Numbers Page 57

She turned to Breeze. The female looked worried, confused. ’’Will you please do me one favor? Can I trust you?’’

’’Of course.’’

’’You seem to be in charge of the females, and you said I\m one of yours. Don\ let them punish him for this. I deserve it.’’

’’What are you talking about?’’

She turned toward 927. She didn\ care what name he\d been given. The male in front of her was the one she\d known, just older. She took a step closer. ’’Hit me, 927. As many times as it takes. Find your payback. Be at peace by causing me pain the way I hurt you with the decision I once made.’’

’’Shit,’’ Torrent growled. ’’Don\ you dare, Hero.’’

Breeze stepped farther into the room to stand beside Candi. She gripped her arm. ’’Stop. What is going on here?’’

Candi jerked out of her hold and kept her gaze locked on 927. His eyes narrowed and he watched her. He didn\ move but his entire body vibrated as he growled deep. He was about to snap, his control nearly gone. He just needed that last push and she was willing to give it to him.

’’I survived all these years believing I did it to make the ones pay for taking you away from me.’’ She swallowed. ’’Now I realize it was what I did that took you from me, regardless of the reasons. I wanted revenge for you, but you can take your own. I understand. Do it, my pup.’’

He opened his mouth and howled. The killing rage twisted his features. It was just as before, the last time she\d seen him, minus the chains to hold him back. She didn\ tense, just watched him, waiting for him to lunge. The fear never came. 927 had always been her motivation to keep fighting to survive, but she was willing to allow him to strike her if it made him feel as if they were even.

Candi was offering, no, taunting him to cause her harm. Hero nearly lost his mind. He\d let the rage and pain explode in a violent outburst of sound. He kept his feet planted firmly on the carpet, forced himself to stay away from her. He didn\ want her blood to spill. Never again. He realized he\d closed his eyes. He opened them.

Breeze, Jinx and Torrent flanked Candi. They stood close, ready to defend her if he attacked. He was grateful for their interference. Torrent cocked his head, uttered a curse, and moved fast to the open doorway. The male stepped out, but stayed near enough to return quickly.

’’Nothing to see here,’’ the male called out. ’’Spread the word. Just leave the floor. It\s fine. Breeze, Jinx and I have it handled. Nobody call Security. It\s just a little, um, argument.’’

Hero studied Candi. She remained in the same position, waiting for him to strike her. She showed no fear, no hesitation. A sheen of tears still glistened in her beautiful eyes. Her words had been heard. The adult in him understood, but the youth raged from the pain.

It took time to form words inside his mind and force them to exit his mouth. ’’Canine or feline male? Was it just the one?’’

She took a breath and he glimpsed that fleeting, sad look she quickly erased from her features. ’’Feline.’’ Her throat muscles worked to swallow. ’’One time.’’ She paused. ’’To prove to Christopher that it was safe. He swore I was too fragile to survive being bred.’’

’’Oh shit,’’ Breeze whispered.

His heart felt as if it were being squeezed in a vise. ’’Did you suffer?’’

Tears spilled down her face, but she remained still. ’’More than you\ll ever know.’’ Her voice broke. ’’But nothing beyond the expected parameters, physically. That\s what Evelyn said, anyway.’’

’’What about you being too young?’’ It was tough to breathe and he felt as if he was suffocating. The tightness in his chest worsened. He needed answers though.

’’I guess they considered me old enough. Evelyn got permission from the board to use me in a breeding experiment, but Christopher said he\d kill you first. He was in charge of you. He swore he\d make me watch you die. It was no secret that all I wanted was to be returned to our space, to be with you. Evelyn came for me with her plan to allow another male to mount me. She said Christopher couldn\ harm one of hers. I fought at first. She had the techs restrain me and told me it would save your life. She felt Christopher would put me with you once she proved I wouldn\ be damaged by the experience. I had to make a choice and play their game. Evelyn said, either way, someone would mount me. I could get you killed or stop fighting, and be taken to the feline. I couldn\ risk your life. Never you.’’

It hurt deeply. He tried to think, to be rational. What if they\d brought him a female and told him they\d hurt Candi if he didn\ comply? What if they had threatened her life? Would he have mounted another? Would it have even been possible? She wasn\ male though. She could be taken whether she was aroused or not. She said she\d suffered. It ripped his gut out to imagine a male touching her.

’’Did he hurt you?’’ He had to know.

’’Evelyn gave me a shot first.’’ Candi straightened her head, her arms wrapping protectively around her middle in a hug. ’’It didn\ knock me out, but it muted some of my emotions. I was crying, and she was having a problem getting the male to comply. He was pacing and snarling, willing to take pain rather than force me. He knew I was a prisoner too, from when they were taking blood tests, and was aware I was being held with you. He treated me as if I were one of your females.’’

’’He should have suffered a beating instead of touching you.’’ He fisted his hands so tightly that the bones seemed to show through his skin when he glanced down.

’’The drug they gave me took effect and I felt strange, lightheaded. They were beating him because he refused. I just wanted it to end, but we both know it wasn\ going to until they got what they wanted. I asked the male to stop fighting. We needed to survive. Do you hate me for that? I didn\ want him to touch me, but I didn\ want him to be beaten to death either. The technicians were brutal and they could go too far, despite their orders. It\s a horrible way to die.’’

He growled and spun away, stalking to the window. It didn\ help, not to be looking at her anymore. He could feel her in the room, inside his space again.

’’He was gentle and I don\ remember much. He didn\ want to hurt me. I felt as bad for him as I did myself.’’ A sob broke from her lips, her pain evident. ’’No one forced me. I just wanted us all to survive. I closed my eyes and just thought of you until they took me back to my space. I washed to remove his scent and his touch. I scrubbed my skin until it was red, but it\s not as if they gave us soap often. I wanted to be taken to you. I did what they asked. Evelyn said we could be together.’’ Another sob came from her, and there was a pained hitch in her voice. ’’Only you still smelled him on me. You lost your sanity and snapped.’’

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