Here's the real chapter... beta'd and proofed... thanks Kat!

"NOOOO! Alec?"

Max's cry of anguish, sorrow and pain at losing yet another loved one could be heard easily above the noise of the chopper blades as the helicopter continued south-southeast to their pre-arranged destination. Her voice carrying high, the sounds of both her human and feline side calling out for her mate.

Krit barely had time to process what Alec had just told him when he suddenly had to raise his arms up in defense from his sitting position in the helicopter. Max already on her feet and pouncing on him to grab his com-link out of his ear. Damned X5 sensitive hearing. She'd heard every word Alec had said.

"Max, what the hell?" Krit blocked a punch that was aimed for his jaw, grabbed the wrist reaching for his ear, and then used his shin to block a kick that was aimed for his groin.

Max was in a heat rage; her chosen mate having been torn away from her while she was in full-blown heat. Which at the moment, didn't bode well for Krit. Her hormones rampaging out of control, seeking an outlet. And beating on Krit seemed to be a good option.

Krit knew if she didn't choose another mate, they'd have to put up with more of the same for the next twelve to fourteen hours. Quickly using his superior strength (whether Max liked it or not), he grabbed her flailing wrists and spun her to where she practically sat on his lap, his arms around her like steel bands from behind and keeping her arms immobile within his.

"ALEC!" Max cried out, pain and anger etched within her voice as she struggled and thrashed in Krit's arms.

"Syl! Now!" Krit spit out through gritted teeth as he struggled with Max.

Syl, who sat on the other side of Krit, quickly pulled out a syringe from her inner jacket pocket. Using her teeth, she removed the plastic cover from the needle and stuck it quickly – nearly jamming it - into Max's neck and then pushed the plunger. It took less than a minute for Max to start calming down, the rage and pain still burning in her eyes. Krit continuing to hold her until Max's body finally went limp within his arms, her head lolling to the side. Finally breathing a sigh of relief, he propped her up next to him to keep her head on his shoulder while she napped.

Even out cold, she was breathtaking. The slight moisture on her face from her heat making her even more alluring to the other males in the chopper.

Syl tossed the syringe out of the open helicopter door, and yelled in irritation above the noise, "We're just as bad as the Familiars for drugging her like this!"

Krit shook his head and yelled back, "We have no choice Syl. Her heat cycle is now at a critical level, to the point where it's making her crazy… although I've actually never seen any female get quite this bad before."

Bruiser, who sat across from Krit remarked, "Oh I've seen it before… back at Manticore… THAT…" he inclined his head toward Max, "is due to YEARS of suppressing the urge to mate. She married an ordinary right? One in a wheelchair? Probably didn't satisfy her like she needed and just took the edge off to get her through it. I'm sure he didn't cut it for her. And then 494 rejected her, which is a double whammy. Now he's probably dead. But you know… I could take over as her new mate…" Bruiser eyed Max like a piece of meat and even licked his bottom lip.

The thought of this humongous X5 laying one finger on his tiny sister made Krit see red. "Over my dead body Bruiser." He answered with extreme, lethal calm while glaring at the larger X5; not one bit intimidated by his size even in the confines of the helicopter.

"That can be arranged Krit." Bruiser said, lifting a brow in his direction. He'd had his eye on Max from the moment he set eyes on her back in the Conclave, the heat pheromones having a lot to do with that. The only alpha male within close proximity to the alpha female, and he wanted her badly. He saw Krit, the stupid beta chump brother, as his competition, but he knew he could take him if given the chance. Now that his other competition, 494,was out of the way, he was determined to snag her for himself. Only too happy to annihilate any competition that got in his way as he glared at his only adversary.

"Are you threatening me? Seriously?" Krit's eyes narrowed, then he turned back to Syl, "Did he just threaten me? Did I really hear that right?"

"Afraid so." Syl answered calmly with a shrug, although inwardly she was terrified at what Bruiser was capable of. She patted the gun in her holster to make sure it was still there. She'd gladly shoot the bastard if he made a move toward her own mate.

Krit shook his head derisively, "I was beginning to think I needed to get my hearing checked. Do I need to remind you that I have no qualms about blowing your brains out if you take even a single step toward Max? I almost shot you in the Conclave, and I'll do it now without so much as a blink of conscience. Don't tempt me!"

There were seven X5 males on the chopper and six of them were edgy, obviously due to Max's rising pheromone levels, which had reached a critical point. And there were three other females, besides Max and Syl, that could help control the males if needed. Now that Max was out cold though, she wasn't secreting as many pheromones, which was a blessing for the moment. The sweat from her body's heat cycle cooling down and drying up, thanks to the heat suppressant mixed with a sedative they'd given her.

