- The Darkest Whisper
“You didn’t kill me,” he reminded her. “You didn’t kill my friends.”
“I honestly don’t know how I pulled myself back. That’s never happened before. I wouldn’t know how to do it a-gain.” She paled.
Lucien had reappeared, a struggling Hunter at his side.
Reaching behind his back, Sabin withdrew a dagger and stood.
When Gwen saw the glinting silver, she gasped. “Wh-what are you doing?”
“Was this man one of your tormentors?” Sabin asked the now trembling female.
Silent, her gaze moved from one man to another in dread. She clearly knew what was coming, but this wasn’t the heat of battle. It would be straight-up murder.
The Hunter kicked and punched at Lucien. That failed to gain him his freedom, so he began sobbing. “Let me go, let me go, let me go. Please. I only did what I was told. I didn’t mean to hurt the women. It was all for the greater good.”
“Shut it,” Sabin said. This time he’d be the one to show no mercy. “You didn’t save them either, now did you?”
“I’ll stop trying to kill you. I swear!”
“Gwendolyn.” Sabin’s voice was hard, uncompromising, a roar compared to the Hunter’s pleading. “An answer. Please. Was this man one of your tormentors?”
She gave a single nod.
Without word or warning, he cut the Hunter’s throat.
SABIN HAD MURDERED a man in front of her.
Several hours had since passed and they’d even switched locations, but the bloody image of that human falling to his knees, then to his face, gurgling then silent, so silent, refused to leave her mind.Gwen had known that kind of fierceness churned inside of Sabin—the same kind of fierceness that had driven her to murder. She’d known he was hard and harsh and untouched by softer emotion. His eyes gave him away. Dark and cold, utterly calculating. The moment he’d led her out of her cell those two days ago, she’d begun to notice the way he surveyed the scene around him and decided who and what he could use to his advantage. Everything else was debris.
She must have been debris. Then. Now he wanted her help.
But she couldn’t forget that he’d pushed her away at their first meeting. Oh, that had embarrassed her. One simple brush of his callused fingertips and she’d glued herself to the side of a man who wanted nothing to do with her. But he’d been so warm, his skin buzzing with energy, and she’d been without contact for so long that she hadn’t been able to help herself.
No touching, he’d said, and he’d looked capable of slaying her if she dared reach out again.
His cruel treatment had reminded her that her rescuers were strangers to her, that their intentions could be every bit as nefarious as her captors’. So she’d kept her distance, using the past two days to study them and eavesdrop on their most private conversations. Her mental ear blocks were back in place, noise levels at a bearable pitch, allowing her to listen to men who didn’t want to be listened to without grimacing and giving herself away.
One of those conversations, which had taken place this very morning, constantly replayed through her mind.
“We’ve been here nearly a month with no sign of an artifact. How many pyramids do we have to search before we find it? I thought we’d hit the jackpot with that last pyramid, since Hunters were there, but…”
Again, the men had referenced a hunter. It’s what they’d called Chris. Why?
“I know, I know. All that work, and we’re no closer to finding the box.”
“Should we pack up?”
“Might as well. Until our Eye gives us another clue, we’re directionless.”
Strange phrasing. Their eye could offer clues? To what? And whose eye were they referring to? Maybe the one called Lucien; she’d noticed he had one blue eye and one brown.
“Hopefully Galen hasn’t found anything, either. Well, other than a pike through the heart. That, I’d like to help him find.”
Who was Galen? Did it matter? These warriors were…odd. Half of them spoke as though they’d stepped straight from the pages of Medieval Times magazine. The other half could have been members of a street gang. They loved each other, though, that much was clear. They were solicitous of each other’s needs, either joking and laughing together or fiercely guarding each other’s backs.
Three men and the female warrior, Cameo, had sneaked inside Sabin’s tent while Sabin was off speaking with Lucien. Each of them had delivered the same message to her: Hurt the warrior and suffer. They hadn’t waited for her reply, but had stomped out. The woman’s voice…Gwen shuddered. She had suffered just listening to it.
As much time as she’d spent alone in the tent, she could have escaped. Probably should have tried. But mile after mile of desert, glaring sun and who knew what else surrounded her, and fear had held her in place.
Even though she’d grown up in the ice-mountains of Alaska, she could have dealt with the sand and the sun. She hoped. It was the unknown that intimidated her. What if she stumbled upon a vicious tribe? Or a pack of hungry animals? Or another group of treacherous men?
