The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(16) by J.R.Ward
He hated that her shoes had fallen off.
He hated that he couldn’t do one fucking thing to save her.
He hated the burden he carried with the s’Hisbe and everything it had made him do to his body—because maybe if his parents hadn’t sold him to the Queen, he wouldn’t have fucked all those humans, and maybe he would have been even slightly worthy of her. And then he wouldn’t have missed all those months. And maybe he could have seen something, or done something, or—
Like the conversation around him, the thoughts continued to pelt their way through his brain, but he couldn’t track them any more than he could whatever else was going on in the exam room. A violent roar had overtaken him, tsunami-ing through him, wiping everything away except a rage that could not be held in.
Trez wasn’t aware of moving. One minute he was holding on to Selena’s hand carefully; the next he was at the door to the examination room—then he was through it, his body exploding forward, more momentum than coordination.
Running, running … going by the jerks in his vision and the passing walls of the concrete corridor, he was running …
And there was a lot of noise. The empty hall was echoing with some kind of tremendous noise, like the gear of a great machine had locked or was grinding—
Something tackled him from behind before he reached the exit into the parking garage, an iron bar hold locking around him.
“Drop it,” came the shout in his ear. “Drop it … come on, now. Drop it—”
Trez shook his head. “What…?”
“Drop the gun, Trez.” iAm’s voice cracked. “I need you to drop the gun.”
Trez froze except for his panting breath, and tried to make sense of what his brother was saying.
“Oh, Jesus, Trez, please…”
Shaking his head, Trez … gradually became aware that there was, in fact, someone’s forty in his right hand. Probably his own. He always wore one in the club.
And what do you know, the muzzle was up against his own temple—and unlike back with those X-ray plates, his hand wasn’t shaking at all.
“Drop it for me, Trez.” With his finger on the trigger the way it was, his brother obviously didn’t dare try to take control of the weapon for fear of causing a discharge. “You gotta put the gun down.”
At that moment, everything became clear: him bursting up, bolting fast, breaking out of the exam room and into the corridor. Running down toward the parking garage as he palmed his weapon.
Intending to blow his brains out as soon as he was free of the training center.
He’d had the conception that maybe, if there was actually a Fade, he and Selena could meet on the other side and come together, in a way they never could down on Earth.
“Trez, she’s still alive. Don’t you do this. You want to kill yourself? Wait until her heart stops beating, but not before that. Not one fucking moment before that.”
Trez pictured Selena back on that table, and thought, Shit …
iAm, as always, was right.
The shaking returned as he began to lower his arm, and he moved slowly for fear of some twitch setting the forty off. But he didn’t need to worry about that. As soon as that muzzle was out of the range of his gray matter, his brother took over, disarming him quick as a breath and putting the safety in place.
Trez stood there numbly as iAm patted him down and removed a couple more weapons, and then he allowed himself to be led back to that examination room and the group of people standing shocked and still around its door.
Not before she was gone, he told himself. Not while she was still here.
Unfortunately, he feared that was not likely to be very long at all.
Paradise, blooded daughter of Abalone, First Adviser to the King, frowned at the screen of her Apple lappy. She’d set herself up here in her father’s library ever since he’d started working each night for Wrath, son of Wrath, because in the old rambling Tudor mansion, Wi-Fi was strongest at this desk. Not that a good signal was helping her at the moment. Her Hotmail account was full of unread messages, because, with iMessage on her phone and her Twitter, Instagram, and FB accounts, there was no reason to sign into it very often.
“So hold up, what was it called?” she said into her cell.
“‘New Trainee Class,’” Peyton, blooded son of Peythone, replied. “I forwarded it to you, like, an hour ago.”
She sat forward in her father’s chair. “There’s just so much junk in here.”
“Wait, I got it.” She clicked and then clicked again on the attachment. “Wow. It’s on official letterhead.”
Paradise scanned the date, the personalized greeting to Peyton, the two paragraphs about the program, and the closing. “Holy … it’s signed by a Brother.”
“Tohrment, son of Hharm.”
“Well, if it’s a fake, someone’s going to catch some serious—”
“But did you see in the second paragraph?”
She refocused on the words. “Females? Whoa, whoa … they’re accepting females?”
“I know, right?” There was a bubbling noise and an exhale as Peyton took another hit. “It’s unprecedented.”
Paradise reread the letter, this time more carefully. Operative words leaped out at her: Open tryouts for the training program. Females and civilians welcome to take physical performance test for entrance. Sessions taught by the Brotherhood themselves. Tuition? Nada.
“What are they thinking?” Peyton muttered. “I mean, this is supposed to be for the glymera sons only.”
“Not anymore, apparently.”
As Peyton went off on a commentary about the fairer sex and traditional roles at home and in the field, Paradise sat back in the leather armchair. Next to her, logs set by the household’s doggen crackled with orange flames in the marble-faced hearth, the warmth hitting one side of her face and half of her body. All around, her father’s library glowed with yellow light and polished mahogany and the gold accents on the spines of his collection of first-edition books.
The mansion they lived in was one of Caldwell’s grandest, with forty other rooms that were kitted out with equal luxury to this one, if not even greater: Beautiful silks hung from diamond-paned leaded windows. Fine Oriental rugs stretched out across polished floors. Oil paintings of ancestors were mounted up the stairwells and featured prominently over mantels and sideboards. Fine china was set at a formal table for every meal, food cooked and served by the extensive staff.
She had lived here with her father for years upon years, tutored by other ladies of the glymera in all the things that made an aristocratic female mateable: Clothing. Entertaining. Etiquette. Being the chatelaine of an estate.
And what was it all leading up to? Her presentation party, which had been delayed, as with the Brotherhood’s training program, because of the raids two years ago.
Plans for her were likewise going to be reinstated, however. What was left of the aristocracy had moved back to Caldwell proper from their safe houses, and as she was of age, being at least four years out of her transition, it was time for her to find a mate.
God, how she dreaded all that—
“Hello?” Peyton said. “You still there?”
“Sorry, yes.” She jerked the phone away from her ear at a loud crackling sound. “What are you doing?”
“Opening up a bag of Cape Cod potato chips.” Crunch. Munch. “Oh, my hell, these are amazing…”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I still have half an ounce left. So I’m going to finish it and a bag of chips. Then probably crash—”
“No, about the training center program.”
“My father’s already told me I’m going. It’s fine, whatever. I haven’t really been doing anything for three years now, and I would have matriculated in when they first opened the facility up, but … well, you remember what happened.”
“Yeah, and you’d better stop smoking. They’re not going to like that.”
“What they don’t know can’t hurt them. Besides, I have First Amendment rights.”
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, for one, you’re not human, so their Constitution doesn’t apply to you. And two, that’s about freedom of speech, not freedom to light up.”
As Peyton took another hit, she pictured his handsome face, and his broad shoulders, and his very blue eyes. The two of them had known each other all their lives, their families having inter-married for generations, as all members of the aristocracy did.
It was the worst-kept secret in the glymera that his parents and her father had recently started talking about them getting mated—
The great bass sound of the front entrance’s door knocker brought her head around.
“Who is that?” she said, getting to her feet and leaning forward so she could see out into the foyer.
Their butler, Fedricah, strode across the floor, and though her father never answered the door himself, he, too, came out of his private study across the way.
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