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And Mira's sweet, welcoming body accepted all that he had to give.

He didn't know how long it took before the aftershocks finally began to recede. Could have been moments. Could have been hours.

All he knew was the warm cushion of her body beneath him on the bed, her limbs still tangled around his, her fingers playing in the hair at his nape while he rested his head next to her shoulder.

It was her quiet voice that brought him back to the here and now.

Back to the reality of what they still faced.

"I don't want you to go to the Order." He felt her worry in the dull throb of her pulse, in the tang of dread that filtered through their new bond, into him. "I've changed my mind, Kellan. About wanting you to plead your case, trying to convince the Order and the Council to pardon you. I don't want you to go anywhere near D.C. Neither one of us can ever go back there."

"Ah, Mouse." He kissed the bare curve of her shoulder, then came up on one elbow so he could meet her troubled gaze. "You don't mean that. You've never been one to run and hide. That was always more my territory, remember? And look where that's gotten us."

"I don't care," she murmured, a stubborn edge to her tone. "Let's just stay here, like this. For as long as we can, let's just be together and make this last. Whatever it takes."

He kissed her again, on the mouth this time, unrushed and tender. "I don't want this to end either. Not now or ever. But I don't want it if it means forcing you into a life of skulking in shadows and fearing what lies around every corner. I can't do that, Mira. And we can't stay here. It's not safe for any of us now. We all have to get out of here soon, go to another location. Somewhere out of the line of fire."


"Somewhere safe."

His dread about the Order closing in on him was still very real and disturbing. And the prospect of either a stealth death squad or, after last night's turn of events, a full-scale invasion was more than he was willing to risk. A sick guilt weighed down on him when he thought of Candice and Doc and Nina coming under heavy weapons fire amid the chaos of a raid. As for Mira, he knew his Breedmate well enough to realize that she would fight to her own death if she thought she could save him.

As he would for her.

And would, in a short time from now.

He hadn't been much of a leader to his crew of rebels, not that it had ever been his intent to lead them. He hadn't been anything close to a worthy mate to Mira either, and that he wanted more than anything.

But he still had time to do right by them all. He could put measures in place that would ensure a minimum risk of injury or bloodshed to his Breedmate and his friends. Only then would he be ready to do what he needed to do - confront the fate that waited for him at the other end of this increasingly inescapable path.

His plan took shape with resolute clarity as he took Mira's hand in his, stroking his fingers over the perfectly healed heart of her palm. "We'll leave as soon as possible this morning."

She frowned up at him. "In the daylight?"

"As soon as we can," he reiterated. Now that he knew what needed to be done, he wanted the plan in motion. "Nina has friends who can get us a vehicle, no questions asked. I'll ride in back, out of the sun's reach. One of my crew can do the driving. We can be there in a few hours."

Mira was staring at him, a question in her muted gaze. "You're taking me with you?"

"I want you safe," he said, lifting her chin to meet his kiss. "You're mine now, remember?"

"I'm yours." Her smile nearly broke his heart, it was so pure and trusting. She burrowed deep into the curve of his body, molding herself to him. "Don't let go, Kellan. Promise me you won't let go."

"I won't let go, Mouse." He wrapped his arms around her, pressing a kiss to her forehead as she snuggled tighter and her breathing slowed to a contented rhythm.

And in that moment, he was glad for the absence of her link into his emotions.

Because if she'd been bonded to him by blood, she would have understood no matter how much he wished he could keep that promise to her, before the next dawn, she would know it had been just a pretty lie.

Chapter Nineteen

BY NIGHTFALL, NO LESS THAN A DOZEN MEMBERS OF THE Order had descended upon Boston.

Nathan led a unit comprised of his team of three and Mira's squad, Bal, Torin, and Webb, who'd come in from Montreal to aid in her recovery. While Nathan and his crew scoured the old North End for leads on the rebels who held her, the other side of the city was getting a shakedown by Nikolai, along with Tegan, Hunter, and Rio, diverted from the D.C. headquarters and joined by Sterling Chase, director of the Boston command center.

