Rune shrugged. “The arena draws a diverse crowd. Everyone loves a good fight, as you well know.”
Riordan’s expression was darker than skeptical. “What interest does the Order have with you or the club? Have they been asking you questions about me, perhaps? Do they know I’m a part of Opus Nostrum?”
When Rune remained silent, his face impassive, Riordan’s questions took on a more impatient tone.
“Are they planning to come after me? They got too damn close the other night, when they nearly had their hands on that idiot lawyer of mine, Ivers. Have they found the information he’s been protecting? How much do they know about me and my Opus brothers?”
Rune couldn’t help but take some satisfaction in the edge of panic in his father’s voice. Despite the power he was so eager to boast about, Fineas Riordan spoke now as if he could feel a noose closing around his neck. Deep down, beneath all of his bravado, Riordan was worried that his twisted little empire could come crashing down around his head.
And Rune was planning to do whatever he could to make that happen.
Rune chuckled, genuinely amused. “Save your paranoia for the Order. Even if I knew, I would never tell you anything.”
His father studied him narrowly. “No . . . you don’t know, do you? They haven’t told you anything. Do they even realize you’re my son?”
Rune scoffed. “No one does.” Not until Carys found out so harshly last night. “I buried your name when I left here. I’d planned to take the shame of it to my grave.”
Cold eyes hardened with the insult. “Careful, Aedan. You know I can easily arrange that. I might even enjoy it.”
“Did you enjoy killing my mother too?” Rune’s voice was brittle, filled with all the animosity he was struggling to keep inside. “She was your blood-bonded mate, for fuck’s sake. Any pain you inflicted on her would’ve been echoed in your own veins.”
His father smiled. “Like I said, your mother could weather a great deal of punishment. It took a long time to break her. And yes, I felt each blow, every skin-rending lash. I savored them, if you want to know the truth.”
Rune’s answering growl sounded lethal, even to his own ears. His muscles twitched with the need to smash the sadistic grin from Riordan’s face. His tension must have been noticeable, because two of the guards with guns trained on his back now moved around to the front, hemming him in from all sides.
“My second mate was less of challenge,” his father remarked, so casually, he might have been talking about the weather. “I ended her as soon as she ceased to hold my interest.”
At this new admission, a heavy dread settled over Rune. He’d been avoiding asking about his mother’s replacement or the little girl who’d followed. Now, he had to know. “What about Kitty? Where is she?”
A spark of evil interest lit Riordan’s gaze. “Ah, you remember that tender piece of ass, eh? My men and I had some good times with that one too. But then the sneaky little bitch ran away and never came back. She could be dead for all I care. She was all used up, anyway.”
Rage boiled up inside Rune when he considered all the horrors that repulsive answer implied. “She was an innocent child, you sadistic pig.”
He couldn’t contain his fury now. It erupted out of him on a roar.
Fuck saving Riordan for the Order. Fuck the need for intel on Opus Nostrum. He needed to destroy this monster now, and if it got him killed in the process, so be it.
Rune lunged. Even before he was in motion, he heard the pop of a shot being fired. Something sharp jabbed into the back of his neck. Several somethings.
Not bullets. Darts?
Fire seeped into his veins, instantly sapping the feeling from his limbs. He went down fast. As his body hit the hard slate of the floor, he realized he’d been hit with a massive sedative. His muscles ceased working. He lay there, paralyzed, his vision beginning to cloud over.
He saw Riordan’s boots step past his face, tauntingly close.
The last thing Rune heard before blackness closed over him was his father’s toneless voice. “Drag him out of here. Dump him in the pit until I decide what to do with him.”
The only intel Carys gathered from Simon Fielding was that he knew absolutely nothing of his father’s activities or his colleagues. The younger Fielding’s knowledge about biflation and fiscal multipliers, however, was seemingly endless.
It had taken three waltzes before Carys had finally managed to get away from him. Apologizing that the champagne had gone straight to her head and that she needed some fresh air, she had evaded Simon’s offer to escort her outside and, instead, slipped out on her own.
“I thought he’d never stop talking,” she whispered to Gideon on the other end of her transmitter.
“Neither did I. Where are you now?”
“I just saw Simon go back into the ballroom, so I’m headed inside.” She reentered the house through a different pair of French doors, emerging in a quiet, dimly lit section of hallway several yards away from the bustle of the reception. “Okay, I’m going stealth now.”
Gathering the shadows around her, Carys shrank back from the rest of the party and headed for the staff stairwell at the back of the corridor.
“I’m going up to the second floor, where Fielding’s study is,” she whispered to Gideon.
“Got your signal on the move in front of me,” he confirmed.
With no one around to see or hear her, she couldn’t resist the need for a mission update on the Order. “How long before the warriors land?”
“They’re still en route, but they should have boots on the ground in Dublin and wheels in motion about four hours from now.”
She didn’t know if the news made her feel better or worse. Anxiety had been riding her ever since she and Brynne had left D.C. that morning. The Order had been gearing up and planning to depart a few hours after she had, and the wait for news had been excruciating. “I wish I could be with them tonight instead of here. I need to see him. I should be there for Rune.”
“Listen, no one wants this to end badly for him,” Gideon said. “Not even your father.”
“I hope you’re right.” She sucked in a breath as the sound of subdued female voices and approaching footsteps on soft wool rugs carried from around the corner of the passage up ahead. “Shit. Someone’s coming.”
She went still and silent, keeping herself close to the wall as a pair of housekeepers carrying armfuls of used linens to the laundry room rounded the bend and walked right past her, unaware. As soon as they were gone, Carys beelined for the east wing.
Tall double doors sealed off the expansive wing from the guest rooms and the rest of the second floor. She tried the handles and found them locked. A concentrated mental command was all it took to open them.
Slipping inside the vacant, dimly lit chamber, Carys closed the door behind her, then let her concealing shadows drop away.
“I’m in,” she advised Gideon.
Ambient light from a handful of wall sconces bathed the enormous space in a warm glow. The large study contained a desk and credenza, with a seating area off to the side. Carys drifted inside, past the sumptuous leather club chairs and Chesterfield sofa that sat before a massive fireplace.
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