The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(14) by J.R.Ward
Taking out his phone, he glanced down … and found that his call had not been returned.
Given the state of Throe’s defection? It was imperative that he get hold of his Chosen—and now he worried that mayhap Throe had gotten to her first and that was why there had been a no-show.
“So?” Zypher said. “Whatever is she like?”
Cue a sudden silence, which seemed to have crashed through the noise.
And he was shocked to find that he wanted to tell them. He had held this in for how long?
With halting words, he said, “She is … the moon in my night sky. And that is the beginning, middle, and end of it. There is no more to be told than that, and never shall I speak of her again.”
As he departed and went o’er to the stairs, he could feel their eyes on him—and they were not regarding him with disdain. No, try as they might to hide it, there was pity flowing from them all—an acknowledgment of the ugliness of his face, and the mismatched nature of a romance for him with any female, much less one of Chosen status.
He paused with his hand on the balustrade. “By sunset tomorrow, have all provisions and property packed up. We must needs leave this location and find another. This house is no longer secure.”
Mounting the stairs, he heard the acquiescence of his fighters. And felt a stinging gratitude that they had picked him to continue to lead them.
In opposition to Throe’s more obvious intelligence, breeding, background … and looks.
Let us hear it for the deformed, he thought as he shut himself in his bedroom. Though much had been lost to him over the centuries of his life, courtesy of his harelip and his coarseness, those soldiers below valued him.
And he valued them in return.
iAm returned to the Brotherhood’s great stone mansion just before sunrise, jogging up the steps to the cathedral-like entrance, and pushing his way into the vestibule. Following protocol, he put his face into the security camera’s eye and waited.
A moment later, the inner door opened and a cheery old puss greeted him—along with the rich scents of a well-cooked Last Meal.
“Good late evening, sire,” Fritz, the butler, said with a bow. “How ever are you?”
“Hey, listen, have you seen my brother? I’m trying to find—”
“Yes, he’s returned.”
iAm nearly cursed with relief. “That’s great. Just great.”
At least the poor bastard was home safe and in a secure environment. But, Christ, Trez could at least have shot a text back that he was alive. How many times had that cell of his been unanswered—
From over on the left, a fast-moving shadow leaped up from the mosaic floor, going full-blown missile right at him.
iAm caught Goddamn Cat, also known as Boo, in his arms. He absolutely despised the animal—especially lately, as the fleabag had started sleeping with him during the day. All that cuddling. Purring.
Worse? He was getting used to the torture.
“Sorry?” iAm scratched the cat’s throat and made Boo’s eyeballs roll back. “I didn’t hear a thing that you just said.”
“My apologies.” The butler bowed again even though it was not his fault. “The Chosen Selena has fallen ill and been taken unto the clinic. Trez is attending her as she is being treated—I believe the Primale and Cormia have gone down there as well? I’m sorry to say, but her condition appears to be quite serious.”
“Damn it…” iAm closed his eyes and let his head fall back on his spine. They’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was supposed to have been about the s’Hisbe. Not the Chosen his brother had been so attracted to. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I do not believe a diagnosis has been ascertained.”
Shit. “Okay, thanks, man, I’ll go—”
The Chosen Layla appeared in the archway of the billiards room, Qhuinn and Blay tight on her heels. “Forgive me, but did I just hear something about Selena?”
Letting the butler field that one, iAm headed off for the hidden door beneath the grand staircase—and he was not surprised when the others quickly fell in behind him.
Just as he punched in the code to open the sealed panels, a cell phone went off.
“Is that you again?” Qhuinn asked.
Layla silenced the ringer. “It’s just a human misdialing.”
“You want V to block the number?”
“Oh, there’s no reason to bother him.”
“Here, give it to me, and I’ll see—”
Layla returned the phone to the folds of her robing. “They won’t call again. Let’s go.”
After a subtle beeeeep sounded, iAm pulled things open and they descended a shallow staircase to a second locked door. On the far side of that was the underground tunnel that ran from the mansion to the training center, and farther still to the Pit, where V and Butch lived with their mates.
With each stride down the concrete-walled, short-ceilinged stretch of here-to-there, the tightness in iAm’s shoulders increased, the muscles along his spine clamping up so hard that the pain reverberated all the way to his temples.
When they emerged into the office, Tohr looked up from the computer. “It’s a convention down here tonight.”
“Selena’s sick,” Qhuinn muttered.
The Brother got to his feet. “What? I just saw her like an hour ago. She was going to feed Luchas and…”
Which was how they ended up with five sets of shoes and shitkickers heading into the corridor.
The training center was a huge subterranean facility that included everything from an Olympic swimming pool, a target range, a weight room, a PT suite, and a full-size gym, to equipment rooms and a complement of classrooms that had been used for trainee teaching before the raids. There were also extensive medical facilities, with surgical suites and recovery rooms—and that was what they were gunning for.
The fact that people were clustered around the closed door of the examination room was not a good sign: Phury, Cormia, Rhage and Vishous were in anxious-wait mode, pacing, staring at the floor, twitching.
“Oh, thank God,” Phury said as he saw iAm. “Trez is going to be glad you’re here. We were trying to get hold of you.”
Probably why his own phone had been going off—but he’d been ignoring the thing while leaving the condo and going to try to find Trez at shAdoWs.
“They’re X-raying her,” V said. “That’s why we’re out here. Trez isn’t leaving her.”
Layla frowned. “Why are they doing that? Did she break a—”
Cormia went over to the other Chosen and took Layla’s hands. Soft words were exchanged and then Layla gasped and weaved on her feet. As Qhuinn steadied her, iAm decided that whatever it was, he needed to get in there.
“I’m not waiting,” he said, putting the cat down and pushing the door wide.
At first, he couldn’t figure out what he was looking at. As the heavy panel shut behind him soundlessly, he focused on what looked like table legs on the examination platform. Except … it was Selena. Her slender calves and thighs were bent, separated abnormally and held rigid at bad angles, as if she were in great pain—and it wasn’t just her lower body that was affected. Her head position was all wrong, and her arms were twisted up against her chest, even her fingers cranked into claws.
She looked as if she were in some kind of seizure.
Doc Jane was moving a large piece of machinery into position over Selena’s shoulder, and her nurse, Ehlena, was following behind so that the various cords didn’t get tangled. Trez was by Selena’s head, his trembling hands stroking that black hair.
He didn’t even look up. Didn’t seem to be aware that someone else had entered the room. Wasn’t even breathing.
“Okay, Ehlena, the plate?” The doctor accepted something that was the size of an eight-and-a-half-by-eleven piece of paper, but had the thickness of a finger. Wires connected to one end of it led to a laptop that sat on a rolling table. “I’m going to try to get the elbow here.”
The plate was slid under the joint, and then Doc Jane glanced at Trez. “Do you want to hold this one as well?”
He nodded and reached over, doing the duty. “I won’t move this time.”
“These are digital X-rays, so we can just do it over, okay?” The doctor gave Trez’s arm a quick squeeze. “We’re going to step behind the partition now.”
Doc Jane looked up and jumped a little, as if she, too, were so intent on her patient, she hadn’t known he’d come in, either. “Oh, iAm, good—but listen, you might want to leave while we—”
“I’m going nowhere.”
“I can’t…” Trez cursed. “I can’t keep this steady.”
Without a word, iAm went across the tiled floor and put his hand on his brother’s, stopping the vibration. “Let me help.”
Trez didn’t jump. Didn’t start. But his eyes shifted over, and oh, God, those eyes … they were black pits of sadness.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online