To a man, they'd all vowed that dawn would not come without Mira being brought safely back into the fold of her family of the Order.

That pledge was cold water in Nathan's veins as he and Rafe Malebranche split off from Eli and Jax and Mira's three teammates, taking their search into establishments known to be friendly to rebels and their ilk. The club La Notte was their first stop, given that Rooster was a regular at the illegal arena there.

Nathan and Rafe walked in together, both warriors scanning the crowd. Upward of a hundred people were partying inside, clad mostly in black leather and heavy eyeliner, convulsing to the grinding pulse of an industrial rock band screaming about pain and betrayal onstage. Goth girls and punks, most of them human. All harmless clubbers. No sign of the criminal element Nathan was currently searching for.

As he and Rafe sliced through the churning throng, Nathan noticed La Notte's proprietor eyeing them with less than enthusiastic regard. Cassian broke away from a pair of attractive women easily a decade too young for him and strode toward Nathan. He was dressed like many of his patrons, in head-to-toe black leather and heavy lug-soled boots. Tonight his cropped hair was a crown of gelled spikes, his bright green eyes accentuated by dark brows, each pierced by a pair of tiny silver rings. A black stud was stuck through the tip of his tongue.

"Didn't realize my club was so popular with the Order," he drawled. "I don't know if I should be flattered or offended."

Nathan hardly paid Cassian any attention. "Check the arena," he told Rafe.

As the warrior turned to carry out the order, Nathan continued to prowl the club at street level. Cassian was right at his heels. "The fights don't start for hours, warrior."

"We didn't come to watch your blood sport."

"No," Cassian replied, "from the look of you, I'd guess you were here to start some of your own. Wouldn't have anything to do with the hotheaded female from your operation, would it?"

Nathan had his hand clamped around the other male's throat before Cassian could take his next breath. "What do you know about her?"

Some of the proprietor's henchmen, including the cage fighter called Syn and a couple of others, emerged from out of nowhere and started closing in. Still caught tight in Nathan's grasp, Cassian dismissed his thugs with a glance and a subtle twitch of his head.

"He won't kill me," Cassian said. "He would've finished it by now if that were his intent."

Nathan was tempted, but intel was more crucial. "What do you know about Mira?"

By this time, Rafe had come back from downstairs. Nathan noticed his brother-in-arms from the corner of his eye. Skilled and deadly, Rafe had a blade in one hand, his other ready to draw the 9-mm semiauto holstered on his weapons belt.

Nathan didn't let up the pressure on the human's throat. "I asked you a question. If you know where Mira is, you would be wise to tell me now."

Cassian smiled, unafraid. Amused, even. "So many surprises lately where that one is concerned."

"You know something," Nathan pressed, certain he'd found the lead he needed. "Do you know where Bowman is holding her?"

"Holding her?" Cassian's smile stretched wider. "My guess would be he's holding her quite close."

Nathan squeezed, taking uncharacteristically sadistic satisfaction in the man's answering sputter. As Cassian coughed and wheezed, his henchman and fighters advanced another few paces. Rafe moved with effortless speed, placing himself between Nathan and Cassian and the approaching guards.

"Tell me where to find Bowman," Nathan demanded coolly, "or I will kill you. Make no mistake. Your life is only worth the information you give me now. Where is Bowman keeping her?"

The club owner sucked in a restricted breath. "I can't tell you anything about the rebel leader or your MIA comrade. Pity you weren't here last night. You could've asked them yourself."

Nathan's blood went still in his veins. "What are you talking about?"

"They were here," Cassian said. "Both of them. Talking to Rune downstairs at his dressing room."

Son of a bitch.

