“Aye,” Rune said. “Come back tonight after we open, and I’ll be glad to demonstrate for you.”

The thug chuckled. “Won’t be staying in town that long. Neither will you . . . Rune, is it?”

Rune didn’t reply. Although he hardly needed the confirmation, now he spotted the black scarab tattoo that rode on the back of the male’s hand. His molars clamped so tight, it was a miracle they didn’t shatter as he immediately began calculating the quickest way to kill the bastard.

“You need to come with me,” the vampire said. “Someone wants to talk to you.”

Rune grunted. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Really? Looks like you are. All polished up and fancy.” The vampire gestured toward him, the metal spikes glinting in the low light of the bar. “That shirt made outta silk? Sure as hell hate to ruin it for you.” He put his other hand down on top of his weapon, ready to draw.

“Go ahead and try,” Rune said. “Only place you’re going tonight is your grave.”

“Don’t be so sure about that.”

The thug’s fingers twitched. It was all the warning he gave.

Then the gun was in his hand and exploding a fired shot. Rune dodged the bullet’s path, realizing as the round grazed his rib cage that the aim hadn’t been to kill. Not yet, anyway. No doubt this son of a bitch was saving that honor for someone else.

Blood seeped warm and wet at his side as he rolled to the floor, then came up on the balls of his feet. On a bellow, Rune launched himself airborne at the vampire. The gun fired again—a shot squeezed off in panic this time.

The bullet went wild, missing him completely.

Rune body-slammed him, driving his assailant across the bar and into the large mirror behind it. The gun slipped out of the thug’s fingers and clattered across the floor. Glassware and bottles of liquor crashed down. Broken shelving crumbled all around them.

The other male snarled and made a flailing slash at Rune with the glove’s spikes. Rune grabbed the fist as it came driving toward him. Titanium teeth cut into his fingers as he immobilized the strike and wrenched the thug’s wrist back with a savage thrust of muscle and fury.

Bones popped as they broke, tendons grinding as they severed. The male howled in agony as his hand flopped uselessly in the wrong direction on his arm.

And then, Rune’s rage really snapped its leash.

Straddling the vampire on the concrete floor, he pounded his fists into the other male’s face. Blood spurted. Teeth and fangs crunched under Rune’s relentless, punishing blows.

He didn’t stop hitting the bastard—could not stop—even after the dead man’s face was a pulpy mash of pulverized bone and destroyed cartilage.

Rune’s breath sawed out of his lungs, wheezing through his enormous fangs. His eyes burned red with rage. His veins hammered with adrenaline and anger . . . and the dawning realization of what he’d done.

He turned his gaze away from the carnage to look at his torn, gore-soaked shirt and pants. His hands were gashed and bruised. The graze in his side licked at him like an open flame. Even with his Breed metabolism, it would take hours, possibly days, for the evidence of this altercation to fully heal.

Fuck.

Carys . . .

He couldn’t go to the Chase Darkhaven now. Not like this.

And the thought of calling Carys to tell her what had just occurred—and all of the ramifications that would follow when he’d have to explain why—would be the certain end of anything they had together.

He dropped his head back and let out a roar of anger and frustration.

As his bellow echoed in the cavernous arena, footsteps sounded behind him. Multiple pairs of feet crunched in the glass and fallen debris as they neared him.

Rune tossed a searing glance over his shoulder, then launched onto his feet, braced for battle.

Half a dozen armed Breed males stood there, all bearing black scarab tattoos.

The big male in front peeled his lips back in a cold smile. “What are you going to do now, boyo? Think you can kill all of us?”

~ ~ ~

He was late.

At five minutes past the hour, Carys had told herself not to worry; Rune would arrive at any moment. Five minutes late wasn’t like him at all, but it wasn’t cause for worry either.

He would be there. He knew what this night meant to her.

He wouldn’t let her down.

At least, that’s what she’d been telling herself as she sat beside her mother on the sofa in the Darkhaven’s living room, trying not to notice the increasingly impatient expression on her father’s face as his long fingers tapped idly on the arms of his chair across the room.

Now, it was eight minutes after nine and still no sign of Rune.

Nor had he answered her call or message.

“He’s got about two more minutes to get here,” her father said, his deep voice clipped with irritation. “I’ve got orders from Lucan to deal with, plus a hundred other things I’ve put off for this meeting tonight. I can’t afford to waste any more time waiting for this male to make his appearance.”

“He’ll be here,” Carys insisted. Come on, Rune. Please, don’t do this to me.

Her mother glanced over in sympathy, and lovingly squeezed Carys’s hand. “Maybe it would be best if we did this another time instead?”

Carys saw slim chance of that in her father’s flinty eyes. His disapproval of Rune was deepening with every second that ticked by. After a moment, he exhaled a curse and stood up.

“I think we’ve all waited long enough now,” he said. He walked over to Carys and rested his palm on her shoulder. “I know you’re disappointed, sweetheart. I didn’t want to be proven right about him. But I can’t pretend I’m surprised, either.”

Embarrassment flooded her cheeks. Regret put a dull ache in her chest. Rune and her father meant the world to her, and she could hardly bear the idea that the wedge between them had just widened tonight. She could only imagine how her brother would react when he found out she’d been stood up. Aric would likely have to be chained down to keep from going off to confront Rune and defend her honor.

“This isn’t like Rune,” Carys murmured, hearing the desperation in her voice. “He said he would be here, and he will. I know he will . . .”

But even as she said it, doubts crowded in like dark clouds.

And rising concern too.

Something wasn’t right. Rune hadn’t exactly been excited about meeting her parents, but nothing would have kept him from making good on his promise to her to be there.

She felt it in her bones now. In her blood.

Something was terribly wrong.

As her parents quietly left the room, Carys tried calling Rune again. He didn’t pick up.

His number rang, and rang, and rang . . ..

CHAPTER 24

Dread clawed at Carys’s stomach when she reached La Notte’s front entrance at street level and found the heavy chain lock hanging loose. The fact that the tall, arched double doors were slightly ajar made the fine hairs on her nape rise in alarm.

She hadn’t been sure what to hope for when she’d slipped away from the Darkhaven to come to the club and look for Rune. After he’d failed to pick up her repeated calls or return her urgent messages, she only knew she couldn’t stay there wondering.

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