The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(6) by J.R.Ward
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Selena. You’ve bonded with her.”
Trez cursed and scrubbed his face. “Ah, no. Not really.”
“A very wise person once told me … lie to anybody you want, just never yourself.”
“Look, I don’t know—”
“So is that why you’ve been gone from the house so much?”
Trez considered staying on the blow-smoke train, but what was the use. He’d just attacked a male he respected, a male who, P.S., was totally and completely in love with his own female, just because the guy had taken the vein—and nothing else—of a Chosen trained to be of service in that way.
If that didn’t put the bonded-male stamp on his forehead, he didn’t know what would.
“I just…” Trez shook his head. “Fuck. Me. Fine, I’ve bonded—and I can’t be around her feeding you all. I mean, I know it’s a necessary service, and it stops at the vein, yada, yada, yada. But it’s too dangerous. I’m liable to do that”—he nodded at Rhage—“at any moment.”
“She won’t have you? I know it can’t be because of Phury. He respects the shit out of you.”
Yeah, he and the Primale, who was responsible for all of the Chosen, were cool. Too bad that wasn’t the issue. “It’s just not going to work out.”
“Can we get back to why a lesser has Assail’s drugs on him?”
“No offense, but I just cut you some huge slack by not turning your jugular into a sink drain. Think you can do me the honor of being honest?”
Trez looked down at his hands, and flexed the fingers out in a fan. “Even if I hadn’t slept with a thousand human women, I’m not exactly a free man.”
“Rehv said your debt to him is more than repaid.”
“The tie that binds me is not to him.”
“So who owns your leash.”
There was a long, low whistle. “In what way?”
Funny that he’d spent so much time with the Brotherhood and never told them anything about the anvil over his head. Then again, for so long all he’d done was try to pretend it wasn’t there himself.
“I’m supposed to service the heir to the throne.”
“When did this happen?”
“Birth. Mine, that is.”
V frowned. “The Queen know where you are?”
“You should have disclosed this to us before you moved in. Not saying we wouldn’t have harbored you, but your people can be very particular about who they associate with. We got enough problems without a diplomatic issue with the s’Hisbe.”
“There may be an extenuating circumstance, though.” As his phone started to vibrate in his shirt pocket, he reached in and shut it off without looking at who the call was from. “I’ve been in neutral. With the possibility of either a head-on collision with a semi or a swerve that could save me.”
“Selena know any of this?”
“She knows some of it.”
The Brother inclined his head. “Well, it’s your story to tell—at least with respect to the Chosen. As it impacts Wrath and our throne, though? All bets are off.”
“Any night. I’ll know any night—the Queen’s due to give birth literally any moment.”
“I keep nothing from my King.”
Trez felt his phone go off again and he silenced it a second time. “Just tell him the dice are still rolling. We don’t know what we got. Maybe the star chart will not match mine—and then I’ll be free.”
“Will pass that on.”
There was a period of silence, and then Trez started to squirm. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
When there was no answer, he got to his feet, and brushed off his ass. And still those diamond eyes stared at him. “Hello? V—what the fuck.”
“You’re running out of time,” the Brother said in a low voice. “On two fronts.”
Trez’s phone went off again, but he wouldn’t have answered the damn thing even if he’d wanted to. “What are you talking about.”
“There are two females. And in both cases, you’re running out of time.”
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re—”
“Yeah, you do. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
No, because there was only one ticking time bomb in his life, thank God. “Is Rhage going to wake up, or does he need a crash cart?”
“This is not about him.”
“Well, it ain’t about me either. Seriously, does he require medical help?”
“No. And that is not what we’re talking about.”
“Wrong pronoun, buddy. I’m not in this conversation.”
Besides, who knew, maybe if the s’Hisbe shit went his way, he could work on the situation with Selena. After all, if he wasn’t the Anointed One, he was free to be …
Shit, unless he gave up his work here, he’d still be a pimp. In recovery from his sex addiction. Who was going to need therapy to get over bad-destiny PTSD.
Yeah, wow. Bachelor of the year over here.
And hell, it wasn’t like Selena seemed to miss him—and he didn’t blame her. His past with all those human women, even though he’d stopped with the whoring as soon as he’d kissed her, was nothing romantic. It was downright disgusting.
The months of celibacy hardly made up for his efforts to deliberately stain his physical body—
“I’m having a vision of you.” V rubbed his eyes.
“Look, unless you need me, I’ma—”
“For you, the statue will waltz.”
As Trez’s phone went off again, he found that the heebs had overtaken every square inch of his body. “With all due respect, I have no clue what you’re talking about. Take care of that Brother for however long you need to, no one’s going to disturb you here.”
“Be present. Even when you think it will kill you.”
“No offense, V, but I’m not hearing this. Later.”
In the training center’s medical suite, Luchas, son of Lohstrong, lay on his back in a hospital bed with his torso and head propped up on pillows. His broken body was stretched out before him, rather like a landscape raked by bombs, scars and missing pieces transforming that which had previously functioned normally and well into a hodgepodge of painful, debilitating dysfunction.
His left leg was the biggest problem.
Ever since he had been rescued from that oil drum the lessers had imprisoned him in, he had been in a period of “rehabilitation.”
Odd word for what was really going on for him. The official definition, as he had looked it up on a tablet, was to restore someone or something to its former state of normal functioning.
After so many months of physical and occupational therapy, however, he was confident in concluding that the nightly mental and bodily grind of movements both small and large was getting him no closer to his former self than it was successfully turning back time. The only things he knew for sure were: he was in pain; he still couldn’t walk; and the four walls of this hospital room, that were all he had known since he had been locked in that cramped stasis, were driving him insane.
Not for the first time, he wondered how his life had come to this.
And that was stupid. He knew the facts oh, so well. The night of the raids, the slayers had infiltrated his family’s regal home, as they had so many others. They had slaughtered his father and his mahmen, and done the same to his sister. When they had come to him, they had decided to spare his life so that he could be used as a guinea pig, a test for whether a vampire could be turned into a lesser. Incapacitating him, they had packed him away in an oil drum at some location and had stored him in the Omega’s blood.
There had been no experimentation, however. They had lost interest in him, or forgotten about him, or some other outcome had transpired.
Unable to get free, he had suffered in the black viscous void, living but barely alive, waiting for his doom to come, for what had felt like an eternity.
Unsure whether he had been in some way turned.
His mind, once a thing he had held with great pride for its scholarly achievement and capacity, had become as crippled as his body, twisting in on itself, once clear pathways of thought tangling into a dark nightmare of paranoia and terror.
And then his brother, the one he had never had time for, the one he’d looked down upon, the one he’d always felt so superior to … had arrived and become his savior. Qhuinn, the deviant with the blue eye and the green eye, the family embarrassment with the critical defect, the one who had been kicked out of the house and therefore not at home when the attack occurred, had turned out to be the only reason he had gotten free.
That male had also turned out to be the strongest member of the bloodline, living and working with the Black Dagger Brotherhood, fighting with honor, defending the Race against the enemy with distinction.
Whilst Luchas, the former golden boy, the heir to the mantle that no longer existed … was now the one with the defects.
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