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The bar was hopping, music pounding, drinks flowing smoothly and customers packing the bar area and dance floor. It was one of those country hole-in-the-walls that attracted both criminal elements as well as the upper class and everything in between. It was one of those places Storme could slide into, and her scent became masked by the dozens of sweating, lusty, alcohol-infused bodies that filled it.
It was one of the few ways to hide from paranormal senses and extrasensory capabilities. It was one of the few places Storme had a hope of resting before she had to run again.
And God knew, she was tired. Exhaustion was beginning to swamp her, desperation was clawing at her back, and fear was a companion she hadn’t separated from in far too long.
She wanted to rest.
Was there a saying about no rest for the wicked? There was. She must have been wicked in a former life though, because this life had just been spent running.
“Whiskey shot and a beer,” she said wearily as the waitress came to the table.
Pulling a few of the precious bills from her pocket, she slid the money to the waitress when she returned.
She tossed back the whiskey, then chased the burn with the icy bitterness of the beer and blew out a slow, deep breath before looking around.
The band was actually pretty good here, the lead singers sultry when they needed to be, hard and filled with desperation when the song called for it.
The smell of cigarette smoke, booze, sweat and lust was so strong it didn’t take Breed senses to detect it, Storme Montague decided as she sat in the corner of the room and watched the customers milling through the large area. A human with any sense of smell could detect it.
Moving to the corner of the booth, she hunched into the shadows and watched the crowd, knowing that even here there was danger. She had glimpsed it as she rushed inside and skirted the edge of the room to get as far away from it as possible.
From where she sat she could see the Breeds in the far corner as the crowds shifted and moved between them. There were four, and she knew all of them. Not personally, of course, but Storme knew a lot of Breeds; she’d made it her business to learn who they were, especially when she caught them trailing her.
Navarro Blaine, and this one, she knew well from Omega. He was a Wolf Breed with Asian heritage. He was tall, dusky skinned with the exotic slant of eyes and high, flat cheekbones. Black, brown and a hint of gray filled his hair, though the gray wasn’t from age, it was from the gray Wolf genetics he carried. He was dressed a bit more sophisticated than the three he was with. Black silk slacks, leather shoes and a white silk shirt matched with an expensive black leather jacket.
That hair was long, falling nearly to the middle of his back as his black eyes, narrowed and intense, surveyed the room.
This Breed she knew, unfortunately. He had been in Omega while she had been there with her father. If she wasn’t mistaken, he had been one of her father’s favorite creations.
Several times she had heard her brother refer to Navarro with worry and fondness, and several times her father had actually stated that he could have considered the Breed a son.
Her father had a daughter, but this Breed had concerned him far more than his daughter’s safety had, and for that, Storme had once hated him with a passion.
Lawe Justice and Rule Breaker were Lion Breeds. Both men were extremely handsome, as all Breeds were, and rumored to be full brothers, perhaps even twins. Shoulder-length black hair was pulled to the napes of both men’s necks, while powerful bodies were attired in jeans, boots, T-shirts and denim jackets.
It was the fourth one that seemed the odd Breed out. He sat back casually in his chair, one hand lying on the table, his fingers tapping to the music as he glanced at the dance floor and the women that sauntered by the table to draw the men’s attention.
Blue eyes. Ocean blue. She could see those eyes each time she caught a glimpse of his face through the crowd. Long red hair flowed past his shoulders, coarse rather than soft, tied back at his nape as the others’ was, though it had the appearance of having been tamed only under protest.
Squared, strong features drew instant female attention, as did the exotic eyes that appeared to be lined with the faintest edge of kohl. High cheekbones, well-molded male lips, broad shoulders, a strong chest and impressive biceps. He was larger and broader than the other men, and looked exactly like what he had been created to be. A Scots warrior. He would have looked at home in a kilt with a sword strapped to his waist.
Leather pants, heavy boots, a white long-sleeved shirt and leather riding jacket were the perfect covering for him. They made him look harder, broader, more dangerous.
He was Styx Mackenzie, the one Breed she was seriously growing tired of playing games with. He had been on her ass for more than a year now, off and on, determined to track her down and force her to listen to the proposition the Breed community had for her.
She already knew the details. Protection in exchange for information.
She wanted to laugh at the thought. As though a Breed could ever protect her. They would be more inclined to tear her throat out if she displeased one of them.
A flash of memory, buried so deep that she rarely let herself remember it, had her eyes closing briefly as she fought it back.
Her brother’s death. The Breed ripping out his throat, the sounds of James’s last gurgled breath and her father’s cry of fear and pain.
They should have gone with her. They should have escaped as well rather than staying behind to destroy the last of the files they had on whatever secret project they had been involved in. That information had been more important than their lives. More important than her life, because her father entrusted her with the care of it, despite the fact that he should have realized that the Council would know exactly who he had given it to.
The Council scientists knew, and the Breeds knew, and she had been running from both for the past ten years.
She was tired of running, but there was a part of her that still refused to give up the information she had.
Glancing down at her hands, she watched as she twisted her mother’s antique ring on her finger. The wedding band her father had given her mother had been in the Montague family for generations upon generations. The diamonds, sapphires and emeralds were family jewels, the blues and greens family colors. And Storme was now the last of the Montague line. There were no sons left to carry on the name, and there would be no daughters left to wear the ring.
The ring had been intended for James’s wife, a wife he had never had because the danger of the job he had undertaken with his father had been too great.
She glared across the room at the four Breeds. Monsters. Animals. She hated every damned one of them. As far as she was concerned, there was no crime greater than that of creating such farcical replications of humans and trying to convince the world they deserved to move freely among them.
Hatred swirled inside her for the loss of her father, her brother, the loss of her childhood and the dreams she had had of freedom. Dreams that had never come to fruition because each time she thought she had found peace, Breeds had managed to find her.
It didn’t matter if they were the few Breeds still aligned with the Council or those who proclaimed to desire nothing but peace and freedom. They were all killers. They all wanted her for a reason, for the information they thought she had.