The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(27) by J.R.Ward
Abalone didn’t mean to, but before he knew it, his hands were reaching forward and clasping Wrath’s palm. Bringing the King’s black diamond to his lips, he kissed the ring.
And thought once again, Thank the Scribe Virgin that the right male was on the throne.
“My loyalty is to you, my lord,” he breathed. “And you alone.”
Once Wrath was not just off the property, but out of the zip code, it was time to give Throe the middle finger and go Hardy Boys with the addy the bastard had given them.
Rhage was the last to leave the library, and just for shits and giggles, as he filed by Throe, he pulled a Boo! move that left the fucker jumping back and putting his arms up to shield his face.
Out on the lawn, he front-and-centered his phone and texted: All well. Wrath et al ok. Off to secure 2ary local. He paused. And then typed, Wat r u wearing?
He was putting the thing away again when he frowned and sent a second one to somebody else. How r u? Need anything?
“Okay, we ready?” Vishous asked.
Phury and Z nodded as Rhage disappeared his cell and cracked his knuckles. “I want the Bastards to be there. I need some good hand-to-hand. Need to get it in.”
“Feel you,” someone muttered.
One by one, they disappeared and traveled in jumbles of molecules, heading for a very different kind of neighborhood. When they re-formed, it was at the head of a cul-de-sac in a real estate development full of two- to three-hundred-thousand-dollar homes that were probably lived in by people who were popping out kids, working two white-collar jobs at the bottom of the corporate ladder, and desperately wanting to upgrade their three-series BMWs to fives.
Yuppies on the rise.
No one made a sound as they went from passively armed to palmed up but good. The approach to the house in question was multi-fronted, the four of them splitting up and coming at the darkened colonial from each of the compass points.
Putting up his black hood so that the blond hair wasn’t such a screamer in the dark, Rhage took the back left corner, dematerializing through the woods, closing in while assuming cover behind trees. Sending his instincts out, he probed what might be under that roof, behind those solid walls, staying out of sight of the black windows.
Nothing alerted him to any presence. There were no flashes of light. No shadows moving inside. No sound, inside or out on the periphery.
Checking in with Z, who he could see out of his left eye, and Phury, who he tracked out of his right, he motioned upward … then dematerialized onto the roof.
The asphalt shingles gave good traction and he stayed in a crouch, well aware of what a good target he was, silhouetted against the night sky. There wasn’t a moon out, which was a bonus, but he was a goddamn sitting duck up here. Heading over to the chimney, he shouldered into the stack of bricks and mortar and listened.
No sounds again.
When the whistle came, it was from down below, and he closed his eyes and ghosted back to the ground.
Z, Vishous, and Phury were standing together in the rear.
“Nothing up there,” Rhage whispered.
“I don’t see anything inside,” Phury agreed.
V stared at the house. “Then we have to assume that it’s booby-trapped.”
Yup. That was exactly what he was thinking.
“You have anything to disarm shit with?” Rhage asked.
V rolled his diamond eyes. “I’m a fucking Boy Scout. What do you think.”
“What’s the approach?”
They decided to enter through one of the windows in the kitchen. Doors were too obvious, as was the chimney, and anything through the garage.
Going around to the back porch, V removed his lead-lined glove, got out his black dagger, and went over to the window above the sink. Putting the tip of the weapon to the glass, he moved the blade in a circle; then placed his glowing fingers on the inside of the cutout and removed the section so that it didn’t fall in.
Rhage glanced around, listening for anything: footsteps in the undergrowth, the click of a safety being taken off a gun, a whisper of clothing.
V snaked his normal hand through the hole he’d made and clicked on his penlight. Inside, a nothing-special kitchen was illuminated in the thin beam: refrigerator, stove, cabinets. More to the point, there was nothing suspicious, no boxes or bags with wires coming out of them in the middle of the room, no beeping lights, not even an alarm panel that was obvious.
“Ready?” V asked.
