“Brynne, is Carys with you?”

“No.” And the fact that he had to ask made her pulse tick even faster. She stepped into a quiet corner and spoke just above a whisper. “I haven’t seen her for a while now. Aren’t you in contact with her through the transmitter?”

“I lost the connection about an hour ago, when she was inside Fielding’s chambers. The GPS signal is still reporting from the building, but I haven’t been able to reestablish audio yet.”

“Are you sure she’s here? I’ve been watching for her all this time, and she hasn’t come back to the ballroom or any of the other reception areas.”

“That’s why I called,” Gideon said. “I don’t have a good feeling, either. I was hoping you’d do a quick search for her, just to confirm we have visual on her.”

“Of course.” Brynne was already walking.

“I have your comm’s GPS signal in front of me now,” he told her. “Carys’s signal is due south of yours, moving at a good clip.”

Brynne picked up her pace, trying to walk casually, yet swiftly. She weaved through the crowd of party guests, heading in the direction Gideon sent her.

“I think the kitchens are back this way,” she told him, nearly to the tall, open doors at the back of the main reception room. She’d seen dozens of tuxedoed servers pass through those doors most of the night with food and beverage trays.

As she hurried along, someone called her name and waved to her from within the throng. The Breedmate of her supervisor, smiling and trying to get her attention. Brynne shot the woman an apologetic look and pointed to her phone as if she was on a call that couldn’t be interrupted. Which was certainly the truth.

“Carys just turned a corner now,” Gideon advised. “She’s moving away from you, Brynne.”

“Shit.” She ducked through the tall doors behind one of the exiting servers. She followed the curving corridor, which dumped her into the clatter of the busy kitchens. Catering people and servers were all over the place, hustling here and there with their trays. “Am I getting closer?”

“Yeah, you’re practically on top of her now. She should be right in front of you, not even two yards away. She’s stopped moving now.”

Brynne frowned, pivoting where she stood. There was no one near her except cooks and kitchen staff.

“Gideon, you must be mistaken. She can’t be in here. I don’t . . .”

The words dried up on Brynne’s tongue as her gaze landed on a serving tray that had apparently been recently returned to the kitchen. Used glasses and soiled linens lay heaped on the tray. And there was something else there too . . .

“Oh, my God.” Brynne’s stomach plummeted.

Peeking out from within the folds of one of the white napkins was a small wire and earbud.

“Gideon, she’s been found out. Carys is gone. Someone’s taken her.”

~ ~ ~

Fineas Riordan’s Darkhaven was an ancient, craggy stone castle that looked exactly like the kind of place that would house a monster.

Carys didn’t know what she’d been expecting after her captor—Riordan’s brother—took her out of London in a piloted private jet, then dumped her into the backseat of a chauffeured car that drove them several miles outside of Dublin. But as they drew nearer to the forbidding fortress, her heart bled for the boy who’d been raised in this place under the violent conditions Rune had described.

She ached even more sharply for the man she loved, and she could only pray that Riordan’s brother hadn’t been lying when he’d implied Rune was still alive. That there was still hope he might be able to leave this place unharmed and return home to Boston, where he belonged.

It was that thin hope that had convinced Carys to play her captor’s game by pretending she was, in fact, merely a Breedmate. Everything Breed in her vibrated with aggression and seething hatred. It had been nearly impossible to walk along docilely out the back of Fielding’s house, and to resist the powerful urge to leap on Riordan’s brother and tear out his throat.

She had to admit, the holstered semiautomatic pistol he carried on his hip helped keep her in check too.

He held the gun on her as they exited the vehicle and he took her by the arm. The nose of the pistol jabbed against her ribs was a steady reminder to maintain her composure as she was led across the gravel drive and into the castle’s main entrance.

Carys was taken down a flight of stone stairs that descended from the heart of the fortress to at least a full story below ground. Far enough down that the heavy sounds of mortal combat and bone-chilling, animalistic roars coming from somewhere in the bowels of the keep hadn’t been audible until she neared the bottom step.

Now, the awful sounds filled her ears. Dread made every step seem endless as she walked through the corridor with her captor. Up ahead, two other Breed males waited on a catwalk suspended above an open chamber below. One of them, a hulking guard holding a nasty-looking assault rifle, stood at sober attention. The other leaned forward as though he didn’t have a care in the world, his elbows resting casually on the railing of the catwalk.

She didn’t have to guess who the second male was.

Fineas Riordan shared the same sharp features and dark hair as his brother. The same cold eyes and thin, cruel mouth. He leered at her as she approached, his tongue sliding out to slowly, deliberately, wet his lips.

“Come,” he beckoned. “Ennis, bring her over before she misses the best part.”

A sick feeling gnawed at her insides as she stepped onto the wide catwalk. Just as she didn’t have to guess who Fineas Riordan was when she saw him, there was no need to guess at what lay below, where the sounds of brutal, hand-to-hand fighting emanated.

Carys glanced over the railing . . . just in time to see Rune lunging for his opponent in the pit below. The pit where his father had forced him to fight as a boy.

Death matches, like the one taking place before her eyes right now. The broken, bloodied bodies of two other Breed males lay on the floor as Rune dealt with his current threat.

Oh, God, Rune.

“He’s got remarkable stamina,” Riordan said casually. “I’ve lost track of how many hours he’s been going down there. He always was a tireless bastard.”

Rune was fully transformed, with fangs flashing and eyes ablaze with amber fire. He wore only the pants he’d had on the night before in Boston, but now they were filthy and torn. His dermaglyphs were livid with the dark colors of rage and aggression, seething on the sweat-soaked, bruised and shredded flesh of his back and chest.

Yet as dangerous as Rune looked, his opponent appeared even more so. The big male was wild-eyed, savage. Insane with violence. His fangs dripped saliva, and his glyphs were so saturated with furious color, they looked oily and black.

Rune now had his snarling, crazed opponent in a head lock. One big palm gripped the flailing vampire’s skull, while Rune held the male’s neck in the muscled V of his bent arm. His massive biceps flexed at the same time he wrenched the other male’s head back.

Bone and tendons crunched, severing instantly. Rune dropped the corpse and wheeled back on his bare feet.

Oh, God . . . he looked so battered and weary. His breath heaved out of him, fatigue in every powerful muscle.

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