Mercury is riding the edge of sanity after the loss of his mate, but when he encounters Ria Rodriguez, he wonders if nature could be giving him a second chance. Mercury Warrant is a feral Breed. The lion DNA that was used alongside a human's to create him is more prominent than most, including his facial features that show more of the graceful predator in him than his brethren. Mercury doesn't show that his effect on people bothers him. He doesn't show the pain that he feels when children run screaming from him or his fellow Breeds give him a wide berth. He knows what he is, a Breed male without his mate, and walking the edge between sanity and the feral fever that cause those of his ilk to become mindless, rage-filled killers. Mercury believes he has lost his mate; that she died as part of a mission she was sent out on at the tender age of 15. Though they had never consummated their relationship, barely had more than a few exchanges, Mercury had claimed her and the loss consumed him. He went feral at the news, killing several soldiers, scientists and lab technicians as a result. Instead of killing him, the Council drugged him. They used the extreme hormones and adrenaline running through his veins to create something that counteracted it, effectively putting the animal that is a part of his DNA to sleep.
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Ria Rodriguez knows she's in trouble. She's been there before, many times. Her bosses, Dane and Leo Vanderale, are always getting her mixed up in something she shouldn't be. But their love, kindness and of course, the lovely little jewels Dane uses to bribe her, keep Ria more than happy to help them and their cause. What most don't know is that Leo Vanderale, head of Vanderale Industries, is actually what most refer to as the first Leo. The first Leo became a myth after a century of hearing his legend, his escape from the Council labs with his mate Elizabeth, but he is very real. And Dane Vanderale is his son, along with many others they have had or rescued from Council labs over the years. As a child, Ria's mother worked for the Vanderales, and when she is killed in a car accident, the Vanderale's take Ria in, help her find foster families and pay for her education and anything else she could want.
Loyal and indebted to the Vanderales, Ria agrees to the covert mission she is tasked with. Dane asks Ria to infiltrate the Feline Breed compound Sanctuary under the guise of going over their expenditures. As Vanderale Industries is where a lot of funding for Sanctuary comes from, Ria gives the cover story that she is there to make sure that finances are being used wisely and assess whether they should be continued, while secretly she is looking for coded transmissions being used to betray Sanctuary and her inhabitants. Jonas Wyatt, head of the Bureau of Breed Affairs, watches over Ria closely, as does Callan Lyons, the pride leader of the Feline Breeds, and they assign Mercury to be her personal protector and keep a watchful eye. Unfortunately, Ria seems to be drawing out the mating instincts in Mercury, which is an anomaly to them all as Breeds only mate once in their life. With Mercury's mate dead, they all fear that his reaction to Ria is actually the feral fever trying to break loose once again and kill them all.
Dr. Ely, a Breed scientist, has been conducting the tests on the Breeds long before their escape to learn how to help them, heal them, and deal with the mating heat phenomenon they seem to be encountering. Ely is known as a gentle soul with compassion for all beings, especially Breeds, but her determination to confine Mercury and drug him as a precaution has those around her on edge. As Mercury becomes more inflamed by Ria to the point that he begins making threats and advances on her, the other Breeds including Ely continually interrupt them, conduct tests and accuse Mercury of crossing moral lines with Ria. The affront to Mercury is made worse when he is approached by Breed enforcers and stripped of his uniform and rank, supposedly at the order of his pride leader Callan.
Quickly Jonas, Callan and the others figure out that they still have a spy in their midst. They realize that someone has been using Callan's recent injury and two month healing stint to conduct a power play, and they are faking Callan's voice to give orders via the phone. Once Mercury's rank is re-established and they begin searching for the traitors in their ranks, they begin confronting Ria on why she is really there. Enraged that they have been attacking Mercury, who she has loved before she even met him, Ria has had enough and tells the masses that she will be calling her boss Dane to send transport and she will be returning to their headquarters in Africa. That night Ria and Mercury consummate their relationship, but encounter another issue as Dane and his bodyguard slip into her room while they are asleep to play a prank on her, not realizing Mercury is there with her at first. Mercury, not realizing who the men in the room are, attacks them and almost kills them both. It's only the fact that Ria is devastated and holding Dane's unconscious body in her lap that stays Mercury's hand.
