The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(71) by J.R.Ward
iAm checked his watch again.
And then what. What the hell was he going to do about maichen?
What if Trez and Selena needed him … and he was out meeting with that female?
Jesus, after a lifetime of celibacy, it was a shocker to find that he’d made an arrangement to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. And it was not to talk.
No, he was not in a talking kind of mood.
Rubbing his eyes, he pictured the female draped in all those pale blue robes and the urge to get under all that masking took on an obsessional edge. Hell, if it hadn’t been for a molecular exhaustion, he probably would have spent the entire day staring at the ceiling over his bed thinking about what he was going to do to her. As it was, he’d crashed with a hard-on and woken up with one, too.
He’d done nothing about either erection.
If he jerked off, it somehow felt too real.
And for the same reason, he’d told his brother nothing about the trip into the s’Hisbe or the female he’d met or the “date” he’d made.
Compared to what Trez was facing, all that was such small potatoes. And there was also a dreamscape to it all, which he was surprised to discover he wanted to keep in place.
Maybe because it made things less intimidating?
But come on, he didn’t think he was going to go. How could he leave…?
No, he wasn’t going. For the first time in his life, he didn’t think he could trust himself not to go straight-up animal on some poor female. And hell, she was probably having second thoughts, too. Meeting an unknown male in the middle of nowhere? She’d be insane to do something like that.
Especially because she had to know what was on his mind.
No, he told himself. Neither of them was going to show up at that cabin at midnight. And that was better for everybody.
“It’s dead! Fates, it is gone—will you stop!”
No, Xcor thought. He would not.
As he continued stabbing the lesser, black blood speckled his face, his chest, his forearm. Black blood pooled on the cold asphalt of the alley. Black blood got into his eyes.
And still he kept with the assault, his shoulder driving the blade into the torso everywhere but the hollow chest as Zypher yelled at him, pulled at him, cursed at him.
That was all for naught. Unhinged, he was a beast without a leash, his mind floating above the exertion, driving him ever onward to kill, kill, kill—
The yank that finally pulled him free of his prey was that of a tow truck, the force enough to separate him from the mangled, oozing carcass.
He did not take the unconsented-to relocation well. Swinging around, he slashed his dagger through the air, narrowly missing Zypher’s throat. And as the soldier leaped out of range, Zypher unholstered his own weapon, prepared to fight.
Caught in between a lunge and a relenting, Xcor panted, great clouds coming out of his mouth. He had left the deserted farmhouse without any of them, bursting out and heading to the theater of conflict half-naked and fully crazed.
And it had been for his soldiers’ own good.
“What is wrong with you!” Zypher demanded. “What ails you!”
Xcor bared his teeth. “Leave me alone.”
“So you can get yourself killed?”
The echo of his shout rebounded up and out of the alley, the words bouncing back and forth between the brick walls of the buildings before careening into darkness like bats released from a cave.
Zypher’s face was pure fury. “They have guns, remember? Or is last night too dim a memory for you!”
“They have always had guns!”
“Not like those!”
Xcor looked down at the slayer. Even mostly dismembered, it was still moving, arms grasping at thin air in slow motion, legs sawing in a stew of innards and black oil.
Snarling at the thing, he let out a shout and then stabbed it into oblivion. The light was so bright he was blinded by the flash, his retinas revolting at the glare. But the readjustment came quickly, each blink clearing his vision further.
He just needed more. He needed to find more—and he needed something else, too.
“Get me a whore,” he barked.
Zypher recoiled. “What?”
“You heard me. Find me one. Bring her to the cottage.”
“Human or vampire?”
“It matters not. Just make sure she’s paid enough to be willing.”
He expected questions. There were none.
Zypher merely inclined his head. “As you wish.”
Xcor wheeled away, prepared to hunt and fight and kill. And before jogging off, he glared over his shoulder. “Blonde. I want a blonde. And she must have long hair.”
“I know who to call.”
With a nod, Xcor ran down the alley, his combats thundering over the rough pavement. Sniffing the breeze, his brain filtered through the smells of diesel fumes and cheap restaurants, and humans that were homeless and unbathed, and rotting fish in the river.
His rage at himself sharpened every sense he had—
“Hey, man, you looking for a taste?”
Pulling his body up short, he turned around, but knew from the scent coming at him on the gusts that it was no human who stood in the shadows.
The enemy he was looking for had found him, the lesser as yet unaware of who it was speaking to.
“Aye,” he said. “I would like a taste.”
“Foreign motherfucker,” the slayer said. “What do you want?”
“Whate’er do you have?”
“I got the good stuff. Pure Columbian white powder H, not that Mexican black tar—”
Xcor did not allow the sales pitch to continue to a completion. With a vicious lunge, he leapt forward and swung his dagger in an arc, clipping the slayer right across the front of the face at eye level. Instantly, the undead brought up his hands, bending in half, howling in pain—and Xcor took advantage of that, hauling back his right boot and spinning it around, kicking the skull like it was a soccer ball, sending the undead flying off its feet to the side.
Leaping high into the air, he landed on the lesser, rolled it over, and trapped its hands over its head in one of his palms. The stench was rancid milk and fetid sweat, and that sweet smell triggered his kill reflex.
The rage he had been unable to contain since Layla had left came out once more. Holstering his dagger, he curled up a fist with his dominant hand and drove it into the pale face of the lesser over and over and over again, until the features all but liquefied under the beating, bones crushing in, jaw hinging free. With each inhale he drew his arm up; with every exhale he slammed his fist down, his steady pace of respiration driving the impacts.
Zypher had better work fast.
He needed to fuck his way out of this mood as well.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, Layla’s hands trembled as she held her phone in both palms. She had already read what had been sent to her, and not just once. In fact, she had been reading the words ever since she had been awoken at dusk to the sound of her cell vibrating on her bedside table.
Do not come to see me again. I shall not be ever at the cottage nor the farmhouse again nor consent to be in your presence. I am uninterested in anything you have to offer.
Xcor must have dictated it into his iPhone. He had never sent her anything via text before, and she had always suspected that he could not read or write.
Of all the ways she had seen their relationship ending for them, of all the ways she could have imagined them parting, it was not like this. Not because she had ended up getting him naked and trying to force him to feed from her.
She jumped, the phone flying out of her hands and landing on the short-napped carpet. As Qhuinn stepped over to pick the thing up, she panicked and scrambled off the bed to get there first. Or tried to scramble.
With her belly, she couldn’t get far very fast and she caught her breath as his lean hand scooped up the cell phone.
“Are you okay?” he said. “You look pale.”
Don’t look at it. Don’t look at the screen—
“Oh, my God, are you crying?”
“No.” She held out her hand. “I’m not.”
Give me the phone, give me—
Qhuinn came over to her and tilted her face up. “What’s going on?”
As his thumb brushed across her cheek, he put the goddamn fucking cell phone back where it had been, on the bedside. Face down.
“I knocked and no one answered,” he said. “I got worried.”
With a shudder, she closed her eyes, her raw nerves still vibrating at the near-miss. “Just reading a sad story online. Guess I’m more emotional than I thought.”
He sat down next to her. “Lot of shit going on the last few days—”
Before she knew it, she burst into tears and leaned into his big chest.
Circling her with his heavy arms, he held her gently and let her cry it all out—and the fact that he mistakenly assumed the tears were only because she was pregnant and having twins and overly hormonal made her cry even harder.
She cried for the months and months of lying and deception; she cried for all the trips to that meadow; for her sneaking in and out of the house; for using the car Qhuinn had bought her to do it.
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