Once, he was Judd—Bengal Breed and brother to the notorious fugitive Gideon. After Gideon disappeared, Judd was experimented on until his tortured body knew nothing but agony.
Now he is Cullen Maverick, serving as the commander of the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement Agency in the small community of Window Rock, Arizona. Despite his genetics, Cullen is able to pass as human because his Bengal traits are recessed. He lacks the ability to smell the emotions, bonds and fears that other Breeds take for granted. And he remains tormented that he wasn’t able to mate the woman he loved—at the cost of her life.He’s no longer a Breed, merely a man. . . or so he thinks. But his tiger is about to be awakened by the one woman destined to be his—Chelsea Martinez. And their world will never be the same...
- Chelsea Martinez
- Judd Cross (alias Cullen Maverick)
- Ashley Truing
- Cassandra "Cassie" Sinclair
- Dr. Beldon Jeffrey Amburg (narration only)
- Emma Truing
- Gideon Cross (alias Graeme Parker)
- Lauren Maverick (deceased)
- Lawe Justice
- Orrin Martinez
- Rule Breaker
- Sharone Bryce
Dr. Beldon Jeffrey Amburg's opening narration discusses in short who the Breeds were, why they were created, and how they got out of the control of their creators. He then demonizes the scientists who created them, pointing out the error of their greedy, inhumane experiments, and attributes the Breeds' success thus far in terms of some higher power seeing to them. He ends the narration with a warning about how the Breeds' unique animal nature, however, may also be their doom.
The first chapter begins with a blurb from the private journal of Graeme Parker (a.k.a. Gideon Cross), wherein he discusses the unique traits of a recessive Primal Breed, stating that they usually appear sometime after age five, in response to danger. If that repression continues after reaching maturity, between ages eighteen to twenty, Graeme states that stubbornness is the fault of the human side of the Breed, who is attempting to deny his/her animal nature. The conflict between the human and animal sides is usually determined, eventually, by the animal, however, Graeme insists, as the animal refuses to continually be repressed. Clearly, this is foreshadowing for what we're about to encounter in the story.
The actual story opens up with Cullen Maverick (the current alias for the Bengal breed, Judd Cross), being woken up from sleep at five in the morning by Chelsea Martinez, a junior member of the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement Agency. Cullen is her commander, and she's come to (tearfully) remit her resignation from the Agency. She feels being a 'glorified running girl' for the office chores isn't what she wants out of life, and so she's quitting and leaving the reservation to go out into the world. Cullen, however, becomes enraged at the thought, as he knows she's looking for adventure and a different life... one that doesn't include him.
He admits to himself, finally, what he'd known for years: that despite the fact he'd been married before to a woman he'd loved (and lost, when she'd died), Chelsea attracts him in a way he hadn't expected.
In a moment of untamed, uncontrollable lust, he grabs her and seductively kisses her throat, then bites down on her flesh. He then licks over the wound. It's only a moment they're like that, but the damage is done. Cullen is horrified by his actions, so he lets Chelsea go. She runs from him, and he stops himself from chasing.
He believes she'll come back soon, though - if not for him, but because she likes her job and didn't really mean to resign.
Graeme's journal continues with a discussion on how a recessed Primal Breed will know its mate, and that Mating Heat will release the lock the human side has on the animal side as a result.
A week later, Chelsea is working for the Breed Underground now, and on a patrol one night, she finds eight-year-old Louisa Cerves, ravaged by a pack of Coyote soldiers, but valiantly running through the desert to flee her kidnappers. Chelsea rescues the girl. After a daring chase through the desert, Chelsea and Louisa make it back to the Cerveses' compound. Louisa's mother, Samara (a.k.a. The Blood Queen), is head of a criminal cartel, but when she sees her wounded daughter, she risks all to run to her child and take her from Chelsea's arms. In the confusion of the moment, Chelsea is dragged away by one of Samara's guard -- only, it's Cullen in disguise. He demands Chelsea follow him to a nearby vehicle, and the two hop in and leave the Cerveses' compound.
Cullen takes her back to his home, where he yells at her for being so reckless and bandages up her wounds. Throughout it all, Cullen and Chelsea both internally fight off their attraction to the other. Chelsea gets a ride home from someone else that night, leaving Cullen behind.
Three days later, Chelsea receives a note from her cousin, Linc (also in the Breed Underground) informing her that Louisa Cerves died of her injuries. Chelsea is broken-up by the death and cries.
Graeme's journal entry states that a Primal Breed in Mating Heat will become more animal than human, and that its mate must be strong enough to tame the Primal Breed's instincts.
Three weeks after Louisa Cerves died, Cullen Maverick senses something instinctually that makes him jerk into alertness on the spot. He remarks that such a thing has happened more than once since he'd bitten Chelsea, and it worries him. He doesn't understand why it's happening and wonders if it has something to do with his inner, recessed animal.
