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Jonas Wyatt, Director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs, and a Lion Breed with secrets that could destroy him, stared at the door through which what was sure to be his greatest weakness had just stepped. He then turned to the mated wife of the Feline Breed leader, the Prima, Merinus Lyons.
She should have been showing her age, Jonas thought critically as he focused on her unlined face, her clear dark brown gaze and the youthful curve of her lips. There wasn't a single strand of gray in the fall of long, dark brunette hair, nothing to indicate she was nearing forty with two children and a life that would have had any other woman in therapy.
Jonas knew for a fact that she hadn't aged a day, physically, since the moment she had mated with the Feline Breed Pride leader, Callan Lyons, twelve years before. As far as her body was aware, time hadn't passed.
She may not have aged physically, but Jonas could attest to the fact that Merinus had definitely grown in strength. Perhaps not in wisdom if this latest stunt was anything to go by, but there was no doubt she had developed a backbone of steel.
Only steel would have her sitting across from him, that victorious little smile tugging at her lips as she arched a brunette brow back at him challengingly.
If she weren't already mated to his Pride leader, she would have been a woman Jonas would have definitely been interested in. At least, before today.
"She's pregnant." The words slipped past his lips in a frozen statement of disapproval. Not for her pregnancy, per se, but that Merinus would consider hiring her to work with him in her current condition. That she would bring a woman with such vulnerability into his life, into any Breed's life, and expect her to survive it.
"Really?" Merinus's brows arched as though in shock. "Why Jonas, I must have missed that. Do tell how I could have been so neglectful as to have not noticed."
He didn't wince, though he had watched Merinus's husband mate, Callan, do just that whenever she got that tone, warning him to tread carefully. Jonas knew this woman for the subtly dangerous adversary she could be. She could make his life extremely difficult if she wanted to; she was his superior, at least in the hierarchy of the Pride. Which, on most days, was truly the only thing that mattered.
Jonas liked to tell himself over the years that her power didn't reach here, to the Bureau, though. Based in D.C., the Bureau of Breed Affairs was his baby, his playground, his hobby and his lover. He'd tried to pretend she would never dare stick her too-curious, too-scheming little nose into the day-to-day running of the political law enforcement machine Jonas had built over the past ten years.
He had been so very wrong. And that knowledge had the power to prick his already testy temper.
Leaning forward, Jonas placed his arms on his desk and stared back at Merinus with cool determination. It wouldn't do to let her see a weakness.
"She won't work out, Merinus," he informed her. "I'll have her in hysterics in an hour. I don't want to deal with another overly emotional little girl, especially one so close to giving birth. And what about once she has that child? This is not a damned nursery, nor is it a nine-to-five job."
He had to force the words past his lips. He forced his tongue to push them from his mouth even as he felt the tiny glands at the side of it itch in impending disaster.
Not just disaster, but mating heat. A catastrophe in the making where his life was concerned.
Already he could feel the rage brewing inside, the knowledge that another man had created life within her. That she had belonged to another. That perhaps, even now, another man shared her bed.
All that stayed the power of his rage was the fact that there had been no other man's scent on her delicate body. There had been no mating mark, no hint of male possession spoiling the sweet, delicate woman scent of her.
Could he have borne it if there had been?
"She can deal with you." Merinus rose to her feet as she stared back at him regally despite the ragged jeans and T-shirt that gave her the appearance of a teenaged waif. "What's more, I'm fairly certain she can do so without a display of hysterics."
Jonas swore he could feel his hands getting ready to shake to his Prima. A sense of certain panic began to fill him, tightening in his throat and threatening to steal his power to speak.
He'd never been frightened in his life. Hell, he had no idea what true fear was until Merinus turned her back on him and began walking to the door.
"Why?" The question was a subtle, feral growl that had Merinus pausing in offense before turning back to him slowly.
Jonas snapped his teeth together before a tight grimace contorted his face and he forced himself to turn away from her. She deserved the same respect he would give his Pride leader, and that growl had been the furthest thing from respect that he could come up with.
"Why?" Her tone was lethal now. "Because, Jonas, I'm sick of watching perfectly good secretaries become neurotic head cases because of your complete disregard for civility. I know Rachel. I know her abilities as well as her temperament." Merinus's triumphant smirk had his guts twisting in terror now. "And I know Rachel can handle you. If she could handle my brother Kane at the tender age of sixteen and actually keep his finances as well as his schedule in order, then I have no doubt she can put up with your diabolical, manipulating personality and perhaps even manage to lend a measure of respectability to the Bureau before you destroy the last shred of civility that it could possess." She walked to the door before turning back to him with a mocking look of accomplishment. "Consider it a favor of sorts. And remember, Rachel is one of my dearest, best friends in the world. Hurt her, Wyatt, and it's no different from hurting me."
With that warning firmly in place, she pulled the door open and left the room. The panel closed behind her with a gentle click, sealing Jonas into the cool silence of his office as the murmur of voices could be heard in the other room.
She had just ensured that he couldn't yell at Rachel, he couldn't fire her. Merinus couldn't have forced his hand more with that statement than if she had simply cut it off. She had made it clear he was stuck with his new secretary.
Jonas sat back down slowly. He laid his palms flat on his desk and took a deep, hard breath. He was a Breed. Grown men trembled in fear of him. Hell, his own species trembled in fear of him. He'd made certain of it. He'd worked to instill that fear, that driving wariness that wouldn't allow for any possible rejection of any demand he made.