But the differences between the Hope of her childhood and the worn, battle-scarred woman before her were night and day. Hope’s blonde hair was chopped off, cut so short it was almost a buzz cut. Even Chloe had more hair than Hope did. A vicious scar ran down one cheek, a cheek so thin Glory immediately had the urge to buy a couple of pizzas to fatten her up with.
Worst of all was the sheer terror Glory saw as her twin took in Ryan and Gabe.
Glory held out her hand, taking hold of Ryan. “This is my fiancé, Ryan, and Gabe is a police officer. They’re both friends of mine, and they’re here to help you.” Better than saying they were both Hunters.
“Hi, Hope.” Ryan held out his hand to her twin, trying to appear non-threatening.
Ryan lowered his hand. He didn’t seem at all phased by the fact that Hope had essentially refused to touch him. “The local Wolf Pack will want to meet you.”
A big hand reached over Glory’s head and pushed open the door. “Hi. My name’s Barney.” Barney very gently pushed past Glory and into Hope’s hotel room. “I’m here to help you too.”
Hope’s eyes grew wide with fear before her expression turned bitter. “No one can help me.”
“I can.” Barney crouched down, putting his head below Hope’s. Glory knew a submissive gesture when she saw one, and Barney was going all kinds of shades of gray on her shaking sister. It was a shock to see the strong, in-your-face Hunter be so gentle with Hope. “I’m what’s called a Hunter. I’m a cop for the shifter world, and I’m here to take in the man who abducted and changed you against your will. He did, right? Change you against your will?”
“If you come with me, I can protect you from him, even introduce you to a Wolf Pack that will welcome you with open arms and protect you.” He held up his hand, patiently waiting for Hope to place hers in it.
“I know what a Hunter is.” Hope took a step back. “He told me all about them.”
Glory closed her eyes as Hope confirmed all their worst fears. No wonder they’d never found her.
Barney didn’t move a muscle. His expression remained serene, calm in the face of Hope’s overwhelming fear. His hand was still held out for Hope to take, or not. “Yes. Was. A Hunter who turns bad is just another rogue.”
“Just like a human cop who goes bad is just another criminal.” Gabe held up his badge. “He will be brought to justice. I swear it.”
Barney smiled so sweetly Glory was shocked. She’d never seen such a soft expression on the Hunter’s face before. “Come with us, Hope. See your family. There are three Hunters here just to protect you, and the Senate knows who you are. All you need to do is tell me the man’s name.”
She barely heard Gabe’s indrawn breath. “Of course. If we know his name, we know everything about him.”
Barney never stopped looking away from Hope. “Yup.”
Glory wanted to drag her sister out of this depressing room and into Ryan’s car. “Please, Hope. I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too.” Hope eyed her warily. “What are you?”
Glory didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “Grizzly. Ryan is my mate, and we just claimed one another, so I haven’t even gone through my first change yet.”
“Whoa.” For the first time Glory saw some of the girl she’d known in the suspicious woman before her. Hope’s eyes lit up, a small smile creasing the scar on her cheek. “Your ass will finally be bigger than mine.”
Glory laughed, aware she was close to tears. “Bitch, you always had a fat ass.”
She grunted as Hope dove into her arms. “I really did missed you. It’s why I came back. I wanted to see you, just once, before I ran again.”
“Missed you too. So much.” She held tight, terrified Hope would disappear like she had all those years ago. “I’m glad we found you before you left.”
“He’ll come back.” Hope was shaking so hard Glory was afraid she’d rattle to pieces. “He always finds me.”
“Then we’ll be here to stop him.” Glory said the one thing she could, closing her eyes at the irony of it. “You’re not alone anymore.”
Glory wasn’t that far behind her. She couldn’t seem to stop the tears that came. She finally had her twin in her arms, and she had no intention of losing her again. “Let’s get you home, okay?”
“Can you tell me his name?”
“His name.” Hope turned toward them, tears running down her cheeks. “Tito Salazar.”
Barney quivered, but that was the only sign he gave that he might recognize the name. “Good. Thank you, Hope.” Still using the unusually gentle tone and touch, he guided Hope and Glory toward Ryan’s car, careful not to touch Hope. “I’m a Bear as well, a Grizzly, and Gabe is a Puma. The local Pride has taken your sister and her friends in, made them Pride.”
“I’m authorized to inform you that Max and Emma, our Alpha and Curana, are willing to extend the same protections to you that your sister enjoys.” Gabe held open the backseat door for Hope. “We want you to have as many options as possible.”
“I just never want to see Tito again. I barely got away from him. If he finds me again…” Hope bit her lip, and even in the early morning darkness Glory could see how she shook. “You don’t know what that son of a bitch did to me.”
“We’ll stop him.” Barney gestured for Glory to climb into the car next to her sister. “Is there anything in the motel room you can’t live without?”
Hope shot a despondent glance toward her temporary home. “I’ve learned there’s very little I can’t live without.”
Glory couldn’t stand it anymore. She took hold of Hope’s hand. “Let’s see if we can change that, hmm?”
When Hope leaned her head against Glory’s shoulder, it took everything in her not to break down and weep like a child.
Hope had been through a rougher hell than any of them had dealt with before. Barney had done his best to seem as unthreatening as possible, and all of them were treating her like a china doll that could break at any moment. Hope was impossibly traumatized, and might never fully recover from her ordeal.