The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(91) by J.R.Ward
“Not a lot of negative side effects,” Manny chimed in.
“They would ease any pain up to a point, but also work as anti-inflammatories that wouldn’t affect your immune system.”
Selena closed her eyes and wished she could be anywhere else. Wished that she could be anyone else.
To think that the entire compound was filled with people who had no fear of whether they were going to wake up at dusk.
It wasn’t that she begrudged them that blessing. Not at all.
She just wanted to be a member of that club.
More conversation happened, but her brain had left the clinic and the clinical discussion. Instead, it was back up in Trez’s bedroom, reliving the knock-down, drag-out that had ultimately brought them even closer.
Trez was right. They had lived a lifetime over these last forty-eight hours.
“…you think?” he said to her.
“I’m sorry?” she mumbled.
“So what do you think? Would you like to try the pills?” When she stayed silent, he leaned down. “You okay? You need some time?”
“I need to make you dinner,” she blurted. Then shook herself. “I’m sorry, yes, sure, I’ll try whatever you want to give me. But after I get the pills … I want to make you dinner after sundown. At the Great Camp. With no one else around.”
Trez smiled a little. “Okay. You want to plan tonight’s date, you got it, my queen.”
She took a deep breath and nodded at the doctors. “That is what I want to do. And then I want to go for my boat ride.”
Both of the healers said all the right, caring things, reaching out and touching her hands, her shoulders—and she really appreciated the contact. It made her feel as if she weren’t some machine they were fixing from a distance, but someone they loved and cared about. A few minutes later, an orange bottle with a white lid was pressed into her palm and instructions she didn’t track were given.
More nodding. More thanking. Then she and Trez were leaving.
She waited until the door shut behind them. “Did any of that register for you? Like what I’m supposed to do with these?” The pills inside rattled against the plastic as she looked down. “Oh, there’s a label.”
“I remember everything,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Come on.”
He led her back to the office. Back out through the closet. Back into the damp-smelling, went-on-forever tunnel.
“Can I tell you something?”
She glanced up at him. “Of course. And I promise I won’t throw any more lamps—well, not like there are any around at the moment, but still.”
“You can throw anything you want.” He stopped and turned her to face him, brushing her hair back. “You are the bravest person I know.”
She laughed in a burst. “Okay, stop humoring the dead person, all right?”
“I’m serious. And don’t say that.”
“You live with the Brotherhood. They are the bravest people in the race.”
“No,” he whispered.
As he stared down at her, the admiration on his face was … simply stunning. But it was all wrong. “Trez, I’m terrified about everything.” She held up the pills. “I’m scared to take these. I’m scared to go to sleep—”
“You’re very brave—”
“I’m scared to cook you dinner.” She held up her forefinger. “And FYI, you should be, too. I can’t even make toast. Which is bread. In a toaster. How hard is that—and yet I have burned up loaves of the stuff.”
He shook his head. “Courage doesn’t mean you aren’t scared.” He dropped his mouth to hers and kissed her. “God, I love you so much. I love you so deeply. I love you forever.”
Putting her arms around him, she held on hard—and maybe wiped some tears on his shirt. “Fine, you think I’m brave … well, you’re the most romantic male I’ve ever known, seen, or heard about.”
Now he was laughing, and the deep rumble sounded so good against her ear. “Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.”
Melding her body to his, she said, “There is nothing more romantic on the planet than loving someone with your full heart, even though you know they’re leaving.”
He went still. “How else could a male love a female of worth like you but wholly. Completely. And without a single regret.”
As they stood there in that tunnel, halfway from the compound and halfway to the main house, she thought it was apt that what was on either side of them seemed to go off into infinity. They had but this middle point of the here and now, and they had to make it count.
“I don’t need to mate you in a ceremony,” she said.
“We’re living the vows right now.”
“So you’re saying you won’t mate me.”
“Are you asking?” she teased.
“You want me to one-knee it?”
Sinking down to the floor, he took her hands. “Selena, will you be my shellan? My one and only? I don’t have a ring, but we can go get you one—it’s what the humans do. Plus, I don’t know, I kind of want to buy you something expensive.”
Her first instinct was the one she had been trained to have—a demure deferral of the attention, the fuss, the pleasure.
But, in the words of her male, Fuck. That.
“I would love that. I would love everything, a ceremony, a ring, a party, the whole thing.” Opening her heart wide, she let the love in. “Everything!”
“That’s my queen,” he murmured. “That’s what I’m talking about.”
And that was how she ended up … engaged.
As she bent down to kiss him, it seemed utterly bizarre that the pair of them kept ricocheting back and forth between such incredibly opposite emotions. But this situation seemed to amplify the highs and lows, funneling feelings and experiences through a bullhorn until everything was too big to contain.
“So, a ring?” she said against his mouth.
“Yup, a ring.”
He ran his hands around the back of her thighs and stroked up and down. “And maybe a little sumthin’-sumthin’ you can’t get at a store.”
“And what might that be?” she drawled.
“Oh, you know. I’ll just have to show you upstairs…”
“Yeah, I heard you arguing during the day.”
As iAm spoke, he glanced into the mirror over his bathroom sink. His brother was standing behind him, in the doorway to his bedroom, and the guy was dressed in all black, looking like he was right out of a magazine.
Clearly ready to take his female out again for the night.
“Sounded heavy,” iAm tacked on.
“It was bad for a little while.” Trez came in and sat down on the lip of the Jacuzzi. “But we got through it. I asked her to mate me.”
Picking up the can of Barbasol, iAm hit the go button and then patted down his cheeks and chin. “How’s she doing?”
iAm knew tell the male was lying. The tells were all over the place, but mostly in the way his brother didn’t meet his eyes.
“What’s on your mind, Trez.”
Trez cracked his knuckles one by one. “She doesn’t want her remains to be … like, where her sisters are up there.” He pointed to the ceiling, but meant the heavens above. “So, you know, when the time comes, I’m thinking of disposing of—”
As that deep voice cracked and couldn’t keep going, iAm forgot about his razor and went over, tightening the towel that was around his waist and sitting down beside his brother. “Shit.”
Trez rubbed his face. “Yeah, that about covers it. Anyway, I’m thinking I’ll build a pyre for her. Rehv’s people do that. That way, she’ll be…” He cleared his throat. “She’ll be free. She wants to be free at the end. You know.”
iAm shook his head. “I hate this for you.”
“Me, too. Guess I was born under the wrong star in a major way.”
“What can I do?”
“Nothing. Just listen to me and forgive me if I say the wrong thing or get pissy. The stress is fucking crazy.”
They sat side by side in silence—because sometimes that was all you could do for someone you loved: There were paths that had to be walked alone. And that just sucked.
He wanted to ask how long. But that was the question of the hour, the one that nobody could answer.
“Are you going to have a ceremony?” iAm asked.
“I don’t think she wants that. I’m not sure what the Chosen do for funerals—”
“I was talking about the mating.”
“Oh, yeah. Ah, yeah, I guess.” Trez slapped his knees and got to his feet. “I gotta head out. I’m going to take her out tonight and get her a ring. I want to put a star from the heavens on her finger. Then she’s going to cook me dinner up north at Rehv’s.”
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