The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(3) by J.R.Ward
While he waited for the other shoe to drop back home.
At the s’Hisbe.
THE PIT, BROTHERHOOD MANSION
Rhage glared over the top of the Caldwell Courier Journal. From his vantage point on V and Butch’s leather sofa, he had more view than he wanted of a shirtless Lassiter playing with himself.
Foosball, that was.
The fallen angel was working V’s table like a pro, flashing back and forth between the two sides—and hurling insults at himself.
“Question,” Rhage muttered, as he rearranged his injured leg. “Are either of your personalities aware that you’re schizo-freakin’-phrenic?”
“Your mama’s so stupid”—Lassiter dematerialized and re-formed on the far side, spinning the rods—“she thinks a California dime is something you dial a phone with.”
V came over and took a load off. “That’s multiple personality disorder, Hollywood. Not schizophrenia.”
The Brother put a leather pouch of tobacco and a sheaf of rolling papers on the stack of Sports Illustrateds—just as Lassiter fired off a shout of triumph.
“Oh, look,” V said under his breath. “The idiot is finally winning.”
Rhage grunted as he tried to find a better position for his leg. He and V should both have been out fighting—except a lesser had gone Gordon Ramsay on him with a rusty knife and V had a gunshot wound through the left shoulder.
At least they’d both be back online in another twenty-four hours, largely thanks to Selena. Without her being so generous with her vein, they wouldn’t be able to heal so fast—especially given that neither of their mates were capable of meeting their nutritional needs that way.
But, man, this sucked, sitting around like a couple of cripples.
And then there was the Lassiter factor.
The Pit was mostly as it always had been: full of gym bags, stereo and computer equipment, that Foosball table, and a TV the size of a city park. SportsCenter was on, talking about college football along with the NFL; there were dead-soldier Grey Goose bottles everywhere; and Butch’s wardrobe was now spilling out into the hall. Oh, and yup, Schoolboy Q’s “Hell of a Night” was bangin’ on the speakers.
But it wasn’t exclusively a bachelor pad anymore. Lingering in the air was Marissa’s signature perfume—something Chanel?—and Doc Jane’s medical bag was on the coffee table. Those vodka deadies? Only from this afternoon and tonight, and V was going to pull a tidy-up before he crashed. And then there were the Journal of the American Medical Association and the People magazines.
Oh, and the kitchen was clean, with fresh fruit in a bowl and a refrigerator full of things other than Arby’s leftovers and soy sauce packets.
Rhage had dipped his toe into that Frigidaire pond as soon as he’d come in, snagging a half gallon of mint chocolate-chip ice cream. That was about a half hour ago, and he was feeling peckish again. Maybe it was time to head back to the main house—
As Jeezy’s “Holy Ghost” broke in, Lassiter started rapping.
“Why did you invite him over?” Rhage asked—just as V extended his tongue to lick one of his hand-rolleds shut. “And Jesus, when the hell did you pierce that?”
“I didn’t. He followed us across the courtyard. And a month ago.”
“Why would you do that to yourself?”
V shot an evil smile across the sofa, his lids falling low over his diamond eyes. “Jane likes it.”
Rhage went back to his newspaper. “TMI, my brother.”
“Like you wouldn’t do the same if Mary wanted it.”
“Doc Jane asked for that? Like your goatee ain’t enough shit going on with your piehole? Come on.”
All he got was another of those smiles.
“Moving on…” He focused on the horoscopes. “Okay, so what sign are you, Lassiter?”
“I’m fabulous”—the fallen angel flashed to the other side—“with the sun rising in the Kiss My Ass quadrant. And before you keep asking, I was made, not born, so I don’t have a birthday.”
“I’ll give you a funeral date,” V cut in.
“How about a shirt.” Rhage turned to the next page. “Just a shirt. Would it kill you to cover up, angel? No one needs to see that.”
