“Too late. We’ve marked each other.” And Ryan, training or no, wouldn’t give that up.
“I’m aware of that. I just…” Barney frowned. “I don’t want to lose another Hunter.”
“When I first found Gabe, we’d lost one of our Hunters in this area. One I’d trained.” Barney shook his head. “It’s always difficult when one of us gets taken down, but Daniel was a friend. He’d been a Hunter for five years before a rogue took him out.”
“He’d been hunting a serial killer.” Barney pulled up outside a dilapidated roadside motel. “The guy got to him first, and used his mate against him. Neither one survived.”
“I get that, I really do.” Ryan blew out a breath. “And I’ll make sure all the girls at Cynful take some self-defense classes.”
“It may not be enough. It took three of us to take the killer down. The Atlantic City Hunter had been a good friend of Daniel’s and his mate’s, and insisted on helping.” Barney seemed haunted by the memory of the Hunter he’d lost. “Look. I’m not telling you this to be a Debbie Downer. You need to know the life you’ve been born into. It’s going to be rough, and if you’re not careful your mate could become a liability.”
“You’re wrong.” The soft voice of his mate filled the car. “Ryan’s the reason I would keep fighting.”
Ryan nodded. “You’re not mated yet, so you don’t understand.” He almost felt sorry for Barney. He had no idea what he was trying to deny himself, and Ryan hoped like hell that he’d find out one day soon just what that wonderful something was. “Glory is my strength, not my weakness.”
“If you say so. Your cousin…” Barney grimaced, his expression clear as he glanced in the rearview mirror. “She’s small, Ryan, and so god-damn young. Until I know she can protect herself I won’t mate her.”
“You keep telling yourself that.” Ryan could already tell Barney was going to have a hard time with that. Every time he said Heather’s name he got this wistful expression before he covered it up with banter or determination. “The pull is going to be too strong to resist. You’ll claim her because you won’t have any other choice.”
The stubborn set of Barney’s jaw said otherwise. “I’m doing what’s right for her.”
“I’d ask Heather what she thinks is the right thing to do. You might be surprised at what she has to say.” Glory sat up and put her hand on Barney’s shoulder. “Now, go get my sister.”
But he ignored the Hunter and got out of the car, taking a deep whiff. If Gabe was in the area, odds were good it was safe enough.
And he was proven right when Gabe strolled out of the woods. It was strange to see the sheriff in casual clothes, the dark jeans and jacket causing him to blend into the night. Even his face had patches of darkness on them, and Ryan realized he’d put on camouflage. “All clear, Ryan. Let’s go get Hope.”
With one last glance at the car, Ryan followed Gabe to the motel, and Glory’s past.
Glory waited as long as she could, which was about two seconds longer than she’d thought she’d be able to. Ryan and Gabe were standing in front of a motel door, quietly talking, neither one making a move toward knocking on said door.
“Glory, I know what you’re thinking, but you need to stay put until they call for you.”
She glared at Barney, who’d wound up staying behind by default. “Yeah, let’s keep the liability in the car.”
His jaw tightened. “I’m not going to apologize. If it saves Ryan’s life, then I’ll call you whatever the hell I want, whether you like it or not.”
As much as she wanted to argue with him, he was right, damn it. “Fine. But you’re not invited to the family barbecue.”
“Story of my life, and one I can live with.” Barney climbed out of the car and took up a sentry-like pose outside. He leaned against the driver’s side door, his gaze glued to Ryan and Gabe, but Glory was willing to bet his attention was focused more on the surrounding woods. It was there the Wolf who’d been stalking her and her sister would be waiting for them, if he was even in the area.
At a gesture from Gabe, Glory got out of the car. She was shaking like a leaf. The knowledge that she might finally have found her twin rushed through her like a tsunami.
Hope was here. Glory was certain of it. That twin sense that told her that Hope was alive was tingling now, driving her toward Ryan and the door that separated her from her long-lost sister.
Ryan took a couple of steps forward and took her hand. “You ready for this?”
She nodded, barely able to speak. “She’s here.”
Ryan smiled. “Good. Then we’ll have her home with us, safe and sound.”
“We’ll put her in a safe place, guarded by Pumas. We won’t let anyone lay a hand on her, I swear.” Gabe gave her a brief hug. “Knock on the door, Glory.”
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. Butterflies danced the jitterbug through her veins. “Here goes.”
The sound of her knuckles rapping on the metal-clad door was loud in the quiet, but Glory could still hear the sound of someone breathing behind it. Her senses had sharpened considerably since Ryan marked her.
Going with her gut instinct, Glory called out to her sister. “Hope? It’s me.” The door remained shut, but Glory could no longer hear breathing. “It’s safe, Hope, I swear. Open the door, please?”
“Temp and Faith are back. They’ve been looking for us.” She shared a glance with Ryan, who shrugged. “The man who took you? I’ve got friends here. Strong ones. We’re going to stop him.”
The door flew open, and Glory found herself staring into a face she’d never thought to truly see again. For all they were identical, there had always been minute differences between them. Glory was a quarter inch shorter than her twin, and Hope’s blue eyes had been a touch darker than Glory’s baby blue. It had somehow made Hope’s disappearance even harder on her.
Cyn thought it was the reason Glory dyed her hair wild colors and pierced her skin. So she wouldn’t see that not-quite-right face in the mirror every day. But Glory knew better. It was about being Glory, not Hope. She wanted people to see her, not her missing twin, and it had worked.