The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(41) by J.R.Ward
For a moment, he was confused. Scribe Virgin. Some strange, mystical place. Selena in the grass, in the clinic, frozen, frozen—
A soft moan shattered the straddle between nightmare and reality.
Jerking around, he saw Selena lying in his bed, her naked shoulders showing above the sheets, her dark hair loose over his white pillowcase, her face and body turned away from him.
Closing his eyes, he sagged, and wished it had all just been a bad dream.
But then he refocused and got about his female, pulling the duvet up higher to keep her warm, discreetly leaning over and reassuring himself she was still breathing, wondering if he should go find some food for her.
As if she sensed his presence, she rolled over, her face tightening in her sleep like it hurt her to move.
Fuck. The sex had been out of control, raw, rough. Right after her body had been through so much.
Damn him, he thought as he dragged a palm down his face. How could he have done that to her? He should have jerked himself off until his cock had lost all sensation.
Worse? He wasn’t sure they had actually worked things out between them. Shit knew, he still felt like an asshole.
Reaching across to the bedside table, he got his phone and checked the time. Five forty-four a.m.
There was going to be no more sleep for him. Sliding free of the sheets, he padded into the bathroom, shut the door, used the facilities, and took a quick shower. Then he was back out, picking up his pair of earbuds from the bedside table’s drawer and putting them in place before he did a bed reinsertion.
Moving slowly, he was just as careful getting back in as he had been on his evac, maneuvering his nearly three-hundred-pound weight onto the pillow-top mattress without displacing her like she was on a trampoline.
When he was resettled, he pulled a quick check of his female and was relieved to find she was still sleeping. Which kind of terrified him. What if she were in a coma or—
As if she were searching for him, she patted around on the duvet.
“I’m right here,” he whispered.
Instantly, she stilled her searching, and as he took her hand, her palm was warm, vital, just as it always had been.
He took a moment to study her fingers, bending them one by one, measuring the movement, checking for resistance. Which wasn’t right, he thought.
It was unfair to try to solicit information from her body without her knowledge and awareness—and by way of apology, he stopped himself and smoothed the pink nail beds and the short white semi-circles she trimmed regularly.
As sleep reclaimed her, he felt … paralyzingly alone. Even though they were side by side, him propped up against the headboard, her nestled in close to his body, he couldn’t seem to connect with her. He told himself it was simply a matter of asleep and awake. That was the divide—nothing scarier than the fact that her brain waves would read differently than his on a CAT scan.
It was bullshit, of course. And the harder he tried to force himself to believe the lie, the more trapped he felt—so to derail the internal fight, he turned on SiriusXM radio on his phone, jacked the plug of his earphones into the ass of his handset, and tried to get comfortable. Or somewhat comfortable.
Or … at least not consumed by the need to jump out of his own skin.
Naturally, because his luck sucked, the first thing he heard on the radio was more bad news.
“Are you kidding me?” he blurted out loud as Howard Stern’s voice piped into his skull. “Eric the Actor is d—”
Selena’s brows tightened like she was considering waking up and he closed his piehole. But he couldn’t believe another wack packer had been lost. It just seemed cruel in light of everything he was going through.
Shit, it was as if bad news was making a concerted effort to come out of the shadows and find him.
Selena woke up slowly, and the scent of Trez’s body was the first thing she noticed. The sound of his voice the next. The feel of his hand in hers the third.
Opening her lids, she found him sitting up next to her in his bed, his black eyes rapt on his phone, his brows down as if he’d received upsetting news through a text or—
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
When he didn’t answer her, she saw that he had wires running from the phone to his ears like he was listening to something.
The instant she squeezed his hand, he jumped so high he popped the ear thingies free.
“Oh, my God! You’re awake.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to—”
“Shit, no, don’t be—are you all right? Do you need Doc Jane—”
“No, no…” She tried to get her brain working. “I’m fine. I just … you seem upset?”
As he looked at her, the only sound in the room was the hiss coming from what had been in his ears.
She pulled the covers up higher. “Is there something wrong with me?”
“Oh, God, no. I, ah, no—it’s nothing.” He glanced at his phone. “Just, someone who was on the Stern Show d—”
When he stopped, his eyes got wide, as if he had almost said something unforgivable.
“Died?” she finished for him.
“You can still say the word.” She squeezed his hand again. “Honestly.”
Trez cleared his throat and put the phone aside. “Are you hungry?”
He fidgeted with the sheets. The duvet. “Warm enough?”
Frowning, she pushed herself upright and sat back against the pillows. Looking over at him, she smiled. “I’m glad I came up here. To talk to you and … do those other things.”
“You are?” His eyes, those beautiful almond-shaped eyes, swung back to her. “Really? I feel like I was too hard on you when we…”
She smiled even wider. “I really, really lost my virginity now.”
He blushed. Actually blushed, a red stain hitting his high cheekbones. “I worried I’d hurt you.”
“Not at all. When can we do it again—”
Trez’s coughing fit was sudden and loud, and she had to pound him on the back before he started breathing right again.
“You okay?” she said, still smiling.
“Ah, yeah. You just have a way of surprising me.”
For a split second, she remembered him coming to her in the Sanctuary. Even though she had been in an Arrest at the time, she had known the instant he had arrived. It had been a miracle. But how had he known?
“How did you find me? Up in the Sanctuary?”
He shook his head slowly. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“The Scribe Virgin. I was at my club and dealing with some stuff—Rhage and V were with me. All of a sudden this … figure appeared … black robes, light under the hem, voice that I heard inside here”—he tapped his head—“rather than through my ears. Next thing I know? I’m … well, anyway. I was with you.”
Now she was the one fiddling with things. “I’m really sorry.”
“About you seeing me like that. About … all of this.”
“Fucking hell—like I said before, as if you’d volunteer to be sick?”
“I know, but still. I wish…” She tried to tilt her head back so she could look at the ceiling, but her neck was too painful.
“It’s nothing unusual. This is how I always feel after I … well, anyhow.”
Guess two could play at the avoidance game.
“This is so unnatural,” she blurted.
She had to turn her torso so that she could look at him properly. And absently, she measured how good his dark skin looked against the white sheets, the contrast making both seem to glow.
Selena tried to find the words. “I feel like there’s this huge … I don’t know, divide or something … between us. It makes no sense. I mean, you’re right here beside me—but there are words that we’re tripping over, subjects we don’t want to talk about. It’s just … well, it sucks. Because right now? This is the good part. I mean, check me out.”
She lifted her free hand and splayed her fingers wide; then wiggled them.
“Mobile and awake is so much better than where I was, right?” When he simply stared at her, she felt like a fool. “I’m sorry, I guess that sounds weird—”
Trez leaned in and kissed her quiet, his lips lingering. “No.” He eased back. “It’s … I know what you mean. It’s not crazy, and you’re right. Now is the good part—”
“You are so hot.”
Trez let out another cough. “Damn, female. What are you like.”
“I told you last night—or, jeez, what time is it? Anyway, I told you before, I’m all about honesty now.”
His lids dropped low. “Being straight up suits me just fine. So lemme ask you, if I were to pick you up and carry you into the shower, would you—”
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