Dylan let out a little whoop of triumph as the house went silent once again.
And then ... the faintest sounds of voices coming from the cellar deep below.
More than a dozen different voices, all of them screaming and shouting, calling out to whoever could hear them.
"Holy shit," Alex murmured.
Dylan's eyes went wide. "You don't think--"
"Let's go find out," Renata said. She turned to Jenna. "Will you be all right up here?"
Jenna nodded. "Yeah, I'm good. I can hold her until you get back. Just go."
In the momentary inattention, Sister Grace fidgeted on the little sofa, digging around in her sweater pocket. Jenna looked back at her, just in time to see her stuff something small into her mouth. She swallowed quickly, gulping the object down. The tendons in her throat constricted. Her mouth started spewing thick white foam.
"Oh, shit!" Jenna cried. "She's poisoning herself!"
"She's dead. Forget the bitch," Renata said. "Down here with us, Jenna!"
She turned away from the Minion, letting the convulsing body fall to the floor. Together she and the other women raced down the old stone steps that led into the dimly lit, enormous cellar, which looked to be carved out of the craggy rocks of the peninsula itself.
Deeper and deeper they went, the cries for help growing louder.
"We hear you!" Dylan called back to the terrified women. "It's okay, we've found you!"
Jenna was not prepared for what awaited them as the cellar widened out ahead of them. Hollowed into the stone was a large cell, covered by an iron grid. Inside were upward of twenty women--filthy, unkempt, dressed in tattered laboratory gowns. Some of them were heavy with child. Others were waif thin and wan. They looked like the worst prisoners of war, neglected and forgotten, most of their faces drawn and expressionless.
They stared at their rescuers, some of them mute, some weeping quietly, while others sobbed openly in great, chest-racking heaves.
"Oh, Jesus," someone whispered, maybe even Jenna herself.
"Let's get them out of here," Renata said, her voice wooden. "Look for a key somewhere that fits this goddamned grate."
Dylan and Alex began searching the dark space. Jenna walked toward the far corner, peering into the deep shadows that seemed to continue on forever into the cavelike hollows of the old cellar. In her peripheral vision, she caught the slight hand movements of one of the captives. She was trying to get Jenna's attention, gesturing covertly toward the lightless tunnel that stretched farther into the darkness of the place.
Trying to warn her.
Jenna heard the nearly imperceptible scuff of a footstep coming out of the dark. She turned her head--just in time to see a flash of metal, a rushing movement. Then she felt the sudden body slam of another Minion, barreling out at her and knocking her nearly off her feet.
"Jenna!" Alex shouted. "Renata, help her!"
The gun blast echoed like cannon fire in the enclosed cellar. The captive females screamed and shrank back away from the sound.
"It's all right," Jenna called out. "He's dead. Everything's going to be fine."
She shoved the lifeless heap off her and crawled out from beneath him. Something metallic jangled as the Minion rolled onto his back and expelled his last breath.
"I think I found the key," she said, bending over him to remove the ring of several keys from his pants pocket.
She ran over to the cell and began searching for the one that would fit the padlock on the grate. The Minion's blood soaked her coat and palms, but she didn't care. All that mattered was getting the captive Breedmates out of this place.
The lock sprang loose on the second try.
"Oh, thank God," Dylan gasped. "Come on, everyone. You're safe now."
Jenna swung open the large iron grid and watched with a sense of pride and relief as the first few captives began to shuffle out of their prison.
One by one, woman by woman, the group of them stepped away, finally free.
The warriors had been only a few miles away from the location when Rio got a frantic cell phone call from Dylan, telling him everything that had happened. Even though they had been clued in, even though they knew that she and Alex and Renata and Jenna had somehow--miraculously--found and freed the captive females Dragos had imprisoned for so many years, Brock and his brethren seated in the Order's SUV had not been prepared for the sight that greeted them as they roared up the shoreline road and saw the big yellow house on the rocks.
The sun had just begun to dip below the opposite horizon, casting its last, long shadows across the snow-covered yard of the tall Victorian. And in that yard, filing out of the front door wrapped in blankets, antique quilts, and crocheted afghans, were easily a dozen bedraggled, haggard young women.
Several were already in the Rover parked in the driveway. Still others were being escorted out of the house by Alex and Dylan.
"Jesus Christ," Brock whispered, awed by the enormity of what had occurred.
Renata was standing near the Rover, helping some of the former captives into the backseat.
Where the hell was Jenna?
Brock scanned the entire area in a quick glance, his heart climbing up his chest. God, what if she was hurt? Dylan surely would have said something if there'd been casualties, but that didn't keep the rock from forming in the pit of his stomach. If anything had happened to her ...
"Hang on," Niko said, as he pulled in to the driveway, then steered the big SUV right up onto the lawn.
Brock leapt out even before the vehicle had come to a full stop.
He had to see his woman. Had to feel her warm and safe in his arms.
He ran across the frozen yard, his boots chewing up the distance in mere seconds.
Alex looked up at him as he tore toward her.
"Where is she?" he demanded. "Where's Jenna? Did anything happen to her?"
"She's fine, Brock." Alex gestured toward the open front door of the house, where the bloodied corpse of at least one Minion lay visible and motionless inside. "Jenna's making sure the rest of the women get out safely from the cellar where they were being held."
He sagged at the news that she was okay, unable to hide his relief. "I have to see her."
Alex gave him a warm smile as she led one of the shivering, wan Breedmates toward the pair of waiting vehicles. He stepped forward and was about to vault up onto the veranda porch.
The small, feminine voice--so unexpected, so distantly familiar--
stopped him dead in his tracks. Something clicked in his brain. A spark of disbelief.
A grinding jolt of recognition.
"Brock ... is it really you?"