Nathan slanted a stunned look at Rafe, who took off immediately for the back stairs. Nathan glared back at the man caught tight in his grasp. He let up only enough to permit Cassian to speak. "Was she all right? Did it look like he'd harmed her in any way?"

"Still had her sharp tongue and attitude intact, if that's what you mean."

"You spoke to her?" He didn't like the sense of confusion that roiled through him now. He was accustomed to cool logic, calm calculations. This revelation was the last thing he expected, and despite his keen mind, he struggled to make sense of all he was hearing. "What did she say to you? Did you speak to Bowman too?"

Rafe came up from the floor below, shaking his head. "No sign of Rune down there."

"No," Cassian said, his tone unfazed, conversational. "Rune took the night off."

"Where?" Nathan demanded.

Cassian chuckled, the black stud at the end of his tongue gleaming as he spoke. "Find the daywalker and I reckon you'll find Rune."

Although Nathan was taken aback, it was Rafe who spoke first. "What the fuck? You mean Aric Chase?"

"No," Cassian replied. "The other one. The female. Hot young thing that's been slumming around my club for the past few weeks. Find her, and I guarantee you, Rune won't be far."

They made the long drive to his grandfather's old Darkhaven in northern Maine earlier that afternoon.

Halfway there, Mira had come down with a vicious headache. She had assured Kellan she was fine, but he'd felt the blast of pain in her skull through their bond. He could feel it still, while she slept in the large master suite of the Darkhaven. Her discomfort was less now that she was sleeping, but the fact that she'd been hurting at all - especially after tapping into her Sight for how long, he could only guess - disturbed him more than he wanted to admit.

At least she'd found some peace once they arrived in Maine. Her exhaustion had taken her down more than two hours ago, and when Kellan had gone in to check a few minutes ago, she hadn't even stirred when he sat down next to her on the bed.

As for his crew, they'd quickly adapted to the relocation. After getting Candice settled and tending to her wound, Doc and Nina had gone to work sweeping out the whole place, dusting off the old furniture and appliances that hadn't been used in years, and restocking the pantry and weapons cache with supplies brought with them from the New Bedford bunker.

The Darkhaven was a huge step up from the primitive amenities of their previous base, with a kitchen full of top-grade appliances, a fully functioning refrigerator and range, room after room of comfortable furnishings, and nearly ten thousand square feet of living space. But their stay could only be temporary. Just a safe haven to hold them for a short while, until Kellan had the chance to confront the storm closing in on him from all sides.

On that score, he only hoped his instinct was good.

He prayed it was, or he had likely risked all their lives doing what he had today.

Standing at the French doors that overlooked the thick woods outside the big house, Kellan didn't even hear Nina approach from behind him until she quietly cleared her throat. He turned, frowning at the small white bottle she held out to him.

"Migraine meds," she said, giving the container a little shake. "I've only got a few left, but you can have them if you think they might help . . . your friend."

He nodded, took them from her outstretched hand, and slipped the bottle into his pocket. "Thank you."

The three of them - Nina, Candice, and Doc - were all gathered in the great room with him. They'd been watching him pace for a while, and now he realized just how uncomfortable was the pall of silence that hung over the group. Part of that silence had to do with the events of the past twenty-four hours - the lab explosion that had made global headlines and the resulting public unrest that followed; the somber good-bye they'd given Chaz; now this, the sudden flight to a place they'd never even known existed.

And part of his crew's unease had to do with the female warrior from the Order, who was quite obviously something more to him than just a captive being held against her will.

He looked at their faces now and saw their confusion, their wary uncertainty about who he truly was and what Mira meant to him.

It bothered him, those uneasy stares.

They didn't know him, not even after eight years of living side by side. They'd protected the secret of his Breed origins, but he'd given them nothing in return. They had offered him their trust and friendship, but he'd kept them out.

No more, he decided.

These three people - these humans, for crissake - had become his friends. They'd become his family, and it killed him that he was only seeing that just now. Now, when he would soon be forced to leave them behind.


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