Authors: Lora Leigh
They draw us in. They fire our blood, make us dream.
They give us comfort when the world turns dark.
They warm us when we’re cold.
They begin our fantasies, they end them,
and when we dream, when we reach for the perfect
fantasy, they’re always there.
This book is for that ideal, that comfort, that
fantasy, and that dream.
This book is for,
that perfect kiss.
Table of Contents
FELINE BREED HOME BASE
BUFFALO GAP, VIRGINIA
The secured communications and defense bunker sat inside the base of a mountain less than a quarter of a mile from the main family residence in the valley now known as Sanctuary.
The main level was mission control, outfitted with the most technologically advanced electronics, satellite tracking equipment, and mission communications available.
The main level was also the entry level, with the first entrance winding through the various workstations from which orders were transmitted and Breed missions tracked throughout the world.
Sanctuary was the main mission base that the Breeds, the ultimate fighting machine, the balance between man and beast, were hired from and sent around the world to fight in the wars the non-Breeds began.
They were extraction experts, the perfect spies, assassins, trainers, commanders, and the best logistics experts in the world, and they were in high demand.
Mission control was never silent.
The second entrance was further around the side of the mountain, hidden from the main house and sheltered by a thick grove of trees. It opened into a serene lobby that could have graced the most expensive, most exclusive resort but was actually the site of the single most state-of-the art security system ever created. Breed guards manned the entrance both inside and out, while advanced surveillance apparatus scanned, identified, and logged even the stray insects that managed to breech the glass and metal doors.
The lobbylike setting was in fact the entrance to the Breed labs, and thus the security employed was even greater than that for mission control. In the past six months, the entrance had been all but welded closed and buried in an attempt to ensure an impenetrable defense against unauthorized access or exit by any Breed daring to betray the community fighting to save Breedkind.
Breed traitors weren’t unheard of. There had been more than one in the fourteen years since the feline pride leader, Callan Lyons, had announced to the non-Breed world the existence of the Breeds.
He was both cursed and revered for his decision. There were days he wondered if he had made a mistake that would eventually destroy them all, or if history would see him as a visionary who had taken the only path the Genetics Council had left him.
Now, as he swiped the security card through the reader, then laid his palm on the electronic identification plate, he cursed himself.
Leaning closer for the retinal scan, he waited.
“Hello, Pride Leader Lyons, may I have your passcode?”
“Lyons, alpha, niner six, point seven three eight.”
“Thank you, Alpha Lyons. I detect you have guests. Please pass alone. Each guest must pass verification before being allowed access into the inner lobby.”
The electronic security couldn’t be ordered, manipulated, or bribed. It could be programmed, but even that programming had so many damned safeguards that just setting the passcodes for today’s meeting had taken more than thirty-six hours. He almost grimaced at the necessity of it.
As the doors slid open, he passed into the lobby, stood back, and waited as each of his “guests” went through the same security. Standing in the lobby, he could feel the faintest wash of heat over his flesh, a warmth most humans wouldn’t detect but any Breed would sense.
To complete its verification function, the bio-scan system would compare his blood type, any unique internal anomalies, and the scan of his brain to the ones on file for him, just as it would for each of those coming behind him.
Taking this entrance into the labs wasn’t the quickest way in, but it was the quietest. If they entered through the main house, family, Breeds, the human soldiers assigned to Sanctuary, and most especially any Breed spies still left within the base would be aware of it. Going through mission control held the same lack of discretion. And a few of those meeting today were men and women the feline, wolf, and coyote Breeds had gone to great lengths to hide.
They were there for a job, to make decisions that none of them were truly prepared to make and the additional security allowed for this meeting, and would give the participants the ability to make the decisions needed based on a live scrutiny of the situation at hand.
Feline Pride Leader Callan Lyons was certain that those with him today were, like him, unsure how to handle what they were about to face. The director of Breed affairs, Jonas Wyatt; the wolf Breed alpha, Wolfe Gunnar; and the coyote Breed alpha, Del-Rey Delgado, were accompanied by the scientist Jeffrey Amburg, a human Jonas had managed to capture nearly two years before. Others that must remain hidden included a human geneticist known for her advanced research in genetic anomalies, Amelia Trace. Alexi Chernov and Katya Sobolov, coyote genetic and physiological experts, stood next to her. Behind them stood Dr. Nikki Armani, council trained and human and one of the foremost experts on wolf biological, genetic, and physiological attributes. One by one they moved to the scanners, gave their passcodes, and stepped inside.
The feline Breed genetic expert, Elyianna Morrey, waited in the labs below with Jonas Wyatt’s latest captive and the scourge of the Breeds.
The arrival of the other alphas and scientists was a closely guarded secret. The heli-jet that had flown them in was listed as delivering medical supplies and had landed in the secure area outside the labs to offload the fictional medical supplies.
Every precaution had been taken, but Callan had no doubt rumors of the visit were already swirling. No matter their attempts, it still seemed Sanctuary was plagued by too many eyes and ears that reported to either the Council fighting to destroy them, the pureblood groups determined to imprison them, or simply a host of other enemies that believed the Breeds were a sign of the destruction of humanity.
The fact that there were Breeds still betraying their own was an acid eating at his soul. The cruelty the Breeds had suffered in the labs hadn’t been enough for some, it seemed. Compelled by bald-faced greed, the Breed traitors would send their fellow Breeds back to the labs and see them destroyed.
Once the final member of the group had passed the entrance, Callan led everyone to the lobby’s large elevator and entered first. He stood at the back of the cubicle, his eyes narrowed, his gaze touching on each scientist as he prayed, God how he prayed, that despite the horror of what they were facing below, that some hope for the Breeds would come of it.
His gaze lifted as the elevator lights dimmed and a hovering blue light began to swirl around each individual. Unlike the bio-scan upon entry into the lobby, this DNA scan was unconcealed, overt. This final scan would identify the members of the party once again and ensure each person matched the criteria and identity the computers had been given.
Along with the automated check, a Breed enforcer of each pack as well as a feline would watch the monitors and compare the identities to known individuals before the elevator opened ten floors below the base of the mountain.
“Welcome to Sanctuary’s labs, Alpha Lyons,” the wolf Breed on duty spoke through the intercom. “All identities have been verified and access granted.”
The double doors to the elevator slid soundlessly open, revealing a silent, steel-lined hallway.
Sanctuary had once been an unnamed lab in the control of the Genetics Council. The labs below ground had seen the countless births, tortures, and deaths of Breeds. Now, it was home to the hope-filled research that could possibly save them all.
At least, that had been their hope when they had taken the compound after arguing successfully that the Genetics Council owed it to them. A small partial payment for the horrors they had suffered. Breed financial accounts were still being contributed to by the countries and financial empires that had been found to have contributed to the Genetics Council’s work.
But who could they sue now for the horrors they were still suffering and the extreme prejudice building around them?
“How is Ely doing, Callan?” Jonas asked, his voice quiet as they walked down the hall, scanners quietly humming as they did a final check for weapons, weapon components, or any conceivable manner of threat to the facility.
“She’s doing better,” Callan stated. “The past year has been hard on her, but she’s coming out of it.”