If they had realized who—and what—she was . . .

If they had made any move to touch her tonight . . .

He couldn’t finish the thoughts. The mere idea raked his veins with icy talons. Let them do whatever they would to him, but he couldn’t bear the thought of how she might suffer at their hands.

Or at the hands of the bigger monster back in Dublin.

“How long has he known where I am?”

“A couple of weeks.” Ennis Riordan, the Breed male leading the pack of jackals, grinned at Rune. “Ever since one of the scouts he sent to Boston to keep tabs on the Order followed a team of warriors down to this hellhole and saw them talking with you and the Breedmate who came here tonight.”

Jesus Christ.

The ice in Rune’s blood turned even colder. They’d known that long, which meant they could have made their move on him at any time. Any one of the nights when Carys was in the club with him . . . or in his bed.

“Why wait so long to make your appearance? If bringing me back to Dublin is so damn important to him, why not do it as soon as he knew I was here?”

“The Order’s been keeping us busy, trying to fuck up our plans. Forcing us to sacrifice pawns along the way to stay ahead of them while we focus on important work.” He shrugged. “Finding you in Boston after all this time was a surprise, Aedan. I can’t tell you what it means to your father to know you’ll be home again soon. Back in the family fold where you belong. He has great plans for you, boyo.”

Rune forced himself to keep his fists at his sides, struggled to keep his fangs concealed behind his curling lip as he listened to his uncle speak. He had to maintain his patience. He had to wait for his chance to strike.

Because he hadn’t realized until that moment that he had plans of his own too.

He was going back to Dublin willingly. Eagerly, in fact.

He would return to his father’s hellish domain . . . and when the moment was right, he was going to kill the bastard and burn his house to the ground.

CHAPTER 25

In his thousands of years of living, Zael had seen vast and astonishing libraries belonging to pharaohs, emperors and kings. Yet as he stood in the archive room of the Order’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, he could hardly keep his jaw from dropping in amazement.

The floor-to-ceiling walls of leather-bound journals were beyond impressive. The fact that they represented two decades of handwritten work—of painstakingly recorded memories—from one woman made the collection even more remarkable.

Then again, Zael had never seen anything quite like the woman herself, either.

He’d been told she was human, but the dermaglyphs covering her body told another story. The skin markings tracked along her neck and onto her scalp beneath her short brown hair. More glyphs ran along the top of her chest, disappearing beneath the collar of her shirt, only to reemerge below the short sleeves, the intricate pattern continuing on her arms and the backs of her hands.

She seemed more Ancient than Homo sapiens, and Zael’s Atlantean senses were piqued in response to the close proximity of enemy DNA. But her smile was warm and welcoming, her hazel eyes bright with pride as she watched Zael take in the scope and breadth of her work.

“Feel free to look at anything you like,” she told him, standing beside her mate, Brock.

While Lucan had left to greet arriving warrior commanders he’d summoned to headquarters that evening, Brock had opted to remain protectively at his mate’s side after her introduction to Zael.

Not that Zael could blame him.

Jenna was a beautiful woman, even more so because of her unusual appearance.

And it was obvious that the big warrior adored her, from the way he had responded to questions about her in the meeting room earlier, as well as the way he looked at her now. The way his fingers traced idly on her shoulder as he held her under the shelter of his strong arm.

Zael studied the couple and their unmistakable bond. “Was it difficult going through all of the changes from human to . . .”

“Alien cyborg?” Jenna finished for him when he wasn’t sure how to describe her. She laughed and shared a private look with her mate. “It would’ve been a lot harder, if I didn’t have Brock there with me every step of the way. He got me through the initial attack by the Ancient, then afterward, he held my hand through all of the nightmares that followed.”

Brock caressed her arm. “Nowhere else I’d want to be, babe.”

Zael acknowledged the couple’s devotion with a nod. “The Breed are certainly a better, more caring species than their Ancient fathers.” He strolled along the first tall case of journals. “I don’t think many of my people realize that about you.”

“The Ancients were bred to be conquerors,” Jenna said. “Their entire race thrived on violence and domination. There’s so much I’ve come to understand about them in the past twenty years that I’ve been journaling their history through my dreams and memories.”

Zael browsed the volumes on the shelf in front of him, eventually selecting one off the shelf. “Do you mind if I look?”

Jenna gestured to indicate the whole room. “Of course not.”

He flipped to a random entry. It recounted an Ancient hunting party in pursuit of Atlantean warriors on foot. The killing of one of Zael’s comrades was described in such vivid detail that there was no mistaking the source of the account had actually been there. Had been the one wielding the weapon that took the Atlantean’s head.

Zael closed the journal and soberly replaced it on the shelf.

He browsed a different one, reading of the Ancients’ sacking of a small village in Eastern Europe. No life was spared, not even the animals in their pens.

On a low curse, he slid the leather-bound volume back into its place between the others. He strolled on, to a case shelving later chronicles. Flipping through the pages of handwritten notes, he paused at a mention of Lucan Thorne.

This record documented a period in time, hundreds of years ago, when the tables had finally turned on the Ancients, making them the hunted. Led by Lucan, a small army of Breed warriors had waged war on their alien fathers, doing what neither mankind nor the Atlanteans ever could have. They had neutralized the biggest threat to all life on the planet simply because it was the right thing to do.

“That volume covers the founding of the Order,” Jenna said as he read the full account in awed silence. “Lucan, Tegan and several others who were first to join the Order eventually chased down and destroyed all of the Ancients. All but one, as it turned out. The one who did this to me before the Order finally finished him too.”

“The Order won’t allow anyone to terrorize or harm innocents,” Brock added, his deep voice grim with resolve. “Whether that’s Opus Nostrum or the Atlantean queen.”

No, they wouldn’t. And Zael could find nothing but respect for Lucan and the Order.

“When I came here today, I was skeptical of what I’d find, and of how I’d be received.” He turned to face Jenna and her warrior mate. “This has been a day of many surprises. This archive is another surprise, one that will be a treasure to many Breed generations to come.”

Jenna beamed with pride. She tilted her head and studied him in open curiosity. “Are you mated, Zael?”

He shook his head. “No. I spent my youth serving Selene as one of her legion. Back then, I was devoted to my post and little else. After the fall of the realm and things grew more and more unstable in the court over time, I escaped to travel the world. Once I had a taste of the outside, the only thing I was devoted to was pleasure.”

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