“Don’t bother to lie to me.” There was a vein of hurt in her voice, as though she knew what he had intended.
Callan crossed his arms over his chest. He narrowed his eyes on her and let his frustration free in a harsh, rumbling growl that he hadn’t intended to give voice to. The low snarl, catlike in sound, dangerous in purpose, filled the air.
He watched the woman blink. The pictures fluttered from her hand, the heat of her body rose, the scent of it thicker, mixed now with fear. The pictures lay on the floor now, incriminating, damning. Callan, as a child, a thick lion’s fur covering his body, his eyes, amber gold and bright, shining into the camera. The fur had slowly fallen away, until only a smooth, light scattering of fine, nearly invisible, ultra soft hair remained. The other was a sonogram, and Callan knew pertinent information was recorded on the back of it. Blood type, DNA sequence, anomalies. All recorded. All nails in a coffin that Merinus Tyler could help build.
Merinus watched the tall, powerful man as he bent and scooped the pictures from the floor. His face was expressionless, his eyes hard, brilliant amber in the tan darkened features of his face. She hadn’t intended to show him the proof she carried with her, but she had known he was ready to lie to her. The knowledge had vibrated through her body. Lie. The word had been like a whisper, dark and vibrating. But Merinus had proof. She hadn’t come to him with supposition and half-truths. The evidence Maria Morales had sent John Tyler had been conclusive, irrefutable. But to bring truth to the test results and pictures, they needed the man. She hadn’t meant to drop the pictures, but the smooth rumble of warning from his throat had been more than a surprise
“Maria was like a little packrat,” he sighed, shaking his head as he stared down at the pictures. Long, thick, coarse, tawny gold hair lay below the nape of his neck, framing a sharply lined face, savage in its angles. Wide, tilted eyes, thick lashes and cheekbones with an odd flattened angle where they should curve high and sharp. His nose was aristocratic, but the ridge seemed smoothed out, much as the cheekbones were.
Merinus ignored the hard beat of her heart as he finally looked at her. Her womb tightened uncomfortably, making her cunt clutch and protest the emptiness there. It was unusual, this sensation. She was well aware it was arousal washing over her. It made her breasts feel swollen, made her nipples harden uncomfortably, and those unusual eyes did not miss the reaction.
“She asked Father to help you,” she said, trying to cover her nervousness. “He wants you to come in with me. He has safeguards set up—”
He laughed. His lips twisted into a humorless curve and the bitterness in the sound struck at her heart. He shook his head, his gaze mocking.
“If this is why you have come here, Ms. Tyler, then you have wasted your time.” Gone was the good ole boy, in its place a cold, hard creature. She saw it in the tense readiness of his large body, the flash of sharpened incisors at the sides of his mouth.
“You aren’t safe,” she told him worriedly. “Our research into this has uncovered a plot to kill—”
“And eventually they will succeed.” He shrugged as though unconcerned. “When they do, steal the body and write your story and good luck to you in living. Until then, I need no help of yours.”
Surprise flared inside her.
“You don’t intend to try to stop them? To keep this from happening again?”
“It has already happened again and again and again,” he told her coldly. “They used wolves as well. To my knowledge, I am the only known success they have achieved.”
Merinus shook her head. She had seen the pictures of those pitiful forms, born so deformed that there was no hope of life. Only Callan, as he said, had been their success.
“You can’t hide forever,” she pointed out. “You’re letting them win, Mr. Lyons.”
“I am living. I do not kill; I do not follow their command. They have not caught me, nor captured me again since my teens. I will defeat them until I can no longer, Ms. Tyler. Then, as I said, the rest is history.”
“My father is offering you an alternative,” she told him.
She fought a shiver that washed over her body as he moved, bringing his body closer to her. Heat suffused her, making the flesh between her thighs moisten. If the feeling wasn’t so strange, she would have been amused.
Callan Lyons was watching her with a frown, a question in his eyes as he came closer. She watched him inhale deeply, his eyes narrowing on her. As he brushed against her, the shiver couldn’t be controlled. It tightened her scalp, tingled down her neck, then spread out over her body, drawing goose bumps in its wake.
He stopped behind her, his body so warm the heat seemed to wrap around her. She could feel her body wanting to relax against him, wanting to be surrounded by him. Her thighs weakened, and between them she could feel the slow leak of moisture from her inner flesh, preparing her, readying her. Insanity. She gasped, startled when she felt his chest brush against her back, his head lowering to her ear.
“I am going to unlock that door, Ms. Tyler. When I do, I want you to walk out of here, get in your vehicle and go home. Make no stops between here and there and do not mention my name or what you know to anyone, do you understand me? It just might keep you alive.”
Merinus turned her head, a grin edging her lips.
“Are you trying to intimidate me, Mr. Lyons?” Good gracious, where had that husky edge to her voice come from? Maybe the same place that the sharp contraction to her womb originated from. She felt him tense behind her. His hand moved to her arm, his fingers curling, the backs of them running softly across her flesh.
