Home > Blood Truth (Black Dagger Legacy #4)

Blood Truth (Black Dagger Legacy #4)
Author: J.R. Ward

One year ago ...

Rexboone, blooded son of Altamere,

could Windsor-knot a silk tie blindfolded.

It was not a skill that he had set out to cultivate, but rather one to which he had become inured by virtue of his circumstance in life. In this regard, it was like his knowledge of Domaine Coche-Dury wine, the plays of Shakespeare, and Audemars Piguet watches. Without even being aware of exactly how or where he had picked up the particulars, he knew the difference between a John Frederick Kensett and a Frederic Edwin Church. When Rolls-Royce purchased Bentley (November 1931). When the two split again (31 December 2002). How to lead a female in a waltz. Where to get the best Savile Row suit.

Henry Poole & Co was the answer to that one.

“Damn it.”

He undid the tangle at the popped collar of his monogrammed shirt and tried the knot thing again. Maybe it would go better if he were blindfolded. Clearly, his eyeballs weren’t helping much.

On that note, he closed his lids.

The problem was that his palms were sweaty and he was having trouble breathing. So going choke around this throat of his, even if it was courtesy of a length of Hermès’s best silk, was not making him feel any less woozy.

Emotions were the problem. And wasn’t that a surprise.

As a member of the glymera, the vampire race’s aristocracy, there were only two choices for feelings. You either sported a mild, displaced approval or a patronizing, brow-arch-based disapproval.

Helluva range there. Like choosing between a wax figurine and a plastic mannequin.

Fine, if you were really upset about something or someone—like your lawn man trimming the ivy beds badly or maybe a piano (Steinway, of course) getting dropped on your frickin’ foot—you could, in an icy tone, offer a corrective missive that skewered said gardener or the owner of that concert grand so viciously that they felt compelled to suicide as a public service.

None of these options appealed to him at the moment. Not that he had ever wanted any of them.

With a tug to bring the knot up to his neck, and then a smooth draw down the two tails, he opened his eyes.

Well. What do you know. He’d done it.

Flipping the collar tabs down into place, he drew his bespoke suit jacket off the mahogany dressing stand, shoulder’d and arm’d the fine fabric, and finished his sartorial presentation by tucking a square of coral-and-blue silk into his breast pocket.

“Time to go,” he said to his reflection.

And yet he didn’t step away. Looking into the floor-length mirror, he did not recognize the dark-haired male staring back at him. Not the classic facial features so characteristic of aristocrats. Not the broad chest, which was not. Not the long legs or the veined hands.

You should be able to see yourself clearly. Especially when you were in your own walk-in closet in your own bedroom suite at your own home, with the lights on and no distractions.

Even more disturbing, he could inspect each distinct part of what he had on and recall in precise detail where he had gotten it all: who had made the shirt, jacket, and slacks, how he had chosen them, when they had been fitted. The same was true for the background behind him, the rows and rows of suits hanging from brass rods organized by season and hue, the colorful button-downs grouped together like schools of fish, the lineups of perfectly polished, handmade leather dress shoes like a marching army . . . all of it pieces he had picked out.

So where the hell was he among this enviable wardrobe?

As there would be no answer to that one coming, he strode out of his dressing room and through his bedroom and sitting area. Out in the hall, he passed by flower arrangements on demilune tables, a gallery of oil paintings, and then the closed doors of his blood mahmen’s former suite of rooms. From what he understood, the quarters were left as they had been when the female had died twenty years before, the lock turned one last time, ne’er to be released again.

But not, he gathered, because of his sire’s mourning.

It was more a case of done and dusted. His father’s next shellan had been installed, like a painting, a mere six months later, with all the rights and privileges accorded thereto. Including the expectation that she be referred to as Boone’s mahmen.

The fact that the female did not play that role, even on a step level, was never taken into account, and the same was true of Boone’s feelings both about the loss of who had birthed him. Then again, Altamere didn’t believe in giving emotions any airtime, and he extended that dubious courtesy to his new mate. Once their mating ceremony was over, Boone never saw them together outside of social engagements.

The female didn’t seem particularly bothered by the cold distance. In fact, she didn’t seem any more thrilled with her hellren than Altamere was with her, although going by the regular deliveries from Chanel, Dior, and Hermès, the arrangement certainly suited her closet.