Lassiter gave things a pause … and then started pulling a Channing Tatum against the table, going all Magic Mike over the goal while he moaned like he was orgasming.
V covered his eyes. “Never thought I’d pray for blindness.”
Rhage wadded up the paper and threw it at Lassiter. “Oh, come on, asshat! I wanna use that thing sometime—”
Rhage’s phone threw off a seizure, vibrating against his ass until he leaned to the side and dug it out of the back pocket of his leathers. “Yeah,” he said without looking at the number.
Trez’s voice was low. “I got an issue.”
“Incapacitated lesser in my club. I’ve done a scrub job on my bouncers—especially the one who fought him—but this ain’t going to keep.”
Rhage got to his feet. “Be there in five.”
Ending the call, Rhage nodded at V. “Come on, I know we’re red-shirted, but this is not a fight situation.”
“Don’t need to ask me twice. Where are we going?”
Lassiter straightened from his grind. “Field trip!”
“I can be useful as well as decorative, you know.”
V started to arm himself, grimacing as he strapped on his dagger holster and slipped in a pair of sharp-and-shinies, handles down. “Doubt we’ll need a battering ram.”
“Maybe we’d get lucky.” Rhage headed for the door. “But I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“I don’t want to stay here by myself—”
“And you ain’t that decorative, angel.”
Outside, the night was all about the fall, cold, crisp September air, making Rhage’s sinuses hum and his beast surge under his skin as he walked across the courtyard to the great stone mansion’s entrance.
Man, he couldn’t wait for his Mary to get home from her work at Safe Place.
All that talk about tongues and females liking them in certain places—okay, it had only been about three sentences, but that had been more than enough—had gotten him tight.
Ten minutes, two forties, a pair of daggers, and a three-foot length of chain later, he dematerialized down to Caldwell’s meatpacking district with V, both of them re-forming across the street from Trez’s new joint. shAdoWs was located in a rehabbed warehouse, and as usual with any of the Shadow’s places, there was a line snaking down the block, humans standing like cows about to go into a feeding shed. As music bumped, flashing lights and laser beams pierced the thousands of glass panes, making the place look like a three-story-tall psychedelic trip trapped under a tin roof.
As the pair of them walked around back, there were all kinds of turned heads, but whatever. Human women had a way of noticing vampires—maybe it was a hormonal thing; maybe it was the black leather.
Certainly wasn’t that goatee. C’mon, now.
And yeah, there might have been a time in the past when he would have had to take advantage of the dubious wares, but no more. He had his Mary and that was more than enough for him. V was the same with his Jane.
Well, Jane plus a “healthy” dose of whips and chains.
The rear entrance of the club was a double-doored, triple-locked stretch of Staff Only, and it obvi had a security camera somewhere, because the instant they approached, a bouncer opened things up.
“Yeah.” V barged in. “Where’s Trez at?”
Dark halls. Dumb, drunk humans. DD working girls. And then there was Trez, standing outside a black door under a black light.
The Shadow made an impression, even from thirty dim feet away. He was tall and had an inverted triangle for a torso, big heavy shoulders dumping into a tight waist, with thick thighs and long legs holding the production off the floor. His skin was the color of the mansion’s mahogany dining room table, his eyes black as midnight, his hair trimmed down to nothing but a pattern on his skull. All of that was just pretty window dressing, though.
The truth was that he was more dangerous a commodity than anything you could buy at a gun show.
Shadows were deadly, capable of tricks even members of the Brotherhood were impressed by—and their kind usually kept to themselves, sticking to the s’Hisbe’s territory way outside of the city. Trez and his brother, iAm, were exceptions to that rule.
Something to do with Rehvenge. Not that Rhage had ever asked.
“Where is it?” V asked as he clapped hands with the Shadow.
Rhage did the same, greeting the Shadow with a hard embrace. “How you doin’?”
“We got ourselves a complication.” Trez stepped back and opened the door. “And not like you’re thinking.”
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