Home > The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(8)

The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(8)
Author: J.R. Ward

“What the fuck, Todd—”

Murhder cranked his head around and focused on the three young human boys standing near the back end of a very expensive BMW.

“I’m okay,” he told them. “Just go.”

“You serious?” one of them said.

And that was when he caught a scent he hadn’t smelled in years and years. As tears came to his eyes, he closed his lids.

“If he’s fucking dead,” he heard Xhex say in her hard-ass voice, “I will kill each one of you. Slowly.”

Xhex shouldn’t have been anywhere near this car accident for a whole lot of reasons. First, she was supposed to be down at shAdoWs, keeping the humans in line as the club’s head of security—and considering it was midnight on a Saturday, the fun was just getting rolling down there at work. Second, she didn’t have any invitation to be at the King’s Audience House for this Brotherhood-only business.

And third, she didn’t actually want to see Murhder.

Be all that as it were, however, she was now in this shitshow way too deep to pull out.

Naturally, the trio of stoner idiots who’d gotten out of Daddy’s motherfucking BMW was staring at her like she was their favorite wet dream upright in leathers. Which made her want to slap some sense and manners into them on principle. But there was no time for that. The Brother she’d never thought she’d cross paths with again was lying facedown in the middle of the road like he was paralyzed or had broken something seriously material to ambulation—and considering that the house he was in front of was crawling with vampires and this was a ritzy human neighborhood where people had security guards on their properties and were themselves iPhone’d up the ass, it was more important to clear the scene.

“Get the fuck of here,” she ordered the boys. “Or I’m calling the police.”

Todd I, II, and III looked at each other like they were either communicating telepathically or so stoned and dumbfounded at her appearance, they’d lost the ability to speak.

“Now!” she barked.

The three slipped and slid in their loafers to get back into the car, and whoever was behind the wheel hit the gas so hard, tire treads of snowpack pelted her lower legs.

As she turned back to Murhder, she had hope he’d be getting to his feet. Nope. He was still lying on his stomach with his face turned to the side—and his eyes were closed, his dark lashes low on his prominent cheekbone.

Dropping herself to her haunches, she swallowed hard as she tried to get a read on his condition. Even though it was dark, there were peach-colored streetlights at regular intervals down the lane, the whole neighborhood glowing sure as if the wealth of its homeowners had been brought out to the curbs in gold bars. And she tracked every nuance of him in the man-made gloaming.

At least he was breathing, and as soon as she saw that, she took note of other things: His black hair was still long and streaked with red. He was still a very big male. And his scent hadn’t changed.

God … so much. She and Murhder had been through so much together, too little of it any good.

“Do you require medical attention?” she said hoarsely.

Like she was addressing a stranger who had been struck. Instead of a male she had been to hell and back with.

Well, actually, that hyperbole wasn’t exactly true. She had rejoined life. He had not.

“Murhder? Are you dead?” As she whispered the words, her breath came out in puffs that were carried away in the cold air.

“Strange question to ask someone,” came a croaking reply.

As her eyes stung with relief, she glanced in the direction the BMW had sped off. “So I take it the answer’s no.”

Murhder popped his lids and looked up at her. A sheen of tears made the peach of his irises shimmer. “You look the same.”

As they made eye contact, the impact of their shared past was so great, she was knocked off her crouch, her ass hitting the cold snow, her brain unable to deny the onslaught of memories: Him breaking into that room up in the symphath colony, thinking he was rescuing her from an abduction. His shock as he realized she had come willingly … to see her blooded family.

Which meant she was not as she had portrayed herself to be.

And then her relations streaming in and realizing that she had lied to them, as well.

Symphaths and vampires did not mix in those days. Still didn’t.

What had happened after the truth had come out had been one nightmare after another. Her relatives had tortured Murhder in the way only symphaths could, getting into his subconscious and making hash out of every part of who he was as a male, as a vampire, as a mortal entity. Then they had cast her out of the colony—and not as in banishment. As in selling her to humans as a lab animal to be experimented on.

And the story hadn’t ended there.

“I shouldn’t have come,” she said roughly.