To the men involved the situation is no harm, no foul, but Ely uses this as another push to try and have Mercury confined for his own safety. She truly believes that Mercury is not mating Ria, but turning feral instead. As Mercury is showing none of the other physiological signs of mating, the enforcers and Callan cannot prove to her otherwise. What none of them, including Mercury, realize is that Ria is Mercury's mate, the animal the drugs put to sleep has been prowling around his subconscious waiting for the time when he could come out, which is why the signs are not showing in full force.
Over time Mercury tells Ria that he does not care about the mating heat, that he loves Ria and feels a pull to her that is stronger than it ever was for Alaiya in the labs. Desperate to believe him, Ria continues a relationship with Mercury until the day that Alaiya shows up at their door step. Apparently she had not died as assumed, and six months before had shown up at Sanctuary seeking safety. She had not shown herself to Mercury until now, and based on her deceit, most of them assume she is only showing up now because Mercury has Ria and Alaiya is jealous. Unfortunately, since Mercury suddenly shows signs of the mating hormone and symptoms the second Alaiya walks in, Ria assumes that they belong together and leaves while her heart breaks.
Mercury is infuriated when Ria leaves and Alaiya is all over him, the animal inside him fully surfaced now and roaring for Ria. He rejects Alaiya, telling the Breeds nearby to conduct whatever tests they need to prove it, but Ria is his, not Alaiya. Ria is back at her cabin shedding tear after tear as she feels the loss of Mercury. She doesn't notice the roar of the real lions prowling the compound that are getting closer to the cabin at first, but when she does it's not long after than an enraged, aroused Mercury slams through her door. They have an intense, passionate night of love making, but though Mercury is now showing signs of mating heat, Ria believes it is because of Alaiya and is devastated by that fact. Mercury tries to convince her, but knows nothing will until Ria is ready to see it and herself for who she truly is. It is revealed that Ria is actually a hybrid Breed, born of a Breed male and a human female, and that her relationship to the Vanderales extends beyond loyalty; she's also related by DNA.
The Breeds also discover that their doctor, Ely, has been poisoned continuously for almost a year, using brainwashing drugs that are virtually undetectable until it's too late. They take her off of them, but it has little effect. Ely confronts them at a party and attempts to force their hand into confining Mercury for all their sakes. Alaiya and Ria move to take her down while Mercury distracts her, and Dane takes care of the two lab assistants that were poisoning Ely. Ria accepts that Mercury is her mate before they even have the lab results, but Elizabeth Vanderale confirms that Ria and Mercury belong together, and though Alaiya is showing signs, it's for someone other than Mercury. Ely's lab results had been tampered with while she was being brainwashed, and they finally figure out that it's been in the form of aspirin that Ely was taking for headaches.
Ria and Mercury are relieved and happy that the worst is over for now, but Ely is not so lucky. When the drugs wear off, she is devastated by her actions, confined to a holding cell until they can be sure she is back to normal. Jonas visits and helps Ely come to grips with what happened and apologizes for not keeping her safe while she cries out her heartache.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love this story as it is yet another in the Breed series that gets increasingly more in-depth, only this installment shows how confusing mother nature and science can be. The Breeds are being attacked on multiple fronts, but they rise to the occasion, take out their enemies and push on. In this book in particular, Mercury is an impressive male specimen. Even believing that what nature had intended for him is gone, he falls in love with Ria and pushes to have her. He also pushes her to learn and grow and accept herself.
Best scene in story:
I absolutely love the scene where Ria and Alaiya finally confront each other. At this point, Ria knows who and what she is and she's tired of Alaiya trying to claim Mercury. When they get into a physical altercation, Ria easily handles Alaiya, taking a few blows of her own, but eventually smashing Alaiya's head in when she's ready to end it to get her point across. After a couple of those, Alaiya relents.
Opinion about the main character:
I love the fact that while Mercury is still your typical Breed alpha male, he is still intelligent, strong and has a high moral ground. Regardless of the unknowns to his mind and body he controls himself enough to not strike killing blows to those he shouldn't, not cross the line with Ria, and still push her to love him even though she doesn't believe they're mates.