He grumbled, but his mate had a valid point. As much as he despised the bureaucracy of the human/Breed governing bodies and their frequently inept—or corrupt—law enforcement arm, it was crucial to preserve some amount of trust and cooperation between them and the Order. Especially while the Order was covertly dealing with other threats unknown to any but the warrior members seated in the room now as well as in the various command centers around the world.

“Get us what we need to make our move on Riordan,” Lucan said. “I don’t know if my patience has another day left.”

As he finished speaking, a chime sounded in the foyer of the expansive mansion.

Gabrielle’s brows rose. “Was that the doorbell?”

It was. At barely six in the morning. At the Order’s heavily secured world headquarters.

Lucan tapped a monitor on his desk and a visual of the front door filled the screen. “What the fuck?”

A tall, muscular man stood outside, wearing a loose, white linen shirt and faded jeans. Shoulder-length, golden-blond hair shot with copper crowned the face that filled the camera’s eye. Despite his angular cheekbones and squared jaw, his features were fine. Elegant. Not quite human. But since he was standing outside in the full light of morning, the odds of him being Breed—even a daywalker—were slim to none.

Lucan shot a glower in Gideon’s direction. “How the hell did someone get past the gates?”

“Without getting roasted by close to a hundred thousand volts of electricity, even if he tried to jump all eight feet of the perimeter fence?” Gideon shook his head. “Impossible.”

“Then how do you explain him?”

Outside the door, the stranger held his hands behind his back, waiting patiently. Politely, for crissake.

Lucan didn’t possess quite the same set of manners, especially when things were going from bad to worse in his domain at the moment. He jabbed the speaker button on the security system. “You wanna tell me who the bleeding fuck you are, and what you’re doing here?”

The man’s expression barely changed. “I’ve been summoned. My name is Zael.”

~ ~ ~

Carys’s mood was so light, she could hardly feel the floor beneath her feet as she strolled through the Darkhaven that morning. Grabbing an apple from a bowl on the kitchen island, she bit into the juicy red flesh and followed the muffled sounds of Jordana and Nova’s voices coming from outside on the courtyard patio.

The two women turned from their breakfasts to glance her way as she headed out to join them. Carys knew her grin was practically ear-to-ear, but there was no dimming it as she flopped onto the nearest chair in her loose pajama bottoms and camisole tank top.

Jordana’s pale brows lifted. “You look exceptionally happy this morning.”

“I am.” Carys took another bite of the apple, slurping the sweet nectar. “I had an amazing night.”

Jordana smirked. “That goes without saying.”

“I had a date.”

“With Rune?”

“No, with Hector from accounting.” Carys rolled her eyes. “Yes, with Rune. He came to the museum to take me out for dinner.”

“He what?” Jordana gaped. “Rune came to see you at the MFA? To take you out on an actual date?”

“Uh-huh. In front of Andrea and everyone else working late on the exhibit last night.” It was probably going to be the talk of the workplace for the next week or more.

Carys went to take another nonchalant bite of her apple, but Jordana snatched it out of her hands on an exasperated laugh.

“Stop eating, and spill the details, woman!”

“He took me to Ciao Bella—”

“Only the most popular place in town,” Jordana informed Nova, who was also listening raptly. The tattooed Breedmate’s pale blue eyes were lit with interest under the asymmetrical fall of her ebony-and-sapphire hair, her pierced lips curved in a smile. Jordana took a bite of Carys’s apple. “You can’t even get near the door of that restaurant without reservations three months in advance.”

Carys gave a mild shrug. “Rune said he pulled a few strings, and the owner was a fight fan, so . . .”

Nova arched a brow. “I guess he wanted to impress you.”

Jordana nodded. “I think it worked.”

“He did impress me,” Carys admitted. “But it wasn’t because of the dinner or even the incredible time we spent together afterward. And I do mean incredible.”

“Don’t think we’re going to let you skimp on that part either,” Jordana warned around another bite of fruit.

Carys shook her head on a laugh. It wasn’t long ago that she’d been the one prodding for all of the romantic details about her best friend and Nathan. The steamy parts of Carys’s time with Rune had been beyond amazing, but this morning she was floating on air for another reason as well.

“Last night, Rune opened up to me like never before. About his past, his life, a lot of awful things he’s survived.” Her heart tightened now, just recalling all he’d shared with her. “I needed him to let me in, and he did. It was a really big step for him. For us.”

Nova studied her. “Sounds like he probably needed that talk as much as you did.”

Carys nodded. Rune hadn’t trusted her with all of the secrets and demons that still haunted him, but in time, she hoped he would. After last night, she felt confident there was little that could stand between them now.

“I’m glad it’s working out,” Jordana said. “It’s good to see you like this, Car.”

“I’ve never been happier,” Carys admitted. “Now, I only hope nothing goes wrong tonight.”

As she said it, her mother breezed outside accompanied by Brynne. “What’s going on tonight?”

Not exactly the way she wanted to announce the news, but what the hell? “I’ve invited Rune to come to the Darkhaven tonight before the club opens. It’s time that you all meet.”

“Tonight?” An uncertain look swept over her mother’s face. “Your father may not be ready for that, with so much going on in the command center and at headquarters now that Zael has arrived there to meet with Lucan.”

The newsflash about Jordana’s Atlantean friend was a surprise. Carys turned a questioning glance on her friend. “You were able to locate him, after all?”

“Yep. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this thing.” Jordana held up her hand and the center of its palm flashed with a soft glow, then went out again. “Zael says my control over its power will keep improving over time.”

Carys wanted to hear more, but it would have to wait. She clasped her mother’s hands in hers. “This is important to me. Rune is important to me. I want him to know my family. And I want all of you to know him. I want you all to like him.”

Tavia gave her fingers a reassuring squeeze, love shining in her eyes. “How can anyone argue with that?”

“Thank you.” Carys wrapped her in a hug. “I told Rune to be here at nine tonight.”

“I’ll make sure your father is aware. And I’ll tell him I expect him to be on his best behavior too.”

“That goes double for Aric,” Carys added. “I want them both to be nice to Rune. Give him a chance.”


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