“This story is mine.” Merinus stared down her family of seven brothers as well as her father, her voice firm, her determination unwavering.
She knew she didn’t present an imposing figure. At five feet five inches, it was damned hard to convince the males of her family, all over six feet, that she was serious about anything. But in this one instance, she knew she had no other choice.
“Don’t you think this is a little bit much for you to take on, Squirt?” Caleb, editor-in-chief of the National Forum and her second oldest brother, smirked with an edge of superiority. Merinus refused to give into his baiting. She looked down the long table, directly into her father’s thoughtful expression. John Tyler was the one to convince, not his moron upstarts.
“I’ve worked hard, Dad, I can do this.” She fought to put the steely determination in her voice that she often heard her oldest brother use. “I deserve this chance.”
She was twenty-four years old, the youngest child in a family of eight and the only daughter. She hated makeup, despised dresses and social functions and she heard often how she was a disappointment to the female race, according to her brothers. She wanted to be a journalist; she wanted to make a difference. She wanted to stand before the man whose picture lay on the table before her and see if his eyes were really that brilliant amber. Perhaps she was more woman than they knew. She was obsessed. Merinus silently admitted to it, and knew she would play hell trying to hide it. From the moment she had seen the picture of the man in question, she had been nervous, panicky, terrified that his enemies would get to him before she could present her father’s offer.
“What makes you think you’re the best person for this job, Merinus?” Her father leaned forward, clasping his hands on the table before him, his blue eyes serious, thoughtful as he watched her.
“Because I’m a woman.” She allowed herself a small smile. “You put that much testosterone in the same room with just one of the behemoth seven here, and you’ll have an automatic refusal. But he would listen to a woman.”
“Listen to her, or try to seduce her?” one of her other brothers questioned harshly. “This idea is unacceptable.”
Merinus kept her eyes on her father and prayed Kane, the oldest brother would keep his mouth shut. Their father listened to him where she was concerned and if he decided it was too dangerous, then there was no way John Tyler would allow her to go.
“I know how to be careful,” she told him softly. “You and Kane trained me well. I want this chance. I deserve it.”
And if she didn’t get it, then she would take it on her own. She knew her brothers couldn’t make contact, but she could. She suppressed a shiver at the thought. Some would say the man wasn’t even human. A genetic experiment conceived in a test tube, carried to term by a surrogate and inheriting the genes of the animal his DNA had been altered with. A man with all the instincts and hunting abilities of a lion. A perfectly human looking male. A man bred to be a savage killer. Merinus had read the notes, experiments and the thirty-year journal of the scientist who carried him within her body. Dr. Maria Morales had been a friend of her father’s in college. It was she who had the box ready to be delivered to John in the event of her death. It was his decision who would carry out the woman’s last request.
He was to find her surrogate son at the location she had given. Help him defeat the secret Genetics Council by convincing him to come forward, making a way for him to find safety. She had enough proof to get them digging. Kane had done the rest. They had names of the Council, proof of their involvement, everything but the man they created.
“This is too dangerous to trust to her,” Caleb argued again. The others were silent, but Merinus knew they would voice their opinions soon enough.
Merinus took a deep breath.
“I get the story, or I follow whichever moron in this room gets it. You won’t have a chance.”
“This coming from the woman who refuses to wear makeup or a dress?” another brother piped in with a snicker. “Honey, you don’t have what it takes.”
“It doesn’t take being a whore,” she bit out furiously, turning on the youngest brother. “It’s simple logic, dunce. A woman, whether in pants or a dress will draw more attention from a man than any other man will. He’s careful, he doesn’t trust easily. Maria’s notes state that plainly. He won’t trust another man. The basic male threat.”
“And he could very well be just as dangerous as he was created to be,” Caleb argued for Gray as he swiped his fingers through his short brown hair. “Dammit, Merinus, you have no business even wanting to be anywhere near this bastard.”
Merinus took a deep breath. She lowered her eyes, staring down at the bleak loneliness reflected through glossy paper. His eyes mesmerized her, even in the picture. There were decades of sadness reflected there. He was thirty years old now, single, alone. A man without a family or even a race to call his own. How terrible it must be, and to be hunted as well was a tragedy.
“I won’t stay here,” she said loud enough for them all to hear. “I’ll follow whoever goes out there and I won’t let you hound him.”
The silence was heavy now. Merinus could feel eight sets of eyes on her, varying degrees of disapproval reflected in their expressions.
“I’ll go with her. I can handle the research part, Merinus can make contact.” Kane’s voice had Merinus jerking her head up in surprise.
Shock echoed along her body as she realized that the brother who suffocated her the most was actually willing to help her in this. It was hard to believe. Kane was arrogant and ninety percent of the time, the world’s worst jerk. He was an ex-Special Forces commander as bossy as any man ever born. For the first time she looked directly at him. His expression was cool, but his eyes were angry. Deep and hot with fury, the dark blue orbs met hers without their usual light of teasing mockery. The intensity in his look almost frightened her. He wasn’t angry with her, she could tell, but Kane was pissed. And a pissed Kane was not a good thing.
Merinus was aware of her father sitting back in his seat, watching the eldest son now with surprise.
“You’ve put a lot of time in this already, Kane,” John remarked. “Six months at least. I thought you would be ready for a rest?”
Kane glanced at his father, shrugging his shoulders with a tight movement.