The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(68) by J.R.Ward
To save her, he had done the only thing he could think of, thrown the only Hail Mary he had: He had sought out the Scribe Virgin. Had left that human hospital and gone home to his room, and lowered himself down on cut diamonds until his knees had run red with blood.
He had prayed for a miracle.
With a curse, he stretched out on the bench, leaning his torso back on the unforgiving wood while keeping both feet on the floor on either side.
His Mary wasn’t coming home today. She was staying at Safe Place.
The mother of that child had been taken back to Havers’s. After slipping into a coma.
The staff had decided to keep the young at the house for the day, and Mary wanted to be with the girl.
God, he remembered that anguish of daylight when Mary had been sick in the hospital. It hadn’t been safe for him to be with her during the sunshine hours, and he had been terrified she would die when he couldn’t get to her.
Guess they could drive that young over to see her mahmen if shit came to that. As a pretrans, she could go out even at high noon.
Staring up at the ceiling, he thought of Trez and Selena. Their date. Their escape from downtown. The fun they’d had evading the human police.
That was so worth fighting for. All of it.
His Mary wasn’t coming home today, and he didn’t know how he was going to make it through the next twelve hours until he saw her in person again. And that was even knowing he could call or text, or Skype with her at any moment for as long as he liked.
That little girl was probably going to lose her mahmen.
And Trez was probably going to lose Selena.
Rhage was pretty sure all of them were praying for a miracle just as he had. And maybe that was what he was having problems with.
Why had he gotten lucky? Tohr hadn’t. Well, yes, the brother had found Autumn, and that was a blessing beyond measure. But as much as he loved that female, his losing Wellsie had nearly killed him.
He just didn’t get it. Unless the Scribe Virgin stepped in again, or someone found a cure …
Why had he and Mary been spared?
As his brain began to cramp up on that one, he had to shut the thoughts down. He didn’t want to go mad down here all by himself.
Yeah, he thought wryly. ’Cuz it was so much better to share that with your loved ones.
Scary times. Scary times.
If deaths came in threes … he thought numbly. Who was going to be the third one?
As Xcor walked away from the cottage’s main room, Layla was prepared to follow him outside and make him feed on what passed for a lawn if she had to. But just as she was about to heft herself off the sofa, she heard the sound of … the shower.
Continuing through on the vertical impulse, she went across and around the corner to stand in front of the closed door of the bathroom.
“…fuck…” he muttered on the far side.
“Leave me be. I shall return in a moment.”
As another curse floated out through the gaps around the doorjamb, she took hold of the latch, and pulled things open.
Xcor was standing before the sink, his shirt half on and half off, his torso turned at a wrong angle as he tried to get the button down over his head—without hurting the bullet wound in his side.
“What are you doing?” he demanded. Through the folds of black fabric.
For a moment, all she could do was stare at his ribbed abdomen, the muscles striated across his belly and cut so deeply they threw shadows. But then there were his hips, hollow and jutting out from under his skin, his combat pants hanging so low only the huge muscles of his thighs were keeping them on.
He was unbelievably powerful. But also too thin.
Shaking herself into focus, she said, “I’m going to help you get that off.”
“I can handle it, just—” As he twisted again, he let out a groan of pain.
Ignoring him, she shut the door so what little heat was boiling up from the shower stayed in the bath. “Stop. You’re just going to hurt yourself.”
“I’m fine,” he snapped.
The instant she put her hand on his arm, he went dead still.
“Let me help you,” she whispered.
The good news was that he’d gotten the bulk of the shirt up over his head. So there was no way he saw her hands shake as she took hold and gently pulled upward, inching it up his arms, revealing to her eyes the fans of muscle that ran down the side of his torso and then the massive bulges of his pectorals.
His breath panted in and out of him, his chest rising and falling in a pump that got faster as she carried the shirt over his arms.
Heavy arms. Thick arms that narrowed at the elbow and then at the wrist, but plumped up everywhere else.
As what had covered him came loose, all she could think of was that he was a killer. A straight-up killer whose body reflected the work that he did.
“Wait for me out there.” He refused to meet her eyes. “I shall not take from you when I am unclean.”
“That’s a bad gash there.”
When she touched the warm, pale skin under the angry red stripe on his side, he flinched. But his voice remained strong. “It shall be healed by nightfall.”
“Only if you feed.”
The grunt she got in response was a dismissal if she’d ever heard one. And he followed it up with, “If you do not leave, you’re going to see a lot more than my chest.”
“You’re injured worse on your leg.” She eyed the ever-growing blood spot on those combats.
His hands went to the zipper of his fly. “Well?”
As if he were giving her one last chance.
“Well?” She shrugged. “Do you honestly think I’m going to let you get under that hot water without help? You’re white as a sheet. Your blood pressure is obviously low. You’re liable to pass out.”
“Oh, for the love of…”
Now he looked at her. And, with quick efficiency, released the fastening at his waist. The top part of the pants fell away. The bottom stuck in place over those thighs.
But something was revealed.
And it was … erect.
Xcor cocked a brow. “You can stop staring. I find it hard to believe you are enjoying the view.”
She tried to look away. She did. But her eyes had a mind of their own.
“You are so big,” she breathed.
He recoiled. As if that was the last thing in the world he’d expected her to say. And when he spoke next, his voice had changed.
Now, he begged. “Layla … Chosen Layla … you need to leave.”
As Xcor stood all but completely naked in front of the female, he couldn’t move. And not just because his combats had wedged themselves above his knees and turned into a hobble.
Layla’s green eyes were impossibly wide as they focused on his sex—and stayed there.
Could this evening go any farther off the rails, he wondered.
Wait—mayhap he should not offer that kind of opening to the Fates.
Meanwhile, his cock was loving the attention. The damn thing kicked as if to suggest she should shake and make friends.
He covered the rigid length up with both his palms, stretching it flat over his lower abdomen. “Layla.”
Instead of doing the reasonable thing and backing away from him in horror and disgust, she bent and grasped the waistband of his combats. Before he could shove her off, his pants were down his thighs and pooling around his ankles.
“Come, let’s get you under the spray.”
She didn’t give him a chance to protest. And a second later, his battered and bruised body was under the warm falling water, aching bones and healing scars both screaming and sighing at the impact. With a snap of the curtain, she gave him the privacy he wanted—except the klonk over by the toilet suggested she hadn’t departed, but rather had shut the lid and sat down.
There was no reason not to follow through with the soap and the shampoo, and he tried to be quick about it. Unfortunately, the bullet that had narrowly missed his lung was stinging sure as if there were battery acid upon his flesh. And the soap did not help that.
The other reason to be fast was that he was acutely aware of both his nakedness and his arousal. The more efficient he was, the sooner he could get dressed.
No clothes, though. He had no clean clothes.
Closing his eyes in defeat, he rinsed the suds out of his hair, tilting his head back. Which was a mistake. The water’s rush hit his cock, and damned if it didn’t feel like hands, her hands.
Or maybe her mouth—
The release was not unexpected. It was, however, unwanted. As his erection kicked and his orgasm rolled through him, he gritted his teeth—
“You don’t have to hide it,” she said in a husky voice. “I can see the shadow of you.”
“So look away,” he groaned as his hips rolled into his ejaculations.
Sagging against the tile, he knew he had lost whatever upper hand he had believed he had in the situation. That female had guessed the terrible truth about him. She knew his aims had changed. And she seemed unwilling to keep whatever relationship this was on terms that gave both of them some honor and dignity.
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