In that moment, Graeme Parker (a.k.a. Gideon Cross) comes into Cullen's office unannounced. With a sweeping glance, Cullen notes how mating Catrina "Cat" Greymore (alias Claire Martinez) has tamed the level of his twin brother's madness to some extent. Specifically, he notes that none of the Primal markings (Bengal stripes) were evident across Graeme's face, letting Cullen know that his brother is, for the moment, in control of his inner animal.
Graeme attempts to get Cullen to tell him why he's been so prickly to everyone around him lately. In actuality, he already knows why (re: Cullen's in Mating Heat and his recessed Primal instincts are emerging), but Graeme wants Cullen to admit to it. He wants Cullen to claim his mate and find some happiness, before he loses her. He doesn't want his brother to suffer the loss of someone he loves ever again (re: Cullen's first wife). Graeme proceeds to verbally provoke his brother, tempting his anger, attempting to get his recessed Primal Bengal side to come out finally. He invites Cullen to dinner, at Cat's invitation, knowing Cullen will reject the invitation. When he does as predicted, Graeme mentions that they'll just find another male to sit at Chelsea Martinez's side during dinner that night, then. He also mentions how he's considering offering Chelsea a job in the labs with him, and how Cat's already said she'd love Chelsea to work with her in a fully-actualized position in covert ops instead at the Navajo Breed Underground, too.
Cullen's anger flares. He rises to the provocation finally - but he only punches Graeme in the mouth, before backing down once more. Graeme leaves with a parting shot about Chelsea working for someone unknown for the last three weeks, and this gets Cullen worried. Who has she been putting herself in danger for, anyway?
Graeme's journal makes a comment about how males, in general, are sullen creatures who don't like being denied anything.
Chelsea is debating going to dinner at her cousin, Claire's place. She doesn't trust Claire's husband, Graeme Parker, doesn't know why he insists upon referring to Claire as "Cat" (Chelsea doesn't know Claire/Cat's secret), and isn't sure if the job offer Claire/Cat is going to make her to be her personal assistant is really something she wants to do - especially given the rumors she's heard about Graeme and how his work is extremely dangerous (as in, people die around him). She thinks on her new, secret job working for Cassandra "Cassie" Sinclair instead, intelligence gathering, and rather enjoys that work.
This, of course, gets her thinking of her old job...with Cullen. She admits she misses him, their working dynamic and friendship. She recalls the one time he'd retreated from all of them - a decade earlier, after his wife's death - and how his focus had for rising up the ranks of the Navajo Covert Law Enforcement Agency had been absolute then. Thinking about how he's left her physically aching for him since the night of her resignation angers her, because she's hurt that he hasn't made any attempt to contact her over the intervening weeks, and she's bitter at him for it.
She decides not to go to dinner at Claire/Cat's and Graeme's, because she knows Cullen will be there and she doesn't want to see him anymore. She gets dressed to work over the clubs and bars in the areas, not for personal enjoyment, but for the work Cassie Sinclair has asked her to do.
A moment of uneasiness slides through her as she wonders if she'll be attacked again anytime soon (sometime between Louisa's death and that night, a Coyote soldier attacked Chelsea, but was taken down by Cassie's Wolf Breed Enforcers, who had been sent to shadow Chelsea and assure her safety while she was working for Cassie). Chelsea decides she's not going to let the fear of being attacked stop her from doing her job, however.
Just as she's about to leave, Cullen appears on her doorstep. He comes in for one cup of coffee, and of course, they get into an argument. Chelsea is irritated with Cullen's attempts to nose into her business and control her, especially give how he's blown her off for weeks. Cullen's angry that Chelsea is hiding things from him and engaged in dangerous work, and he can't protect her.
Things boil over and the next thing either of them know, Cullen is kissing Chelsea. Things got heated very quickly between them, to the point where they were both contemplating sex. But then, Cullen's Breed senses kicked in and he scented two Wolf Breeds (Draeger and Tobias) standing in the open doorway, watching them. They seemed to be amused at having walked in on Chelsea with her shirt and bra off, and Cullen hiding her away from their gazes and snarling at them.
Chelsea redresses and goes to leave, but Cullen stops her, demanding to know where she's going. As her work for Cassie is secret, Chelsea has no intention of telling him. She leaves, feeling the fool for giving in to Cullen. She recalls him telling her once that when his wife died, his heart had died with her...and that anything left to give another woman would be nothing but lust. This memory hurts Chelsea, because she's in love with Cullen, and believes it's definitely one-sided.
Graeme's journal points out that a Primal Breed's awakening can be a time of confusion for him or her, as the animal within randomly takes control and makes the Breed act in ways they can't control or understand - especially when in Mating Heat.
Cullen follows Chelsea on her club hopping expedition, which includes going to an underground club at Gallup, New Mexico and interacting with a group of Coyote females and males there. He reigns in his extreme jealousy as he watches the Coyote males looking at her with sexual interest, knowing that they'll stay away, if only because he'd marked her up with his scent that night.
When Tobias and Draeger confront him at the bar as he watches her, attempting to warn him off, Cullen refuses to go. When its clear that his interference is keeping Chelsea from getting whatever she'd come to the clubs to get, she signals her bodyguards that she's leaving for the night. Cullen gets in the middle and things nearly devolve into fighting in the elevator ride to ground level.
