She waited, watching the pair of Order warriors stroll deeper into the club to scan the hundreds of humans and Breed packed inside. Carys drifted deeper into the throng, unseen by anyone. Jax and Eli gave up after a few minutes of searching. Carys smiled from within her magic as she watched them finally leave.

Meanwhile, the match in the cage was over. Rune and Jagger had taken off their metal torcs and gloves. They clapped each other on the shoulder, both mopping the blood and sweat from their faces as the announcer declared the winner.

Carys let her shadows fall away then. The hatch on the cage opened to let out the combatants. She raced to meet Rune, shouting his name and applauding with the rest of the throng as her man collected yet another victory.

Rune’s rugged face lit up with private promise when he saw her. The brutal, fearsome fighter stepped out of the cage and caught her around the waist, hauling her to him.

His dark eyes glittered with need he didn’t even try to conceal. Ignoring the cheers and applause that swelled around him, he took her mouth in a possessive kiss.

Then he scooped her up and carried her out of the arena.


Order Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

Lucan Thorne jabbed the disconnect button on his video call with the human politician who’d been chewing his ass for the past half hour. Times like this, he really missed the simplicity of the twentieth century. Back then, an aggravating conversation like the one he’d just had could be punctuated by slamming the phone down and letting the person on the other end know what he really thought about their uninvited opinion.

What he liked even better back then was being able to carry out the Order’s brand of swift, effective justice in private, rather than under the scrutiny of human and Breed government types whose endless demands for meetings and board reviews only served to hamstring his efforts and waste precious time.

Lucan shoved his desk chair back on a muttered curse and began to pace across his study.

“That bad, huh?” His Breedmate, Gabrielle, stood in the open doorway.

“The Global Nations Council has called for a debriefing about the assassinations in Italy earlier this week. Apparently, more than one GNC member has petitioned for my removal from the council.” Lucan crossed the room to meet his beautiful, auburn-haired mate, unable to resist dropping a kiss on her furrowed brow. “Can’t say the council’s blame is misplaced since I’m the one who secretly arranged the meeting between the brother of Italy’s new president and GNC member Byron Walsh.”

“You were only trying to help build an important alliance between two influential members of the human and Breed races. Doesn’t the council realize the Order wants peace as much as anyone?” Gabrielle tilted her head at him as he took her hand and led her out of his study into the hallway. “Nobody could’ve predicted the meeting would be sabotaged. By Walsh’s own son, no less.”

Lucan grunted. “Derek Walsh was only part of a bigger problem. One that’s getting stronger every day the Order allows it to exist.”

“Opus Nostrum,” Gabrielle said quietly.

The name of the deadly cabal had been unheard of until just a few weeks ago, when the group stole experimental UV technology, then attempted to use it for mass murder at a peace summit gala of Breed and human dignitaries. The Order had narrowly thwarted that catastrophe, killing Opus’s leader, Reginald Crowe. But after that very public introduction, and subsequent rumors of chemical and other weapons at their disposal, Opus Nostrum was currently the most feared terror group in the world.

The assassinations of the two high-ranking men earlier this week by a fledgling member of Opus—a member who was also the son of a respected GNC official—would only add fuel to the fire.

And as real a threat as Opus Nostrum was, there was another enemy lurking in the shadows too. One that the Order was only beginning to understand.

For millennia, the Breed had believed they were the only preternatural beings on the planet. Now they had irrefutable proof of another. And this other alien race of immortals calling themselves Atlanteans were apparently plotting a war that would make Opus Nostrum’s efforts seem like child’s play.

To say the Order had its hands full was beyond understatement.

They had to stop Opus Nostrum and eliminate the deeper, hidden threat posed by the Atlanteans, and Lucan had no intention of doing so with one arm tied behind his back by the GNC or any other meddling entity.

Fortunately, the Order had acquired a few helpful leads and unexpected allies in recent days. For each setback and disaster they narrowly averted, it seemed they were given a small glimmer of hope. Which was a damn good thing. Lucan had a feeling they were going to need all the luck they could get.

Absent of luck, he wasn’t opposed to crushing anyone who stood in the Order’s way.

As he and Gabrielle turned a corner toward the headquarters’ conference room, Lucan heard their son, Darion, talking with Gideon and that warrior’s mate, Savannah.

Dare wasn’t officially part of the Order yet, but Lucan had to admit the twenty-one-year-old had proven himself an asset both intellectually and in the heat of battle. Tonight, he and Gideon were chasing down a lead on a Breed male in Ireland with apparent ties to Opus.

Lucan and Gabrielle paused to find Gideon seated in front of a wall of computers, with Dare and Savannah poring over reports and schematics on the conference table.

It was a familiar scene that brought back old memories, yet the addition of Darion to the picture made Lucan’s chest swell with pride. Gabrielle squeezed his hand lovingly, no doubt feeling the surge of his emotion through their blood bond.

Lucan cleared his throat and Savannah smiled in greeting. Dare’s face was intense, all of his focus centered on his work as his parents stepped inside the room.

“We tapped in on Riordan yet?” Lucan asked.

Gideon blew out a curse and tossed his ever-present silver shades onto the workstation. He scrubbed his hand over the top of his spiky blond hair. “Aside from grabbing several hours of basically useless security camera footage of traffic in and out of the place, I haven’t been able to find a way into the core of his network yet. The son of a bitch lives in a bloody twelfth-century castle, for fuck’s sake. He’s got some kind of communications equipment in there, but the connection protocol is closed. I haven’t been able to exploit any kind up uplink.”

Lucan stared. “Which means?”

Darion was the first one to answer. “Unless we can find a crack in Riordan’s communication network, we’re at a dead end on hacking into his location.”

There was a time—as recently as a few weeks ago—that Lucan would have been surprised, even shocked, at the depth of Darion’s knowledge and the breadth of his interests. Add to that his tactical and combat skills, perfected under the tutelage of Tegan, and once Darion was seasoned in the field, he would have few equals. Although Lucan and his son had clashed more than once on the subject of his readiness as a true member of the Order, those concerns were becoming a thing of the past.

“I take it those are Nova’s sketches of the Riordan place.” Lucan gestured to the hand-drawn blueprints spread out across the conference table.

Darion nodded. “As best she as could recall. Nova said she hasn’t been near her family Darkhaven for more than ten years.”


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