The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(84) by J.R.Ward
Make that OMFG.
His eyes were a perfect sky blue, deeply set, with dark brows and lashes. His face was hollow-cheeked, because he was a little too lean, but that just set off the masculine bone structure. And his mouth was …
If he’d gotten her attention before, he pretty much knocked her on her ass now.
Thank God for her chair.
“What’s your name?” she blurted as he turned away.
He put his ball cap back on. “Craeg.”
She got to her feet and stuck out her hand. “I’m Paradise—well, you probably know that already, because you read the thing I’d filled in.”
Great, she was babbling.
“Nice to meet you, Craeg,” she prompted when he made no move toward her.
He nodded once, and then walked out, leaving her palm hanging there in the breeze.
Flushing, she sat back down—and realized that ooooooh, about five people had witnessed that whole exchange. And were now busy thumbing through issues of People and Time magazine, trying to look busy. One of the older males even picked up an entire Caldwell Courier Journal and put it up to his face.
Well, she could play at the pretend-to-be-busy thing, too.
Making all kinds of tapping noises on her keyboard, she tried to camo the full-body fluster she had going on.
She’d never seen him before. Like, ever. So maybe he had just come over from the Old Country—except what were the chances of that? The vast majority of the population had been in and around Caldwell for how long? Plus no accent. So he must be … well, a stranger, obviously. But he had to be a member of the aristocracy if he’d heard about the training program, right?
Glancing over at the archway he’d come through, she found herself wishing he would hand-deliver that application back.
Who was he—
She jumped. And focused on her father, who’d come out of nowhere. “Yes?” Realizing her voice sounded too close to normal, and she was supposed to still be angry at him, she cleared her throat. “What may I do for you?”
Like he was simply another person she was taking care of.
“I just wanted to inquire how you were doing?”
His affect was nothing aggressive. Instead, he seemed so worried—damn it. She wanted to keep being angry at him.
She sighed. “I’m fine, Father.”
“You’re doing such a marvelous job. Truly. Everything is running so smoothly. The King is so pleased—I am so proud.”
See, this was just like him. It was impossible to be pissy when you were confronted by this … this earnest, his-version-of-an-apology stuff.
“May I bring you something to eat or drink?”
“You’re not a doggen, Father.”
“Perhaps you need a break?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes. Got to her feet. Walked around to him. “You drive me nuts.”
She gave him a hug because that was what he was looking for. Then she stepped back. “Oster, son of Sanye, is next.”
As she indicated the gentlemale in question, and the civilian got to his feet, her father gave her hand a squeeze and then reassumed his official duties.
Following his example, she sat down again. Looked at the computer in front of her. And still felt caged.
But what was she going to do? Even though he technically couldn’t stop her—she was of age, and there had been no specification on the application that a female had to get a male elder to approve the submission—she nonetheless found herself paralyzed.
It was hard to rebel against your parents when there was only one left.
And he was all you had in this world.
Selena hated pretty much everything about the exam, the blood draw, the X-ray process. And she felt bad about that. It wasn’t that Doc Jane was anything less than perfectly gentle and very kind. But to be in one of those hospital johnnies, getting poked and prodded, twisted and pictured, was like having the countdown to some kind of detonation happen right in front of you.
Plus, she hated the fake-lemon antiseptic they had to use on everything.
And the fact that she was cold even after they put a blanket over her legs.
And then there was that bright light hanging over her head.
Mostly, though, it wasn’t the external environment that was hard to put up with. It was the internal screaming that she found she had to hold in through force of will.
“Okay, I think that’s our last X-ray,” Doc Jane said from over by the desk.
On the computer screen, a ghostly image of Selena’s knee was front and center, but she refused to look at it.
She had to stay lying down until Doc Jane came back over and moved the X-ray arm out of the way. And as she sat up, the doctor took the plate from underneath her leg and put it aside.
“So … what now?” Selena asked.
She was numb. She was cold. She was sweaty.
But mostly she was feeling stiff. And not just in her hands.
“Let me take a good look at the X-rays with Manny. And then we’ll come talk to you.”
Selena shifted her legs off and looked over the lip of the table at her feet. She flexed one and then the other, her brain going into a tailspin of Better? Worse? The same?
“When?” she said roughly.
“Why don’t we meet around dawn? Trez could come down here with you if you like—”
The crash came from outside of the room, and both of them looked to the door across the way. When the sound repeated itself, Doc Jane raced over—and so did Selena.
After all, she wasn’t frozen stiff yet, and it seemed like a good time to remind herself of that fact.
The pair of them rushed out into the corridor and listened. The training center was otherwise silent, what with the Brothers getting their workouts in the field, and there being, fortunately, no one with injuries in the clinic rooms—
The clatter came again, and they took off, heading two doors down.
Doc Jane opened things wide.
The healer had to duck as something came flying out of the room. A tray. It was a meal tray, and it skipped along the concrete floor like the thing was really glad to be free of there—and looking to put a little extra distance in.
Inside, Luchas was out of control on the bed. Half of him appeared to be tied down, but one hand and arm were free and he was using them to destroy anything he could reach—he’d knocked over some monitoring equipment along with his IV pole, did the same duty with the rolling table that had had some sort of meal on it—and was now reaching for the back of the headboard like he wanted to tear the bed apart.
“Luchas,” Doc Jane said, with admirable calmness. “What’s going—”
Selena recoiled. She’d been here to feed Qhuinn’s brother over the last several months, and he’d always been nothing short of a gentlemale.
“Fuck this!” He gave up on the headboard and grabbed onto the side table, shoving it so hard the thing went down, its drawers exploding out like that was its way to bleed. “Fuck you!”
Doc Jane backed out and muttered, “I’ve got to go get a sedative. Don’t go in there.”
As the doctor took off at a run, Selena stayed in the doorway.
“What are you looking at?” he screamed at her. “What the fuck do you want!”
There was a red stain on the bed. The sheeting, on one side, a little more than halfway down, was stained—he was bleeding. From some kind of wound—
“Your leg,” she breathed, well aware of the infection that had been plaguing him. “Be careful of your leg—”
“I wanted to die!” he spat. “I was trying to die!”
His face was a twisted facsimile of the features she knew well, his too-white skin stretched nearly to the breaking point over a bone structure that had no doubt been enviable before he’d been tortured by the Lessening Society.
“They took my fucking leg to save me!” He pulled the sheets off. “To save me!”
The stump was wrapped carefully in layers of surgical gauze, but underneath wasn’t doing well—blood was seeping out, everywhere.
He started to claw for what was left and that was when she had to get involved.
Marching across the room, she grabbed his flailing hands and pinned them to the bed by his head.
Luchas. Went. Wild.
Screaming, twisting, cursing at her.
All she did was shake her head and let him exhaust himself—which didn’t take long at all.
When he stopped fighting, she said, “You are so lucky. So damned lucky.”
That shut him up. Probably in a way that a direct confrontation wouldn’t have.
“What?” he stammered.
“I’m dying,” she said plainly. “And if someone could take part of my leg to save me? So I could stay here to be with the person I love? I’d do it in a heartbeat. So, yeah, I think you’re very lucky.”
He was still breathing hard, but the tension in his body left him. “Dying?”
“’Fraid so.” She released her hold and stepped back. “Don’t waste this time you have. I know you’re hurting, and I don’t doubt you’re angry at where you are. But personally, I’d trade places with you in a heartbeat.”
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