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    PROLOGUE

    July 1997, Genetics Council, Wolf Breed Labs

    Mexico

    Wolfe growled in fury, his teeth bared, his body taut, ready to spring as they pushed the young woman into his cell once again. She carried his scent now, proof that she was his mate. The mark he had given her the day before was still vividly evident on her upper shoulder.

    “You’ll do as I demand this time, Wolfe, or Hope will take the beating instead of you,” Delia Bainesmith told him coldly.

    “She’s your daughter,” he howled out in fury. “How can you do this to her?”

    “She is a lab rat, no more, no less than are you,” she informed him smugly. “Now breed her. She’s ovulating, and we’ve made certain she’s ready. Fuck her, my little wolf, or she’ll be the one who pays.”

    The Bitch walked away, her laughter echoed behind her as Hope whimpered in sexual distress. They had given her an aphrodisiac, ensuring she would accept him.

    “Please, Wolfe.” Her slender body shook with tremors of arousal. “It hurts.”

    “I can’t, Hope.” He couldn’t look at her. “I won’t.”

    She was just a child, barely seventeen. He wouldn’t scar her, either physically or emotionally with what he knew was coming.

    “She’ll beat me,” she whispered.

    “She won’t get the chance.” He knew that.

    “She said you mated with me. How did you mate with me, without taking me?”

    He could almost hear the tears whispering over her pale cheeks.

    “I marked you, Hope.” He couldn’t stop his eyes from going to the proof of his ownership. “No other will touch you. No other will have you. That mark and the scent it places on you is mine alone. Don’t make the mistake of ever allowing another man in your bed. Because I’ll kill him.”

    Cold, hard rage shuddered through him at the thought. He had killed one soldier already over her. The one who had dared to fondle her br**sts as they tore her clothes from her the day before.

    “I’m sorry she did this. It’s my fault, for loving you.” As always, she would try to take the blame on her slender shoulders.

    “No, Hope, it is my fault,” he told her bleakly. “Mine for ever desiring to try to hope for more.”

    * * * * *

    Explosions ripped through the compound. Gunfire exploded around the small house Hope was locked into; the smell of burning buildings, the sounds of horrified screams echoed in her head.

    “Wolfe!” She screamed his name out. Huddled in the bedroom on the opposite end of the house, terrified it would go up in flames at any minute, she prayed he would find her.

    The ground rocked, plaster showered from the roof as she pressed herself closer to the huge dresser that she prayed would deflect the ceiling should it fall. She screamed out Wolfe’s name again. He would come for her soon.

    The sound of the front door slamming had her on her feet, racing for the doorway. Her abrupt halt just inside the living room had her rocking on her heels. Her mother stood there, furious, shaking, her normally austere composure crumpled.

    “Wolfe,” Hope couldn’t stop her cry, her unasked question.

    “The son of a bitch is dead. They all are,” she sneered. “They hit the Labs first, and it’s an inferno. Forget it, Hope, save yourself now. Don’t worry about that mongrel excuse for a man.”

    Hope slid to the floor, the wall supporting her body, her mind unable to accept, unable to process the meaning of her mother’s words.

    “He’ll come for me,” she whispered.

    Cruelty echoed in Delia Bainesmith’s demented laughter.

    “Wishful thinking, daughter. That bastard will never cum again. Too bad. You might have enjoyed it.”

    CHAPTER ONE

    Six Years Later, July 2002

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Hope Bainesmith knew when she received the phone call from her mother that it wasn’t going to be a good day. The woman hadn’t bothered to call her for years, had taken no interest in her life other than the monthly medical tests Hope was required to take. So the phone call that morning had caused her no small amount of concern.

    “Have you seen Wolfe?” Hope’s knees had weakened at the question. She collapsed into the kitchen chair, stilling the pain that raged in her chest.

    Wolfe. Her hand touched the mark at her upper shoulder. Her body throbbed in remembrance. It was that mark that made the monthly tests necessary. An odd quirk of nature, given to a man that was created by science. The small bite had allowed a minute amount of an unknown hormone into her blood. It marked her pheromones and acted as a very mild aphrodisiac. She had been in arousal hell ever since. Hence the reason for monthly medicals.

    “Wolfe’s dead, mother. Remember?” She reminded the creature who spawned her. “How could I see him?”

    There was silence over the line. Hope knew her voice reflected the grief she still lived with on a daily basis. It had been nearly six years but she could still remember with brutal clarity the attack on the Labs, the engulfing blaze and the horrendous screams from those trapped inside.

    “We never recovered a body,” Dr. Bainesmith reminded her, her cultured voice cool and autocratic.

    Hope could just see her petite, pretty mother, her black eyes as cold as ice, her Asian features a cool mask of studied indifference. Nothing mattered but the project at hand, and nothing else would matter. But Wolfe wasn’t a project anymore, she wanted to scream, and neither was she.

    “There were a lot of bodies you didn’t recover,” Hope pointed out painfully. “Wolfe’s dead, let him rest in peace now.”

    She hung up the phone carefully, fighting the tears that filled her eyes. The instinctive longing welled inside her at the oddest times. Wolfe was dead. No amount of grieving could bring him back. There was no justice to be found—no matter what she did—in his death.

    Her mother refused to accept it. Wolfe was her creation; she considered him and his Pack her property. He had defeated her with his death, and Hope knew the other woman could not accept that she would no longer command the army she had envisioned. A pack of savage, intelligent soldiers with the instincts and intelligence of an animal.

    The world was still in shock, even now, years after the broadcast of the first Breeds, felines in that case, announcing their lives. Those men and women, created by science, had been genetically altered with the DNA of savage cats. They had been created to kill. “Disposable soldiers,” one announcer had reported. The Breeds they were called, for want of a better name. It was during the broadcast of that announcement that the labs in Mexico had been raided by Mexican and American agents. It had been a brutal, bloody battle, one that would have done any drug lord proud. But it wasn’t drugs they sought; it was the human experimentations and the scientists and soldiers who made their lives hell that the agents wanted.

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