Numbers Page 52

Candi felt torn. ’’I\m telling you the truth. Don\ send me back out there. I don\ belong. I have to find the ones who killed my male and make them pay.’’

’’We will.’’ He eased forward.

She backed up. The slight sound of a footstep alerted her and she spun, snarling at the black-clad guard who\d sneaked up behind her. She reacted when he tried to grab her arm. Her reflexes were slow, but she threw up her forearm, batting his hand away. She frantically looked for a place to flee.

’’Back off!’’ Jinx snarled. ’’Get away from her.’’

The guy threw up his arms, jumping back. ’’I was trying to help.’’

’’Don\ . Candi?’’ Jinx tried to regain her attention.

She turned sideways so she could see them both.

’’It\s okay.’’ Jinx lowered his voice to a soothing tone. ’’I give you my word. I believe you. Did you learn that from him? The snarling? You\ e good at it.’’

She nodded.

’’You said he was canine, right?’’

She nodded again.

’’Torrent?’’ He\d raised his voice. ’’Remove your helmet and come over here. Slowly.’’

She saw the motion at the edge of her vision and watched one of the other guards take off his helmet. He was canine, his silky black hair pulled into a ponytail. He approached cautiously, his blue gaze fixed on her.

’’What\s going on? I couldn\ hear what was said out there. I was too far away, and you forgot to turn on your helmet mic again.’’

He reminded her of 927, with that hair. Tears filled her eyes as she stared at him.

He stopped, his dark eyebrows arching. ’’No one will harm you, small female.’’

’’Female,’’ she couldn\ help but laugh. ’’I actually miss being called that. How silly is that? Humans don\ use those terms normally, unless they are describing the gender of a person. It\s nice to meet you, male.’’

The dismay on his face was almost comical too. He glanced at Jinx, apparently confused. ’’What is going on?’’

’’What is protocol when we find one of ours from Mercile?’’

Torrent gasped, staring at her.

’’Answer,’’ Jinx demanded. ’’Where is the first place we take one of ours?’’



Torrent glanced at Jinx, and then at her. ’’To check their health and see if they need medical care.’’

Jinx took another step closer. ’’I spoke the truth, Candi. He\s not lying. Let\s go there. Please don\ fear us. We\d never hurt one of our own, and that\s what you are. Do you understand?’’

She nodded.

He eased closer and held out his hand. ’’It\s going to be okay. No one is going to hurt or trick you. No deceitful games. That\s for humans. We don\ play them.’’

’’Okay.’’ It was tough to trust anyone, but staring into his feline eyes, she was willing to try.

He pulled back his hand, tore off his gloves and dropped them on the ground. He reached out to her again and gently laced his fingers through hers. His skin felt warm to the touch. A tentative smile curved his lips. ’’Easy, female. It\s okay.’’

’’You don\ need to baby me.’’

’’Maybe I want to. You\ve been through a lot, but it\s going to be okay. I promise you that.’’

* * * * *

Hero chose to take the stairs rather than the elevator down to the lobby. He was too impatient to wait for the slow-moving machinery. He had a night off his shift and planned to have fun. There would be dancing involved and he\d heard they were serving prime rib at the bar. He reached the first floor and came to a stop, staring at the group of males gathered by the couches. Some appeared downright angry. He changed direction.

’’What\s going on?’’

Destiny was the first to speak. The primate male still wore his work uniform. It was obvious he\d just left there, judging by the smell of Medical coming off him. ’’They brought in a female. I was just telling everyone about it. We\ e stunned.’’

’’One of the females got hurt? Is it bad?’’ The news alarmed Hero.

Destiny leaned against the back of a couch, partially sitting on the edge. ’’I guess I\ll start from the beginning. A human female showed up at the front gates. Jinx and Torrent brought her in about an hour ago. She\s underweight, the palest human I\ve ever seen, but from her history, it\s understandable. The humans kept her locked up in an asylum. That\s a hospital for humans with mental illnesses.’’

’’Tell him the important part,’’ Snow urged.

Destiny nodded. ’’She is human but was raised like we were by Mercile. I didn\ want to believe it, but you should have heard her snarl when we drew blood. She sounds just like one of our females when they feel pain. I was listening to her talk to Justice and Breeze while Doc Trisha examined her. This human female gave them precise details about her life at Mercile. A doctor took her there when she was just a young child and raised her inside a cell with one of our males. A canine.’’

Hero didn\ hear any more as blood roared to his ears, obliterating sound. Reacting before he could think, he snarled, slamming into the door before he realized he exited the building. It gave from the force of his weight, and then he was outside, running toward Medical.

It can\ be. He ignored the dull ache in his side when he pushed his body beyond its limits, not even bothering to check for traffic when he rushed into the street. Someone yelled at him but he ignored it. The building housing Medical came into sight and he jumped the curb. He only slowed since the automatic double doors couldn\ open as quickly as he moved.

Paul, the nurse, stood up from the other side of the reception desk. ’’What\s wrong? Is there an emergency?’’

He inhaled the second he entered, ignoring the male. Familiar scents came to him, just not the one he sought.

’’Hero? Are you okay? What\s wrong?’’ Paul came forward. ’’Is someone hurt? Are you?’’

’’Where is the female?’’

’’Doc Trisha? She\s talking to Justice and Breeze in her office.’’

Hero spun right, striding fast down the hallway toward the exam rooms. Paul called out to him, but he didn\ bother to acknowledge him. He turned a corner and spotted Jinx and Torrent leaning against the wall across from a closed door. They both turned their heads to stare at him.

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