The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(50) by J.R.Ward
At Lassiter’s barked curse, Trez and Rhage glanced over at the angel. The PITA didn’t notice them, however, his unusually colored eyes focused upward, as if the Second Coming had arrived at the top of the grand staircase.
Just then, a telltale scent reached Trez’s nose and rocketed through his blood, the impact wrenching his head and his body around …
Whereupon he lost all thought. All breath. And all of his soul.
Selena stood at the head of the bloodred-carpeted steps, her lovely hand resting on the gold-leafed balustrade, her body held stiffly, as if she weren’t sure about her shoes, or her dress, or maybe even her hair.
There was absolutely nothing to worry about.
Unless she had a problem with being an H-bomb.
Her long dark hair was down around her shoulders, falling to the small of her back. Curled from tip to base, it was such a feminine glory, so overwhelming with its weight and its shine, that he fisted his hands and released them because he wanted to touch it, stroke it, smell it. But that wasn’t the half of it. Her face was the only thing that could possibly have put the stuff to shame, her skin radiant, her eyes sparkling, her full lips red as blood.
And then there was the fucking dress.
Black. Simply cut. With a low-cut bodice and a skirt that ended north of mid-thigh.
Very north. Of mid-thigh.
Selena extended a foot, a delicately shod, high-heeled foot that was plugged into a teeny-tiny ankle and a perfectly curving calf that had him grinding his teeth.
He had to swallow hard as she started to descend slowly, each step she took bringing her closer to him being able to touch her, kiss her … take her.
Man, that dress was a total knockout, nothing but a sheath that followed the contours of her hips, her waist, and her breasts, with a gathering off to one side at her middle and a second at one of her shoulders. She wore no jewelry at all, but why would she? There was no diamond, no emerald, no ruby, no sapphire that could come near her devastating perfection.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she hesitated, glancing left and right, probably at Lassiter and Rhage—were they still in the foyer with him? Who knew. Who the fuck cared?
Selena smoothed the … was that silk? Wool? Taffeta?
Tinfoil? Paper bag?
She reached up and pushed at her hair. Then grimaced. “You don’t like it, do you. I can change. I was going to wear…”
Something knocked him in the side.
“…traditional dress. But the girls thought…” She looked up over her shoulder to the females who stood at the top of the stairs. “I can change—”
Lassiter cursed. “Fuck no. Don’t you dare. You look—”
Trez’s upper lip curled off his descended fangs. Then he snapped his jaws in the direction of the fallen angel, like a German Shepherd. Or maybe a bull shark doing a test bite before he went chainsaw on his prey.
Lassiter put up his palms. “Whatever, man, I was going to say she looks like a charity case. A football referee. A Martha Stewart impersonator. You want me to keep going? I could break into dumb-ass Disney characters. There are so many of them.”
That poke in his rib cage came again. Then Rhage leaned in. “Trez,” the Brother hissed. “You gotta fucking say something here.”
Trez cleared his throat. “I … I … I…”
He was dimly aware of the females on the second floor breaking into high fives and cheers of, “Nailed it.” But his queen remained worried.
Okay, he needed to pull himself together—before Rhage’s elbow nailed him in the liver again, and Selena bolted back to his bedroom. “You are … I am…”
He pulled at the collar of his silk shirt, even though the thing was wide-open.
“You like it?” she said.
All he could do was nod. He was literally nothing but hormones in a black suit. She was that beautiful to him.
More nodding. “Uh-huh. Really.”
Selena started to smile. Then she glanced back at the females, who jumped up and down and gave her thumbs-up.
His queen turned back to him. Stepped in close. Took his hands and stretched up to whisper in his ear, “The only thing they didn’t give me was underwear.”
She was n-n-n-n-nakey under that.
Paradise had gotten absolutely, positively no sleep whatsoever in the beautiful house. At first, it had been because she was so excited to have the run of the place that she’d gone through every parlor, bedroom, and bathroom, marveling at the art, the furnishings, the decor—twice. Then it had been a case of picking a bedroom underground (she’d chosen the one on the left) and unpack, unpack, unpack.
