“But she—” the heavily tattooed one began.

Once again Sabin interjected. “You want answers or not? I said turn!”

A few groans, the shuffling of feet.


Slowly she pivoted back around. All of the warriors had turned as Sabin commanded, giving her their backs.

Sabin placed a palm against the glass. It was large, unscarred and steady, but streaked with blood. “Which stones?”

She pointed to a grouping in a case beside him. They were small, about the size of a fist, and each had a different way to die painted on the front. The highlights: a beheading, limb removal, a stabbing, a pike through the gut and a wildfire climbing the body of a man nailed to a tree.

“Good, that’s good. But what do I do with them?”

Now panting with the need to be free—close, so close—she pantomimed the placing of a stone into a hole, like a key into a lock.

“Does it matter which stone goes where?”

She nodded, then pointed to each particular stone and which cell it opened. She’d come to dread the use of those stones, as it meant she would be forced to witness another rape. Sighing, she began to scratch the word KEY into the glass when Sabin slammed a fist into the stones’ case, shattering the outer shell. It would have taken the strength of ten humans to do such a thing, yet he made it look effortless.

Several cuts branched from his knuckles to his wrists. Beads of crimson appeared, but he wiped them away as if they meant nothing. By that time, the injuries were already in the process of healing, torn flesh weaving back together. Oh, yes. He was something far greater than mortal. Not fae, for his ears were perfectly rounded. Not vampire, for he didn’t possess fangs. A male siren, then? His voice was rich enough, delicious enough, yes, but perhaps too harsh.

“Grab a stone,” he called, never taking his focus from her.

Instantly the warriors spun on their booted heels. Gwen purposely kept her gaze on Sabin, afraid that looking at the others would cause her fear to spike. You’re in control, doing good. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—falter. Already she carried too many regrets.

Why couldn’t she be like her sisters? Why couldn’t she be brave and strong and embrace what she was? If necessary, they would have cut off a limb to escape—and they would have done it long before now. They would have pounded a fist through the glass, then Chris’s chest, and eaten his heart in front of him, laughing all the while.

She experienced a pang of homesickness. If Tyson, her former boyfriend, had told them of her abduction—which he probably hadn’t, scared as he was of her sisters—then they were looking for her and they wouldn’t give up until they found her. Despite her weaknesses, they loved her, wanted the best for her. But they would be so disappointed in her when they learned of her captivity. She’d failed herself, as well as her race. Even as a child she had run from conflict, which was how she’d earned the degrading moniker “Gwendolyn the Timid.”

Her palms were damp, she realized, and she rubbed them on her thighs.

Sabin directed the men, telling them which stone belonged in which hole. He got a few of the placements wrong but she wasn’t worried. They’d figure it out. He was correct about hers, though, and when one man, a blue-haired, pierced punk, tried to pick up the appropriate stone, Sabin’s strong, tanned fingers banded around his wrist, stopping him.

The blue-haired one locked eyes with Sabin, who shook his head. “Mine,” he said.

The punk grinned. “Hating what we see, are we?”

Sabin just frowned at him.

Gwen blinked in confusion. Sabin hated looking at her?

One by one the women were freed, some crying, some attempting to hurry out of the chamber. The males didn’t let them get far, catching them and surprising Gwen by cradling them gently, even when the women fought violently. In fact, the most beautiful man in the group, he of the multicolored hair, approached the women one by one, softly muttering, “Sleep for me, sweetheart.”

Shockingly, they obeyed, sagging in the warriors’ protective arms.

Sabin crouched and palmed Gwen’s stone, the one that showed the man burning alive. When he straightened, he tossed it in the air, caught it easily. “Don’t run. All right? I’m tired and I don’t want to chase you, but I will if you make me. And I’m afraid I’ll accidentally hurt you.”

You and me both, she thought.

“Don’t…free her,” Chris suddenly sputtered. How long had he been awake? He lifted his head and spit out a mouthful of dirt. Bruises had already formed under his eyes. “Dangerous. Deadly.”

“Cameo,” was all Sabin said.

The female warrior knew what he wanted and stalked to the human, grabbed him by the back of his shirt and easily lifted him to his feet. With her free hand, she placed a dagger at his carotid. Either too weak or too frightened, he didn’t struggle.

Gwen hoped it was fear that held him still. Hoped it with every fiber of her being. She even stared at the tip of the knife, willing it inside the bastard’s throat, piercing skin and bone and causing unforgettable agony.

Yes, she thought, entranced. Yes, yes, yes. Do it. Please, do it. Cut him, make him suffer.

