The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(79) by J.R.Ward
Gone. Nothing left.
She had been trained—no, programmed, really—to believe in the afterlife, and serve the Mother of the Race, and adhere to traditions she had neither established herself nor volunteered for. And she had done all of that without question.
Coming to the end of her life, she wished she had asked and challenged and had a voice.
So much wasted time.
As she started up the stairs with Trez, she found herself wondering why, if there was a Fade and people continued up there … why had the Scribe Virgin demanded that everything on Earth be recorded in the Sanctuary? Why all of those volumes and volumes of lives lived … if after death, the people still existed only in a different form?
You had to preserve only that which could be lost.
Her heart started to pound, a sudden terror taking hold—
“Oh, shit,” Trez breathed.
Clearly, he’d read her mind. “I don’t know what I’m thinking. It’s probably just nonsense—”
He threw out his free hand for the banister and weaved.
“Trez! What’s wrong?”
“Shit. Fuck.” He looked over at her, but his eyes were unfocused. “Can you help me to the room? I can’t see—”
“Dearest Virgin Scribe, let me get Doc Jane!”
“No, no, it’s just a migraine.” He steadied himself with help from her. “I don’t have a lot of time. I have to get upstairs to a dark room and lie down.”
“Let me call Doc Jane—”
“No, as you remember, I’ve gotten these all my life. I know what’s coming. It’s going to be hell for eight hours, but it can’t really hurt me.”
Selena tried to take as much of his weight as she could while they hobbled up to the second-story landing and then crossed over to the door to the third floor. His big body moved slowly, and at some point, he just gave up on his vision entirely, those eyes of his shutting.
Somehow, she got him up to his room and down on the bed.
“Dark is going to help,” he said, putting his forearm over his face. “And could you bring a wastepaper basket over?”
Hustling around, she turned off all the lights except the one in the bathroom and made sure there was a receptacle right next to his head. “Do you want me to take your clothes off?”
It was not exactly the experience she’d been banking on, but then again, her mood had gotten ruined even before this. And as she did the deed, she was oh, so careful with him, helping him with his jacket, then shucking his boots and socks, and doing away with his slacks.
“I’ma keep the shirt on. I just don’t have the energy for it.” He captured her hand and tugged her into a sit by his hip. “Not the way I’d planned on ending tonight.”
She kissed his palm. “What else can I do for you?”
“Just let me lie here for the next six to eight hours. And don’t worry, like I said, all of this, from the headache to the nausea, is normal. Unfortunately.”
“What causes this?”
“Do you want me to call iAm?”
“Shit, no. He has too much on his plate already. Actually, I think he’s why I got it.”
“Is there something wrong with him?”
As Trez fell silent, she wanted to press, but he was ill.
“You don’t have to go,” he said.
“I don’t want to disturb you.”
“You won’t.” He rubbed her hand with his own, and his lips, which were the only part of his face showing, broke into a smile. “I love your hands. I’ve told you that, right? They’re so smooth and soft … long fingers…”
As she stayed with him and he ran his fingertips from the inside of her wrist to the base of her fingers, she felt her panic melt away. Nothing felt strange in those joints anymore. So it definitely had been the cold.
A little later he let out a soft moan, his mouth flattening, his body tensing up. And then he began to swallow.
“I need you to go,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry—I don’t want you to see this…”
“Are you sure—”
It was the last thing she wanted to do, but she got to her feet. “I’m in the house, okay? I’m not leaving. Call me if you—”
He jerked over onto his side and reached for the bucket. Pausing over the thing, he opened his eyes and pegged her with a frazzled stare. “You need to leave now.”
“I love you,” she said, rushing for the door. “I wish I could help.”
She wasn’t sure he’d even heard her as she slipped out, and just as she shut the door, the sounds of him retching made her wince.
For a split second, she thought she might camp out in the hall beyond his room. But then, as she debated where she was going to sit on the floor, she realized that she couldn’t get her grip off the doorknob.
Her palm had frozen on the brass.
“Of course I am not quitting. Don’t be daft.”
As Assail addressed his cousins in the kitchen of his glass house, he was in a vicious mood—and sinking even deeper into anger upon Ehric’s inquiry.
“But the King—”
“Has no right to interfere in matters of commerce flowing to humans.” He conveniently avoided thinking or commenting upon the conflict-of-interest issue. “And I have no intention of complying with that order of his.”
“So how do we proceed?”
“He will have us followed. That is what I would do were I he. I want the two of you to go activate the warning to my colleague. We’ll suspend operations briefly and reconnoiter.”
After the pair of them left, he stayed in his kitchen so that whatever Brothers had been stationed around his house would have him in plain view. Taking out his vial of cocaine, he discovered it was, once again, nearly empty, but at least there was enough to tide him over.
When he finished partaking, he went into his study on the other side of his home. It too had glass windows, and he turned on the desk lamp so that they could keep a good eye on him. Sitting down, he looked at the piles of papers he’d made. Investment accounts. Brokerage accounts. Monies in the U.S. and abroad.
Growing, growing, growing.
The fortune at his disposal had turned another corner about a month ago, the laundered money from the Caymans transferred into more legal accounts in the U.K. and Switzerland.
So much, and all of it accumulating interest, dividends, and appreciation.
When he had started in the business of drug dealing, shortly after he had come to America from the Old Country about a year ago, he had already been doing very well for himself even by his standards. Now, there was double that amount in his various accounts.
Picking up a random sheaf of papers, he looked at his month-end report. The daily one in his computer was even more recent.
In spite of his largesse, the idea that Wrath was getting in the way of his pursuits infuriated him to his marrow.
Just not for a reason he would admit to anyone.
Without this … he had nothing.
What had started as an extension of his European businesses had grown into his raison d’être, the sole purpose he had in his life, the only drive that got him out of bed in the evening, and dressed, and out the door.
To be fair, he’d always enjoyed making money.
But ever since last winter …
Cursing, he leaned back in his leather chair and put his head in his hand. Then without looking, he reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket and took out his phone.
He had memorized Sola’s number long ago.
But he hadn’t called it. Not since she had moved away from Caldwell to Miami with her grandmother. Not since she had left here to get out of exactly the kind of criminal life he was leading.
Going into his phone, he went to the numerical dial pad. As he had so many times before, he punched in the sequence of ten numbers, one after another, his fingertip finding and following the pattern he knew by heart.
No, he hadn’t called her. But on a regular basis he did this: ten numbers that were anything but random to him, punched into his phone … and cleared away without him having hit “send.”
If the King took his livelihood away? Then he was going to have fucking nothing to do but stew in the fact that the one woman he wanted was utterly unobtainable.
Woman. Not female.
She was human, not vampire. Hell, she didn’t even know that vampires existed.
And therein lay the catch. Even if he broke out of the drug dealing? It wasn’t like he could go down to Miami, show up on her doorstep, and be all like, Hey! Let’s pick up where we were!
Not going to happen—because sooner or later, his species was going to come out and then where were they going to be?
For some reason, the stillness and silence of his glass house sank in, reminding him exactly how alone he was—and would be if he stopped his drugging. Hell, his cousins were not going to be content with sitting around and mourning a female they were not in love with—he would lose them, too.
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