Her eyes softened on him now. She let go of Riordan’s empty shirt and it fluttered away, forgotten.
“Daddy!” she cried, and rushed into his waiting arms.
Chase shut the door on the sun and lifted his face shield as he held her close. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” he murmured into her hair. “Your mother and I have been out of our minds these past several hours. When we heard you’d been taken, we thought . . .”
He let the worry go without finishing the sentence. She was safe. She was back in her family’s arms. Soon, she would be back home with Tavia and Aric and him.
But his little girl was gone, he realized as he held Carys now.
She’d been gone for a while, but he’d been too stubborn to see it.
He saw her clearly now. He saw a strong, courageous, impressive woman.
She was magnificent. Formidable.
And her father had never been more awed by her, nor more proud.
“Holy shit,” someone murmured from behind Carys and her father.
She realized only then that they weren’t alone. Aric, Nathan and his team from Boston, even Lucan and Dante, stood just inside the room.
On a curse, her brother broke away from the group and moved in to hug her too. Carys wrapped her arms around him and her father, so grateful to be reunited with them.
The danger was over. Riordan was no more.
Relief and joy flooded her, but she couldn’t rest yet. Her heart still had somewhere else it needed to be.
She raised her head, peering past the thick knot of warriors to the top of the tower stairs.
And there he was.
“Rune.” Tears choked her when she saw him.
He was alive.
And he was looking at her with so much love, it stole her breath away.
She flew to him on a strangled cry. They kissed desperately, hugging each other close and murmuring private, tender words. She didn’t care that they had an audience. She didn’t care about anything except the fact that Rune was there with her, telling her that he loved her. Kissing her as if he never wanted to let her go.
But the scent of his blood was a potent reminder that he wasn’t out of danger yet. She drew away from him and glanced at the warriors.
“Rune needs help for his injuries. I gave him my blood a while ago, but it’s not enough.”
She saw her father’s chin lift in understanding. There was no disapproval in his eyes at the acknowledgment that Rune was bound to her now. Only concern as his gaze took in the extent of Rune’s wounds.
“Rafe,” he said, motioning to Dante’s son and a member of the Boston team. The blond warrior had inherited his mother’s gift for healing with a touch. He’d mended worse injuries than Rune’s before. He and Tess had even worked together to bring another of the Order’s family back from death not so long ago.
“I believe our introduction is overdue,” Chase said, stepping forward to extend his hand to Rune. “This isn’t the way I’d envisioned us meeting, but I can honestly say it’s an honor.”
Carys held on to Rune, resting her head against his bare chest and smiling as he took her father’s hand and shook it firmly. “An honor for me too, sir.”
“Call me Chase. Or Sterling.”
“Just don’t call him Harvard,” Dante drawled, grinning.
Chase chuckled. “Feel free to ignore anything that one tells you. It’s always worked for me.”
Rune’s laugh vibrated warmly against Carys’s ear. “All right. Chase it is.” He glanced down at Carys then, his gaze intense and meaningful. “My name is Rune.”
Chase nodded solemnly. “Thank you for protecting my daughter, Rune. Thank you for keeping her safe and alive.”
“Not at all, sir,” Rune said. “She’s the reason I’m alive. She is my reason for everything.”
He caressed her cheek and her heart was so full, she couldn’t resist lifting up to kiss him again.
When their lips parted, Aric stood before them. He shook Rune’s hand too. “I guess this is going to make us brothers now.”
“Aye,” Rune said. “Maybe in time we’ll even be friends.”
Aric smirked. “Got a feeling my sister won’t have it any other way.”
Now Lucan strode over and introduced himself. “I don’t know whether to thank you or offer condolences that things had to go this way.”
Rune shook his head. “This was the only way it could go with my father. I have no regrets, other than the fact that I didn’t end him a long time ago. Before he had the chance to hurt so many other people.”
Lucan grunted, his cool gray eyes thoughtful. “You and I have more in common than you know, Rune.” He turned that contemplative gaze on Carys. “And you deserve more credit than anyone has been willing to give you, myself included.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, both humbled and proud.
Rafe came over and began working on the worst of Rune’s injuries as the other Boston team members came forward too. They all greeted Rune and Carys with praise and genuine interest, falling into an easy camaraderie with both of them.
It felt good, being accepted by all of them. Oddly, it felt right. She didn’t know exactly what her future was going to look like after she got home to Boston, but she couldn’t help thinking that as much as it would include Rune, it was going to include the Order as well.
She had a feeling no one in the room with her now was going to tell her no again.
A couple of hours after Rafe worked his magic, Rune was cleaned up and seated in the great hall with Carys, feeling as if his multiple gunshot wounds and broken bones had been nothing more than bee stings.
His body was healed and he was breathing a hell of a lot easier knowing Carys was safe and sound. She was nestled against him now, speaking on the phone to her mother who was waiting not so patiently for her family to return to the Order’s headquarters in D.C.
As Carys ended the call, she glanced up at Rune. “Yes, of course. I’ll tell him for her. We’ll see you soon. I love you.” She murmured a tender goodbye, then put the comm unit away.
“You’ll tell me what?”
“Nova wants you to know that she’ll be waiting to greet us as soon as we arrive, no matter what time it is. She’s very excited to see you.”
“Nova,” he said, testing out the name his sister had been using since she fled this place to begin her new life in London years ago.
Carys had explained what she knew of Nova’s journey from Dublin to London, and the circumstances that had brought her into Mathias Rowan’s orbit.
It seemed both Rune and his sister had wanted to deny where they had come from—to hide from the monster who’d terrorized their past. They had both learned the hard way that some monsters couldn’t be outrun. They had to be confronted and destroyed in order to truly break free of their hold.
“Are you nervous about seeing her?” Carys asked, softly caressing his bare chest.
Rune nodded. “I’m not sure how she’ll react to seeing me after all this time. I’m different now. I’m not the brother she remembers.”
Carys smiled. “I think you’ll find Nova to be something of a surprise too. A good one, though. Just as you’ll be a welcome surprise to her.”
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