The glass that kept the women removed from the outside world was thick, impenetrable by fist or even bullet, yet every heartbreak inside the chamber and cells was a blast inside Gwen’s ears.

She knew how to block the noise, something her sisters had taught her to do as a young child, but she desperately wanted to hear her captors’ defeat. Their grunts of pain were like midnight lullabies to her. Soothing and sweet.

But strong as the warriors obviously were, they never once delivered a deathblow. Oddly, they merely wounded their prey, knocking them unconscious before focusing on the next opponent. And after what seemed too-short seconds but had probably been minutes, only one human was left standing. The worst of the lot.

One of the warriors stepped forward, approaching him. Though all the newcomers had possessed lethal skill, this one had fought the dirtiest, going for the groin, the throat. He raised his arm as if to render the final blow, but then Gwen’s wide-eyed gaze caught his and he paused. Slowly he lowered his arm.

Her breath caught. Brown hair soaked with blood was plastered to his head. His eyes were the color of brandy, deep and dark, and they, too, were threaded with crimson. Impossible. Surely she imagined the wild glow. His face, so roughly hewn it could only have been carved from granite, promised destruction in its every line and hollow, though there was something almost…boyish about him. A startling contradiction.

His shirt had been slashed to ribbons, rope after rope of sun-kissed muscle visible every time he moved. Oh, the sun. How she missed it, craved it. A violet butterfly tattoo wrapped around his right rib cage and dipped into the waist of his pants. The points of its wings were razored, making it appear at once feminine and masculine. Why a butterfly? she wondered. Seemed odd that such a strong, vicious warrior would have chosen it. Whatever the reason, the mark somehow comforted her.

“Help us,” she said, praying the immortal could hear through soundproof glass as she could. But if he heard her, he gave no indication. “Free us.” Still no reaction.

What if they leave you here? Or worse, what if they’re here for the same reason as the humans?

The thoughts filled her head suddenly, and she frowned, perhaps even paled. The fears weren’t out of place; she’d wondered the exact same things only a short while ago. But these were somehow different…foreign. They were not her own, not spoken in her own inner voice. How…what…?

Sharp white teeth sank into the man’s bottom lip as he clawed at his temples, clearly infuriated.

What if—

“Stop!” he snarled.

The thought forming inside her head halted abruptly. She blinked in confusion. The warrior shook his head, scowl intensifying.

Distracted as the immortal clearly was, her human tormentor decided to act, closing the remaining distance between them.

Gwen straightened, calling, “Look out!”

Attention remaining fixed on Gwen, the granite-faced warrior reached out an arm and grabbed the human by the neck, choking and stopping him at the same time. The man—Chris was his name—flailed. He was young, perhaps twenty-five, but still leader of the guards and scientists here. He was also a man she despised more than captivity.

Everything I do, I do for the greater good, he was fond of saying, just before he raped one of the other women right in front of her. He could have artificially inseminated them, but had preferred the humiliation of forced intercourse. I wish this was you, he had often added. Every one of these females is a substitute for you.

Despite his desires, he’d never touched her. He was too afraid of her. They all were. They knew what she was; they’d seen her in action the day they came for her. Unintentionally maul a few humans to death, and a girl gained a reputation, she supposed. Rather than eliminate her, however, they’d kept her, experimenting with different drugs in the ventilation system in the hopes of knocking her out long enough to use her. They hadn’t yet succeeded, but they hadn’t given up, either.

“Sabin, no,” a beautiful, dark-haired female said, patting the once again red-eyed warrior on the shoulder. Her voice was so laden with sorrow, Gwen cringed. “Like you told us, we might need him.”

Sabin. A strong name, reminiscent of a weapon. Fitting.

Were the two lovers?

Finally that all-consuming gaze left her, and she was able to breathe. Sabin dropped Chris and the bastard fell to the ground, unconscious. She knew he still lived because she could hear the rush of blood in his veins, the crackle of air filling his lungs.

“Who are these women?” a blond warrior said. He had bright blue eyes and a lovely face that promised compassion and safety, but he was not the one Gwen suddenly imagined herself curling next to and sleeping beside peacefully. Deeply. Safely. Finally.

All these months, she’d been afraid to sleep, knowing Chris would have loved to take her unaware. So she’d slumbered in short, shallow spurts, never relaxing her guard. Sometimes she’d had to refrain from simply giving herself to the evil man in exchange for the prospect of closing her eyes and sinking into dark oblivion.

