Mercury’s War

Breeds Book 16

Someone has been slipping the Sanctuary’s secure information to a pharmaceutical company. Now it’s up to Ria Rodriguez to pose as a clerk and uncover the leak. Yet she has no idea of the danger she’s about to encounter—or the passion she’s about to ignite in one of the greatest Breeds ever created.

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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 into the dimmest part of the man’s subconscious.

Where was it fair that he 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 only 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 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 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’ own force of men now protecting the Vanderale’s glorified clerk, then he had to have a bodyguard. A human bodyguard at that. It was a damned good think he could at least get along with the other man.

He stared at Elyiana Morrey’s back at 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 in 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 did 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. “You’re 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.

He 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 level off the hormonal treatments in Dawn’s body 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 thought. 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 through the tests Ely had run.

The tests she had designed to determine mating compatibility were complicated. A mix of saliva, blood and semen 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.

“Damn you, you think you know it all,” she cursed. “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…”

“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 the reasons why 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 fuck about my men or the people I’m busting my ass to fucking save? Do you think I risk my goddamned life daily against the Supremists and Breed Law for fucking 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 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 semen tested weekly for the feral hormone. If and I say if the mating hormone or the feral hormone makes itself known, then we’ll appraise him of the situation. Until then, you will keep your pretty mouth shut.”

“That might not be good enough. I can’t predict…”

“Then you better learn how to predict,” he broke in. “Merc is alone, Ely. He’s accustomed himself to 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?” His voice lowered, determination threading through the tone as he stared back at her.

Seconds later, her lashes flickered, 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 days. 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 fucking 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 fucking hinges. At times like this, he wished he were a drinking man. A good drunk might have helped.