The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(21) by J.R.Ward
He closed his eyes. Why had he never considered this before?
It had taken him two further nights, two cycles of dawn and dusk, before he had developed a plan. The schedule of feedings, bathings, exercise, and study was never the same, as if purposely manipulated to a lack of pattern, and iAm’s comings and goings were likewise random, for as he was not the Anointed One, he had certain freedoms of movement, certain allowances to go out into the palace for exercise or nutrition—although even that was not set in stone.
During his deliberations, Trez had been assiduous about changing nothing about his affect, his attitude, his habits, but internally his mind had been creating, crafting, testing theories for complications or potential failures.
He had anticipated tarrying for even longer, but the moment came unexpectedly, courtesy of a dropped meal tray. A maidservant had slipped on the freshly polished marble floor, and food and plates and silverware had gone everywhere. iAm, ever the helpful one, had volunteered to help deal with the mess, and he and the maidservant had left in search of cleaning aids out in the corridor’s supply closets.
Click went the lock on the hidden cell door.
And that was that.
Moving fast, Trez had unclothed his body, tearing the fine mesh and the gemstones off of himself, ripping free the fasteners, popping all manner of buckles, belts, and securities. Then, naked and bleeding from the effort, he had closed his eyes and concentrated.
His anxiety had been so great, he had nearly failed, especially as he heard shouts outside of his door, the security cameras having reported his activities with alacrity and accuracy.
His conviction that this was his one and only chance had given him the grab to reach down and pull some greater strength out from his core.
Just before he went airborne, s’Ex had burst through the door, and they had locked eyes for a split second.
Then it was up and out through the air vent.
He had followed the duct system by staying with the current that ran against him, figuring that the draft would show him the way to the great outdoors. He’d been right. Moments later, he had scrambled out into the night, expelling himself high above his previous confines, so shocked that he had gotten away with it that he had nearly re-formed and fallen to the roof of the palace.
A quick collection of his wits and he had been off, with no direction, no further plan, no supplies, no money.
But freedom was priceless … and would eventually lead him to cross paths with a vampire who had changed the direction of his life—
Trez exploded out of his sleep just as he had that venting system, and for a split second, he had no fucking clue where he was.
A heartbeat later, though, a pair of amethyst eyes directly in front of his face brought everything back: the training center, Selena, the present, not the past.
Rehvenge put a hand out. “Whoa, easy. They’re almost finished bathing her.”
“Bathing her…” Trez rubbed his face and looked around, seeing a whole lot of concrete wall.
Christ, he was so exhausted, he’d crashed in the corridor outside of the examination room in the four-point-two seconds it had taken for him to sit his ass down and take a deep breath.
Rehvenge grunted as he used his cane to help himself down to the hard concrete floor. Stretching his legs out, he folded his full-length mink coat around his thighs, even though it was no colder than sixty-eight degrees.
“My Ehlena called me.” Rehv gave Trez the once-over and, going by his tight expression, didn’t like what he saw. “I would have been here sooner, but I was dealing with business up north.”
“How’re your colonists? Still psycho?”
“How are you?”
“I’m great, Your Highness.”
“Don’t try to fuck me, okay?”
“Sorry.” Trez let his head fall back against the cool wall. “I’m not at my best.”
Rehv glanced at the exam room’s closed door. “Where’s iAm?”
“Locker room. I think he went in there for a shower.”
“Knew he’d be down here with you.”
There was a stretch of quiet. And then Rehv said, “How long have we known each other?”
“A million years.”
The sin-eater laughed tightly. “Feels that way.”
“So why didn’t you tell me?”
“About…?” When Rehv just popped a brow, Trez took a shuddering breath. Of course the guy wanted to know about Selena and the bonding. “Look, I didn’t even want myself to be aware of how I felt about her. I just … shit, you know what I was like with the whores. How the hell am I bringing that to the table with someone like a Chosen? But now this. For fuck’s sake, all that wasted time. Not that we would have been together necessarily, but … maybe I could have helped. Or…”
Although, from what the other Chosen had had to say, it seemed like the disease or disorder, or whatever the fuck it was, was going to have its own course, regardless of what anyone did.
“I got some experience with that,” Rehv murmured. “When I met Ehlena? She didn’t know that I was half sin-eater, much less the heir to the throne of the symphaths. I sure as shit wasn’t in a big hurry to tell her, but it wasn’t like I could hide the tracks in my arms, or my impulses, or who I was. And remmy, I had the same night job you do now. Not exactly good news to bring on home to the little female. I fought it for as long as I could, and when the truth came out? I knew she was going to leave. Was convinced of it. For a while she did, and I had nothing but love for her anyway. In the end, though? Worked out.”
Trez wished he could take some inspiration from that. “Selena’s going to die.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Listen, I’m no fan of my subspecies, but we have know-how up north. Let me see what I can bring back for you.”
Trez cranked his head around and stared at the guy. “You don’t have to—”
Trez had to look away. “Don’t make me cry. I hate feeling like a pussy.”
“You’d do the same for me.”
“You’ve already saved me once.”
“I like to think we saved each other.”
Trez thought about the night the pair of them met. The how and the where, up in that cabin on the mountain, the one that was the first structure Trez had run into when he’d finally dropped himself out of the air … also the one where Rehv had had to do the duty with that nasty symphath Princess who’d been blackmailing him.
Trez had taken shelter when Rehv had arrived and fucked the bitch standing up a couple of times. Afterward, she had left him in a mess on the floor, the poison she’d put on her skin having leveled Rehvenge.
Caring for the guy had only seemed natural.
And in return? He and that purple-eyed bastard had become brothers of a sort. To the point where, when iAm had turned up on the outside, the three of them had fallen in together, Trez’s loyalty and gratitude indenturing him and his kin to the sin-eater.
If he knew one and only one thing about Rehvenge after all these years, it was that he was a male of worth. In spite of being a pimp and a club owner, a degenerate and a reprobate, an evil-hearted, sadistic SOB … he was, and always would be, one of the finest males Trez had ever known.
“I’ll get going then,” Rehv said.
With another round of that grunting, the male got to his feet, and when he was on the vertical with that mink coat dusting the bald floor of the training center, he cleared his throat and didn’t look at Trez. Not a surprise, and kind of a gift. Trez didn’t deal well with big emotions either.
“Thank you,” Trez said roughly.
“Save the gratitude for if I bring back something worth having.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.”
Rehv leaned down, offering his dagger hand. “Anything I got is yours.”
Trez had to blink hard. Then pass his hand over his eyes. “Your friendship’s all I need, my man. ’Cuz it’s pretty damn priceless.”
As iAm walked out of the men’s locker room, he checked to make sure the buttons on his shirt had been done up properly. The shower lasted only five minutes, tops, but the water had been ice-cold, and he guessed he felt a little more with it.
Hard to tell with all the brain fry he had going on.
He stopped as he looked up and saw Trez and Rehv linked by their palms. For some reason, the quiet moment between the males took him back to the night Trez had escaped.
So strange the paths that crossed when you least expected it.
Rehv glanced over as the pair released their grips. “Hey, iAm.”
Like they were at some kind of funeral, the two of them met in the middle and did the backslapper embrace guys rocked when there were too many feels in the air. A moment later, Rehv left without a backward glance, striding down to the office, his floor-length mink billowing out behind him, his red cane plugging into the floor to keep his balance.
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