A black-haired, violet-eyed mountain stepped forward, eyeing the cells surrounding Gwen’s. “Dear gods. That one is pregnant.”

“So is that one.” This speaker had multicolored hair, pale skin and eyes as brilliant a blue as his blond friend’s, though this man’s were rimmed with a darker shade. “What kind of bastards keep pregnant females in these conditions? This is low even for Hunters.”

The females in question were banging on the glass, begging for help, for freedom.

“Anyone hear what they’re saying?” the mountain asked.

“I do,” Gwen answered automatically.

Sabin turned to her. That brown gaze no longer sleeked with red once more honed in on her, probing, searching…perusing.

A shiver danced the length of her spine. Could he hear her? Her eyes widened as he strode to her cell, sheathing a knife at his waist. Heightened as her senses were, she caught the barest hint of sweat, lemon and mint. She inhaled deeply, savoring every nuance. For so long, she’d smelled nothing but Chris and his overpowering cologne, his pungent drugs and the terror of the other females.

“You can hear us?” Sabin’s timbre was as rough as his features and should have grated her nerves like sandpaper, but somehow soothed her like a caress.

Tentatively, she nodded.

“Can they?” He pointed to the other prisoners.

She shook her head. “Can you hear me?”

He, too, shook his head. “I’m reading your lips.”

Oh. That meant he’d been—was—watching her intently, even when his head had been turned. The knowledge was not unpleasant.

“How do we open the glass?” he asked.

Her lips pressed in a stubborn line, and she dared a quick look at the heavily armed, blood-coated predators behind him. Should she tell him? What if they planned to rape her fellow prisoners, just as the others had done? Just as she’d feared?

His harsh expression softened. “We haven’t come to harm you. You have my word. We just want to free you.”

She didn’t know him, knew better than to trust him, but pushed to shaky legs anyway and lumbered to the glass. Up close like this, she realized that Sabin towered over her and his eyes were not brown as she’d supposed. Rather, they were ringed with amber, coffee, auburn and bronze, a symphony of colors. Thankfully, the glow of red was still gone. Had she imagined it those times?

“Woman?” he said.

If he opened the cell as promised…if she could gather her courage and not freeze in place as was her habit…escape would finally be possible. The hope she’d denied earlier sprang to life, unstoppable and tantalizing, tempered only by the thought that she might cruelly and brutally destroy these possible saviors without meaning to.

Don’t worry. Unless they try to harm you, your beast will remain caged. One wrong move from them, though…

Worth the risk, she thought, saying, “Stones.”

His brow furrowed. “Bones?”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, she lifted one of her nails—a claw when compared to a human’s—and carved the word STONES in the glass. Each etching would hold only long enough for her to finish a letter before wiping clean. Damned godly glass. She’d often wondered how the humans had acquired it.

A pause. A frown, his attention remaining fixed on her too-long, pointed nail. Was he wondering what type of creature she was?

Then, “Stones?” Sabin asked, gaze once more meeting hers.

She nodded.

He spun in a circle, eyeing the entire chamber. Though the look-over lasted only a few seconds, Gwen suspected he’d cataloged every inch of the place and could have found his way out of it in the dark.

The warriors lined up behind him, all staring at her expectantly. Mixed with the expectation, however, was curiosity, suspicion, hatred—for her?—and even lust. One step, two, she backed away. She’d take hate over lust any day. Her legs trembled so violently she feared her muscles would give out. Stay calm. You cannot panic. Bad things happen when you panic.

How did one combat the desire of others? There was nothing she could do to cover herself more than she already was. Upon her imprisonment, her jeans and T-shirt had been replaced with a white tank and short skirt her captors had given her—easier access that way. Bastards. One of the tank straps had ripped months ago and the shirt now gaped. She’d had to tie it under her arm to keep her breast covered.

“Turn away,” Sabin suddenly growled.

Gwen spun without thought, long red hair swaying at her sides. Breath sawed in and out of her mouth, and sweat beaded over her brow. Why had he wanted her back? To better subdue her?

There was another of those heavy pauses. “I didn’t mean you, woman.” This time, Sabin’s voice was soft, gentle.

“Aw, come on,” someone said. She recognized the rich, irreverent tone of the male with the blond hair and blue eyes. “You’re not serious about—”

“You’re scaring her.”

Gwen peeked over her shoulder.