The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(36) by J.R.Ward
“Aw, come on. Don’t be like that.”
“Fuck you. I’m more than just a pair of ovaries you can put a ring on.”
She hung up and thought about throwing her phone across the room. When she couldn’t manage to follow through on the impulse, she then got worried that all the manners that had been inbred and reinforced in her meant Peyton was right.
She was just a hothouse flower, good for nothing but tea parties and young and—
As the cell started ringing again, she tossed it onto her duvet, got down on her floor, and planted her palms flat on her needlepoint rug. Kicking out her legs, she balanced on the balls of her feet.
“Right,” she said, gritting her teeth. “Up and down. Like a hundred times.”
She got the down right on the first try, her arms more than willing to oblige. And as her nose came in contact with the depiction of a vase of flowers, she was in full-on beast mode, ready to punch it up and hit this hard.
Up was … only okay.
Down again to the carpet. Annnnnd up.
Sort of. The muscles in her upper arms started to tremble; her elbows wobbled; her shoulders ached.
She did three. Or, like, two and a half. Before she collapsed on the—
“What are you doing?”
With a yelp, Paradise flipped herself over. Her father was in the doorway to her bedroom, putting away the key he’d used to open things up—and his eyebrows had popped so high on his forehead, they were all the way to the base of his hairline.
“Push-ups,” she said as she panted.
Ask him, she thought. Just come right out and say, I want to join the Brotherhood’s training center program—
Her phone started to ring again.
“Do you need to get that?” her father asked.
“No. Father, I have a—”
“Something has arisen, dear one.” He shut and relocked the door. “And I must be frank with you.”
Paradise brought her legs up and circled her arms around them. “Have I done something wrong?”
“Oh, indeed no.” He shook his head as he looked at her. “You are the very best daughter any male could e’er ask for.”
As her phone went silent, she had to wonder how many of Peyton’s views her father shared. And how many times Peyton was going to try to call her back.
“I need you to pack up some things,” he said.
Paradise recoiled. “Why?”
“I’m going to ask you to leave the house for a couple of weeks.”
A cold flush went through her. “What did I do?”
“Oh, love.” He came over and knelt down. “Nothing. It is just, I think you might enjoy having a job.”
Now she was the one with the mile-high eyebrows. “Really?”
She had broached the subject a number of months ago, when yet another night taking piano lessons and doing complicated, multi-stitched needlepoint had made her feel like she was losing her mind. But he had carefully denied her in the interest of her safety—a point she had both respected and been frustrated by.
It was hard to argue that the world wasn’t a very dangerous place for vampires.
“What’s changed?” Then she thought about their distant relation. “Wait, is that male going to continue to stay here?”
“It has naught to do with him. Rather, my work as First Adviser is growing more complicated and burdensome and I require someone I may trust with the King’s business to help me. I can think of no one more appropriate than yourself.”
“Really,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “There isn’t some other reason?”
“For truth. I promise you.” He smiled. “So what do you say—would you like to work with me?”
With a sudden lunge of happiness, she tackled her father in a hug. “Oh, thank you! Yes! I’m so excited!”
He laughed. “Okay, but you’ll have to move into the King’s audience mansion. Worry not, you shall not be alone. You may take your maid doggen, and the Brotherhood have the building fully staffed—”
Paradise leaped up to her feet and ran to her walk-in closet. Throwing the doors open, she started pulling out pieces from her set of monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage.
“I’ll be ready in a half hour! Fifteen minutes!” She yanked out built-in drawers, fisting up underwear, bras, tank tops. “Oh, will you get Vuchie? She’ll be so excited!”
Dimly, she heard her father chuckle. “As you wish, my lady. As you wish.”
Rhage re-formed on the lawn of Darius’s former mansion and strode up to the front entrance. The second he came into the house, he heard a series of gasps, and glanced to the left. In the parlor, there were a number of civilians clustered in an awkward, standing group, like they didn’t feel comfortable sitting on all the fancy silk-covered furniture—and their eyes were popped large at the sight of him.
Yeah, his reputation still preceded him.
Geez, you’re a slut for a couple of centuries, and people just can’t let that shit go after you get properly mated.
It was a PITA, and on an ordinary night, he would have gone over and introduced himself just to bring his Mary up in conversation.
Tonight, though, he headed to the closed doors of what had once been the dining room. Knocking twice, he said, “It’s me.”
Tohr opened things up with a “What’s doin’,” and Rhage stepped into the cavernous, mostly barren room: All they had in there were a bunch of armchairs, a desk with an office chair, and some ancillary seats in case an audience had a lot of guest ass to accommodate.
“No explosives,” Wrath was saying from one of the armchairs. “No traps.”
V was in the process of lighting up a hand-rolled, and as he exhaled, the scent of Turkish tobacco drifted over. “Hollywood and I went through the place with a fine-toothed comb. They had been there, clearly. Had just left as far as we could tell. But they hadn’t bothered to try to fuck us.”
With his dagger hand, Wrath stroked the boxy blond head of the golden retriever who helped him get around. George, ever adoring of his master, had his face turned to the King, his throat offered freely. “So Throe didn’t lie.”
“Not about that at least,” V muttered.
Rhage glanced around at the faces of his brothers. Z and Phury were standing together as they always did. Qhuinn was next to Z, and then Blay and John Matthew, even though the males weren’t members, were beside him. Butch was opposite the King, propping his forearms on top of an armchair and leaning his weight in; V was behind him. Tohr stayed by the door.
“So what next,” Rhage asked.
“We wait.” Wrath bent down further and scratched at the dog’s ruff. “If he’s got shit to stir, he’ll hang himself. The aristocracy will have to be monitored—we need an inside source there. Any ideas?”
At that moment, there was another knock. Tohr put his ear to the panels and then cracked the door. “Ask and ye shall receive.”
Abalone leaned in. “My lord? I’m sorry to intrude, but may I please make the presentation of mine blooded daughter prior to us getting started with tonight’s audiences?”
Wrath gestured the male forward with his free hand. “Yeah. Bring her in.”
Abalone ducked out and there was a hushed conversation. Then he reappeared, ushering in a sapling of a female. With her blond hair, slight build, and long legs, she was on the Arctic Princess spectrum of the fairer sex.
Pretty. Very pretty. Maybe even beautiful—although she didn’t hold a candle to his Mary.
Abalone walked the girl forward, one hand at her elbow, his fatherly pride plumping up his chest. “My esteemed ruler, great King of all—”
“Yeah, yeah, enough with that,” Wrath cut in. “Paradise, I understand you’re moving into my shellan’s and her brother’s house here. Welcome.”
As the black diamond was offered, Paradise bent at the waist, her hands shaking so badly they seemed to shimmer in the light from the chandelier.
“My lord,” she whispered before kissing the stone.
Releasing his hand, she straightened and stared at the floor, her shoulders curling into her chest, her feet locked together.
“You want to meet my dog?” the King asked.
George, ever up for a good head rub, thumped his tail on the floor, the sound like someone was beating a rope into the hardwood.
“Pet him,” Wrath said. “You’re allowed.”
The girl glanced around at the Brotherhood, her eyes sticking to the shitkicker level. And that was when Rhage felt sorry for her. A lot of the aristocracy sat on their females so hard, they were rarely around males they were not related to—so this was no doubt the first time she had been in the same room with so much testosterone.
“G’head, George. Go say hi.”
At Wrath’s urging, the dog padded forward and sat his fluffy butt down right in front of her, his ears pricking, that tail sweeping back and forth.
“Is … he a boy?” she asked softly as she lowered herself to the floor and reached up to all the fur.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online