She was his mate. She knew that herself from the tests she had taken months after the episode in the Labs. Her body had begun changing then.The uncomfortable, ever present arousal.The surges of heat and irritation that seemed to linger just under her skin. Later, blood and saliva tests showed the presence of an unknown hormone that varied in strength according to the state of arousal she was in. She had hoped it would go away. Had hoped it would slowly diminish. She hadn’t counted on the scientists learning her secret, or finding a way to advance the changes her body was trying to make. She hadn’t anticipated a damned blood transfusion, something even the scientists hadn’t been able to use. The hormonal virus running through his blood was too potent for her body to fight.
But her heart and her mind disagreed. Nature was precise; it didn’t make mistakes, not with something so basic as a mating instinct. Nature didn’t deal with the heart, or anything as fickle as emotions. It dealt with biology, chemical reactions. A chemical reaction wasn’t enough for her. Her heart, her soul, demanded more.
Charity eased her way to the stove and the pot sitting on the back burner as she made her way to the kitchen. Lifting the lid, she inhaled the scent of vegetables and beef, and a rich broth that made her mouth water.
Within minutes she was sitting down to the warm soup, and a cold glass of milk. As far as meals went, she figured it was as close to ambrosia as she was going to get. She couldn’tremembering anything tasting as good in years. The milk was bitingly cold and eased the terrible dryness in her throat, while the food eased at least part of the cramps in her stomach.
She had just finished the small meal and placed her dishes in the sink to wash when a light knock sounded on the door and it opened slowly.
“Charity?”A female voice called out, and Charity watched in surprised as two women walked into the front room.
“Hope.Faith.” Amazement filled her. They were older, filled out and more mature, but smiling in welcome as they rushed into the kitchen.
“Charity.Oh God, I thought you were dead or something.” Faith reached her first. Laughing, almost crying, Charity allowed the other woman to embrace her tightly, ignoring the sharp, burning protest from her flesh. Faith was a bittaller, her once long, auburn hair was cut shorter now, but there was no mistaking the pretty features or her laughter filled voice. Even in the Labs, after Faith got past her initial wariness, she had been filled with humor and a love of life. As Faith moved back, Charity watched Hope quietly. Hope had hated all the scientists and Lab personnel after Wolfe’s escape. The few times Charity had tried to contact her she had been rudely rebuffed.
“Thank you,” Hope said quietly.“For Wolfe’s life and his escape.”
Surprise shot through her. “How did you know it was me?”
Hope’s lips quirked into a grin.Her features were vaguely Asian, compliments of her Chinese mother. She had taken her slender height and blue eyes from her American father, though.
“I made it a point to find out, after Wolfe found me.” She stepped closer, hugging Charity briefly, though warmly. “Come on now, get off those sore feet and we’ll talk.”
She hobbled back to the open living room, collapsing gratefully on the wide, well-cushioned couch as Hope disappeared into another room that Charity hadn’t noticed earlier.
“Let’s check your feet.” She came back moments later carrying a first aid kit. “Dr. Armani will be around later this evening, but I’m sure they’re starting to get uncomfortable again.”
Armani.Charity controlled her expression, her knowledge of the doctor. Armani had been her contact while she was with the Council, until more than a year ago. Surely to God Armani had known better than to transfuse her with Aiden’s blood.
“They’re actually not too bad.” Charity shrugged, uncomfortable with having the other woman kneeling at her feet. “I could use some clothes, though.”
“I have some stuff you can wear. I’ll run over to the cabin and get them while Hope takes care of this.”
No sooner than she spoke the other woman turned and rushed back out the front door.
“She’s still in heat,” Hope sighed, shaking her head.“Can’t sit still for a minute.”
“As are you.”Charity caught the slight, though distinct scent of a storm around the other woman as well.
“How long have you and Wolfe been back together?”
Hope glanced up at her, her dark blue eyes somber.“Almost a year. And yes, I am. It eases somewhat, sometimes. But it’s still pretty strong. It’s eased for me, for the time being.”
“Have your hormonal levels been tested while it’s strongest?” Charity asked her, wincing as Hope checked the tender pads of her feet. “My own tests showed increased hormone levels during ovulation. The scientists later found a slight genetic alteration in the cell structure of the ovaries. Their tests began there. With each successive hormonal treatment I was given, the cell structure has changed further, coming closer to a match with the Wolf Breed sperm. Have you been tested for any of these changes?”
The unique DNA coding of the male Breed ruled out breeding with either Breed, or non-Breed females. Yet the scientists were finding a way to break through this barrier.
“No.” Hope shook her head slowly. “Wolfe banned any such testing, and honestly, we didn’t see the need.”
“Hope, that can’t continue.” Charity frowned fiercely. “Listen to me, your body is changing.Slowly. Evolving to match Wolfe’s enough to breed. This has to be watched carefully. It affects any woman that would mate with a Breed male. The answer to this is in the blood. The anomaly in the Breed blood cells is like a virus to the right woman, if the chemistry is compatible. It then infects the ovaries and the egg, making conception possible with the compatible sperm.”
