The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(72) by J.R.Ward
And most of all, worst of all, she cried for a sense of loss so powerful it was as if someone had died before her and there had been naught she could do to save them.
Images of Xcor bombarded her, from his attempts to make himself comely and see to it that he had been always clean even fresh from fighting … to the way he looked in that shower, silhouetted as his body climaxed behind the curtain … to the defeat that had hung his head as he had stared into the fire like some vital part of him had been exposed and was bleeding him, weakening him, changing him.
She tried to tell herself it was for the best. No more double life. No more falsity. No more hiding her phone or worrying about whether her whereabouts were discovered.
No more Xcor—
“I’ll call Doc Jane,” Qhuinn said urgently as he went for the house phone.
“What? No, I’m—”
“How bad are your chest pains?”
“What?” she said through the sniffles. “What are you—”
He pointed to her sternum. Looking down, she found that she had grabbed onto the front of her flannel nightgown, the soft fabric bunching up under her tight fist.
It was the origin of the tears, she thought.
They were coming from her heart.
“Honestly,” she whispered. “I’m all right. I just had to get it out—I’m so sorry.”
Qhuinn’s hand hovered over the receiver. And even when he finally retracted his arm, she was very clear that he was not convinced.
“I think I need to eat something,” she said.
It was the farthest thing from the truth, but he immediately went into order mode, calling Fritz instead of the medical types, asking for all kinds of food.
His worry about her well-being and his attentiveness only made her cry all over again.
Dearest Virgin Scribe … she was in mourning, wasn’t she.
“Okay, so we get in this.”
Selena grabbed onto the hand that Trez offered her and stepped over the lip of the first capsule in a lineup of six. The little pod-like constructions were set upon a pair of tracks, and had two seats side by side with a bar that was raised over the shallow hood. After Trez joined her, a uniformed operator gave them a nod from a control panel at the far end of the platform.
“It goes that way?” she asked, pointing ahead to a mountain rise. “We go up that?”
Trez had to clear his throat. Twice. “Ah, yeah. We do.”
“Oh, my God, that’s so high!”
“I, ah, yeah. It is.”
She turned to him as the bar came down over the top of their legs. “Trez, seriously, you’re going to hate this—”
There was a jerk and then they were moving forward on the track, a little chk-chk-chk created as the wheels began to turn with increasing speed.
“You, however, are going to love it,” he said, kissing her. “You may want to hold on.”
As they began an ascent that was nearly vertical, her back pressed into the padded seat and her hands gripped the cold metal bar. For a moment, she wished she’d taken the gloves that had been offered back at the house, but then she forgot all about the discomfort.
Higher, higher, higher … impossibly high.
Craning over the side, she grinned. “Oh, my God, we’re so high up!”
And they were only halfway to the top.
The chk-chk-chk became very loud, and the jerking got stronger, until she felt as if someone were pushing at her shoulders. The breeze grew cooler and more brisk, too, her hair whipping off to the side, her parka challenged to keep the warmth of her torso intact.
“The view is incredible,” she breathed.
It wasn’t as high as they’d been the night before, but with no buffer between her and the expanse below, no panes of glass to insulate her from the drop, nothing but the track ahead and the ever-increasing distance to the ground, she felt as if she were soaring.
And the park’s lights were magnificent. Multi-colored and flashing, they were everywhere she looked down below, marking the contours of the various rides, reflecting off the mirrors and the red and yellow and blue tops of the concession stands.
“It’s as if the sky has been inverted and the stars are down here!”
“Yeah. Oh, uh-huh … yeah. I guess we’re at the top … oh, yeah, wow. Uh-huh.”
Abruptly, they leveled off and everything got quiet except for the wind that muffled in her ears, the ride becoming smooth and gentle as they rounded an easy corner.
A quick glance at her male, and she saw that, despite his dark skin, he was pale as a ghost.
She let go with one of her hands and covered his. “Trez, how about we stay on the ground after this, okay?”
“Oh, no, it’s fine—I’m tight, I’m good.”
Uh-huh. Right. His jaw was set so hard she worried about his back teeth, and his neck was rigid above the collar of his black leather jacket. Matter of fact, the only thing that was moving on his entire body was his right knee. It was bouncing up and down, up and down, upanddown, upanddownandupanddown—
“Here we go,” he muttered. Like he was bracing himself for a body punch.
She whipped her head forward just in time to see absolutely nothing in front of them. It was only open air, as if the track had fallen away.
“Where does it—”
All at once they were at breakneck speed, weightless and flying, pitching headlong down, down, down.
Selena laughed like she was crazy, releasing her hold and throwing her arms up. “Yesssssssssssss!”
So fast, the air ripping at her hair, slapping her in the face, pinning her against the seat; then it was hard right, hard left, zoom-zoom-zoom, up another giant rise when the chk-chk-chk came back and then …
“Oh, my God!” Trez hollered.
Up and around, so that the world tilted and went upside down before righting itself again. And another looping over and done, and then one that veered them off to the side.
It was like the ride home, only even more vivid and reckless and wonderful.
“I could do this forever!” she screamed as another sequence approached. “Forever!”
“Oh, Christ, not again!”
In a row.
And Trez had been the one insisting.
As their little cart of horrors came back to the platform once again, he was prepared to keep the torture up.
Selena was ecstatic and that made it all worth it—even the intestinal loops in the middle of the roller-coaster ride.
Which turned his own guts into a fizzy mess.
“Let’s do it one more time,” he said, trying to fly the flag. Even though at this point someone was going to have to surgically remove his hands from the bar.
“No, I think we’ve had enough.”
“Are you kidding? I love this shit—”
“We’re finished,” she called out to the attendant.
“I got your pictures,” the human male said as he pulled a crank down and an engine that was out of sight came to a rambling halt. “They’re just printing.”
Okaaaay, time to get out. Yup.
Prying his grip off the bar, he watched his metal savior rise up and clink into place overhead. “Yup. I’m coming.” Right now. “Here I go.”
As Selena got to her feet and balanced herself on the roll bar, he was ready to follow her out. Walk her over to the attendant. Get those pictures he’d been unaware that someone had been taking of them.
Instead, he just sat there breathing in a shallow pump. Come on, though, he wasn’t a pussy. Forcing himself to try to stand up, he found that his legs were numb from mid-thigh down—but on a messy stumble, he somehow managed to get out of the cart and onto the platform without completely embarrassing himself.
Although the fact that Selena had to steady him was not exactly a vote of confidence in his verticality.
“Oh, thank you,” he heard her say to the attendant. Then she glanced at him. “Here, let’s walk over to that bench and look at the pictures.”
Before he knew it, he was sitting on a stretch of wrought-iron hard-and-cold, and staring at photographs of Selena having a party and him looking like someone had his nuts in a vise. Meanwhile, her hand was stroking his back, riding over the leather of his jacket in a slow circle.
“Here you go, ma’am.”
“Thank you so much.” She held something out to him. “Why don’t you take a quick drink?”
He was too wrung-out to throw out a “S’all good.” He just took whatever it was, put it to his mouth, and did what he was told.
“Oh, that’s good,” he breathed when he finally lowered the soda bottle.
“Ginger ale. I learned about it from Doc Jane.”
About ten minutes later, he was able to properly focus on what he was supposedly looking at. “You are so beautiful,” he said as he stared at the image of the two of them together.
“I’m not sure about that, but I’ll tell you one thing—that is the time of my life right there. How you feeling?”
He rubbed his thumb over the picture of her face. “You are so alive. Look at you, your eyes are amazing.”
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