Her beloved doggen, Vuchie, had started to lay a pallet for herself out in the short, stone-walled corridor between the two subterranean suites, but Paradise had insisted her maid go across the way and stay in the other actual bedroom. This had led to a series of protests, whereupon her servant, trapped between a direct order and her discomfort at staying in such luxury, had nearly had a nervous breakdown.
In the end, though, and as usual, Paradise had gotten her way.
At which point, she’d retreated to “her” bedroom, changed into nightclothes and discovered the further good news that the Wi-Fi didn’t require a password. Stretching out on the velvet duvet, she’d checked Twitter, Facebook, a couple of blogs, and the New York Post and Daily News—and continued to ignore texts from Peyton. When her eyelids had finally started to drop, she’d put her phone aside and dragged half the covers over on top of herself, her Syracuse b-ball sweatshirt and her yoga pants the kind of pj’s she had slept in many, many times.
Annnnnd that was when the no-sleep thing had gotten its groove on.
Even as she’d closed her eyes, her mind had buzzed with what her father had told her she’d be doing at nightfall to help him with the King.
And then there was the fact that that long-lost cousin was alone with her father back at their house. What if he hurt her dad?
So, yup, she thought as she stepped in front of the mirror in the bathroom. No shut-eye … even when her lids had been down.
The good news was that the wait was over. And her father had texted her that his ETA was in about fifteen minutes—so clearly, he’d made it through the day okay, too.
Funny, she was shocked by how badly she needed to see him. After so many years of praying for some freedom, she had found the actual experience marked by a whole lot of homesick.
“But now I get to work.”
Turning to the side, she straightened her navy-blue blazer. Tugged at her white blouse. Fiddled with her strand of pearls.
As she stepped back, she decided she looked like a 1960s stewardess for PanAm. Like the ones they’d had in Catch Me If You Can.
“Ah, come on.” She yanked out the tie she’d pulled her hair back with, and fluffed things out. “Oh, yeah. That’s really different.”
Hair down so did not improve the situation. But she was out of time, and more to the point, who did she have to impress, anyway?
Okay, bad question to ask in any form if you were about to try to hold down your first job and it was not only for your father, but for the King of your entire race, and his personal guard of straight-up killers.
It was enough to get her praying to the Scribe Virgin.
Stepping out of her—
“Please, mistress. Allow me to make you some breakfast.”
Vuchie was standing just inside the room, dressed in her perennial gray-and-white uniform, her weight going back and forth between her crepe shoes. The doggen had brown hair, brown eyes and skin the color of white bread, but she was lovely in her own way—and probably only fifty years older than Paradise. The two had known each other since Parry could remember—as with many daughters of aristocratic parents, the pair of them had been matched with the hopes of a lifelong mistress/servant relationship being formed. In a lot of cases, one’s maid was the most important thing taken to your new home when you were mated to a male of similar privilege and breeding.
It was your tie to the past. Your sanity. And, a lot of times, the only person you could trust.
Boy, she much preferred this current relocation—that was because of a job, not some overbred hellren type.
“I’m fine, Vuchie.” She tried to smile. “Are you hungry yourself?”
“Mistress, you did not have Last Meal, either.”
Parry had no intention of coming clean with the truth—namely that if she had so much as half a nook or a quarter of a cranny, she was going to go golf sprinkler all over her stewardess-ness. That kind of candor was only to going to lead to a fight over bed rest, and likely, Vuchie calling in her father for R&R reinforcement.
“You know what I would love?” Parry forced a smile. “If you could prepare something for me to eat at my desk.” She went over and linked arms with Vuchie. “Come on, let’s do this.”
“But … but … but—”
“I’m so glad you agree. I just love it when we’re on the same page like this.”
Up at the top of the curving, rough-cut stone staircase, they stepped through a life-size portrait of a French royal into the parlor, where the receiving area was located.
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