“Why would the scientists try to advance this? Or nature?” Shock filled Hope’s expression as she stared up at her in concern. “The original object was to prevent breeding.”
Charity took a deep breath, trying to tamp back her own fears. “They want the children, Hope, to experiment on.Animals whose organs will come closer to matching human requirements.Disposable creations for experimentation. They haven’t stopped. They will never stop. And no one, not Breed, nor mate nor child will ever be safe from them. Their super Army didn’t come to fruition, so they’ve changed direction now.A direction that could become more dangerous than their original plans. As for nature…”
She took a deep, trembling breath. “I don’t know why, but I know the evolution began in me, afterI the night I swallowed Aiden’s semen. It’s similar to a virus at the cellular level. It’s so complicated even the Council scientists have been unable to figure it out completely. But it begins a slow evolution that I believe will result in conception. As though nature itself has decided that the species will survive.”
She watched as Hope’s face paled. “Did you tell Aiden this?” she whispered desperately. “Does he know?”
Charity shook her head. “Keegan knew. I assumed he had found time to talk to Wolfe.”
Hope shook her head imperatively. “Keegan hasn’t said anything, Charity.Nothing. The Winged Breeds disappeared within hours of their rescue. No one has seen them.”
No one?Keegan held the answers, the key to all this. He had told her, right before the attack on the mountain, that he had figured it out. That he knew what the scientists were doing, and how nature would eventually fight back. He had kept her sane those last days as he connected with her, explaining what her body was doing, and why. He wouldn’t just leave.
“No.” Charity blinked at her in surprise. “Keegan wouldn’t do that. He knows the experiments. He knows what they were doing, step by step, even when I didn’t. Hope, Keegan is incredibly psychic, with a photographic memory. He was connected to me during those experiments. He knows everything, every last detail, he wouldn’t just leave.”
Hope stood to her feet, the first aid kit and Charity’s raw feet forgotten as she panted for breath. “I have to find Wolfe. This is worse than any of us believed.”
She rushed from the house, the door slamming behind her as Charity covered her face with her hands before pushing her fingers through her hair with weary frustration.
“Where are you, Keegan?” she bit out furiously, rubbing her temples, fighting for the connection he had often kept with her. Unable to believe he would just disappear, just leave. “Damn you, why the hell did you run?”
The mental connection she had once shared with him was absent, though. She felt only silence, only a bleak desertion by the man she had thought was a friend.
It made no sense. Keegan wasn’t the type to just drop a responsibility he had taken on. He knew he would be needed. Knew Charity would need the information he had gathered as he shared those experiments with her telepathically. It was the reason she had allowed him to set up the link in the first place.
Frowning, she fought to re-establish the connection then sighed in bleak resignation. Keegan had always come to her. She had never had to call out to him, to try to find him; he had just been there. A presence she had been able to feel whenever she needed to maintain control, or when the pain became too blinding to focus forherself .
And now he was just gone. Her eyes narrowed. What was he up to? She knew he was calculating, secretive. He wouldn’t have left in such a way unless there had been a reason for it.Unless the danger was increased somehow by his presence. She bit her lip thoughtfully. He was up to something. She could feel it. She knew him well enough to know how he plotted, planned. Now, she just had to figure out what he was up to, and why.
Aiden stood quietly behind the chair Wolfe sat in, while Jacob stood more to his side. His pistol was strapped to his thigh, along the wall behind him a rack of automatic weapons were held, ready for use. As the leader of the controversial Wolf Breed Packs, protecting his life could sometimes become a job in itself. At the moment, the room held not just Wolfe and his mate, but Jacob and his as well. Other than Charity, these two women were the only known mated females. That they were also the mates to the head of the Packs made them even more important.
The news that Hope had brought to Wolfe earlier was already beginning to cause a stir in the small Breed compound. Gathered in the room were the Leaders of the four packs who had pledged their loyalty to Wolfe and to the newly formed Breed Alliance. They all listened with bated breath as Hope explained Charity’s information. Information she had not given him, but had given to another instead.
Information he would have much preferred that she keep to herself for a bit longer.
“To verify this, I’d have to run my own tests.” Dr. Armani was thoughtful as she watched Wolfe.
“There’s no way I will consider accepting this information on hear-say alone.” She glanced at Hope apologetically. “Charity’s blood tests alone tell me it’s possible, but I refuse to go in blind.”
“Charity is already pumped full of the drugs, she would be perfect…” Hope began.
“No.” Aiden’s head rose in shock and anger as Hope voiced the thought. He speared her with a dark glance, his jaw clenching tightly as he fought to control the instinctive anger. More experiments? The pain he had watched ravage Charity’s body, even while unconscious, had nearly destroyed him. He wouldn’t consider such an action.
“Aiden, hear her out,” Wolfe said quietly.
Aiden growled, for the first time that he could remember, so opposed to his leader that he feared his own reactions.
“I refuse to allow it,” he bit out, pacing around the couch, aware of the other members of the Council watching him carefully. “She is not part of this Pack, Wolfe, and therefore not under your command. She is mine…”
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