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    The lights were off, the electricity having sputtered out, leaving them to navigate with only the dim emergency lights to see by. Outside, flares of light from the explosions that rocked the labs illuminated the windows. Gunfire and screams echoed, coming closer, filling Storme with a fear so agonizing it shuddered through her body.

    "Storme, you have to hide. Don't let anyone find you, do you understand me? No one can find you." Her father helped her slide into the narrow crevice between the walls in the back of her closet.

    She stared up at him in terror, aware of her brother working behind him to erase information contained in the computers and on the discs filed along the wall.

    "Take this." He grabbed her hand.

    The antique sapphire ring her mother had once worn was shoved onto her finger.

    He had showed her the secrets of the ring days before. The hidden compartment beneath the hollowed out stone and the data chip he had placed here. He had warned her, so many times he had warned her, that if anything happened to him, then she would become the protector of the information contained on that chip.

    "Daddy, come with me." Storme could feel panic tightening her chest as the sounds of gunfire, screams and animal rage grew closer to the living area of the genetics research laboratory where her father had worked her entire life.

    "No, we can't go with you, baby." Tears filled his tired brown eyes, grief creased his face. "Your brother and I will be fine. Get to the safe house; we'll meet you there after we're certain we've done what has to be done here."

    No, they wouldn't meet her. She would never see them again, and she knew it.

    She watched her brother for long, panicked seconds. She couldn't see his beloved face.

    The creases that were forming on his forehead and next to his lips. He rarely laughed, though he smiled at her often.

    She was only fourteen. She didn't want to face the dark alone. She was frightened of the dark.

    "No, don't make me go by myself, Daddy." Sobs were fighting to escape her lips as the tears began to fall.

    She stared back at him, seeing the fear and worry in his eyes, the mussed gray hair, the grief he was trying so hard to hide from her. And the courage. She didn't have his courage.

    She wasn't strong like her father and her brother were. They faced every day the savage human-animals they had created and trained in the compound behind the houses.

    They lived with the monsters that Storme had only glimpsed from a distance as they trained. Monsters that could rend flesh with their teeth, that could tear limbs from bodies with only their bare hands. The monsters that howled at night with a savagery, with a horror that haunted Storme's nightmares.

    "Storme, be strong for me." He shoved a backpack into her hands before pulling back. "Remember the promises you made me. You swore you would do this, Storme."

    Her fists clenched as the panel slammed closed, leaving her in the darkness with the terrifying black void stretching out below her.

    She had promised. She had sworn to protect herself and the secrets he had been amassing over the years. Secrets that were to go to one person. A person with no name. A person he had promised would find her, protect her. A mysterious someone who would know what to say, and what to do, to gain her trust.

    The information the ring held was all that would save her, all that would save so many innocent people, he had insisted. And he had entrusted her with it.

    She tried to step down the narrow steps that led to the tunnel beyond. She did. But as she took the first step, she heard an enraged, savage snarl as an explosion rocked the house.

    She almost screamed. Struggling to keep her balance, she pressed her hands tight against the wall and fought to keep from falling down the stairs.

    Fear held her motionless, her eyes wide as she stared through the crack in the wall into the bedroom and watched her father as he stared toward the doorway in fear.

    "We have to get out of here." His voice wavered as James moved in closer to him, protectively. "The Breeds will come after those of us who created them first."

    Storme saw the realization in both her brother's and her father's faces, and she knew that the horror she had always feared was upon them.

    "But not those of you who helped them." The voice was guttural, angry.

    Storme swallowed tightly at the sound as her fists clenched in the effort to stay in place, to keep from trying to protect her father as well.

    She had promised she would run and hide. That she wouldn't endanger herself.

    "Where is the girl?"

    The girl? Her?

    "I sent her away yesterday," her father replied, his voice shaking.

    "Because you knew what was coming?"

    Her father shook his head. "How could I have known?"

    "You thought you were so careful." The voice was filled with fury. "You aided our destruction, JR. You'll pay for betraying us by aiding the Breed sympathizers in this f**king rescue."

    "I aided nothing," her father, JR, James Robert, denied.

    A harsh laughed filled the room.

    "We'll find the girl. No doubt you sent what I need with her. Or did you? Give me that research, JR, and I'll let her live."

    "What are you talking about?" Fear was thick, heavy, surrounding her father, her brother, even as Storme felt it stealing her breath.

    "I want that data chip."

    "What data chip?" Even Storme could hear the nervousness, the lie, in her father's voice.

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