When John Matthew had texted her that he was going out into the field with Blay because the Brotherhood had a special meeting at the Audience House? She should have just sent back her regular response of “Be safe, love you.” Then she should have put her phone in her back pocket and continued to monitor the crowd at the bar, on the dance floor, in the rear hallways where the bathrooms were. She should have stuck to her own lane because she, like any other person who wasn’t a Brother, had no goddamn reason to be here.

But as a symphath, she had sensed the unrest in the Brotherhood’s household for the last several nights. The anxiety had been the deep kind, the soul kind, and each one of the Brothers’ emotional grids had registered the same upset. There was only one explanation, and even though she had pledged to herself she would not use her species’ toolbox among the vampires who were now her family, she had lifted the lid on one of the warriors.

Murhder was coming from South Carolina—

Male voices caught her attention and she looked up. Members of the Brotherhood were streaming out of Darius’s old place into the snow, their heavy bodies covered with loose coats to hide their weapons.

“Help is on the way,” she said as she got to her feet.

“Don’t leave.”

Guilt stung as she turned away, and it wasn’t on account of leaving him in the street. “Good luck with your Brothers.”

“I’m not one of them anymore.”

As she dematerialized, she hated that she’d been seen. The Brothers all knew what had gone on between her and Murhder back before she’d headed up to the colony that final time, and she’d just as soon they not know she’d been anywhere near the male in the present.

And as for John Matthew, yes, he was aware of the who, what, where, and when of her time with Murhder, but she’d just as soon things stayed on that newspaper article level. After all, she’d—what did they call it—she’d “processed” what had happened, including what had been done to her and how Murhder had lost his mind and everything the male had done afterward.

It was over. Finished. In the past, moving on, focusing on the future.

So there was no reason to reopen anything—

And yet she had come tonight. To see him.

She was surprised he was still alive.

The fact that John didn’t know she had sought out another male—even though it was, obviously, not to have sex or bond or feed or anything like that—felt like a betrayal of her mate because it was an admission that, much as she hated it and wished it were not true, there was unfinished business between her and the Brother who had been kicked out for insanity.

Business that threatened every part of the life she held so dear.

This was not the way he wanted to return the fold, Murhder thought: Facedown in the street. Eyes leaking. Throat choked.

As Xhex dematerialized and the Brotherhood approached in fighter formation, he reflected it was also not the way he wanted to see that female again—although he would have been hard-pressed to define exactly under what conditions he would have chosen to meet up with her. She was the fulcrum of his downfall, the eye of the storm that had taken him into madness, the catalyst, although not the precise cause, of his disintegration.

All things considered, it was a relief to have to face the Brothers—which was saying something, as he had no real interest in seeing them, either.

As he pushed his torso off the snowpack, and rolled over to sit up on his ass, he measured the males who came unto him. He recognized all but two, and noted two were missing: Wrath wasn’t among them and neither was Darius, no doubt because the latter had stayed inside to guard the former.

When he tried to get to his feet, he became aware that his right thigh bone was probably broken. The pain that registered as he moved his leg was a chainsaw that rode up his spine and slashed through his brain, his vision going in and out as he attempted to put weight on it. He ended up back on his butt.

So he was stuck looking up at all of them as they formed a circle around him.

Like they didn’t trust him to behave himself.

Made sense. With his brain the way it was, thanks to Xhex’s people, he was far from on their level functionally speaking, and he didn’t resent the tacit reminder of reality.

Fuck knew he was used to being crazy.

“Someone mind giving me a hand,” he said dryly.

Not a request. More like an if-one-of-you-assholes-doesn’t-help-me-up-we’re-going-to-still-be-here-at-sunrise kind of thing.

A palm presented itself directly in his face, and he took what was offered without caring whose it was. The hoist up was slow and steady, and after he balanced on his left foot, he dragged in a deep breath and met a pair of glowing yellow eyes.

He should have known it was Phury. He’d always been a decent guy, like Darius and Tohr.

“Welcome back to Caldwell,” the male said.

The “my brother” was left out because it was no longer applicable. And somehow, that hurt more than his leg.

He couldn’t look at any of the others.

“Let’s get this over with.” Murhder nodded at the house. “Wrath in there, I take it?”

In lieu of an answer, Phury stepped in close and hitched a hold to Murhder’s waist. “Lean on me.”

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