Chase touched his earpiece and listened for moment. “All right, Lucan,” he murmured into his mic. “We’re rolling out.”

Rune drew Carys close as the fleet started moving. She glanced back, looking out the rear window as they left the courtyard and the castle. He felt her faint shudder. Through his blood bond to her, he felt her overwhelming relief as the place they’d narrowly survived fell farther and farther in their wake.

They’d come through fire together in that place.

They’d emerged stronger, inseparable. Invincible, as long as they had each other.

Rune had no need to look back. There was nothing to see there anymore.

His life lay ahead of him now. With Carys at his side.

As his mate.

A formality he intended to complete as soon as they arrived back in the States.

She pivoted back around and settled against him with a sigh. Rune stroked her cheek, then couldn’t resist lowering his head to kiss her. He didn’t even care that her father was sitting across from them.

When he glanced up, Chase’s blue eyes were locked on him. He held something in his hand. “Whenever you’re ready, son.”

Rune took the small remote detonator. As he stared at it, Carys looked up at him, her gaze filled with love and tenderness.

He held his future in his arms.

His past would never touch him again.

So, hell yeah. He was more than ready.

Rune pushed the button, then tossed the remote aside. As the percussion sounded in the distance behind them, he cupped Carys’s beautiful face in his palms and kissed her with all the love—and hope—he felt in his heart.

CHAPTER 42

When they arrived at the D.C. headquarters later that night, everyone was waiting to see them.

“Oh, my girl!” Tavia rushed to fold Carys into her tight embrace as soon as she entered the mansion.

When Carys turned to introduce Rune to her mother, Tavia ignored his extended hand and wrapped him in a warm hug too. Carys grinned as she watched her big, tough fighter get swamped by her mother’s boundless affection. He stood stiff and awkward at first, but eventually his strong arms relaxed and a smile curved his mouth.

There were a lot of relieved, happy tears from most of the Order’s women. A lot of worry and concern about everything Carys had endured. And a lot of questions about how she and Rune had managed to not only survive their ordeal in Riordan’s hands, but to triumph over him and his men virtually on their own.

All of the questions and buzzing conversation slowed to a pause the moment Nova quietly came around to the front of the noisy reunion. Her blue eyes were shy under the angular sweep of her blue-and-black hair. Her smile was uncertain as her tattooed hands fidgeted with the hem of her black shirt.

Rune stared. She glanced up at him and nodded mutely. That was all it took.

He stepped forward and scooped Nova into his arms with a shout of joy. When he set her down again, he held her face between his palms, drinking her in.

“You’re all grown up. You look amazing,” he said, his deep voice thick with emotion. “You look . . . happy.”

“I am,” she replied. “I’m happier now that you’re back in my life too, Aed—”

“Rune,” he said. “If that’s okay with you.”

She nodded. “Nova.”

The siblings hugged again. Rune reached out to snag Carys by the arm, pulling her into their happy family. Then Mathias drifted over to join his Breedmate. With one arm around Nova, he reached out and clasped Rune’s shoulder.

Soon, the fancy drawing room of the mansion was filled with the entire Order and all of their mates. Rune was introduced to all of the women, and Carys enjoyed the numerous, approving looks she got from the other warriors’ mates as they all greeted her man.

She held his hand, feeling so proud to belong to him. She couldn’t wait to begin their future, away from all of the commotion and the reality of all the dangerous missions that still lay ahead for the Order. Maybe even for Rune and her too.

As warm as their welcome was—and as grateful as she was for the love they were receiving from everyone there tonight—now that she was home with Rune, Carys couldn’t wait to be alone with him.

Gabrielle seemed to understand how she was feeling. Lucan’s mate came over to Carys and leaned in close to her ear. “There’s an empty guest room on the third floor at the end of the hall. If you and Rune would like to use it to freshen up or rest for a while, consider it yours.”

Carys murmured her thanks and gently squeezed Rune’s hand. They slipped away at the first opportunity, heading immediately for the stairs.

They ducked inside the guest room and Rune kicked the door closed behind them. Carys had her arms and legs wrapped around him, held aloft in his strong arms. They kissed like mad, eyes blazing with desire, fangs tangling in their frenzy for each other.

Rune carried her to the king-size bed and laid her down. His big hands trembled as he stripped off her ruined clothes.

“We should clean up first,” Carys murmured.

He shook his head. “Later. Right now, I just need you.”

She needed him too. It had always been like this for them, but now, the desire was even more intense. Carys watched him, enthralled, knowing that the passion they shared would always be this fierce and undeniable.

Rune was naked now as well. He crawled over her on the bed, his immense body radiating heat and power and so much love it stole her breath. His wounds were healed over. The faint red welts left on his skin would be gone by morning.

He looked so strong and formidable. So incredibly sexy.

And he was hers.

Tonight more than ever, they belonged to each other.

She needed him, right now. On a throaty growl, she pressed her hands against his chest and tossed him onto his back. She straddled his hips, her wet cleft sliding along his length as she leaned down and met his mouth with a deep, demanding kiss.

A shift of her hips positioned him at her core. She wanted to prolong the delicious feeling of their bodies moving together in a teasing tempo, not yet joined. But her hunger for him was too intense.

She lifted her pelvis, seating herself on the upward jut of his cock. He hissed as she sank all the way down. When she started riding him, he held on to her and groaned in pleasure, his neck tendons straining as taut as cables.

“Damn, you feel good,” he rasped. She kicked up her pace and he sucked in a sharp breath. “Ah, fuck. Slow it down, baby. Let’s make this last a while.”

She tossed her head and grinned down at him. “We’ve got all night to slow it down. You said yourself you’re feeling healed and strong again.”

“Oh, yeah,” he ground out, bucking hard beneath her as if to show her just how revived he truly was.

“That’s good,” she purred. “So there’s no need for me to go easy on you, then.”

His eyes ignited with amber fire. “Holy hell, you are a force to be reckoned with. And, Christ . . . you’re ruthless too.”

He grabbed her hips as she rocked on him and undulated in deep circles. She slid in an unhurried, but purposeful rhythm up and down his length, delighting in his pleasure.

She felt his muscles tense. His hips thrust feverishly, meeting her strokes, hungry for more. She showed him no mercy as his climax swiftly built to a frenzy. His big body shook, and a jagged shout tore loose from him as he exploded inside her.

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