Hope stared around at them, obviously lost. “What does that mean?”
“It means you’re not Salazar’s mate.” Barney’s tone was still strangely soft. “You would know if you were, and the thought of losing him would be unbearable for you.”
“When a mate dies, especially as suddenly as Marie did, the mate almost always follows.” Emma smiled softly over at Max, who blew her a kiss. “I wouldn’t want to go on without Max.”
“So was Marie really his mate?”
When everyone turned to Hope, shocked, Glory tightened her grip. “It’s a valid question.”
“Yes, Marie was Jamie’s mate. Julian saved his life, but in losing Marie, something inside Jamie broke. He’s closed himself off, turned cold.” Gabe took hold of his mate’s hand. “Sarah says, and I agree, that he’s not at the point of going rogue, but he’s come close to it.”
Hope nodded. “Then keep him away from me. I’ve had enough of crazy shifters to last me a lifetime.”
“He’s not crazy. He’s hurting, desperately missing something he’ll likely never have again. He’s a junkie whose fix is permanently out of his reach, and the pain can be unbelievable.” Sarah snuggled closer to Gabe, who put his arm around her tightly. Sarah didn’t seem to mind. “I wish there was something I could do for him, but he’s doing everything he can to shut me out. I can’t help someone who doesn’t want it.”
“I know what it’s like to lose everything that matters.” Hope’s expression was somber. “You say he’s dangerous, but in the next breath you say he’s in mourning.”
“He’s both. We don’t know how he’ll react at any given time.” Max picked Emma up, over her protests, and settled back down on the sofa with his mate firmly ensconced in his lap. “He’s not the man who danced at my wedding.”
It sounded like a familiar argument between the Omega and her Alpha, one that had probably been going on ever since Jamie woke from his coma a changed man. Glory hadn’t known Jamie and Marie Howard all that well, but Ryan had, and he’d liked them both.
“Can I ask you something?” Gabe kept his tone easy. “How did you manage to get away from Salazar?”
Hope shrugged, but she didn’t fool Glory. Her twin’s face had gone so pale Glory was surprised she hadn’t passed out. “He didn’t latch the shackle the right way.”
“Shackle?” Glory looked down to where Hope pulled up her pant leg and cursed. There was a huge mark on her ankle, the skin rough and red and bruised.
“Yeah. When he finally fell asleep, I got up, stole the car keys and ran for it. I ditched the car somewhere in Louisiana and began going cross-country in my Wolf form. He almost caught me a couple of times, but I’d learned some things after being with him for so long. It took me a couple of months to make my way here, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t far behind.”
“He’s not. We’re pretty sure he bit me outside the tattoo parlor I own with Cyn and our friend Tabby.” Hope swayed in her arms. “We’ll keep you safe. You aren’t alone anymore. You found me, okay?”
For the first time that night Hope smiled. “I knew where you were.”
“And I knew you were still alive.” Glory hugged Hope, trying to convey how much she’d wished to see her sister again. “I never stopped believing you’d come home, I swear.”
The knock on the door startled them all. Gabe and Barney made their way to the front door, both wary, while Ryan placed himself between the door and everyone else.
Gabe winked at his mate as Barney opened the front door. “Hey, look. Snow White and his dwarf are here.”
Cyn pushed past Barney with a snarl, cursing him out roundly in Spanish.
Barney’s eyebrows disappeared under his hat, clearly understanding whatever it was Cyn had said to him. “And my little dog too?”
Julian laughed as he sailed into the room behind his mate. “Hello, Hope.”
Hope stared up at Julian with fear. “How do you know who I am?”
Cyn snorted. “You think Glory could find her twin and Super Bear wouldn’t find out about it?”
Julian just gave them that mysterious smile that drove Cyn insane. “Let’s take a look at you, sweetie.” He ignored Hope’s quiet protest and knelt at her feet. The silver streak that indicated the Kermode was using his powers slid down his hair, marking him as a Spirit Bear. His dark eyes glittered with silver specks as they focused on Hope. “Hmm. You’ve been sick? We need to get some nutrients in you.” He shuddered hard, gasping as his hair suddenly blazed snowy white. His eyes turned completely silver. “One becomes three.”
“What?” Glory stared at Julian, who’d slumped over Hope’s lap. “What does that mean?”
“The prophecy, the one Bear delivered to Julian.” Ryan’s tone was filled with wonder.
“The same one Fox gave Chloe.” Gabe and Sarah exchanged a quick glance.
“What the fuck is going on?” Hope shoved Julian off of her. “What…prophecy?” She laughed, the sound bitter, unnerving. “Oh, God. I’ve gone from one crazy shifter to a fucking town full of them.”
“Sorry about that.” Emma held out her mug, looking apologetic. “Um. Coffee?”
Glory didn’t blame Hope one bit for the hysterical crying fit that followed.
It had taken the rest of the night, but they managed to get Hope settled down in Max and Emma’s spare bedroom. They’d all been exhausted, especially Julian, who said he’d gotten an “unexpected call” while healing Hope. When Julian and Cyn left, Julian’s hair had still been mostly white.
Cyn had to drive Julian home. He was shaking too badly to operate a can opener, let alone a car. And none of them, not even Julian, knew how Hope was part of the prophecy, or why Julian had such a strong reaction to her.
So when Ryan pulled up in front of his apartment, he wasn’t surprised to find his father, his mother and his sister all waiting for him in the parking lot. They were shivering in the dawn light, holding take-out coffee cups from Ryan’s favorite place, and chatting quietly with each other.