The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(61) by J.R.Ward
He already knew what maichen was going to find. Or not.
The flaw in his reasoning, when he’d set out on this folly, was that he’d never heard of the disease. It wasn’t like he was one of the s’Hisbe’s healers, with an extensive knowledge of what ailed folks and how to fix it, but something like what Selena had? The Shadows would have viewed it as a defect to stay away from like the plague—so there would have been some common consciousness about it.
He should have known. But when it came to his brother, he was liable to do anything to save the SOB.
“Does he have a similar disease?” maichen asked.
“You just said you would do anything to save your brother?”
Great, he was talking out loud now. “We’d better head back.”
She closed the volume. “I am sorry we didn’t find—”
“Come on, let’s go.”
iAm got to his feet and offered her his hand. In the process of reviewing that last book with all those worthless words, she, too, had seated herself on the floor.
Her masked face lifted upward as if she were staring at his palm.
“We need to go,” he muttered, wishing she would just put the damn book back and head out with him.
When she finally extended her arm, the heavy sleeve slid down, exposing her thin wrist and her long, thin hand. Which trembled.
He loved the color of her skin. Darker than his.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said roughly before he touched her.
“I know,” she whispered.
As he made contact, his body jerked, electricity licking into him, traveling from the connection to his heart and making that vital rhythm-maker tick even faster. And he wasn’t sure, but he thought that she felt the shock as well, the robing that covered her shifting sharply, as if she had jumped.
There wasn’t time to think about any of that, though.
Taking the book from her free hand, he replaced it into the slot that had been created and started off for the long trek back to the exit. He’d gone about fifteen feet when he realized he hadn’t dropped his hold on her yet.
He had to force himself to let her hand go.
When they came to the hidden door, he stepped aside and let her open things up in case there was some kind of tracer or security check in play.
Out in the hall, she said, “Crouch down, remember? You’re very tall and very big.”
iAm got with the program. “Thanks.”
Letting her assume the lead, he found himself watching the way she walked, the shift of her body under the robing camouflaged nearly completely. What was she like under there? What was her face like?
As soon as the thoughts hit him, he dropped them. Now was hardly the time to waste even a split second on anything like that.
They had gone about twenty-five miles, as far as he could tell, when a set of prison guards came at them. From underneath the mesh that covered his face, iAm tracked their approach, bracing himself for a fight to get away. Typical of s’Ex’s security team, they were in black, they were built like bouncers, and their weapons were obvious around their waists, the long-bladed daggers at their hips in ready reach. Their faces were uncovered, and he couldn’t remember—did that mean that they were on the warpath?
Shit, had they been discovered?
Ahead of him, maichen didn’t blink. She stopped, put both her hands in front of her heart in a steeple, and bowed her head in supplication. Staying in her lee, iAm copied her pose exactly, his thigh muscles tight as he forced his legs to remain at half-mast.
The guards looked the pair of them over, and iAm prayed that that lavender scenting trick did the job. If they caught a whiff of anything close to the aggression pumping through his veins …
But nope, they just nodded and kept going.
Another hundred yards or so later, she came to an abrupt halt—and he nearly plowed into her. “We’re here,” she said, looking up and down the hall.
He waited for her to trigger the door to his cell. When she didn’t, he leaned into her and said softly, “It’s not your fault. And thank you.”
Her head lowered, and the voice that came out from behind her masking seemed choked. “I’m so sorry. About all of this.”
“You don’t worry about it. And I don’t want you to come see me anymore. Trade off the duties, but don’t get involved in this. We got enough people in this nightmare already.”
That mesh panel shifted as she looked up at him. “I want to do more. Let me help you get free—”
“I don’t want you to be a gerbil.”
“I don’t want you to be kept in there forever.”
“It won’t be that long, I promise you.” Although he did need to get out of here ASAP. “Now, will you please go?”
When she continued to hesitate, he was the one who triggered the prison door to open by taking her hand and placing it on the wall—
The lights were on inside, not off. And s’Ex was on the bedding platform, his back against the headboard, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles.
In one hand, he had a whetstone. In the other, he had a dagger.
With slow, sure strokes, he was sharpening the blade.
He didn’t bother to look up. “Imagine my surprise when I came to personally check on you.”
iAm put his body in front of maichen’s, blocking her completely. “This is not her fault. I forced her.”
“That is a lie.” The executioner glanced up, his black eyes glittering. “But whether you did or didn’t is the least of your problems.”
As Fritz pulled up in front of the Brotherhood’s mansion, Selena burst out of the back of the Mercedes before the car even rolled to a halt. The sudden lunge was an expression of her excitement, something she had been holding in, and it felt good to—
Except she was in high heels, and the landing went badly: As the tiny pinpoint back ends of her shoes skipped over the cobblestones, gravity grabbed hold of her and she threw out her arms, her weight shifting off-kilter—
Trez caught her in his arms with a powerful surge, capturing her before she could fall and sweeping her up against his massive chest.
He held her as if she didn’t weigh a thing.
Putting her arms around his neck, she leaned back and smiled so widely, she probably looked like a lunatic. She didn’t care.
“That was incredible!”
Trez grinned as he mounted the steps to the door to the vestibule. “It was something else, for sure.”
Stretching around Trez’s triceps, she called out to the butler, “Fritz, can we do that again tomorrow night?”
The butler followed in their wake. “But of course, mistress! Anything to be of service. I must comment, however, that the car shall require some attention prior to any further such excursions.”
Probably right, and maybe that was why the doggen had parked it parallel to the front door instead of with the other vehicles on the far side of the fountain. Could the thing even reverse anymore?
There was a quick pause as they entered the vestibule, and then they were welcomed into the mansion’s warm, lush interior by one of Fritz’s staff.
“If you will excuse me,” the butler said, “I must attend to Last Meal’s preparations, as I indicated.”
“Thanks for getting us back in one piece,” Trez murmured.
“My pleasure indeed.”
As the doggen went off through the dining room, Trez started for the stairs, his long strides crossing over the foyer’s mosaic floor—and Selena started to smile for a different reason than pure adrenaline.
But he didn’t take her up to his bedroom. Her male strode around the base of the grand staircase on the left, taking them to the ornate door of the bathroom.
“Open the door for me,” he growled.
She glanced up and drank in the sight of his face. Pure sexual need gritted his jaw and narrowed his eyes, turning him into an animalistic version of himself.
His response to the car ride, she thought.
Reaching out her hand, she gripped the brass knob and released the lock, opening the way in.
Such a beautiful room, with its private stall for the toilet, and its sweet-smelling air, and especially its peach, red and pink veined marble that covered the walls and the floors. Red and peach satin fell from both sides of the mirror over the sink, as if the thing were a window to look out of, and the velvet skirting around the basin was bloodred with gold-tasseled fringe. Old-fashioned gas sconces burned incessantly all around the room, the mellow yellow light like that of candles.
“You’re going to want to use that lock,” he said, bending down so she could get to the thing. Slide it home. Give them some privacy.
There was a long, skirted bench on the far wall, and he brought her over to it, holding her with one hand as he shoved all kinds of silk and needlepoint pillows onto the floor. Stretching her out, he purred deep in his throat as he caressed her shoulders, her waist, her legs.
“I thought about this all night,” he said.
Arching up, she felt the caress of her dress moving up over her thighs as he swept his palms higher and higher.
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