“Do you know what the Council does to pretty little women like yourself?” he asked her, his voice low, a deep rumble of warning from his chest. “They impregnate you with their latest batch of genetically altered cells. Then they take you out daily, to check the progress. If your body rejects it, then they do it again and again until you either hold the fetus, or you’re too weak to be of use to them any longer. Then they give you to the soldiers to use until you die. It’s not a pretty way to be taken from this earth.”
Merinus bit her lip as she felt pain, overwhelming, intense, striking at her chest. It wasn’t fear, it was horror, revulsion, absolute pain for the women who had endured it, the man who had obviously seen it.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, staring back, seeing only the thin line of anger his mouth had settled into.
“You are risking your very sanity being here.” His breath caressed her ear, a shiver working over her skin once again as he spoke to her. “Your sanity and your life. You should leave.”
His voice throbbed with menace. It pulsed with heated arousal. Thick and husky, it rippled over her nerve endings, seared her cunt.
“So you’ve said.” She stared forward as he moved again, coming back to face her. “I told you, I’m not willing to let them continue to kill and maim, and you shouldn’t be either. We can stop them. My uncle, Samuel Tyler, is a Senator and close to the President. He’s waiting to do whatever is necessary. I have seven brothers, each one doing their part, and my father is willing to put every resource he has within his paper to back you. We have to make them stop.”
“And you think this will stop them?” he asked her incredulously. “Your innocence is to be envied, Ms. Tyler. It’s actually quite frightening. You can’t take these people down.”
She had to. She couldn’t stand to live if they managed to kill him. He was proud, determined and too damned remarkable in his very humanity to allow them to murder him. She had to convince him that his only safety lay in revealing the horrors he had escaped.
“You know who they are. You know what they are. You have the rest of the proof that we need to stop them,” she argued determinedly. “Your mother died because of this.”
“My mother was a victim of a random crime,” he growled. “Had the Council struck her, she would have disappeared and her body returned to me in pieces. The Council did not destroy her.”
“There was no sign of theft.” Merinus had read the police report. “It was a personal crime, Mr. Lyons. Whoever killed her wanted her dead.”
Merinus hadn’t come to this place unprepared. Her father had made certain she knew everything involving Maria Morales’ death and the evidence they had against the Council.
“And they succeeded. But it wasn’t the Council.” He stared down at her, his eyes hard, furious. “I know their scent, I know the stench of their evil. As cloying and cold as the scent of your arousal is sweet and hot.”
Merinus opened her mouth to argue until the last words penetrated her brain. She felt her face flush, her heart rate increase. She stared at him in surprise. How had he known?
“Explain to me why a young, innocent woman is standing here before me, her cunt wet and prepared for an animal? And I am an animal, sugar, unlike any you will ever know.”
Merinus trembled beneath Callan’s regard. His amber eyes almost glowed, his voice lowered, husky. A quick, very brief glance below his hips showed a bulge that made her more than nervous. Evidently, she wasn’t the only one afflicted. And an affliction more than described it. She felt fevered, her skin sensitive, ready for his touch. It was unlike anything she had ever known. It was unlike anything she ever wanted to know.
“I don’t know.” She heard the nervousness in her voice, the confusion. The longer she stayed in his presence, the worse the temptation to touch him was growing. She stared at his chest, no longer able to stare into his eyes. Those amber depths drew her in, made her want, made her need things she wasn’t certain she should want. She flinched when his fingers gripped her chin, uncertain, almost frightened now. Had he not been aware of the desires flaring in her body, she could have handled this. Could have handled the direct look from his eyes, the caress of his fingers against her chin. She ran her tongue nervously over her dry lips, aware of the sudden fullness in them, the ache, the throb just beneath the skin. His eyes narrowed. His thumb reached out, running experimentally over the soft curve, picking up the moisture from her mouth. Her chest tightened as she tried to breathe normally. She couldn’t seem to draw in enough air to fill her lungs sufficiently. She felt the need to fight for breath, to release the moan she held there.
“You’re dangerous.” There was that growl again, rumbling just beneath the surface of his words.
“Whatever this is, Merinus, could mean our lives.”
“Anomaly.” She bit her lip. She had no answers for this.
A mocking curve of his lips showed his disagreement.
“There is no such thing as an anomaly when dealing with one such as I,” he assured her. “I’m instinct, Merinus. An animal barely disguised. Any response is one to fear.”
“Not an animal.” She shook her head, seeing the bitterness in his eyes. She drew away from his touch quickly. He made her body weak, pliant. She needed all her wits about her now.
“What would you call it then?” There was a thread of anger running through his voice. “If I did as you asked, and by some miracle of God did not end up dead, then I would be known as America’s Freak. More experiments, more tests. At least this way, I’m free. As long as I can run faster than their soldiers and hide better than their trackers, then I can survive.”
“And is survival enough?” she asked him, angry that he didn’t want more. “What about those who will come later? The poor souls that meet their killing criteria? Don’t you feel in some way responsible to stop it?”
Cynicism washed over his expression.
“So passionate,” he murmured, leaning against the wall, his arms crossing over his chest as he watched her. “I’m one man—”
“With a nation that will back him,” she argued desperately.