“No.” He tossed his head, impatient. “We have to keep pushing forward. I need to get you out of here.”

He tugged her hand, but she wasn’t budging. “Listen to me. The Order is on the way. They know your father is part of Opus Nostrum. They’re coming for him tonight. Lucan Thorne, my father, most of the other warrior commanders . . . they could be here in as little as an hour.”

Rune paused, considering. He felt no sympathy for anything that might happen to Fineas Riordan, but if the Order was going to be of any help to Carys and him, they needed to be kicking down the castle doors right now.

“We have to keep moving,” he insisted.

She shook her head, refusing to let him start off again. “You can’t go on like this. You can’t fight like this.” She reached up to touch his battered face. “All we have to do is stay safe until the warriors get here. I can’t cover both of us in shadow if we’re in motion, but I can do it if we find someplace to hide and wait for the Order to get here.”

“It’s too risky. My father and his men aren’t going to stand around wondering where we are. They’ll hunt us down. Hell, I have no doubt they already are. They’re going to shine a light in every crevice and corner of this damn place, and unless we get out of here first, they’re going to find us, Carys.”

He didn’t even want to consider what Riordan and his thugs would do to her if they got their hands on her again.

“There are a couple of back ways out of the castle,” he said, resting the rifle on the floor of the tunnel. He was already planning their best chance of escape while he used their pause to catch his breath and try to find his reserves of stamina. He may have one foot in the grave right now, but his primary goal was her safety. He’d worry about his own ass later. “We’ll have to get through the main floor, but once we do, we can steal a vehicle out of the carriage house behind the kitchens.”

Once she was secured somewhere far away from his father’s house, he’d go back in alone and finish the bastard. He’d be damned if he was going to wait around for the Order to do that for him, either.

He could tell by the look in Carys’s eyes that she understood his intentions. “You’re going to try to kill him. Alone?” She shook her head. “You’re not going to leave me again. We belong together.”

He cursed under his breath. “Yes, we do, love. But don’t you see? I can’t move forward now without knowing I’ve put my past in the grave. For good this time.”

“Then I’m going to stand with you. You’re not going to keep me outside your walls anymore. Not for my protection. Not because you’re afraid I won’t understand. From now on, we fight together.” Her soft voice broke with emotion. “I love you. I have loved you from the very beginning, Rune.”

“Rune,” he said, then slowly shook his head. He reached out, tenderly cupping her beautiful face in his hands. “I wasn’t honest with you. Not even about my name. I owed you so much more than that. I still do, Carys. Hell, I can’t pretend I’ll ever be the man you deserve.”

She brought his battered fingers to her lips and kissed them with unbearable sweetness. “I fell in love with a man who is kind and good and loyal. A strong, fearless man who owns every room he walks into, whether it’s the arena or the bedroom or the fancy lobby of the MFA.”

Her kiss moved to the centers of his grit-covered, lacerated palms. “I fell in love with a man who makes his living delivering pain, yet who touches me with so much tenderness, it makes my heart ache.”

Devotion smoldered in her eyes as she held his tormented stare. “That man’s name is Rune,” she said. “I know everything about him that I need to know, and there’s no other man I will ever want.”

“Christ, you humble me. And I love you, Carys. So damn much.” The words were a raw whisper on his lips as he lifted her chin and claimed her mouth in a deep kiss filled with longing.

There was regret in it too, because, even though she absolved him of his lies and didn’t hate him for the situation they were in together now, she didn’t know his whole truth yet. She didn’t know the full depth of his shame.

He broke their kiss on a sharp sigh. “I can’t forgive myself until he’s dead and this place is destroyed forever. He’s done terrible things. I don’t mean everything he did to me. None of that matters to me now. It’s the other people he’s hurt. My mother. The Breedmate who came after her. And to the little girl, Kitty. What he did to her is unspeakable.”

Carys soberly nodded her head. “I know. But she’s strong, Rune. And she’s coping as best—” Her eyes widened when she saw his confused frown. “Oh, my God . . . you don’t know. Of course, you don’t know. Your sister, Catriona—Kitty. She lives in London now. She’s mated to an Order warrior, Mathias Rowan. For the past few days, they’ve been in Boston, staying at my family’s Darkhaven.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “She’s alive? She’s okay?”

“Yes. And she’s happy, Rune. She’s in love. And there’s more. She’s expecting a baby with Mathias.”

“Holy shit.” The shock of it, combined with his injuries, made him rock back on his heels. He leaned his ass against the wall of the corridor as his brain worked to process the details. “So often, I’ve wondered what happened to her. I’ve worried that she was dead.”

Carys nodded gently. “She’s been worried about you too.”

“You’ve talked to her about me?”

“We’ve become friends. Even before we knew we had a love for you in common.”

Rune swallowed. He dreaded asking, but he had to know. “Does she blame me for leaving her here? Does she think I knew what was happening to her?”

“No, she doesn’t blame you.” Carys leaned her shoulder against the wall beside him, standing close, caressing the worry from his face. “She didn’t allow you to know any of her pain. Just as you hid yours from her.”

He lowered his head. “Jesus Christ. My little sister is alive. I never thought I’d see her again.”

“Then let’s get out of here so you’ll have that chance. We both want to see you come home where you belong.”

Home. He hadn’t known the meaning of that word for a long time. If he ever really had. But now it burned in front of him like a beacon in the dark, lighting the way.

And as he looked at Carys, he knew that path would always lead to her. She was the only home he would ever need.

He pressed a kiss to her forehead, then threaded his fingers through hers. “Let’s go, love.”

He stepped away from the support of the stone wall and her sharp intake of breath made him pause. She was looking down at their feet. At the dark pool of blood that had collected beneath him where he’d stood.

“Oh, my God. Rune . . .”

“I’m okay,” he told her. But she saw through his lie. He knew that for the rest of their time together, whether it was measured in minutes or centuries, Carys would always see through him to the truth. And he didn’t want to hide anymore. “I’ll be all right once we’re out of here. I can heal when I’m home.”


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