She couldn’t summon words. God, she could barely breathe for the sudden chaos of emotions stirring up inside her. She wanted to forgive him. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, never mind that they were standing in the middle of her place of work.
And they weren’t without an audience either. From the corner of her eye, she noted the handful of people who had gathered at the promenade railing overlooking the lobby. Andrea and a few other colleagues from their department stood there, watching with avid curiosity.
Carys lowered her voice to a private level. “I’m working, Rune. You should’ve called first.”
He tilted his head in nonchalant acknowledgment, but his dark blue eyes stayed locked on her. “I didn’t want to give you an easy way out. I’d hoped it would be harder for you to say no to my face.”
It was, and the last thing she wanted to do was refuse him now. But she couldn’t make it easy on him. He had hurt her, and one gallant gesture wasn’t going to fix things between them any more than a tumble in his bed would. Not that she expected she’d have the strength of will to refuse him that either.
“I can’t leave right now,” she murmured. “I have to finish what I was doing, and it could take a while—”
The determined look on his face didn’t leave room for argument. It also stole some of the indignation and stubbornness from her sails.
She shrugged. “Suit yourself, then. I’ll finish up, and if you’re still here when I’m done, maybe we’ll talk about a date.”
“I’ll be here, Carys.” He tenderly stroked her cheek with the back of his hand—in front of the museum staff watching above them. “I’ll wait as long as it takes.”
Heaven help her, but that simple touch nearly incinerated her on the spot. She had to force herself to step back, to move out of his reach before she did something stupid, like fling herself into his arms.
“Fine,” she murmured. “I’ll be down . . . in a while.”
He gave her a sober nod.
She pivoted away from him and marched back up the long flight of stairs, trying not to feel the weight of his eyes on her as she went.
Impossible, of course.
From the beginning, Rune had been a presence she felt in her blood, in all of her heightened senses. Her body had no qualms reacting to all that primal, masculine heat even if her heart and mind wanted to pretend otherwise.
He was still watching her as she reached the top step and as she breezed past the cluster of people who only now began to disperse.
“Andrea, please call on that lighting delivery for me, will you?”
“Of course.” The assistant nodded and hurried off to take care of it.
Carys forced herself to walk leisurely back to her office, despite the urge to run there and put all of her work aside for him. But she truly did have things to do.
And while she couldn’t deny her elation that he had come to take her on a date tonight, damn it, she was going to make him wait for it.
She kept him waiting almost an hour.
Rune didn’t comment, and he had no room to complain, since he’d kept her waiting a lot longer for this date. He had pulled some strings with the owner of one of the most popular restaurants in Boston, one of La Notte’s regulars in the arena. The human had raked in a lot of winnings off Rune’s blood and sweat in the cage, so he’d been more than willing to help with a favor by giving them the best table the place had to offer.
Apparently, the owner wasn’t the only fight fan in the place. A trio of young men walked past the table twice since Rune and Carys had arrived. They poked each other, whispering in obvious recognition.
Rune ignored them. He ignored everything except the beautiful woman seated across from him.
She smiled in awe when the waiter brought her plate of seared scallops and some kind of brightly colored, artfully arranged vegetable accompaniment. Even Rune had to admit the dish looked and smelled delicious. Not that he would be partaking. Unlike Carys, the rest of the Breed could only consume human food in minute quantities.
“Why take me to dinner if you can’t enjoy it too?” She took a sip of her chilled wine and all he could do was stare at the delicate working of her throat.
“You’ll enjoy it, so that’s enjoyment enough for me.”
He watched her cut into a scallop, then spear it on the end of her fork. Her lips closed around it and a slow smile spread over her face. “It’s amazing.”
She moaned in quiet pleasure as she chewed, and his groin went tight under the drape of the white tablecloth. Fuck. Had he really thought he could watch this sensual woman eat a decadent meal without it making him think how hungry he was to put his mouth on her?
“I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long at the museum,” she said after a moment. “I’m working on an American painters exhibit and I really needed to get it wrapped up before I left.”
Rune smirked. “Here I thought you were punishing me for yesterday.”
“Maybe some of that too.” She glanced down and picked at some of the fancy vegetables with her fork. “Is this date your idea of an olive branch? Wine and dine me at one of the hardest restaurants to get into in the city?”
“I was hoping it could be a start.” He reached across the table to settle his hand over hers. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the club.”
She shook her head. “That wasn’t it, Rune—”
“I’m saying I don’t want to lose you, Carys.” He swore under his breath. “I’m saying I want to try again. Can we do that?”
When she didn’t answer right away, a coldness began to infiltrate his chest.
“You have to be willing to let me in.”
“You are in. You were in before I even knew what hit me.”
She smiled, but he could see that she was also wary of him now. Damn it, he could see that she was afraid to get hurt again.
Part of him wished she didn’t care so deeply for him. But a stronger part of him couldn’t deny how his blood roared through his veins, knowing that this extraordinary woman wanted to be with him when she could have her pick of any man she set her eyes on.
“I’m willing to start again, but I’ve got questions, Rune.” She exhaled a dry laugh. “I’m not even sure that’s actually your name.”
“It is,” he said.
“Your first, or your last?”
A tendon pulsed in his jaw. “My only name.”
“But not always.” She stared at him, and he knew she saw the tell.
He forced himself to hold her sharp gaze, even when she seemed to look right through him. “No, not always. But it’s the only name I’ve used for a very long time.”
She didn’t say anything. Her silence measured him, and he knew he owed her more than that.
“I was given a different name at birth, but when I left my father’s Darkhaven, I left behind everything he gave me.” And he would never utter that man’s name again, unless it was to curse the bastard to hell as he took his hideous life. “My name is, and will always be, Rune.”
Tenderness softened Carys’s gaze as she listened to him. She sat very still, compassion written across her face. “It must’ve been difficult, being on your own at such a young age.”