The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(54) by J.R.Ward
Just his luck. “There are breaks in the rituals, though, aren’t there? Can you catch him then?”
“Well … maybe I can take you to the texts?”
iAm cranked his head around slowly. “What did you say?”
Longest. Elevator. Ride. Of. His. Life.
As Trez stood next to Selena in a glass-walled torture chamber, he was resolutely facing the closed doors—and praying for some kind of Dr. Who time warp thingy that had him stepping out of the goddamn thing rightfuckingnow.
Eyeballs locked on the glowing line of numbers above the chrome doors, he wanted to vomit.
L … 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50.
“44” had yet to light up because they were in the screaming-fast, liver-in-your-loafer, express part of the joyride.
“Oh, you should look out here,” Selena said, pivoting toward the all-access pass to vertigo. “This is so much fun!”
A quick glance over his shoulder and he nearly hurled. His beautiful queen had not just gone over to the glass, but put her palms on it and leaned into the ever-higher view.
Trez snapped back around. “Almost there. We’re almost at the top.”
“Can we go down and come up again? I wonder what the descent is like!”
Actually, maybe they should head back to the lobby. He was fairly sure he’d left his manhood there when this rocket ride had ignited.
“Trez!” Tap, tap, tap on his forearm. “Look at this.”
“Oh, yeah, it’s incredible. Yeah. Abso.”
They were never getting to the four hundred and forty-fourth floor. Much less level fifteen thousand gabillion where the cocksucking restaurant was.
McDonald’s, he thought. Why couldn’t she have wanted Mickey D’s. Or Pizza Hut. Taco Hell—
At the sound, he braced himself for a Die Hard moment where some mastermind in a bespoke English suit blew up the rooftop.
Nope. Beep! Forty-five. Beep! Forty-six.
And more good news came as the bum rush to the heavens slowed.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Just really psyched for dinner. Oh, my God, I can’t wait to get there.”
She tucked her arm through his and leaned her head against his triceps. “You really know how to treat a female.”
Damn right he did. For example, he was very clear that it would be considered highly unromantic to go fetal and suck your thumb because you were nut-less when it came to heights.
Bing! And the doors opened.
Thank you, baby Jesus, to use a Butch phrase.
Now, he told himself, get your shit together, you sack-less wonder, and focus on your female.
Flashing his queen a Cary Grant plus fangs, he escorted Selena off the deathtrap and into a black marble lobby that for a split second took him back to his nightmare at the s’Hisbe: so much glossy black stone on the floors, walls, and ceiling, with lights inset up high—and nothing else.
Shaking himself, he smiled down at her. “You ready for this?”
A discreet black-on-black sign with an arrow indicated the way to the restaurant, but his keen senses of hearing and smell had already given him that information, thanks. As they started off, a human couple steamed toward them, the female’s high heels like the F-word being used with every step she took.
“…no reservation?” she hissed. “How could you not get us a reservation?”
The man next to her was staring straight ahead. Like you would if you were stuck next to a three-year-old on a bus.
“I can’t believe you didn’t get us a reservation. And we had to walk out like that. In front of all the other…”
As she continued to marching-band it to that theme song, the man’s eyes locked on Selena—and the poor bastard recoiled in awe as if a living angel had appeared in front of him.
After Trez pointed out to his inner bonded male that an appropriate entrée didn’t include Filet o’Fucktard, he realized that he, too, had failed to call ahead and lock down a time for a two-top. Shit. He’d totally forgotten to ask Fritz to make the damn call. And mind control worked on humans, including snotty maître d’s, but what it couldn’t fix was rank unavailability of empty seats.
“You know, I’ve heard the food isn’t all that,” he said numbly.
“That’s okay. I’m really here for the view.”
The entrance to Circle the World was not marked with any signage, like if you needed to ask, you didn’t need to be there. All there was was a pair of smoky glass doors as wide and tall as a one-story house.
Getting a jump on the black handles, he pulled one half open and let Selena go ahead.
That was the first impression of the place: Glossy black everywhere, from the tables and the geometric chairs to the square supports that held the ceiling up overhead. No flowers. No candles. Nothing fussy. And the dark night beyond all those windows? Black as well, so that it looked as if there was no divide between the sky and interior.
The only touch of whimsy? The curling LED lights that hung from that lofty ceiling on black wires, their twinkling illumination reflecting off of all the high-gloss.
Oh, and there was a soprano singing over in the corner, her dulcet voice piped in throughout the place.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Selena whispered. “It’s like there are stars everywhere.”
He looked around. “Yeah.”
Okay, where was the gent in the penguin suit who was in charge of turning people with good money away? There was no maître d’ stand. Just thirty feet of black carpet that led to the first lineup of minimalist tables.
“They’re looking at us.”
On the whispered words, he frowned and focused on the diners. Well, what do you know. Every one of the humans at the tables seemed to have stopped eating and was looking in their direction—
From out of nowhere, a woman rushed over. Like the decor, she was all in black, and even her hair was a cap of stick-straight high-gloss.
“How do you do,” she said with a broad smile. “Welcome to Circle the World.”
And we will now self-destruct in three … two … “Yeah, I didn’t call ahead—”
“Oh, Mr. Latimer, yes, you did. Your representative, Mr. Perlmutter, let us know you would be gracing us with your presence. We are so pleased to accommodate you at the windows.”
Thank you, thank you, Fritz, butler lifeboat supreme—who had clearly overheard something.
As his queen beamed, the woman indicated the way across the open room—and as they followed her, Trez realized that they had stepped onto a vast, slowly revolving plate: The entire restaurant moved around the center core of the elevator shaft and what must have been the kitchen space.
They went right to the edge. To a table for two that had one of its generous four sides directly against the glass.
Under which the entire city of Caldwell stretched out, about four hundred thousand feet below.
Time to sit, he thought, praying his sudden case of the wonks didn’t wipe out his knees before he did his queen proper.
Helping Selena into her seat, he kept his eyes averted as he went over and fell down into a seat that was hard as rock.
The maître d’ cast her pale hand over the table to the godforsaken windows. “This will be the spice to the courses of your meal.”
No, that would be nausea, sweetheart.
She turned back to the rest of the place. “The interior is designed to be the night, the perfect background for savoring what the chef will provide for your pleasure.”
When they were alone, Selena shifted herself toward the windows. “It’s … incredible. The lights of the buildings. They’re like fallen stars.”
Trez wiped his sweaty palms on his napkin. Bracing himself, he glanced over and found that—well, yes, it was as bad as he had thought. Peering out the utterly clean glass, it was as if nothing separated him from a fall to the death, the lack of a ledge turning even a split second of eye contact into a terrifying swoop into the abyss.
Time to put the napkin to the brow.
“Trez?” She looked over at him. “Are you all right?”
Pulling it together, he reached out and took her hand.
“Have I told you how beautiful these are?” he murmured.
Her smile was radiant. “Yes, but I never get tired of hearing it.”
“So beautiful.” He smoothed his palm over hers. Then bent in and pressed a kiss to her skin. “Long and lovely. Strong, too.”
When he finally looked up, it was into her eyes, and that was when things got better. One single heartbeat later, and he wasn’t worried about his terror of heights, and he wasn’t thinking about the humans around him, and he couldn’t have given a shit that the twinkling view was subtly circling below them.
With her hand in his and that beautiful face of hers staring across at him, he was transported away from it all.
“I love you,” he said, rubbing his thumb on the inside of her wrist. “No one could do this to me.”
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