Slowly, he pivoted around to face a diminutive, dark-haired female who was paused in the driveway, just off the steps of the porch. He hadn't noticed her when he'd passed her a moment ago. Good Christ, he wasn't sure he would have recognized her if she'd come right up to him in the street.
But he knew her voice.
Beneath the grime of her captivity and the neglect that had made her cheeks sallow, her alabaster skin marred with dirt and scratches, he realized that he did, in fact, know her face, as well.
"Oh, my God." He felt winded, as if someone had kicked all the air out of his lungs. "Corinne?"
"It is you," she whispered. "I never thought I'd see you again."
Her face crumpled, and then she was sobbing. She ran to him, throwing her thin arms around his waist and weeping hard into his chest.
He held her, unsure what to do.
Unsure what to even think.
"You were dead," he murmured. "You vanished without a trace, and then they pulled your body from the river. I saw it. You were dead, Corinne."
"No." She vigorously shook her head, still sobbing, her small body heaving with soul-racking gasps. "They took me away."
Fury flared in him, burning through the shock and disbelief. "Who took you?"
She hiccuped, drawing in a shaky breath. "I don't know. They took me away and they kept me prisoner all this time. They did ... things to me. They did horrible things, Brock."
She buried herself in his embrace, clinging to him like she never wanted to let go. Brock held her, struck stupid by all he was hearing.
He didn't know what to tell her. He had no idea how what she was saying could possibly be true.
But it was.
She was alive.
After many long years--decade after decade of blaming himself for her death--Corinne was suddenly living and breathing, wrapped in his arms.
Jenna climbed the cellar stairs behind the last of the captives. She could hardly believe it was over, that she and Renata, Dylan, and Alex had actually located the women and managed to set them free.
Her heart was still pounding hard in her chest, her pulse still racing with adrenaline and a profound sense of accomplishment--of relief, that the ordeal for these nearly twenty helpless women was finally ended. She guided her last charge around the slain Minions in the parlor and led her outside to the veranda. Dusk was gathering now, washing over the crowded yard in placid shades of blue.
Jenna breathed in the crisp, twilight air as she stepped onto the porch behind the shuffling Breedmate. She glanced over toward the driveway, where Renata and Niko were helping some of the females into the Rover.
Rio and Dylan, Kade and Alex were busy on the snowy front lawn, walking still more released women into another of the Order's SUVs.
But it was the sight of Brock that made her freeze in place where she stood.
Her feet simply stopped moving, her heart cracking open as she saw him locked in a tender embrace with a petite, dark-haired female.
Jenna didn't need to see her face to know that it would match the sketch Claire had provided. Or that the fragile beauty wrapped so gently in Brock's strong arms was the same young woman in the photograph he'd kept with him all the years after he'd thought her dead.
By some miracle of fate, Brock's past love had been returned to him.
Jenna choked back her bittersweet sob, realizing that he'd just been granted the impossible: the gift of love resurrected.
As much as it tore at her own heart to witness it, she couldn't help but be moved by their tender reunion.
And she couldn't bear to interrupt it, no matter how desperately she yearned to be the one in his sheltering arms at that moment.
Steeling herself, she took a quiet step off the porch and headed past them to continue the evacuation of the other freed captives.
Brock glanced up and saw Jenna walking away from him, toward the ongoing activity in the driveway.
She was safe.
His heart leapt in his chest, jolting with such relief to see her, he thought it might burst out of his rib cage.
She pivoted slowly toward him and the relief he'd felt a moment ago drained into his heels. Her face was stricken and pale. The front of her coat was torn in places and stained a garish, deep scarlet.
"Oh, Jesus." He broke away from Corinne and raced over to where Jenna had now paused. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he took her in from head to toe, his Breed senses overwhelmed at the presence of so much coppery spilled blood. "Ah, Christ ... Jenna, what happened to you?"
Her face pinched a bit as she shook her head and drew away from him. "I'm okay. The blood isn't mine. One of the Minions came at me in the cellar. I shot him."
Brock hissed, racked with worry even though she was standing in front of him now, assuring him that she wasn't harmed. "When I heard something had gone wrong here--" His voice choked off on a dark curse.
"Jenna, I was so damned scared that you might be hurt."
She shook her head, her hazel eyes seeming sad but steady. "I'm fine."
"And Corinne," he blurted, glancing across the way to where she still stood, looking small and forlorn, a dim shadow of the vibrant girl who'd vanished from Detroit all those decades ago. "She's alive, Jenna. She was being held here with the others."
Jenna nodded. "I know."
"You do?" He stared at her, confused now.
"One of the new sketches Claire Reichen had provided," she explained. "I only saw it as we arrived here, but I recognized Corinne's face from the picture you have of her back in your quarters."
"I can't believe it," he murmured, still stunned as hell by all he'd just heard. "She told me someone took her that night. She doesn't know who. I have no idea whose body I saw, or why it was staged to look like hers. My God ... I'm not sure what to think about the whole thing now."
Jenna listened to him ramble on, her expression patient and understanding. Far calmer than he was. True to form, she stayed in rock-steady control, the cool professional, even though she'd just been through a hell of an ordeal herself.
Emotion swamped him, his respect for her immeasurable in that moment.
As was his love for her.
"Do you realize what you've accomplished here?" he asked her, reaching out to smooth his fingers along her blood-splattered cheek. "My God, Jenna. I couldn't be more proud of you."
He kissed her and pulled her against him, ready to tell her right there and then how grateful he was to have her in his life. He wanted to shout his love for her, but the depth of his feelings had devoured his voice.
Then all too soon, Jenna withdrew from his arms, both of them alerted to the sound of footsteps approaching from nearby. Brock turned to face Nikolai and Renata. Dylan walked past them to retrieve Corinne and gently led her to the open passenger-side door of the Rover in the driveway.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com