Her suite was the one next to Boone’s blood mahmen’s. And if she ever was called unto the Fade? Boone was willing to bet one of the two sets of rooms would be cleaned out, redecorated, and given to someone else of female persuasion. It was rather like throwing out dead batteries and replacing them with new ones, as if some part of this mansion, this life of his father’s, required the component of a shellan to be automated—and thank God you could get one quick on Amazon Prime when the old one ran out of juice.

As Boone thought of what was waiting for him downstairs, he decided he shouldn’t be too hasty to judge.

On that note, his sire’s suite was next in line.

Boone had never been allowed in there, so he couldn’t comment on the decor one way or the other. But he would bet two-thirds of his liver and one whole kidney that nothing was out of order, and most of it was navy blue.

Altamere had probably come out of the womb in a navy blue sport coat, gray flannels, and a club tie.

As Boone continued on and hit the curving staircase, the subtle creaking under the plush red runner was so familiar, he could not imagine what it would be like to live anywhere else. His home—his father’s home—had never been a place of joy, but as with an insidious expertise in all things considered to be “in good taste,” as well as his relentless need to do the right thing, such constrictors were all he knew and thus a dispositive part of who he was.

Unchosen, but undeniable.

Rather like this arranged mating he found himself in.

Bottoming out on the first floor, he went over to the sitting room on the right. Where the female awaited him behind closed doors.

“Is there something with which I may assist you.”

Boone halted. The words were, assuming one translated them properly, a question. The attitude and tone were an accusation.

He pivoted around. Marquist, the household’s butler, was not a doggen, but rather a civilian vampire. Other than that non-typical, the male fit the bill of head servant of a grand estate to a T: Formally dressed in a uniform right out of Buckingham Palace, he had lacquered-back gray hair, suspicious eyes, and an upper lip so stiff you could get a paper cut from it every time he opened his mouth.

The guy also had an uncanny ability to show up where you didn’t want him.

Boone checked the knot of his tie with his fingertips. “I am receiving a visitor.”

“Yes. I was the one who let her in and summoned you.”

Boone continued to meet the stare coming back at him. “And?”

“Your father is not here.”

“I am aware of that.”

“You will be alone with her, then.”

“We are in a receiving parlor with security cameras. I am very sure that you will be monitoring their feeds. We are hardly by ourselves.”

“I am going to call your father.”

“You always do.”

Boone turned his back on the male and meant to enter the parlor. But as his hands gripped the brass handles, he could not move. Meanwhile, there was a huffing sound behind him, and then Marquist snob’d off, the hard soles of those polished shoes clipping like curses as he retreated to his lair of polish cloths, table settings, and tight-assed glowering.

Boone’s hesitation hadn’t been about the butler, but the fact that it had gotten Marquist to leave was a bonus.

“Shit,” he whispered.

His body refused to move, and it was a toss-up as to why. There was a lot to choose from. In the end, he closed his eyes to take a deep breath, and that was what did it. As with knotting the tie, provided he couldn’t see, he was good to go.

As he opened the double doors, his lids flipped up.

The female was standing at one of the floor-to-ceiling windows that faced out the front of the manse, her back to him, the fall of raspberry damask drapery setting off her blond hair and her pink-and-black Chanel suit. In the glass panes, her grave reflection was like the portrait of a beautiful female from the past, the profile a remote, though faithful, representation of something no longer among the living.

Rochelle, blooded daughter of Urdeme, looked over her shoulder as he shut them in together—and the instant their eyes met, he knew.

And was relieved.

“Boone,” she said roughly.

He exhaled a breath that he hadn’t been aware of holding for the last month. “It’s okay. I know why you came.”

“You do?”

“When you called me directly, instead of going through proper channels, I knew it had to be because you wanted out of this arrangement. And as I said, it’s all right.”

She seemed surprised, as if she had expected to have to explain herself. As if she had anticipated a hard conversation. As if she had braced herself for anger and indignation on his part.

“No . . . it’s not all right.”

“Yes, it is. Come here.”

As he held out his hand, she walked over to him, but their palms did not make contact. He was careful to drop his arm before she was close, and he drew her over to the sofa by indicating the way across the formal room. When they were both seated on the soft cushions, he had a thought in the back of his mind that they were cardboard cutouts of their parents. In spite of being out of their transitions some fifty years, he and Rochelle were dressing and behaving as if they were three or four hundred years old: Suits and court shoes. Discreet jewels for her, pocket squares for him. Perfect manners.

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