Her Perfect Mate(109)

By: Paige Tyler

“Take him to Interrogation One,” John said to the two armed DCO operatives with him. “And keep the restraints on.”

Zarina frowned at the cuffs on Tanner’s wrists, then whirled around to face John, her blue eyes cold. “Why is he wearing those?”

“It’s all right, Zari.” Tanner’s voice might have been soft, but his face was hard as he glowered at John.

“No, it isn’t all right.” She looked at John. “Why is he in handcuffs?”

John gave her a placating smile. “It’s just a precaution, Doctor.”

He nodded at the two armed guards. One of them walked over to take custody of their prisoner while the other took Zarina’s arm to move her out of the way.

“Let go of me—”

Tanner roared. Fangs flashing, he lunged for the guard restraining Zarina, claws extended. Declan and Tate grabbed the hybrid at the same time the second guard drew his weapon and aimed it at Tanner’s head.

Ivy shifted, letting out a soft growl along with her claws. Beside her, Landon tensed, preparing for a fight.

Zarina struggled against the man who held her. “No! Please don’t hurt him.”

“Then tell him to calm down and we won’t have to,” John said.

The Russian woman turned pleading eyes on the hybrid. “Do as they ask, Tanner. Please. For me.”

The hybrid hesitated, as if torn between ripping apart everyone within reach and giving in to Zarina’s request. After a moment, his claws retracted and he relaxed, the fight going out of him.

“Get him to the interrogation room,” John ordered.

“I’ll be right here when you come out,” Zarina promised as the two guards dragged him down the hall and into the interrogation room. Her mouth tightened as she watched John follow and close the door behind them. “I don’t understand why they’re treating him like this. I know he’s a hybrid, but he’s not like the others.”

“Zarina,” Kendra said. “He butchered five hikers.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t kill those hikers. Stutmeir kidnapped them along with Tanner when we first got to the lodge. He tried the new serum we came up with on them. Tanner is the only one who survived. Stutmeir would have killed him if I hadn’t helped him get away.” She gave Ivy a pleading look. “Can’t you help him?”

The pain in the woman’s eyes tore at Ivy’s heart. If Zarina wasn’t in love with the hybrid yet, she was heading in that direction. “I’ll try, but right now, Tanner is a murder suspect. Until that gets straightened out, that’s how they’ll treat him.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to believe her,” Tate said.

Landon frowned. “You chased this guy for weeks, and now you decide he’s innocent?”

“We chased him because he ran,” Declan explained. “That damn guy ran us ragged. I don’t know how, but he figured out we were on to him from the start. He doubled back dozens of time, took routes so dangerous we thought he might be insane, swam upstream through freezing rivers, covered his scent with deer guts, hid his trail by strapping the animal’s hooves to his shoes. We’re talking real survival skills here. The only reason we caught him was because he let us catch him.” The bear shifter shook his head. “He stumbled on an old man who had a heart attack while he was camping with his two teenage grandkids. Tanner stopped and gave him CPR, then carried the man out of the forest—three hours back in our direction, with the two teens in tow.”

“We caught up with him just as the EMTs put the old man in an ambulance,” Tate added. “He waited with the kids so they wouldn’t be scared.”

“He told us he used to be a Ranger,” Declan said. “Just got out of the military after doing three tours in Iraq and two more in Afghanistan.”

“Which explains why he was able to stay one step ahead of you,” Landon said.

Declan opened his mouth to say more, but closed it again when John came out of the interrogation room. Ivy was hoping for a report, but instead her boss told Tate and his team he wanted them in the conference room for debriefing.