Krit closed his eyes but kept his ears tuned to any movement that would alert him of danger to himself or Max. He'd just made himself public enemy number one for Bruiser, and probably the rest of the males on the chopper, by placing himself between Max and any potential suitors. Scratch that, potential rapists really. Max would never go for the big guy sitting across from him, or anyone else, if she were in her right mind. And he sure as hell wouldn't let Bruiser within reaching range, if he had to break every bone in his body to keep it from happening.

He felt Syl link her arm through his in a comforting gesture and lay her head on his free shoulder. His tense muscles relaxed at her touch and he smirked a little at the mental image this must have made to the others. Two gorgeous women lying on him; one in heat that he had to protect, and the other mated to him. It probably looked like he had his own harem and he could feel the animosity in the chopper toward him. At any other time he'd have laughed at the visual this made.

Every single male in this chopper wanted a piece of Max. But Max had to be free to choose her own mate. And until then, Krit would keep on protecting her.

Then he thought of 494. Alec, as Max called him. Alec had earned Krit's respect, and that was a rare thing for him. Krit didn't trust easily and never had. To be honest, what'd really won him over was that Alec had meant it when he said he didn't want to jump into bed with Max so soon after her husband's death… and regardless of everything, Alec had stayed true to his word. No matter how much it'd physically and emotionally hurt Alec, he'd never crossed that line. And Krit really wouldn't have blamed him if he did. As a matter of fact, knowing his sister wanted that particular X5 and how hard that same X5 had struggled with his own instincts, Krit had actually ENCOURAGED the two of them to mate. It would have made things so much easier now if they had!

Now he needed a plan to get Max out of the chopper and into lockdown as soon as they landed. And to potentially keep drugging her until her heat ended. Since it was now fully blown, it shouldn't last much longer than another day.

Krit groaned inwardly as he realized he would probably have to stand guard himself outside her door. While, just like Max, he seemed to have shark DNA in his genetic cocktail and didn't need to sleep much, he'd barely gotten any in the last three days, and felt bone tired and completely exhausted after his stint with the Familiars. But maybe he could ask Syl to watch her for a couple of hours while he caught a nap.

Later… right now he intended to get Max to safety however he had to do it.

He felt Syl use her fingers to tap his inner wrist in Morse code.

"What about Zack?" she tapped.

Krit opened his eyes and turned to his mate, raising a brow in question. Since his hand was on her thigh, he tapped on her inner thigh in response. "I need for you to distract him until I can get her safe in lockdown somewhere… can you do that for me?"

She nodded and he smiled in response and mouthed, "I love you." She mouthed the same in response and kissed him.

"Damn it, do we really need to witness the lovey dovey bullshit? Not something I wanna see if I can't fuck." Bruiser groused and shifted a little in his seat.

Krit rolled his eyes and chose not to say anything in response. Why bother riling the big guy? It wasn't needed at this point in time. Especially considering they were in an enclosed space, and up in the air. Bruiser was a good fighter, but not the best in terms of IQ, especially while under the influence of heat pheromones. And if he jumped up without thinking and moved over to their side of the chopper, his three hundred plus pounds would shift the craft and they'd probably go down too, just like Alec and his crew. So instead, he engaged him in a stare down, silently daring the other man to blink.

But Syl responded instead, "You're just jealous."

Bruiser's eyes shifted to the blonde next to his enemy, "Damn straight I am, I'll admit it… you have a nice piece of ass right there under our noses…" Bruiser indicated Max again and then met Krit's eyes with a final warning, "Watch your back little man… that bitch is mine."

Friggin' damn heat cycles. Krit officially hated them now. They'd caused him more trouble in the last twenty-four hours than they ever had in his life. He only liked them when Syl went through them. Then it was fun! But his twin sister? Geez, now he was the male in charge of her safety, and the male that was considered literal family that could make the choice for her in her stead.

He had no intention of making that choice though. He would NOT choose someone to mate with Max and ultimately screw her life up while he was at it. The last thing he needed was for Max to be pissed at him for the rest of their lives because of ONE decision that would ultimately affect her entire future. He felt, regardless of circumstances, it simply wasn't his place to make that choice for her.

He decided then and there that he would put her in a deep dark hole, lock her up tight and periodically shoot her up with drugs until she got through this heat .

He'd never really considered himself a gentleman, but in Max's case, he'd accept that label and go to the ends of hell to keep her safe if need be.