She snuggled against his chest as he collapsed beside her, dragging an afghan from the back of the couch and wrapping it around her, her breasts cushioned against the incredible heat of his chest, her body languid, sated for the moment.
“If I have to,” he whispered at her ear, somber.
“Hm, you have to.” She yawned. But first, a nap. Her eyes closed, her body relaxed against his heat and she drifted quickly into rest.
“I have work to do.” Merinus kept her voice carefully controlled, calm, as she sat at the kitchen table the next morning, staring down at her untouched cup of coffee.
Breakfast had been completed in silence, despite the amount of people who had ranged around the table. There were six of the Breeds as they called themselves, Merinus and the doctor. The sheer scope of the story she was now looking at terrified her. Not because of the implications of it, but due to the part she now played in it.
The others had left after eating. The other three males disappearing outside, Sherra, Dawn and the scientist returning to the lab while Callan stayed and watched Merinus in concern.
“What work do you have that doesn’t require you to be right where you are?” His broad, bare shoulders lifted in a shrug, as though her forced confinement here was not a problem.
“Where’s my cell phone?” She ignored his question. “And I want you to take me back to camp. I have interviews to do—”
“If I am your story, then why would you need to do other interviews?” he asked her curiously.
“Your mother’s death—” she began.
“Is not part of this story, Merinus,” he finished for her. “Her death was not at the hands of Council members, I have told you this already. And it is a mystery you cannot solve. So let it go.”
His voice was quiet, smooth. He watched her with those golden eyes, still hot with lust, but shadowed with demand.
“I have a life, Callan, a job,” she told him firmly. “I have to get back to it. And I need my cell phone back. I have to talk to my family, let them know I’m okay.”
“What will you tell them?” he asked her, his eyes showing an amazing degree of genuine confusion. “You cannot tell them the truth, Merinus. Not until we have this figured out.”
“They’ll worry. And if they worry, all seven of my brothers will head out here and start kicking ass until they find me,” she warned him. “It would be easier if you would just let me call them and let them know I’m okay.”
“I have no problem with you calling them.” He shrugged. “I have problems with what you might say. I will not have a team of scientists or Council killers following on their trail. I’ve had the two who attacked you taken care of, do not bring more down on our heads right now.”
Shock scattered through her system.
“Taken care of?” she whispered. “How did you take care of them?”
Irritation flashed over his features. “I slapped their hands and sent them home to their mommas,” he bit out. “How did you think I was forced to do this, Merinus? They are killers. They would have raped and tortured you and given no thought to your pain or your life. Why does it matter how I took care of them?”
He stood to his feet, stalking to the sink with his empty cup. Merinus pushed her fingers through her hair, breathing out roughly. Anger rose in her as the situation began to overwhelm her.
“Did you kill them?” she asked him furiously.
He had his back to her, staring out of the kitchen window, his shoulders tense.
“I had no choice.” Heavy, cold, his voice whispered through the room.
“Then you are no better than they are,” she bit out.
“There is where you are wrong.” He turned on her, his eyes blazing, his mouth pulled into a snarl that revealed deadly incisors. “I did not ask them to create me, Merinus. I did not ask for the DNA they coded into my body, nor did I ask them to train me to kill. I did not ask them for any of their ‘gifts’. I most certainly did not ask them to stalk me, torture friends and make my life hell because I would not
slaughter innocents for them. And I will not tolerate them sending their soldiers out to destroy me, nor what I hold as mine, Merinus. It is the law of nature. Only the strongest will survive.”
Rage trembled along his body, in his voice.
“This isn’t the jungle,” she yelled back at him, standing to her feet as she placed her palms flat on the table. “You wouldn’t have to kill if you would let the world know what is going on.”
“God, such innocence,” he growled, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Fickle public that America possesses. We would likely be burned at the stake as monsters.”
“Get real, Callan, it’s not the middle ages anymore,” she burst out. “Don’t you think the public has a right to know? To be aware of the atrocities going on? Show them for the monsters they are and it will ensure your safety.”
“It will not do this,” he bit out, shaking his head roughly. “You have no idea of the men you go against, Merinus. Men whose social, financial and political resources span not just America, but also other nations, other pocketbooks. You will not take these men down. You cannot stop the killing.”
“You won’t even try,” Merinus argued fiercely. “Look at you, Callan. Hiding, never knowing what the hell is going on with your own bodies, unable to get the help you need, when you need it. This isn’t living.”
“This is the best I can do.” His eyes were blazing. “Let me tell you an alternative, Merinus.” Her name was a curse on his lips. “An alternative is living in a structured lab, taken out only for tests and training, or breeding purposes. It’s cold and sterile and a worse hell than you could ever know. At least here we are free.”
“As long as you kill?” Her fists clenched as she fought to understand the life he lived. The war raging against him, through him.
