The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(43) by J.R.Ward
As the healer left, Layla thought about the strange sexual cravings that she’d been having lately, as well as the relatively sudden increase in her physical symptoms. Was it the second young—?
“Do you want something more comfortable than that?” Qhuinn asked.
She shook herself back into focus. “I’m sorry, more comfortable than…?”
“That hospital johnny.”
Glancing down at herself, she saw that she wasn’t in her clothes anymore. “Oh. Well. Actually, it’s a bit chilly down here. One of my robes would be nice, but I don’t want to trouble you.”
“No problem. I’ll take your things back to your room and pick up a nightgown and a robe—meanwhile, Blay, you wanna offer her your vein?”
By way of answer, the soldier’s wrist appeared right in front of her. “Take as much as you need.”
In that moment, she had an overwhelming urge to tell them. Come clean. Wipe out the stress of the last year no matter the repercussions.
She just wanted to be free of the terrible burden that weighed her down. Scared her.
No doubt that would improve the chances of her carrying the young better—less stress was good for pregnant females, right? And now there were two lives at risk as well as her own.
She swallowed hard. Looked up at the pair of them as they stood over her bed, concerned. She didn’t want to betray the only family she had ever had. Besides, maybe if she told them about Xcor, they could … make the compound safer. Or move everyone. Or …
Layla cleared her throat and gripped the covers on the bed as if they were a roll bar and she was about to go into a hairpin turn. “Listen, I need to…”
When she didn’t finish, Qhuinn jumped into the quiet. “You need to feed. That’s what you need to do.”
As if her fangs were listening, they punched out from the roof of her mouth, and she got in touch with the fact that, yes, she did need to take a vein.
And no, she really couldn’t tell them. She just … it was no good. There was no good solution for her. They would hate her for endangering herself and the pregnancy—and meanwhile, Xcor would still know where they all lived because the Brotherhood was never going to leave the compound. This was their home and they would defend it when he attacked after she stopped seeing him.
People would be killed. People she loved.
“Thank you,” she said roughly to Blay.
“Anything for you,” he replied, brushing her hair back.
She tried to strike as gently as she could, but Blay didn’t even flinch. Then again, when he and Qhuinn made love, he was no doubt used to much, much harder bites.
Just as she began to draw against the familiar source, taking in the nutrition her body required and could get only from this gift by a male of her species, Qhuinn went over to where her clothes had been put on a chair in the corner. As he took them into his hands, he frowned and glanced down. Then rifled through the folds like he was searching for something.
A moment later, his mismatched stare shifted over to her and his body grew very still.
Ducking her eyes, she pretended to concentrate on what she was doing. She had no clue what he had found or why he was looking at her like that.
But given the way she was living, she had a lot to hide.
“When were you supposed to go?”
As Trez asked the question, Selena focused on the hot bowl of oatmeal he’d just made for her. As it was well after dawn, all of the household’s doggen were taking their rest in their quarters, so she and Trez were alone in the enormous kitchen, sitting side by side at the oak table.
“Selena. What time is your checkup.”
She should have watched her mouth. Two seconds ago, they’d been enjoying this Quaker Oats concoction, with its tributaries of heavy cream and meadows of brown sugar, the pair of them basking in the glow of what they had done in the shower, at peace and relaxed.
Not so much, as they say.
“First thing this morning.”
Trez checked his phone. “Okay, that’s okay. It’s about eight. So even if we finish this, we can still be on time-ish.”
“I don’t want to go.” She could feel him staring at her. “I don’t. I’m not in a big hurry to go back there at all.”
“Doc Jane said we had to X-ray your joints to monitor—”
“Well, I don’t want to.” She put a spoonful in her mouth and tasted nothing. It was just a texture. “I’m sorry, but I’m well right now. I don’t want to go down there and get poked and prodded again.”
Her reticence was grounded in the fact that now was the good part, and she didn’t know how long it was going to last. Given that nothing could stop this, why did they need to bother with—
“It would mean a lot to me if you would see Jane.”
She glanced up. Trez was staring at the windows behind her, even though the shutters were down and there was nothing to see in them.
His eyes were haunted. Like he knew she wasn’t going to go to the clinic—and there was nothing he could do about it.
“Do you know what I’m most scared of?” she heard herself say.
His face turned toward hers. “What?”
She stirred her oatmeal. Took another taste, which still registered just as something warm. “I’m afraid of getting trapped.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to get trapped in here,” she said with a catch in her voice. Then she patted her chest, her arms, her thighs beneath the table. “In my body. I’m scared of the episodes. I’m alive in there, you know, locked in and … when it happens, it’s hard to hear and see, but things register. I knew you had come for me. It made all the difference. When you were with me, I wasn’t … quite so trapped.”
When he didn’t say anything, she glanced at him again. He was back to staring at those windows that showed nothing of the day outside, not whether it was cloudy or sunny, or whether it was rainy, or if there was a wind whisking the autumn leaves along brown grass.
“Trez?” she prompted.
“Sorry.” He shook himself. “Sorry, I got lost there for a second.”
He pivoted in his chair, putting his feet in the rungs under the seat she was in. Then he took her hand, the one that didn’t have the spoon, and he smoothed it flat against his palm.
“You have the most beautiful hands I have ever seen,” he murmured.
She laughed. “I suspect you’re biased, but I’ll take the compliment.”
He frowned, his brows going tight. “I can imagine how…” He did a long, slow inhale, exhale. “I can think of nothing more terrifying in the world than being locked in a place that you can’t get out of—and to have your prison be your own body? That’s inconceivable. That’s a terrifying head fuck.”
There was a long period of silence at that point, where he sat in front of his cooling bowl without touching the stuff, and she played with her oatmeal, making little S’s with the tip of her spoon.
The argument they were having played out in the air between them, his please-go-for-your-own-good’s at war with her not-until-I-absolutely-have-to’s. There was no reason to actually say the words. She wasn’t going to budge. And that meant his only option was to throw her over his shoulder and caveman her down to the training center.
Finally, Selena couldn’t stand it, and had to change the subject.
“I sometimes wonder…” She shrugged. “I mean, what if everyone’s lied about death? What if there is no Fade, but instead you’re just stuck in your body forever, conscious but unable to move?”
Great. She’d wanted to try to lighten the mood.
“Well, bodies do…” He cleared his throat. “You know, rot.”
“Hmm, good point.”
“Although, as afterlife nightmares go, for me? I worry about the whole zombie-apocalypse thing.” He picked up his spoon and started to eat, still holding on to her free hand. “That would suck. You kick it and then you roam the earth, stinking up the place on an Atkins diet that, like, never ends.”
She put up her spoon to stop him. “Well, now, hold on a minute—see, you’d just be hungry, right? And if you found people to eat, then, you know, life is pretty good if you’re a zombie.”
“Not if the lower half of your face drops off. Without a jaw, how do you feed yourself? Then you’re just hungry and you can’t do anything about it. Total suckage.”
“You just need straws.”
“Hard to fit a femur through a straw.”
“And a blender. Straws and a blender. Then you’re set.”
With bark of sound, Trez threw his head back and laughed so hard, it was a wonder he didn’t wake half the mansion up.
“Oh, my God, that is so sick.” He leaned in and kissed her. “So fucking sick.”
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