“Here we go,” Reever announced softly. “Bad-ass Broen is coming to visit.”
Liza felt the presence behind her the second it moved into place. The hairs at the back of her neck rose in anticipation of danger and a certainty that she was pushing her luck far past its limit this morning.
She twisted, throwing her body to the side before coming to a crouch and staring back at Diane Broen with narrowed eyes.
The other woman came to a stop, her brow arching in mocking surprise as Liza faced her suspiciously. “What do you want?” Tense and prepared, she stared back at Diane.
This woman was a highly trained mercenary and lover to one of the Bureau’s most trusted Breed enforcers. What the hell was she doing here?
“A nice jog?” Diane queried with a small smile as she crossed her arms over her br**sts and stared back at Liza curiously.
A nice jog, her ass.
“You’re lying.” Clipped and clearly distrusting, Liza remained on guard as Diane faced her. “Now, what do you want and why are you following me?”
“Who trained you?” Diane asked rather than answering the question.
Never trust anyone who answered a question with a question, her father had always warned her.
“No one you know, I’m certain,” Liza sneered back. “Now, what the hell do you want?”
The other woman tilted her head to the side as Liza considered her options if this woman turned out to be the enemy.
Tensing, she prepared for attack.
“Easy, Liza,” Cullen, obviously watching her closely, murmured through the still-in-place link. “Let’s see what she wants.”
Oh, she had every intention of at least giving the other woman a chance to show her hand. Diane Broen was part of the Breed community as well as the Bureau of Breed Affairs now that her sister, Rachel Broen, was married to the director of that Bureau, Jonas Wyatt.
Not that there was much of a chance of kicking Ms. Broen’s ass if she had to, Liza knew. But she might be able to hold her off until help arrived.
Or until she could run.
“I’m no threat to you,” the other woman said with a soft, friendly laugh as Liza straightened, her gaze moving around them quickly as she searched for signs of the Council soldiers she knew would be moving in.
She didn’t have time to stand around and chitchat all morning.
“Then you’ll kindly leave the way you came,” Liza said, desperate to get rid of her. How the hell was she supposed to get the information she needed when there wasn’t a chance the Council soldiers would move in as long as Diane was here.
Diane grinned back at her ruefully. “Sorry, Liza, but we really need to talk. Just for a bit, you understand. We could return to the hotel for the discussion if you like?” She glanced toward the direction of the Navajo Suites. “I promise it won’t take long.”
Liza’s gaze jerked over Diane’s shoulder.
For precious seconds she had to fight the panic threatening to tear through her and overtake her at the sight of figures moving in behind the other woman.
She’d been a part of the Navajo’s Breed Underground Network for over a year now, and she had never been as frightened as she was now.
A moment of static at her ear confirmed for her that Cullen and Reever were still there. “Bureau Breeds are moving in fast behind them. We have you covered,” Cullen assured her, but she heard the concern in his tone. “See if you can get the bastards talking. If you can’t, just be sure to hit the ground when I give the order.”