Rhage breathed in deep, testing the air that was escaping from the house. The scents were of male sweat, booze, tobacco, gun cleaner … a pizza … cooked meat.
And it was all fresh.
“I’m going first,” Rhage said. With his beast, he was the most likely to survive a bomb blast: any extremes of temperature, pain, or aggression, and his other side would be triggered in a split second, providing him with a set of scales that was better than any kind of Kevlar.
“Be careful, my brother,” Phury said.
“Always. I got meals to look forward to.”
Rhage ghosted in and took form on the linoleum. Cue the waiting. Again.
But there were no alarms going off. No ambushes. Nothing that screamed or even whispered attack.
He took a step forward. Another. A third, waiting for a hidden mine to get triggered.
Under his shitkickers, floorboards creaked and groaned.
That was it.
“Far enough, Hollywood,” V ordered through the window’s cutout. “Let me get in there.”
Vishous joined him as the twins stayed outside to monitor the exterior. With quick, practiced moves, V put on a headset and looked around. Took out an aerosol spray can and hit the go nozzle, moving in a circle.
“It’s clear, as far as I can see.”
Rhage glanced to the back door. “So that’s where the security pad is.”
The ADT panel had no lights glowing on its face, no green means go. No red means armed.
“We have to go through the whole house,” V said grimly.
Rhage nodded. “I’ll take care of the first floor.”
“We do it together.”
With careful steps, they headed into the front of the house, V sporting his gogs, Rhage’s skin prickling across his back as his beast joined the instinct parade.
The front room was clearly where the Bastards spent most of their time. There were a number of couches set at angles so they formed a circle, and the scents were the strongest in here—to the point that Rhage guessed the fighters had pulled the drapes and actually slept aboveground during daylight hours.
Detritus littered the floor: Empty ammo boxes that suggested they had both shotguns and forties. Dead-soldier bottles of Jack and Jim. Hannaford plastic bags filled with crushed protein-bar wrappers and Motrin bottles with the lids off and wads of surgical gauze marked with dried blood. An open Papa John’s box had a single slice left in it—that was cold, but not moldy.
“They do not live here anymore,” V said.
“And they up and left fast,” Rhage muttered as he poked at another Hannaford bag with the steel tip of his shitkicker.
There wasn’t a single backpack. Duffel. Piece of luggage. And although he wouldn’t have counted the Band of Bastards as any kind of Town & Country types with the personal effects, there wasn’t even a stray sock, backup set of combat boots, or a fucking comb left behind.
As Rhage came around to the base of the stairs, he felt his phone vibrate in the inside pocket of his leather jacket. No checking the thing, though. He wasn’t about to get goat-fucked in this shell of a house, and the farther he and his brother went in, the greater the chances that they’d run into something that could cost them an arm. A leg.
That was the reality of their jobs, and something he accepted, because one, he wasn’t about to let nobody push around his race or its King, whether it was a bunch of shitty-smelling slayers or Xcor’s circle of douches. And two, it wasn’t like he was suited to do anything else.
Well, other than eat and fuck, and God knew he took care of business on those two fronts very, very well during his time off.
Hell, even with all the high alert going on here, in the back of his mind, he was already counting down the hours until he could get his Mary really fucking naked.
Nights like tonight made him think fondly of going down on her for about seven hours straight.
Shaking himself back into focus, he approached the base of the stairs.
“I’m going up,” he told his brother.
“Wait for me.”
But of course, he didn’t. He just headed on up, one foot after the other after the other. Probably a stupid move, but he’d never been good at waiting.
Just not part of his nature.
As Trez stood in the corner of Selena’s hospital room, he felt … shit, totally cornered.
He didn’t want to be angry with the female. For fuck’s sake, she’d nearly died in front of him.
“What?” she said. “What’s on your mind.”
The good news was that he had watched, over the last twenty minutes or so, as her coloring had returned in full, how her eyes were now sharp as tacks, as her body, though still stiff, was so much closer to normal.
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