The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(46) by J.R.Ward
He had answered the question well enough.
Vishous would never, ever voluntarily hurt or injure a male he respected. That was even more ingrained than the no-lying thing. And yes, Trez had heard that there was usually not a timeline on V’s visions about death—but clearly it was different in this case.
Maybe because what had been seen was less about the Chosen’s death, and more about what happened to Trez afterward.
There are two females. And in both cases, you’re running out of time.
“…Trez?” Doc Jane said, as if she had been trying to get his attention. “Are you ready to talk with me?”
No, he thought, as V disappeared through the glass doors of the office. He was not.
“Did you think no one would know.”
As maichen stepped out from the cell, she froze. The voice behind her was so deep, so low that the words were more growled than spoken—and it was the last thing she had expected.
Footfalls, of a male twice her height and three times her weight, circled around her body, and through the mesh that covered her face, she looked up, up, up.
s’Ex’s features were covered as well, but for the executioner, it was chain mail, not delicate links of silver, that hid his particulars, though not his identity.
Fear rang in her chest, a hollow strike that brought sweat out under her armpits and between her well-concealed breasts.
“And you were feeding him?”
When she neither confirmed nor denied the statement, the executioner threw his hands up in frustration—but he was careful not to touch her or anything that was indirectly touching her body, and that included the tray, everything on it, as well as her robing and even the large marble square that her feet had happened to land on.
It was forbidden for any male to come into contact with her, punishable by death, at s’Ex’s hands—which would mean that he would be required to commit suicide, she supposed.
“Tell me,” he demanded. “Did you poison him?”
“No! He has been without food for over twelve hours—”
“Do you normally concern yourself with my prisoners?”
“He is no normal prisoner.” She lifted her chin. “And you have not taken care of him properly.”
“There are a thousand others to look after such things.”
“Am I not one of those thousands who live here?”
He leaned in. “Do not go in there again.”
maichen removed her mesh so fast, he did not have a chance to look away in time. As he gasped and wrenched around, ducking his face under the folds of his sleeve, her voice matched the authority of his.
“You will not tell me where I can and cannot go.”
“Drop your mask!” he barked.
“I will not. I do not take orders from you.” She ripped the sleeve away from him so that he had naught to cover his eyes. “Are we clear?”
The executioner closed his eyes so hard, the features of his entire face distorted. “You’re going to get us both killed—”
“No one is here. Now I command you to meet my stare.”
Such was the turning of tables that he became the cowed one as he took his time opening those lids, as if his face did not want to obey the dictates of his mind.
When he finally looked at her properly, it was the first time in her life a male had ever seen her face—and for a split second, her heart got to beating so fast she grew light-headed. But the thought of that prisoner in there overrode the upset.
“He”—she jabbed her finger in the direction of the door to the cell—“is not to be harmed in any way. Do you understand me?”
“It is not your place to dictate—”
“He is an innocent. That is the Anointed One’s brother, not he who must serve the throne. I know from the tattoo—”
“You looked at his body!” A series of words exploded out of s’Ex’s mouth, unfamiliar ones that sounded like, “Jesus fucking Christ.”
Whatever that meant. She knew English only formally.
s’Ex leaned into her and dropped his voice. “Listen up, you stay out of this. You don’t know what’s going on here.”
“I know that it is unfair to hold an innocent responsible for something that does not concern him.”
“I’m not going to lose my own life over you. Do we understand each other? And I will not alter my course just to please some moral streak you wish to indulge for a moment.”
“Yes, you will.” Now she leaned in—and in spite of his size, s’Ex jerked back. “You are well aware of the power I hold. You shall not cross me in this or any other desire I have—and when I bring him his next meal, you and your males will let me pass in there in peace. I don’t trust you enough to feed him properly—or safely. And do not tell him who I am.”
With that, she put her mesh back into place and started to walk off.
“What’s your endgame,” s’Ex demanded.
She paused. Looked over her shoulder. “What does that phrase mean?”
“What are you going to do? Keep him in there like a gerbil for the rest of his natural life?”
What was a gerbil?
maichen narrowed her eyes beneath the mesh. “That is none of your concern. The only worry you have is if anything happens to him. And bring him a proper bed.”
At least he could be comfortable as she figured out a way to safely set the poor male free.
maichen made it around the corner and out of sight, before she began to shake … before she had to catch herself against the wall to stay standing.
Closing her eyes, all she could see was that imprisoned male, walking around the screen as he had reemerged from running the water.
His body had been … breathtaking, his naked form arresting her eyes, her thoughts, her breath. Broad of shoulder, thick of chest, long of torso, he had seemed to have been crafted by an artist, rather than born of a mortal.
And then there were the other parts of his body. Which had made her blush so fiercely, she worried the mesh would melt right off her face.
She told herself that she was just going to help him, and that was true. It was.
But it would be foolish to discount this burning curiosity. Mayhap even dangerous to.
Stars above, what was she doing?
When Trez jumped up on the examination table, his head nearly banged the chandelier, and while he ducked to create airspace, Doc Jane came over.
“Here, let me move my lights out of the way.”
With that little problem solved, he gripped the thin mattress under his ass like he was about to go on a roller-coaster ride.
And he absolutely hated roller-coasters.
Doc Jane brought over a rolling stool and sat down, pulling the two halves of her white coat together and linking her hands on her knees. Staring up at him, she seemed prepared to wait for as long as it took him to get his thoughts together.
Clearing his throat, he announced, “She’s not coming down here. She doesn’t want to be fiddled with while she’s feeling well.”
“I can understand that.”
He waited for more, and reminded himself to be civil because she was V’s shellan.
When the good doctor didn’t continue, he frowned. “That’s it?”
“What do you want me to say? That Manny and I are going to make her come see us? I can’t do that—I won’t do that.”
As he felt no relief at all at the statement, Trez realized that he had wanted Doc Jane to force Selena down here.
Hypocrite much? Not really a pro–free will stance, was it.
“How do I know she’s going to make it through the night?” he said tightly.
“Without an Arrest episode?”
“You don’t.” Doc Jane brushed her short blond hair back. “Even if I examined her now, I couldn’t tell you when the next one is coming. I don’t know much about the disease, but from what I’ve learned, that’s part of the issue. There is no prodromal stage.”
“You have migraines, right?” When he nodded, she pointed to her eyes. “And you get an aura about twenty to thirty minutes before the pain hits, yeah? Well, sometimes sufferers get numbness and tingling in their arms or legs; others have sensory anomalies, like smelling things that aren’t there or hearing things. With Selena’s disease, there is no warning that an acute phase is about to happen. The freezing up seems to occur out of the blue.”
“Have you spoken with that Havers fool?”
“Actually, he’s never heard of such an illness. The closest he’s come is dealing with arthritis-related symptoms.” She shook her head. “It makes me wonder, if we were able to do genetic sampling from the Chosen, whether there would be a recessive gene in them somewhere. With a captive breeding population, such as they have been, you’d expect to find exactly this kind of a disease cluster.” She shrugged. “But back to Selena, I wish I could tell you what was going to happen, or even what to look for. I can’t, though. I’ve done a complete blood panel on her, and her white cell count is slightly elevated along with her inflammatory markers—but other than that? Normal. All I can say is that if she’s up and moving around, her joints are by definition functioning well, and they will let us all know when they aren’t.”
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