The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(78) by J.R.Ward
Almost immediately a second one came in from his brother. Thank you so much.
Trez never spelled out words in text. So he must have really meant it.
iAm hesitated with his response. Then he sent: Glad to help. Will c u home.
He went to put the thing back into his jacket when he hesitated. Thn ima go to check on thgs.
It was a text he’d sent a million times over the last couple of years. And in fact, he meant it. He was going to go see about the restaurant and the clubs—how they were functioning, if anyone needed anything.
That was exactly what he needed to do next. And exactly what would keep him from going to that damn cabin.
Time to head out.
With no one else around to play witness, he was free to dematerialize down to where he’d parked the BMW X5 that he and his brother had been sharing. A moment later, the Porsche was released through the side gate and he followed the leader at a discreet distance across the two-acre empty parking lot—as did Manny, in a conventional ambulance.
The entire way back to the Brotherhood compound, iAm had that picture of his brother and Selena in his mind, the pair of them dancing in the headlights like a pair of teenagers.
Too bad they were in a John Green novel.
How many more nights did they have, he wondered.
Shit, he felt morbid thinking like that, but there was a clock running here. With every hour that passed, it was more likely instead of less that Selena was going to collapse again.
And then what the fuck was he going to do with his brother?
Jesus Christ, Trez was going to be unmanageable.
With happy thoughts like that running through his head, he lost track of time, and before he was aware of having covered any distance at all, they were mounting the mhis-covered rise up to the mansion, Manny having broken off to head in the back way with the ambulance.
Hopefully, Selena was never going to know the precautions they were taking on her behalf.
It would have been a buzz kill. How could it not be.
iAm was careful to keep his distance as the last turn before the mansion approached, giving Trez time to get her inside. When he finally did pull into the courtyard, he went around the fountain and parked next to Rhage’s GTO.
Which wasn’t going to be out there much longer. The Brother always moved it into the garage during the winter months.
Manny’s Porsche was at the base of the stairs, its top up, its key no doubt making its way back to the doctor so he could bring it to the training center’s underground lot, too.
iAm shut the BMW off. Got out and locked it even though he didn’t need to.
And stalled out.
Staring up at the sky, he watched the breath leaving his mouth drift off and disappear. That image of Trez and Selena dancing was like a dog with its fangs in his gray matter, the memory refusing to budge—and not, he was ashamed to admit, because he was thinking of everything his brother was in danger of losing or because he was stressing about how to peel the sad bastard off the pavement when things came to a bad conclusion.
Instead, he was wondering …
Shit, he was wondering what that felt like. To hold a female close to your body. Have her scent in your nose and your hands on her shoulders, her waist, her hips. He wanted to know what it was like to turn her face up to yours and—
Okay, he needed to pull back from all that.
Because none of it was happening for him. Not now. Not in a half hour if he went to that cabin. Not in a week or a month or a year from now—
As if on cue, a cold breeze came barreling by. Like the universe wanted to underscore all the cold and lonely he had going on.
The sound of the vestibule’s outside door opening snapped him to attention. He liked Manny, but he didn’t need the guy coming out to play musical cars and finding him—
It wasn’t the good doctor.
Trez was coming out of the house. Jogging down the stone steps. Heading across the courtyard.
iAm put his hand on his phone in case he needed to call … whoever the fuck. “Hey, is she all—”
He didn’t get the “right” out.
His brother wrapped him up in a bear hug. “Thank you so much for tonight.”
At first, iAm didn’t know how to respond. He and his brother weren’t huggers.
“I was so glad you were there. It meant everything to me.”
iAm had to clear his throat. “I, ah…”
Trez just squeezed harder.
Cautiously, iAm put his arms around Trez. The movement felt all weird, but when he finally embraced the guy in return, he felt his brother shudder.
I’m sorry, man, he said in his head. I don’t want any of this for you.
The cold wind continued to blow, and after a long moment, they stepped back.
Trez had ditched his jacket and he shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “I got your text. I feel bad that I’ve just dumped everything on you.”
“Trez, you need to be with her and take care of your female. That’s the most important thing. The rest of it is just conversation.”
Those dark eyes focused on something above iAm’s left shoulder. Or maybe whatever it was was above his ear.
“I seriously do not know why you’re out here wasting time with me,” iAm muttered.
“I want more for you than this.”
“I happen to like my job at Sal’s just fine.”
His brother’s stare locked on his. “That is not what I’m talking about, and you know it.”
iAm joined the club with the fist-in-the-pocket routine. “Enough with the talk. Go to your female.”
Trez was a hardheaded son of a bitch, capable of tremendous acts of hell-no. But iAm, as usual, got through to him.
The male turned around, but made it only halfway to the mansion’s entrance before he stopped and looked over his shoulder.
“Don’t waste all your life on me, okay.” Trez shook his head. “I’m not worth it, and you’re worth more than that.”
iAm rolled his eyes. “Stop thinking. Start walking again.”
“Ask yourself what’s going to be left for you after I’m gone. If you’re honest, I don’t think you’re going to like the answer any more than I do. And spare me the everything’s-gonna-be-fines. Neither one of us is that naive.”
“Why are you distracting yourself with this. Seriously, Trez.”
“It’s not a distraction. It’s the kind of shit that eats you alive when you love someone.”
On that note, Trez kept going, heading up the stone steps and disappearing through the vestibule’s door.
iAm closed his eyes and sagged against the SUV. He didn’t need that little monologue of his brother’s in his head right now. He really didn’t.
Selena’s hands were stiff.
Standing at the counter in the Brotherhood’s kitchen, she tried to open a can of Coke and found that her fingers refused to grip the tab right. Instead of pulling the metal lip free, they skipped over the top.
As all kinds of warnings went off in her head, she reined in the panic, and reminded herself that she’d spent three hours in the cold without any gloves on.
Making a couple of loose fists, she blew into them; then shook her arms. Cracked her knuckles. Tried not to start looking for other problems elsewhere in her body.
People who had her disease could still get minor-league frostbite.
She faced off at the can again, her heart pounding as she watched from a great distance while she approached the pop-top once more. She viewed her hands and fingers with dispassion, as if they were attached to someone else’s wrists, moved by somebody else’s brain.
She exhaled and had to steady herself on the granite.
Covering up the relief, she smiled as Trez came in from the dining room. “Just getting some soda. I’m thirsty.”
“How’s your stomach?”
“Very well. How’s yours?”
As he came up to her, she had the sense that he was hiding something from her as well. And it was a shock to discover that in spite of her big living-the-truth speech after she’d come out of the latest Arrest, she wanted him to keep his secret, just like she wanted to keep hers: They’d had such a wonderful night; the last thing she needed was to ruin it with heavy conversation that would just expose problems that couldn’t be solved, and questions that weren’t going to be answered until it was too late.
“Tum’s just fine.”
She forced another smile. “Would you like to head upstairs?”
“That’d be great.”
Picking up her soda, she took the palm he offered her and went out with him through the dining room and into the foyer. The house was essentially empty, the Brothers off working, Wrath seeing civilians, Beth and Marissa and Mary at Safe Place, Bella babysitting L.W. and Nalla up in the new nursery suite, the doggen attending to their duties.
All of this was going to continue, she thought, when she was gone. All of the doors opening and shutting, menus planned and consumed, people living their lives.
Dearest Virgin Scribe, she wanted to stay with them. She didn’t want to go on to what might well be absolute nothingness, an utter unplugging of who she was and what mattered to her and how she thought and felt.
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