It was true, the club didn’t belong to him. Never had. Rune had never aspired that it could.
He and Cass had built it together—one providing the venue, the other providing the spectacle that would keep the crowds coming back for more. It had been a profitable arrangement. Rune had managed to accumulate close to a million dollars from his fights and shares of the gaming proceeds Cass took in every time Rune climbed into the cage.
The money was his future. His escape plan, should he need it, earned through sweat and blood and broken bones.
He’d never intended to put down roots in La Notte, but a decade at the club, and he felt an obligation to look after it now that he was the only one left to do so.
He met the questioning gazes of his fellow fighters and shrugged. “Someone has to keep an eye on the receipts and make sure inventory and supplies stay stocked. Someone’s got to pay the employees, including you three meatheads.”
They all chuckled. Jagger gave him a smirk. “Yeah, and someone’s got to keep one hand tight on the kitty for himself too.”
Jag was only joking, but Slade’s laugh held a sharper edge. “His hands are too busy with another kind of kitty. Kinda greedy, ain’t it, Rune? Keeping all that exotic daywalker tail to yourself? Save some for the rest of us before you get bored and—”
Rune lunged at Slade. He seized him by the throat, fangs bared, eyes blazing. “Say something stupid like that again, and those’ll be the last fucking words to leave your mouth.”
Slade choked, struggling for air. He grasped at Rune’s hand, his own fangs emerging.
Rune squeezed harder.
Neither Jagger nor Vallan made a move to intervene. Everyone on the club’s roster knew Rune hadn’t claimed his place as the most lethal motherfucker ever to enter the cage by demonstrating an iota of mercy for someone who’d earned a thorough beating.
Fury rode him, and before he realized he was moving, he had Slade pinned against the wall, his feet dangling three inches off the floor. The Breed fighter struggled for all he was worth—which wasn’t much when Rune was crushing his neck, mere seconds from ending the bastard.
Slade’s face turned purple. Spittle foamed at the corners of his mouth as he tried—and failed—to suck in precious air.
“Jesus,” Jagger finally muttered. “You’re gonna kill him, Rune.”
“Aye,” he growled. “I’m thinking about it.”
But at the last moment, he decided to let Slade go. The Breed male sagged, coughing and choking, sputtering as he wheezed in ragged breaths.
Rune stared at him, murder simmering in his veins. “Go back to the dressing room and pack your shit. Then get the fuck out of here.”
Slade swung a dark scowl on him, fangs bared. “W-what?”
“You’re done here,” Rune said. “If I see you back inside this club for any reason, you’re dead.”
“Fuck you,” he rasped, rubbing his injured throat. “You can’t kick me out.”
“I just did. You want to go on your feet, or you want me to drag your broken corpse out of here to wait for the morning sun to rise in a couple of hours?”
Slade looked to his fellow fighters for support, but got none. Glaring, he collected himself and stormed out, knocking over a table and chairs as he went.
After he was gone, Rune rounded on his two colleagues. “Anyone else got something stupid they want to say to me right now?”
Vallan raised his brows. “Uh, we still don’t have any answers about the club. Why should any of us hang around waiting for the new management to come in and fuck us over?”
Rune ran a hand over his jaw as his decision settled on him. “No one’s going to get fucked over.”
“You can’t be sure of that,” Jagger said, looking less than convinced.
“I am sure. Because I’m going to buy the damn thing myself.”
Lucan Thorne carried a small titanium box into the archives room at the Order’s D.C. headquarters. The container was slightly smaller than his palm, simply crafted, but inside was a treasure of legendary proportions.
And unknown, potentially lethal, power.
As he set the box on the work table in the spacious records room, Gabrielle held him in a troubled stare. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Far from it.” He swung his frown on the other members of the Order gathered there that day. “No one’s gotten close to this thing since Jordana brought it to us in Boston last week. I’d feel a hell of a lot better if we keep it that way until we know for certain what it can do.”
“Maybe Jenna can give us that answer,” Darion said from the other side of Lucan.
Dare, Gideon and Savannah had paused their intel collection on Riordan as soon as they heard the warrior Brock had arrived in the predawn hours from Atlanta with his extraordinary mate.
Visits from the couple to D.C. were frequent, due to Jenna’s work on the growing collection of Breed archives, yet her appearance at headquarters was always an event. It was hard even for Lucan not to gape in wonder at the genetic miracle that was the former Jenna Tucker-Darrow.
Born human and fully mortal, it wasn’t until she’d been attacked by the last living father of the Breed race—an otherworldly Ancient—that her incredible metamorphosis began. Instead of killing her, the alien creature implanted her with a minuscule bit of biotechnology.
That chip, to this day residing under the skin at Jenna’s nape, contained the Ancient’s memories and his DNA. As it took root inside her body, the genetic material began to transform the woman from basic Homo sapiens to something . . . other.
Impervious to injury, illness or age, Jenna was also inhumanly fast and strong. But her transformation had not stopped there.
Soon after the chip had been implanted in her, a small dermaglyph had appeared on the back of her neck. Now, twenty years later, her pale skin was covered in intricate glyphs. They even tracked up the back of her skull, faintly visible under her shorn brown hair.
Brock stood beside her on the other side of the long table, the black warrior’s dark hand stroking his mate’s shoulder. “You’re not the only one with heavy doubts about this, Lucan.” Brock’s lips flattened as he shook his head. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, babe.”
Jenna tilted her head. “Believe me, neither do I. But the dreams—the memories—have been getting more vivid, more intense, all week.” She gestured to the closed titanium box in front of her. “I can’t help feeling that this is the reason why. I have to know.”
Lucan had to give the former Alaska State Trooper credit. Jenna never shrank from a challenge, and fear didn’t seem to have any place in her vocabulary. That didn’t mean she wasn’t making every person in the room more than a bit nervous on her behalf.
“May I?” she asked Lucan, reaching out for the lid of the box.
At his nod, she lifted the clasp and opened the container. Her slow exhalation joined several others as the Atlantean crystal was revealed. All of the Order and their mates had seen the unusual, egg-sized object at the Boston command center upon Jordana’s return. But seeing it again did nothing to dim the reaction again now.
Just looking at it, no one would mistake the crystal for anything found on Earth. It was silvery, yet clear. Smoothly polished, yet it seemed to sparkle with thousands of tiny facets beneath its surface. Where it sat in the center of its titanium box, the crystal seemed to pulse with mysterious life.
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