“If they would cease to try to kill me, then I would no longer kill them,” he informed her coldly, arrogance settling over him like an aura of danger.
“You can stop it,” she bit out.
“As can they,” he told her as she watched him fight for control. “I would not kill their damned mercenaries if they would cease in sending them out.”
“Go in. Father can help you.” She couldn’t understand his need to hide when help was being offered.
“I am not a freak for your tabloids to ponder my humanity over.” He shook his head sharply. “I have as much right to live as you or your brothers. I will not have that questioned, nor will I leave it up to a fickle public to decide my fate.”
“This isn’t how it happens.” Merinus clenched her fists angrily. “The public will help you.”
“Only if your ‘spin’ on the story is better than that of my enemies,” he bit out. “And trust me, Merinus, you are good, as are your brothers. But they will bribe your scientists, your doctors, they will jerk every weapon you have out of your hands until I am branded as no more than a monster. And then, there will be no place where I can hide.”
“That won’t happen,” Merinus assured him.
Merinus knew her father, uncle and brothers had been very careful. They wouldn’t take a chance with his life.
Mockery washed over his face.
“Will it not?” he asked her. “Jacob thought he could aid us and refuse their offers. He returned home to the brutal deaths of his wife and children. A lesson. How many of your scientists would risk that?”
Shock sped through Merinus’ body. She knew the Council killed indiscriminately, she had the proof of it. But hearing Callan voice it, so coldly furious, made it somehow more real.
“I promise you, my family has made a way for you,” she whispered. “Look at us, Callan. Look at me. I can’t be away from you for more than an hour without my body going into some kind of crazy withdrawal. I can’t live this way.”
“It will only be temporary,” he promised her. “Doc will fix it.”
“How do you know?” she bit out. “What if it can’t be fixed, Callan? What if we can never be free of each other? What if we don’t want to be?”
“I didn’t want to be born an animal, or an experiment. Wants don’t count.” His voice held a ring of finality.
“And if Doc doesn’t fix it?” His attitude only spurred her anger further. “What about me, Callan? Will you just run away and leave me to deal with it as best I can?”
He grimaced, turning away from her. She watched his muscular back heave with a harsh breath, his head lower.
“If I must,” he told her softly, refusing to look at her now. “I will if I have to make the choice of revealing my secrets, or being with you, Merinus. My family must come first.”
“I know about your family,” she told him, unreasonably furious at the stand he was taking. “What’s to keep me from telling?”
He turned to look at her and the blood chilled in her veins. His eyes were cold, stone hard and as emotionless as his expression. Gasping, she backed away from him, fighting an instinctive fear that rose inside her.
“Callan.” Sherra’s voice stopped him from answering.
The tall blonde stood in the kitchen doorway, a syringe in one hand as she faced them.
“What do you need, Sherra?” he asked her sharply. “I have no time for more of your tests.”
Merinus watched Sherra’s eyes narrow.
“Good, because I would more likely try to kill you rather than test you,” she said sweetly. “I’ve brought
Merinus’ contraception injection. Perhaps you need to go outside and get your control back while she takes it.”
Callan gave her a hard look.
“You don’t intimidate me, brother,” she informed him, moving into the room in determination. “And you shouldn’t try to intimidate Merinus. This is hard enough on her.”
“I do not try to intimidate, Sherra,” he reminded her darkly.
“No, you usually succeed,” she admitted. “But now is the wrong time to practice that tough attitude. Go stalk something non-human for a change, while I explain to Merinus why you were forced to kill to save the young girl those soldiers found a few hours after we rescued her, rather than letting her think you did it in cold blood.”
Callan’s eyes narrowed, while Merinus’ widened.
“What?” she whispered in disbelief.
“Yes.” Sherra nodded, stopping beside her and indicating Merinus should lift her arm for the injection.
“When he went back to track them, disable them, then send them home in shame, they were in the process of attempting to brutalize a young girl they had kidnapped earlier. When he interrupted them, they elected to fight rather than surrender, and when Callan would have still shown mercy, one of them attempted to kill the girl anyway.”
Merinus took a deep, hard breath as she looked at Callan.
“They are still dead.” He sneered. “And they would have died for touching you alone.”
Callan watched Merinus blink at his statement. He hadn’t meant to reveal that, but the words had come out anyway. He had no intentions of leaving those bastards alive, as he would have normally done. He had been in a killing rage after rescuing Merinus from their hands, intent on destruction. The soldiers had just made it easier for his conscience to bear the weight.
They had touched what was his. He recognized the emotion, the origin of the fury now. They had laid their hands on his woman, put their scent on her. They had crossed a line Callan had never known existed. One that assured their deaths.
It worried him, this attachment he had for her, the violent emotions that swirled in his brain and in his body. He wanted to deny them, not just to her, but to himself. How could he walk away from her if he couldn’t go more than a few hours without touching her?