She had dermaglyphs and fangs, but she also bore the birthmark of a Breedmate. The small scarlet symbol—a teardrop falling into the cradle of a crescent moon—rode the left side of Carys’s neck. It was that part of her that allowed her to walk in the daylight, where Rune and the majority of the Breed were creatures of the night.

Rune reached out to touch the tiny mark, tracing the coarse pads of his fingers along her soft cheek, then down to the pretty tangle of glyphs that danced across her breasts.

“You’re so fucking beautiful,” he rasped, stroking the rosy buds of her nipples. He skimmed his big hand down her slender belly to the narrow patch of caramel-brown curls between her legs. She was wet for him, silken and hot. So damn sexy.

He wanted to slow things down, but the adrenaline spike from the cage was still riding him. As was his need for this woman.

Rune lifted her light weight in his hands and held her aloft at his waist. She wrapped her legs around his hips, seating his cock in the slick cleft of her body. Rune thrust inside, the long, hard push seating her to the hilt.

Carys moaned, rocking on him before he could even catch his breath. Fire erupted in her eyes as she held his gaze, her fangs extending even further as desire flooded her glyphs. Rune braced himself, his feet gripping the slate floor, one arm holding Carys’s weight, his other splaying against the wall at her back as he gave her everything her body demanded of him.

There was no need to hold himself in check with her. Together, their passion was explosive. Immense. As classically beautiful as she was, as delicate as she felt in his arms, Carys was every bit as powerful as any Breed male.

“Yes,” she hissed in his ear as he crashed into her. “Rune, yes . . . Fuck me harder.”

He growled, happy to obey. As he drove deeper, she cried out. Her fingernails raked his back, scoring his skin, spurring him on. Her dermaglyphs were alive and pulsing against his bare chest, her body throwing off heat in waves.

“Come on, baby,” he ground out between his clamped teeth and fangs. “This how you want it?”

“Oh, yes,” she panted. “Give me more, Rune. Don’t stop.”

He pumped into her on a thunderous roar as they both began to hurtle toward release. He couldn’t slow it down now, even if she wanted him to. He glanced between them to watch Carys’s body tense, her pretty glyphs pulsing and wild with deep indigo, wine and gold. She was close.

Fuck, so was he.

Carys’s nails dug into his shoulders as the first wave smashed into her. A scream of pleasure tore out of her, the hottest thing Rune had ever heard. As she shuddered and broke around his increasing thrusts, his own climax rose inside him.

He threw his head back on a jagged shout, hammering into the welcoming sheath of her body, feeling her tight walls milk him with each thrust. When he came, it was on a savage roar, the intensity of his release wracking him.

“Jesus, you feel good on my cock,” he rasped, bringing his head back down to look at her. “You keep fucking me like this, and I won’t be able to deny you anything, female.”

“You mean that?” There was no blue left in her eyes now, only bright amber light. And all of it fixed on his throat. She licked her lips, then glanced up at him, unapologetically Breed.

Even though he could tell she was playing with him, he sobered instantly. He stroked the side of her beautiful face. “You know our rule, love.”

She groaned, arching a slender brow. “If I followed everyone’s rules, we would never have gotten together in the first place, would we?”

Before he knew what she was doing, she dipped her head and ran her tongue across his carotid. No fangs, only softness—a swift, wet caress that arrowed through him even more potently than any jolt of electricity he’d ever taken in the cage.

Holy. Hell.

Rune snarled and grabbed her, hoisting her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She squealed, her hands smacking his back, her caramel-brown hair tickling his bare ass as he stalked with her through his quarters to the bedroom. He dropped her onto the mattress, then came down on top of her.

She was laughing, enjoying her harmless little taunt, but Rune was all seriousness now. “The blood bond is unbreakable, Carys. You know that.”

Her smile dimmed a bit. “I know.”

“What we have together is great, but look around you. Look at me.” He shook his head. “Is this really where you belong? The club? The crowd outside the cage every night? It sure as fuck isn’t the kind of life anyone wants to see you shackled to for the rest of your life. Not even me.”

“Careful, you’re sounding an awful lot like my family.”

“They’re right to disapprove. Of me. Of us, together like this.”

“I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

No, she didn’t. And that was one of the things he respected about her. It was one of the many things he loved about her.

“First time I saw you, I knew you were going to be trouble for me.” He speared his fingers into her hair, his palm curving around her warm nape. “You and your little gang of giggling, jiggling friends. I noticed you the second you walked in, you know that?”

She grinned. “I’m sure it was hard to miss us. We were all pretty lit up that night. We’d already hit a bunch of clubs uptown before we ended up down here.”

Rune shook his head. “I saw your friends, but the only one I took notice of was you. You, striding in at the front of the group, leading the pack.” His cock stirred at the memory even now. So did his blood, pounding with the same hard need he’d felt the instant Carys had invaded his world like a blast of unstoppable light. “Every male in here that night took notice of you too, but I knew I was going to be the one to have you.”

Her brows arched. “So arrogant.”

“Aye,” he agreed. “And determined.”

“A lethal combination.” She smiled as she leaned toward him, until barely an inch separated their mouths. “I never stood a chance.”

“Not for a moment,” he said. “And when you came back the next night by yourself, neither did I.”

As he kissed her and pushed back into her heat, he couldn’t help thinking that if they were a normal couple, they’d probably already be mated or well on their way toward it.

If he was a different man . . .

Rune shook the useless thoughts away.

Forever was something he couldn’t give Carys.

Hell, he hadn’t even given her total honesty. The blood bond would open his ugly past and shameful secrets to her. It would bind her to him irrevocably, and to the darkness he’d been running from nearly all his life.

It would bind Carys to the danger that could catch up to him at any time. As it had already before.

And that was something he would never risk, even if it meant one day pushing her away from him for good.

CHAPTER 4

Seated on a living room sofa next to his mate, Tavia, Sterling Chase did his damnedest to chat with their three houseguests without staring at the clock on the opposite wall every five minutes.

Tried and failed, if the look Tavia slanted at him was any indication.

As soon as he heard the quiet beep of the command center’s security system, indicating his patrol team had returned for the night, Chase murmured his excuses and strode out to the mansion’s hallway.

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