The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(42) by J.R.Ward
“Get on my knees again under the hot spray and see if you taste as good as I remember?”
The sound that came out of him was not a cough. But it wasn’t a coherent statement, either. It was part growl, part groan, with a little moan thrown in for good measure, like he was getting ready to beg …
It was pretty much the sexiest thing she had ever heard.
“Is that a yes?” she drawled.
He kissed her again, harder this time. Longer, too. Then he pegged her with eyes that were boiling. “Shit, I’m dying over here—”
As Trez stopped himself again, she got thrown by that word herself. When it came to the two of them, one was, in fact, dying. It was her, not him, though.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I won’t say that ever again.”
“It’s all right.” She forced herself to smile. “Let’s wash our cares away—”
“I’m going to find a cure for this,” he said gravely. “I’m not going to let you lose the fight, Selena. I will literally move heaven and earth to keep you beside me—no divide, nothing but our naked skin … our souls.”
Tears speared into her eyes, and she forced them back, willing them to get gone and stay that way. Reaching up to his handsome face, she brushed her fingertips over his features.
“I love you, Trez.”
“God, I love you, too.”
When Layla woke up, she was lying on her side on a much softer surface than the vestibule’s floor. In a panic, she brought her hand to her belly.
Everything felt the same, the hard swelling, the size it had been—but dearest Virgin Scribe, had she injured the young? She could remember getting out of her car, struggling to walk over to the mansion’s entrance, losing consciousness—
“Young,” she mumbled. “Young okay? Young?”
Instantly, Qhuinn’s blue-and-green stare was right in front of her. “You’re all right—”
As if she cared about herself right now. “Young!”
With a curse, she thought, why had she ever complained about being pregnant? Maybe this was punishment for her having—
“Everything’s okay.” Qhuinn glanced across the room, focusing on someone she couldn’t see. “Fine, just … okay, yeah, fine.”
The relief was so great, tears flooded her eyes. If she had lost their young because she was meeting with Xcor? Because she’d been staring at him while he … did that to his sex?
She never would forgive herself.
With a curse, she wondered why had she asked that male to do those things. It was wrong on so many levels, adding to her guilt when she was already choking on the stuff.
After all, it was so much easier to take the high-road victim role if you were not asking your blackmailer to jerk off.
“Oh, God,” she moaned.
“Are you in pain? Shit, Jane—”
“I’m right here.” The good doctor knelt down beside Qhuinn, looking tired, but alert. “Hi there. We’re glad you’re back. Just so you know, Manny reset your arm. It was broken clean through. We’ve put it in a cast and…”
There was some kind of conversation about her recovery time and when the plaster could come off, but she didn’t pay attention to any of that. Doc Jane and Qhuinn were keeping something from her: Their smiles of reassurance were like photographs of the real thing—perfectly accurate, but flat.
“What aren’t you telling me?” she cut in.
As she struggled to sit up, Blay was the one who helped her, gently grasping her good arm and giving her something to push against.
“What,” she demanded.
Doc Jane looked at Qhuinn. Qhuinn looked at Blay. And Blay … was the one who eventually met her eyes.
“There’s something unexpected,” the fighter said. “In the ultrasound.”
“If you make me ask ‘what’ again,” she gritted out, “I’m going to start throwing things, and to hell with my broken arm.”
As if time and reality were a car that had suddenly had its brakes punched, there was a metaphoric screeching sound in her head.
Layla blinked. “I’m sorry … what?”
“Twins,” Qhuinn repeated. “The ultrasound is showing that you are carrying twins.”
“And they’re both perfectly healthy,” Doc Jane added. “One is significantly smaller, and its development has been delayed, but it appears viable. I didn’t catch the second fetus during your previous ultrasounds because I understand—from a consult with Havers—that vampire pregnancies are different from humans’. There was apparently another fertilized egg that had implanted but did not enter a significant embryogenesis stage until much later—your last ultrasound was two months ago, for example, and I did not see anything at that time.”
“Twins?” Layla choked out.
“Twins,” one of the three replied.
For some reason, she thought back to the moment when she’d found out she had, in fact, conceived. Even though pregnancy had been the goal, and she and Qhuinn had done what they’d had to do to get there, the news that the needing had been successful had been the kind that stunned. It just seemed so miraculous, and overwhelming—a joyous gauntlet that she was not entirely sure wouldn’t get the best of her.
This was the same.
Except without the joy.
She had known two of her sisters to carry twins, and one of the pregnancies had been lost. The other had resulted in only a single, living young.
Tears started to fall from her eyes.
This was not good news.
“Hey.” Blay leaned down with a handkerchief. “This is not bad. It’s not.”
Qhuinn nodded, although his face remained a mask. “It’s … unexpected. But not at all bad.”
Layla put her hands to her stomach. Two. There were two young that she now had to get over the ultimate finish line safely.
Dearest Virgin Scribe, how had this happened? What was she going to do?
As the questions ran through her head, she realized … well, hell. Like so much of life, this was out of her hands. An impossibility had become manifest—her job now was to do what she could to help herself and the young get the rest, nutrition and medical care that was required.
That was the only thing she could directly affect. The rest of it?
Up to fate alone.
“Could there be others?” Layla asked.
Doc Jane shrugged. “I believe that is highly unlikely, but I’d like to send a sample of your blood off to Havers. He has much more experience than I do in this, and after having a look at a vampire-specific pregnancy hormone, he believes he can take a good guess as to where you’re at. He did say, though, that triplets are virtually unheard-of, and yours is the typical course of multiples for females. If they are going to have twins, unless in the extremely rare case of identical twins such as Z and Phury, the second embryo will delay its development until the pregnancy is well along. Almost as if it is waiting to see whether things look good before deciding to join the party.”
Layla glanced down at her distended belly—and vowed never, ever to complain about a goddamn thing. Not the swollen ankles, or the over-sensitive, pendulous breasts, or the peeing every ten minutes. Not. One. More. Whinge.
The fact that she’d somehow lost consciousness, fallen face-first on a marble floor, and still managed to have this young—
These young, she corrected with a shock.
—in her body safely was a reminder that the aches and discomforts were minor in comparison to the big picture, the big goal, the big concern.
Which was birthing them at the right time and having them survive.
“So do you consent?” Doc Jane asked.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Is it okay to send a sample of your blood to Havers for analysis?”
“Oh, yes.” She extended her good arm. “Do it now—”
“No, we took the vial already.”
Ah. Which would explain the cotton ball taped to the inside of her elbow.
Her brain was not working right.
“Is that the reason she passed out?” Qhuinn asked. “The extra young?”
Doc Jane shrugged again. “Her vitals all look fine—and they’ve been stable for quite some time. When was the last time you fed, Layla?”
The problem was not whether she’d taken a vein lately. “I…”
“We’ll deal with that right now,” Qhuinn announced. “Blay and I will both give her our veins.”
Doc Jane nodded. “It would be logical that, with the second baby beginning to require more nourishment, your caloric and blood needs may be much greater than you’ve realized. I think it’s entirely possible you were pushing yourself and it caught up with you.”
Layla felt utterly numb and had to force a smile. “I’ll be more careful. And thank you. I really appreciate your caring for me.”
“You’re welcome.” Doc Jane gave Layla’s foot a squeeze through the light blankets. “Rest up. You’re going to do great.”
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