Knowing that whatever intel she helped to collect from the London GNC official’s house this evening could be used to bring the Order closer to defeating Opus Nostrum only made her all the more eager to get started.
“Someone’s up early.” Brynne sailed into the kitchen, already dressed for travel in a crisp button-down and dark slacks. “Usually I’m the only one awake and walking around before sunrise.”
Carys swiveled her head away from her coffee and toast to smile at the other daywalker. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Anxious about the party tonight, or about the Order’s mission in Dublin?”
“Both,” Carys admitted, watching Brynne walk over and put a kettle on for tea. “What I’m worried about most of all is Rune.”
And worry was only part of what she felt for him. She ached without him.
She felt marrow-chilling fear and unbearable dread to think that he was back in the company of the father who’d hurt him, betrayed him. Abused him so hideously.
Brynne leaned against the counter and faced her. “You really care about this male, don’t you?” She tilted her head, frowning as if she was trying to make sense of the idea. “You can forgive him even though he lied to you?”
Carys let out a sigh. “I forgave him as soon as it happened. I understand why he lied, and it doesn’t make me care any less. Haven’t you ever loved someone, Brynne?”
“No. I haven’t.” She blinked, then lifted her shoulder in a shrug. “Like your mother, for the first twenty years of my life, I didn’t even really know who, or what, I was. My handler controlled everything I did, everyone I came in contact with. I grew up thinking I was unwell, some kind of freak. After the truth came out—after the manufactured life I’d been living was exposed as a lie—I felt I needed to start my life all over again. After wasting all of those years, I wanted to do something purposeful, something real. Most of all, I never wanted to allow anyone to control me ever again. I don’t ask for permission. And I don’t let anyone tell me no.”
Carys recalled her advice from the other day in Boston. “As you told me, if I really want something, I have to reach for it.”
“And you did.” Brynne smiled in acknowledgment. “I’ll be glad to have you with me tonight at the councilman’s party. With your shadow-bending ability and photographic memory, you couldn’t be more perfect for the task.”
Carys nodded. “At least I’ll have something to keep my mind occupied while I wait for word about the mission to Riordan’s place.”
“We’re going to be kept in constant contact once the Order arrives in Dublin. You’ll also be wired to Gideon here in D.C. while you’re in Fielding’s house. I’m sure everything’s going to be fine.”
Carys hoped she was right about that. But the simple truth was, no one had been able to promise her that she’d see Rune again. They couldn’t make that promise.
Rune’s fate was in his own hands now.
And as much as Carys wanted to be with her father and the rest of the Order when they stormed Riordan’s stronghold tonight, she knew they would never permit it.
Her thoughts were heavy as she finished her toast and drank the last of her coffee. “Our flight will be leaving soon,” she murmured. “I should say my goodbyes and get my things.”
Brynne nodded, palming her steaming cup of tea. “We can go as soon as you’re ready.”
~ ~ ~
The sunrise beckoned Brynne outside. Taking her cup of tea onto the stone courtyard and gardens behind the Order’s expansive mansion, she inhaled the crisp morning air as she drifted to the edge of the terraced patio.
Fragrant clusters of roses and peonies perfumed the gentle breeze, along with another, more exotic scent that drew her attention toward the far left of the sprawling courtyard.
A man stood there.
Shirtless, barefoot, dressed only in a pair of faded jeans that hung low on his hips. His eyes were closed and his arms were opened wide, his head tipped back in silent meditation under the peachy hues of the early morning sun.
Amid last night’s chaos at the Order’s headquarters, Brynne hadn’t seen the immortal who’d come to meet with Lucan Thorne earlier that week. But there was no mistaking the golden male now.
His smooth, sun-kissed skin glistened in the warm light. His shoulder-length waves made her fingers itch with the urge to test the copper-shot strands to see if they felt as silky as they looked. She scowled at the thought and gripped her cup of tea bit tighter.
Still, she couldn’t pull her gaze away from him. Even motionless, power radiated off his strong, lean body and muscled limbs. Every inch of him seemed lovingly sculpted by a master who appreciated each graceful curve of sinew and velvety plane of skin.
God, he was beautiful.
No other word for him. Brynne’s mouth watered as she studied him over the rim of her cup. An uninvited stirring made her sink her teeth into her bottom lip. A small moan began to uncurl in the back of her throat, but she mentally tamped it down.
At least, she thought she had.
Because at that same instant the Atlantean’s squared chin dropped and his head swiveled in her direction. Tropical blue eyes collided with her appalled and embarrassed gaze.
It was already too late to pretend she hadn’t been gawking, but Brynne’s feet were in motion anyway. She pivoted to make a hasty escape—and to her horror, she fumbled her cup of tea.
The cup slipped out of her grasp, smashing onto the patio bricks. Tea geysered upward like a small fountain and shards of delicate china exploded in all directions.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Brynne dropped to a crouch and began collecting the mess.
“Here, let me help you with that.”
She did not want to look up and acknowledge the decadently deep voice or the man it belonged to. Although there was no ignoring him—not when he’d stood across the courtyard from her, and most certainly not when he was hunkered down next to her, half-naked and radiating preternatural heat and masculine power.
This close, his unearthly spicy scent licked at all of her senses. And everything female in her responded, no matter how hard she tried to pretend he didn’t affect her.
“I’ve got it,” she murmured, her voice coming out of her in breathy rasp. “It’s just a broken cup. There’s no need to help me.”
“I know there’s no need,” he said, continuing to pick up the errant pieces.
Brynne blew out a sharp sigh. “I’m not usually so clumsy. I don’t know how I did this.”
“You must’ve been distracted by something.”
Did she hear him correctly? And was that the hint of a chuckle in his voice?
As much as she wanted to get away from him without so much as a glance at his too-close, handsome face, her head snapped up. He was staring at her, a grin tugging at the corners of his sensual mouth. And the arrogant gleam in his incredible blue eyes was unmistakable.
“I wasn’t distracted,” she informed him tightly. “I don’t get distracted.”
“No? So, you came out here deliberately to watch me?” His cocky grin widened. “I’m flattered.”