The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(89) by J.R.Ward
“Selena, first of all, you’re not going anywhere—”
“My hands are beginning to feel stiff. My feet and ankles, too. I don’t think we have a lot of time left, Trez.”
As Selena spoke, she smoothed Trez’s eyebrows when they threatened to clench up tight. She had practiced the words for hours in her head, trying to find the right combination so he wouldn’t reject the message.
This was very important. She had to say these things and he had to hear them.
“It is going to be so much harder on me to go through this if I’m worried about you.”
She could feel the emotions coursing through him, and wasn’t surprised as his black eyes flashed brilliant green in his dark face—and she wished like hell she could spare him this, but she couldn’t.
“I need you to swear to me,” she said, “here and now, that you won’t close yourself off from the world, that you’ll—”
Trez burst up to his feet and walked around, hands on his hips, head down, like he was trying to get some control over himself.
“Trez, I want you to keep living after I’m gone.” As he started shaking his head, she cut in, “Because that is the only thing that’s going to make any of this okay for me.”
He threw his hands up. “All right, fine. I’ll keep living. Now, can I get dressed so we can go down to the clinic—”
“Trez. Don’t lie to me.”
He stopped and pivoted toward her, his magnificent body full of tension, the muscles in his thighs and his shoulders twitching under his smooth, hairless skin. “What do you want me to say?”
“That you’ll let people help you. You’re going to need it—I would need it if you—”
“And I will! Fine! I’ll even see Mary—I’ll wear a fucking sign around my chest that reads, ‘Processing Grief,’ for fuck’s sake. Happy? Now can we fucking stop talking about this.”
As he barked at her, she closed her eyes in exhaustion. “Trez—”
“You say you can’t imagine leaving me, right? Well, I can’t even think about it. I don’t think about—I refuse to even construct in my mind”—he jabbed his forefinger into his head—“a reality where you’re not here. So not only can I not project what the fuck I’m going to feel like, but I sure as hell can’t swear to a hypothetical.”
“You’d better start thinking about it,” she said roughly. “You’d better begin to prepare. I’m telling you right now that the endgame is coming.”
He seemed to deflate in front of her, even as he stayed his same height and weight. “Don’t talk like that.”
“And I want you to find another female, sometime far off in the future. I want you to…” At this, her voice cracked from a pain so great she could have sworn it was going to leave a bloodstain in the center of her shirt. “I don’t want you to spend another nine hundred years sleeping alone.”
As she fell silent, the devastation in him was so great, he stumbled backward and all but fell into the chaise longue.
“I thought you loved me,” he said in a voice that didn’t sound like his.
“I do. With all my—”
He rubbed his sternum. “Then what’s this all about. Why do you want me to go and find some other female—”
“Trez, listen to me.” But he was gone, having retreated to somewhere in his head that she couldn’t reach. “Trez, I do love you, and that’s the point—”
“Then why would you ever tell me you want me to be with anyone but you?” His eyes were crushed as they swung around to her. “Why would you want that? Ever? It’s a violation of everything I thought we felt for each other.”
“I’ve bonded with you. You know this. Why would you ever tell a bonded male that he has to go out and have sex with someone else?”
“You’re missing the point.”
Shit, it wasn’t supposed to go like this. He was supposed to give her his vow—and take her permission to heart so that, a million years from now, when he’d moved on from her and everything they’d meant to each other wasn’t so raw, he wouldn’t feel guilty about finding someone else to be happy with.
It was the right thing for her to do.
“Maybe you should just go,” he said in a dull voice.
He brushed at his eyes. “Just leave. Just get out of here.” He nodded at the door. “I was prepared to go through absolutely anything with you, but not this. You don’t want my love, that’s fine. I get it. This has been a crazy couple of nights for you, and high emotion has a way of contaminating everything and making things seem more important than they really are. But you can’t be here with me anymore.”
She shook her head, like maybe that would help make his words make sense. “What are you talking about.”
“I don’t blame you. Doc Jane told you I saved your life, so there’s a lot of gratitude you must be feeling—that can be confused for love. I get it—”
“Wait, what—I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“But I can’t be around you. You say you don’t want me to destroy myself? Fine, then a good place to start is with you leaving now.”
A weird flickering panic made her nape tighten up. “Trez, you haven’t listened to what I’ve been saying. You’re taking this in a completely different direction—a wrong one. I love you—”
“Don’t say that,” he snapped at her. “Don’t you say that to me—”
“I’ll say anything I like,” she snapped back. “It’s your hearing that I’d be worried about if I were you.”
“Oh, my ears are working fine, sweetheart. I just had the female I love and worship more than anything in the entire world tell me she wants me to go out and fuck someone else. Maybe before you die, you should write Hallmark and suggest that shit for a Valentine’s Day card, it’s really fucking romantic.”
Now she was the one springing to her feet. “I don’t want that! I don’t want any of this!” Her voice rose to a hysterical level, but she couldn’t help it. “Do you think I’m happy about saying these things, thinking these things! I have God only knows how many nights left and I’ve wasted this one sitting on that fucking chair right there staring at some bullshit book I haven’t been reading, imagining you hanging yourself in a bathroom after I die! Or getting drunk and running your car into a tree! Or going on another fucking spree that lasts not a decade but a century!”
She circled a finger next to her head. “These thoughts—I don’t want them! You think I want to tell you this? Jesus Christ, Trez, I love you! I don’t want you to ever be with another female, like ever! I want you to sit in a corner and mourn me until you die—I don’t want you to see the sun or the moon, or enjoy another meal, or have a good day’s sleep! I want to haunt you for the rest of your life, until everywhere you go and anyone you talk to, all you can see is the ghost of me—because then I know you won’t forget me!”
He put his hands out. “Selena, I—”
“You want to know what death is! I’ll tell you what it is—death is the living forgetting you! What you smell like and look like, what your voice sounds like, how you laugh! Even if there is an afterlife, my death is going to be you going on without me until you can’t remember what color my eyes are or how long my hair is—”
It turned out she was the one who went Luchas.
Suddenly, her vision went all white and she had no control over the way she lunged for the nearest lamp, yanked it off its side table, and hurled it across the room at the bank of windows, throwing the thing so hard its silk shade went flying and hit the chandelier hanging in the middle of the ceiling.
Cue the shattering. Everything broke, glass splintering into shimmers that went everywhere, such that Trez had to lift his arm to protect his eyes.
She burst into tears. “I don’t want you to go on without me.”
As her soul split in half, he jumped up and came over. When he tried to hug her, she flailed at him, beat him with her fists.
“You’re going to find someone else,” she moaned. “You’re going to fall in love with someone else and she’s going to be able to give you young and hold you when you have daymares and make you dinner.” The tears came so hard and heavy, she couldn’t take a breath. “And she’s going to be better than me because she’s going to…” Selena collapsed against him. “…she’s going to be lucky enough to be alive.”
Trez held her to his heart and stroked her back.
There it was. The truth was out. The evil she had been trying to package and pretty-bow up revealed because she had wanted to be a female of worth instead of the pathetic, clingy curse she actually was.
And yet, he was still with her. Standing soul-to-soul, flesh-to-flesh, undaunted, utterly determined to love her through it all.
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