Besides, striking out on her own to follow her then-boyfriend Tyson to another state had been the catalyst to her ending up the unwilling guest of that glass cage. Still. Had the warriors hurt her, she would have risked it. Again, she hoped. But they hadn’t touched her, not in any way. And she was happy about that. Really. The fact that Sabin had kept his word—no touching—was like a gift from the heavens. Really.
“You okay?” The warrior named Strider plopped down in the plush leather seat beside hers. They were inside a private jet, high in the sky, and there was quite a bit of turbulence.
Surprisingly, that didn’t faze her.
Gwen suppressed a bitter laugh. A shadow could send her into hiding, but rattle-your-bones, fall from the sky instability made her yawn. Maybe because she herself could fly—kind of—though she hadn’t attempted the skill in forever. Maybe because as much as she’d been through this past year, crashing seemed like child’s play.
“You’re pale,” he added when she remained silent. He whipped a pack of Red Hots from his pocket, downed a mouthful, then offered some to her. She smelled cinnamon, and her mouth watered. “You need to eat.”
At least she didn’t cower from him. Still. What was with these men and their need to shove junk food in her face? “No thanks. I’m fine.” She hadn’t yet recovered from the Twinkies.
Oh, she didn’t regret eating them. The sugary taste…the fullness of her stomach…it had been heaven. For those few precious seconds, anyway. But she’d known better than to eat food freely given to her. Cursed by the gods, like all Harpies, she could only eat food that she had stolen or earned. It was penance for crimes her ancestors had committed and completely unfair, but there was nothing she could do about it.
Well, she could starve.
She was too afraid of the consequences to steal from these men, as well as too afraid of what they’d make her do to earn a few precious morsels.
“You sure?” he asked, then tossed a few more of the candies in his mouth. “These are small, but they pack a hell of a punch.” Of all the men, he’d been the most gentle with her. The most concerned with her care. Those bright blue eyes never regarded her with disdain. Or fury, as was sometimes the case with Sabin.
Sabin. Always her mind returned to him.
Her gaze sought him. He reclined in the lounge across from her, his eyes closed, spiked lashes casting shadows over the hollows of his sharp cheeks. He wore fatigues, a silver chain necklace and a leather man-bracelet. (She was pretty confident he’d want the “man” distinction.) His features were relaxed in slumber. How could someone look at once harsh and boyish?
It was a mystery she wanted to solve. Maybe when she did, she’d stop seeking him out. Five minutes couldn’t pass without her wondering where he was, what he was doing. This morning, he’d been packing his things, preparing for this trip, and she’d imagined her nails digging into his back, her teeth sinking into his neck. Not to hurt him, but to pleasure her!
She’d had a few lovers over the years, but those kinds of thoughts had never plagued her before. She was a gentle creature, damn it, even in bed. It was him, his I-don’t-care-about-anything-but-winning-my-war attitude that was causing this…darkness inside her. Had to be.
She should have been disgusted by what he’d done, slicing the human’s neck as he had. At the very least, she should have screamed for him to stop, protested, but part of her, that darker side, the monster she couldn’t escape, had known what was about to happen and had been glad. She’d wanted the human to die. Even now, there was a spark of gratitude inside her chest. For Sabin. For the wonderfully cruel way he’d dispensed justice.
That was the only reason she’d willingly stepped onto this plane. A plane headed not for Alaska but Budapest. That, and the respectful distance the warriors had maintained from her. Oh, and the Twinkies. Not that she could give in to their sweet temptation again.
Maybe she should, though. Maybe she should strap on her big girl panties and steal one, risking punishment. Her skills were rusty, but now that she was out of the cell, her hunger pangs were strong, her body growing weaker. Too, if the warriors hurt her that would finally spur her into action. Going home.
She’d have to decide quickly, though. Pretty soon, she wouldn’t have the strength or clarity to appropriate a fallen crumb, much less an entire meal, and she definitely wouldn’t have the strength to leave. What made it worse was that she wasn’t simply battling hunger, she was also battling lethargy.
She wasn’t cursed to stay awake forever or anything like that, but sleeping in front of others was against the Harpies’ code of conduct. And with good reason! Sleeping left you vulnerable, open to attack. Or, say, abduction. Her sisters didn’t live by many rules, but they never deviated from that one. She wouldn’t either. Not again. Already she’d embarrassed them enough.