“What do you want me to do with him?” Cameo asked Sabin.

“Keep him there. Alive.”

Disappointment caused Gwen’s shoulders to sag. But with the disappointment came a startling realization. Her emotions were under control, yet she was very close to releasing her inner beast anyway. All those thoughts of pain and suffering were not her own. They couldn’t be. Dangerous, Chris had said. Deadly. He’d been right. You have to stay in control.

“Feel free to hurt him a bit, though,” Sabin added, his eyes narrowing on Gwen. Was he…angry? At her? But why? What had she done?

“Don’t set the girl free,” Chris repeated. A tremor rocked his entire body. He backed away, but Cameo, obviously stronger than she appeared, jerked him back into place. “Please don’t.”

“Maybe you should leave the redhead in her cell,” the tiny warrior woman said. “For now, at least. Just in case.”

Sabin raised the stone, stopping just short of inserting it into the hole beside Gwen’s cage. “He’s a Hunter. A liar. And I think he hurt her, but doesn’t want her able to tell us.”

Gwen blinked over at him in shock and awe. He wasn’t angry at her, but at Chris—a hunter?—for what he might have done. He truly meant what he’d said. He wouldn’t harm her. Wanted her free. Safe.

“Is that right?” Sabin asked her. “He hurt you?”

Cheeks heating in mortification, she nodded. Emotionally, he’d destroyed her.

Sabin ran his tongue over his teeth. “He’ll pay for that. You have my word.”

Slowly the embarrassment faded. Her mother, who had disinherited her almost two years ago, would rather see her dead than weakened, but this man—this stranger—thought to avenge her.

Chris swallowed nervously. “Listen to me. Please. I know I’m your enemy, and I won’t lie and pretend you’re not mine. You are. I hate you with every fiber of my being. But if you let her go, she’ll kill us all. I swear it.”

“Will you try and kill us, little red?” Sabin asked her, even more gently than before.

Used to being called “bitch” and “whore” by the men here, Gwen felt the sweet endearment drift through her mind with the potency of a rose-scented summer breeze. In their few minutes together, this man had managed to gift her with the very thing she’d dreamed about since being locked up: a white knight, determined to slay her dragons. Sure, she’d once thought that white knight would be Tyson or even the father she’d never known, but still. It wasn’t every day a dream came true.


Gwen snapped to attention. What had he asked? Oh, yeah. If she would try and kill him and his friends. She licked her lips and shook her head. If her beast overtook her, she wouldn’t just try. She would succeed. I have control. For the most part. They’ll be fine.

“That’s what I thought.” With a flick of his wrist, Sabin drove the stone home. Her heart thundered in her chest, nearly cracking her ribs. Gradually the glass lifted…lifted…soon…soon…And then there was nothing between her and Sabin but air. The scent of lemon and mint strengthened. The coldness she’d grown used to gave way to a blanket of heat that seemed to wrap around her.

She smiled slowly. Free. She was truly free.

Sabin sucked in a breath. “My gods. You’re incredible.”

She found herself stepping toward him, reaching out, desperate for the contact she’d been denied all these months. A single touch, that’s all she needed. And then she would leave, go home. Finally.


“Bitch,” Chris shouted, struggling against Cameo’s hold. “Stay away from me. Keep her away from me. She’s a monster!”

Her feet halted of their own accord, and her gaze swung to the wretched human responsible for all the distress, all the anguish, she’d endured for the past year. Not to mention what he’d done to her cell mates. Her nails elongated to razor points. Tiny, seemingly gossamer wings sprang from her back, ripping at the cotton, fluttering frantically. Her blood thinned in her veins, rushing through every part of her, fast, so fast, and her vision tunneled to infrared, colors fading as body heat became her only focus.

In that instant, she realized she’d never had any sort of control over her beast. Her darker side. It had swirled inside her all along, mostly quiet as it waited for the opportunity to strike…

Only Chris, only Chris, please gods only Chris. The chant rang through her mind, hopefully penetrating the bloodlust of her vengeful beast. Only Chris, leave everyone else alone, attack only Chris.

But deep down, she knew there would be no stopping the death toll now.


FROM THE FIRST MOMENT Sabin had seen the lovely redhead in the glass cell, he’d been unable to remove his gaze from her. Unable to breathe, to think. Her hair was long and curled wantonly, blond streaked with thick locks of ruby. Her eyebrows were a darker auburn, but just as exquisite. Her nose was buttoned at the end, her cheeks rounded like a cherub’s. But her eyes…they were a sensual feast, amber with striations of sparkling gray. Hypnotic. Black lashes spiked around them, a decadent frame.