In the parking lot, after her truck is checked for explosive and cleared, Cullen hops into the passenger side and offers to accompany Chelsea home. Reminding herself not to get involved with him, as he'd made it clear the only thing she could expect from him was sex, she's determined to drop him off at his house and go to her own home pronto. When Cullen growls at her, she's so shocked she nearly stops driving. His recessed genes are breaking free.
Cullen recalls how, over the years, Graeme would show up randomly and demand blood samples from him, to test their genetics. He was, Cullen knew, the only real Bengal Breed scientist not working for the Genetics Council or one of their paid-for corporations, but talking to his twin about his recent bout of wacky Breed activities (the biting, the growling, the possessiveness) wasn't something he was comfortable doing.
He remains silent on the trip home, realizing at the last second that she's taken him to her home instead. Whether by accident or design, he's not questioning it. He's also accepted that being without Chelsea for the last four weeks has been driving him mad. It doesn't matter that she doesn't work for him anymore, he decides, because he will care for her...like it or not.
Graeme's entry in his journal praises female mates of male Breeds, implying their capacity for forgiveness is the only thing keeping them from murdering their mates.
Chelsea resolves not to let Cullen into her rented house, knowing they'll end up in bed together. She recalls how she's loved Cullen for years, and remembers that at twelve, how he'd married a distant cousin of hers, Lauren, and how Lauren had married Cullen only because she'd heard about Mating Heat and believed that the rumors of it would cure her of the terminal cancer she had, as well as extend her life.
She tells Cullen that whatever discussion he's pushing for isn't going to happen inside her house, because she has no intention of ending up in bed with him. He tells her its inevitable, and when she asks why he never showed any inclination towards her over the years, he tells her he's always wanted her, but has recently decided to stop fighting it. Hence, his change in attitude towards her.
Chelsea has had enough, however, and tells Cullen to quit trying to control her. She has a job she likes now, and she's going to do it, whether he wants her to or not. They argue about her qualifications, and she makes it clear that she's got the training to be an operative or in Command. Cullen can't argue the facts, so he makes her a deal: tell him who she's working for, let him finish her job for her, then he'll bring her back into the Agency and train her to take over Ranger's job in Command, as Ranger wants to step aside and go into admin. He offers her the chance she always wanted: to be his second.
Chelsea sees Cullen's offer for what it is: another way to keep her under lock and key, with him the jailer. She tells him to go home, forget it, that what she's always wanted from him he can't give her.
The scent of her pain washes through Cullen, testing his animal's limits. They argue some more, but Chelsea is resolved: she has dreams, things she wants to accomplish, and she won't let him cage her and prevent her from doing those things. It's her life, and even if he's only her friend, he doesn't get to dictate to her how to live it.
Before Cullen can say anymore, Ranger pulls into the driveway and tells him that they have an op (the Peterson drug op) that's on the line and have to leave or they'll blow six months of a set-up. Cullen doesn't like it, but he agrees the Peterson op is more important right then. He tells Ranger to contact their inside man, Dog, to be ready.
When Chelsea gets out of the truck to go inside her house, Cullen returns to her side, informs her that their discussion isn't over, and kisses her goodbye. He then joins Ranger in their Dragoon and the two take off.
Cullen calls Graeme and wakes him up. He tells him to put a shadow on Chelsea while he's away, to assure she's safe. Graeme tells him that he's already got two on her, and Cullen demands three. Graeme agrees, and then tells Cullen to check with Rule Breaker, the new Director of the Western Division of the Bureau of Breed Affairs to find out what Chelsea's been up to. It seems she's been working with Rule's new Covert Breed Management Division (whose job it is to free Council-held Breeds), which is under the control of Cassie Sinclair. It seems this is the reason Chelsea was attacked by that Coyote soldier.
Ranger then razzes Cullen about how he really messed up not taking Chelsea into the Agency's Ops or Command sooner. He then makes it a point to remind Cullen that Lauren's "concern" (jealousy) of Cullen's close relationship with Chelsea, even back then, had been warranted.
Cullen finally admits to himself what he wouldn't for so long: Chelsea is his mate.
He reminds Ranger that he'd never been unfaithful to Lauren, despite that, and even though Lauren had been unfaithful to him. Ranger tells him that he knows this, and warns Cullen off of using Chelsea for a one-night stand or breaking her heart, because if he does so now, he'll make a hell of a lot of enemies. Cullen knows this, but he's also aware that he won't be able to just have a one-night stand with her if he takes her to his bed. He'll end up tying her to him for life...and the thought scares him.
He knows he's been making himself crazy with worry about her for years, but he admits it's gotten worse since the night Chelsea had saved Louisa Cerves in the desert. He's terrified of losing her, because he knows if he does, he'll lose himself, too.
Graeme's journal entry reminds us that a Primal Breed's genetics won't let him get away with denying Mating Heat for long.