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The waiter came by in the heavy silence that followed, asking Carys if her meal was to her liking. She’d only eaten half of it, and since her brief glimpse into Rune’s past, she’d barely picked at the dish.

“Dessert, perhaps?” the waiter asked hopefully. “We have an incredible strawberry flambé prepared tableside this evening.”

Carys shook her head. “No, thank you. Everything was delicious, but I’m finished.”

“The check, please,” Rune said. After the human scurried off, he tightened his grasp on Carys’s fingers and leaned forward. “I have something sweeter and hotter in mind for my dessert. What do you say we get out of here?”

She smiled, tenderness and compassion backlit by a flicker of desire. “Yeah. Take me out of here, Rune.”

CHAPTER 18

They hailed a taxi and Rune gave the driver the penthouse address. Carys hadn’t told him that’s where she wanted to go, but he seemed to understand as well as she did that the club and the weight of what it represented to Rune would not be allowed to invade any more of their time tonight.

She was still trying to process everything he’d told her. His past, his childhood, the trauma he’d been subjected to by the father who was supposed to love him. Her heart broke for the boy who’d endured that kind of hellish upbringing, and for the strong, complicated man who still carried the wounds, even if he did so stoically, unbroken from everything that had been done to him.

His remoteness made sense to her now. His walls were steep for good reason, yet he’d allowed her to peer through a tiny crack tonight. She saw darkness and pain on the other side of Rune’s walls, and a solitude that would have wrecked anyone weaker than him.

I survived, he’d said. And, yes, that much was true. But would he ever be able to leave his past behind when he couldn’t let go of the cage that still confined him?

Carys knew the answer to that, and as she walked out of the elevator on the top floor of the apartment building with him, she hoped that, in time, Rune would see it too. Either way, she intended to be at his side. But tonight, there would be no more talk of his past or the club.

Tonight, she needed to feel his arms around her as much as she needed to wrap her arms around him. Tonight, she just needed . . . him.

There were no words as they walked into the penthouse, fingers threaded together. No words as she led him to her bedroom at the end of the hallway. Nothing but quiet breaths and slow-burning gazes as they undressed each other in silence and slipped between the cool sheets of her bed.

They kissed for a long while, lying on their sides, facing each other. Caressing each other. A delicious, unrushed exploration of each other’s lips and skin and contours that was somehow even sexier—more erotically intense—than any of the frenzied, ferocious, need-you-now matings they’d experienced before.

Rune’s loving touch heated her as he traced her shoulder and arm, then circled her taut nipples and the swell of her breasts. Each slow skate of his fingertips over her sensitized skin melted her, made her insides twist with delicious need.

His mouth roamed over hers, claiming her without demand, coaxing her into a tighter coil of yearning. His tongue tangled with hers, testing, not taking, his sweeping strokes putting her blood on a heated boil in her veins.

God, she wanted him. Needed him like never before . . .

She broke their kiss and leaned forward, pressing her lips to the hollow at the base of his strong throat. He groaned as she slid her tongue over his skin, then along the column of his neck.

Her fangs filled her mouth, but she kept them in check as she dragged her parted lips over his drumming carotid. The hard beat called to everything Breed in her.

It made her blood answer with equal demand: You are mine, as I am yours. She felt the declaration in her bones, in her marrow. Her veins clamored for confirmation of their bond. For consummation of it.

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But she knew his rules, and tonight she would not test him.

On a shudder, Rune exhaled a jagged sigh as she moved away from his neck and on to the muscled bulk of his shoulder. She kissed the rounded curve of hard flesh, then moved lower, across the broad, glyph-covered slabs of his chest. He moaned as she teased the flat disc of his nipple, sucking the tiny bud between her teeth and flicking it with the tip of her tongue. His arms came up around her as she guided him onto his back to lavish the same attention on the other nipple.

His cock was hard, and had been since the moment they entered the bedroom. The steely length of it pressed against her hip where she was draped over him now. She reached down to stroke him as she descended farther, kissing and licking and suckling her way toward his lean stomach.

She loved the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips, and beneath her questing mouth. The dark flourishes of his dermaglyphs felt alive under her tongue as she traced their beautiful patterns.

She nipped his hip bone and Rune’s thick cock surged even harder, even fuller, in her grasp. “Ah, Christ, Carys . . . you’re killing me.”

She knew what he wanted. Her mouth was watering for it too. Drifting down into the thatch of dark hair at his groin, she licked the glyph-ringed base of his erection. He was so large and enticing, steely power encased in velvet softness. She explored the length of him with her tongue, teasing the engorged vein that ran under his shaft, lapping the bead of fluid that wept from the tip of its plum-shaped crown.

With a strangled groan, he arched off the mattress, hips thrusting in plea for more.

She was only too eager to oblige.

Wrapping her lips around the silky smooth head of his cock, she slid him all the way into her mouth. She could barely contain him, he was so immense, so thick and rigid, crowding her throat. But the taste of him, the powerful feel of him, only made her hungry to take more. To take all of him.

“Ah, fuck,” he ground out tightly as she withdrew nearly all the way, then plunged back down. His arms clutched her tighter as a shudder rolled through his massive body. “Oh, yeah, baby. Fuck, yeah.”

She kept her rhythm slow, but steady. Sucking him deep. Savoring his taste, his heat, his power.

His palms held her head now, his hips rocking with every long slide of her mouth. On her tongue, his shaft pulsed and twitched. Salty juices flowed out of him, slickening her rhythm as she caressed his balls and sucked him deeper.

And with each thrust and groan that shuddered through him, Carys’s body burned hotter, wetter. Her sex clenched with the need to have him inside her, but she couldn’t pull her mouth away from him. Her thirst for him consumed her now.

“Carys,” he gritted out harshly, his cock stiffening even more.

Tension wracked him. His fingers closed into fists in her hair. She picked up her tempo when she felt him coil tighter with each stroke. He was close, so close. She wanted to push him over the edge. She wanted to leave him room for nothing but pleasure, nothing but the two of them.

He raised his head to look at her, his dark eyes ablaze with amber fire. His fangs gleamed bright white, sharp as daggers. She’d never seen anything so magnificent. And he was hers.

“You’re mine, Rune,” she murmured against his throbbing flesh. “Tell me you know that. I need to hear you say it now.”

The strangled groan that wrenched out of him was somewhere between pleasure and pain. “Fuck yes,” he rasped. “Only yours.”

She took him deep, brought him to the point of no return. A low growl exploded out of him. He bucked hard against the back of her throat, then the sudden, hot and glorious rush of his seed filled her mouth.

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