Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(11)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(11)
Author: J.R. Ward

That smile Lassiter was popping was something Trez was more than ready to see the last of—and talk about prayers getting answered: The angel headed for the door.

“I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“No, thank you.”

“At your brother’s.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, why?”

“Because he has the best pasta Bolognese in Caldie.”

“You know that’s not what I’m asking.”

The angel just shrugged over his shoulder. “Come and find out.”

“The hell I will.” Trez shook his head. “Look, I know people are worried about me and I appreciate the concern.” Actually, he didn’t. At all. “And yes, I’ve lost weight, and I should eat more. But it’s funny how having your chest ripped open and your heart taken out by fate doesn’t leave you with much of an appetite. So if you’re looking for a plus one so your two-top doesn’t feel like a game of solitaire, why don’t you start with someone who will actually eat and say more than two words? I can guarantee both you and I will have a better evening.”

“See you tomorrow.”

As the angel let himself out, Trez called across the office, “Fuck you!”

When the door simply eased shut, he thought, At least we aren’t going to argue anymore. And Lassiter would get the picture when he was Bolognesing his pasta by himself.

Problem solved.

SEVEN

There were times in life when the aperture of your attention span narrowed to such a tight focus that your entire consciousness rested upon a single person. Qhuinn was not at all unfamiliar with this phenomenon: It happened whenever he was alone with Blay. When he held his young. When he was fighting the enemy and trying to make sure he made it home in one piece, without leaks or a concussion.

It was happening again now.

Standing at the base of a Harry Potter tree, at the apex of a rolling meadow, in the winter’s wind, Qhuinn was aware of absolutely nothing but Layla’s right eye. He could count every dark blond lash, trace the perfect circle of the pupil, measure each of the pale green striations that radiated out from the jet-black nucleus. There could have been a mushroom cloud off in the distance, a spaceship overhead, a lineup of dancing clowns right next to him … and he would have seen, heard, acknowledged absolutely nothing fucking else.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true.

He was dimly cognizant of a roar between his ears, something that was a cross between a jet engine and one of those fireworks that whistles like a banshee and goes in a circle until it exhausts itself.

“Answer me,” he said in a voice that didn’t sound like his own.

He’d followed her out here to this isolated place when he had sensed she’d left the mansion—and he’d come here to talk to her about postpartum depression. Had had a plan to get her back home, comfort her in front of the fire, put her on a path where she could enjoy what she had worked so hard to bring into the world.

How in the fuck they’d ended up on the subject of Xcor and her meeting up?

No fucking clue.

But there was no misunderstanding anymore. And no retraction coming. Layla’s wide stare and silent panic told him that as much as he hoped that this was a miscommunication of colossal and laughable proportions, that wasn’t the case.

“I was safe,” she whispered. “He never hurt me.”

“Are you fucking—”

He stopped himself right there. Just cut that shit right off, like you would the detonator of a bomb.

Before he did or said something he regretted, he stepped off and flexed his fingers wide so they did not curl into fists.

“Qhuinn, I swear to you I was never in danger—”

“Were you alone with him.” When she didn’t reply, he ground his molars. “Were you.”

“He never hurt me.”

“Okay, that’s like saying you were never bitten—while you were using a cobra as a scarf. Over and over again. Because it was on the fucking regular, wasn’t it. Answer me!”

“I’m sorry, Qhuinn—” She seemed to try to compose herself, sniffling back tears. Straightening her shoulders. And the way her eyes begged him for understanding made him nearly violent. “Oh, dearest Virgin Scribe—”

“Cut the praying! There is no one up there anymore!” He was losing it. Totally fucking losing it—“And what the hell are you asking for forgiveness for! You knowingly and willingly put my young at risk because you wanted—” He recoiled. “Jesus Christ, did you have sex with him? Did you fuck him with my children in you?”

“No! I’ve never been with him like that!”

“Liar,” he hollered. “You’re a lying whore—”

“I’m all but a virgin! And you well know it! Besides, you don’t want me. Why would you care?”

“You’re saying you never so much as kissed him.” When she didn’t answer him, he laughed harshly. “Don’t bother denying it. I can see it in your face. And you’re right, I didn’t want you, I’ve never wanted you—and don’t get it twisted. I’m not jealous, I’m fucking disgusted. I’m in love with a male of worth and I had to be with you because I needed an incubator for my son and my daughter. That and the fact you threw yourself at me in your needing was the only reason I was ever with you.”

Layla’s face got ashen, and as much as it made him an asshole, he was glad. He wanted to hurt her inside, where it counted, because as mad as he was, he could never strike a female.

And that fact was the only reason she was still standing.

Those babies, those precious, innocent babies, had been taken into the mouth of a monster, into the presence of the enemy, exposed to a danger that would have left him shitting himself if he’d known it was happening.

“Do you have any idea what he’s capable of?” Qhuinn said grimly. “The atrocities? He stabbed his own fucking lieutenant in the gut just to send the male into our hands. And back in the Old Country? He slaughtered vampires, humans, lessers, anything that crossed his path, sometimes for the war, sometimes just for sport. He was the Bloodletter’s right-hand male. Do you have any conception of what he’s done while he’s been on this earth? I mean, clearly you don’t give two shits that he put a bullet in Wrath’s throat—obviously that means nothing to you. That bastard could have raped you a thousand times over, gutted you, and left you for the sun—with my young inside of you! Are you even fucking kidding me with this?”

The more Qhuinn thought about the risk she’d taken, the more his head hummed. His beloved young might well not exist because of the poor choice of this female who, by biological dictate alone, had had to shelter them until they could breathe on their own.

She had put them at risk, by putting herself at risk—with no apparent thought of the consequences or how he, the blooded father, might have viewed the debacle.

His fury, seated in the love he had for those babies, was undefinable. Undeniable. Inexhaustible.

“We both wanted them,” she said roughly. “When we laid together, we both wanted—”

In a flat voice, he cut her off. “Yeah, I regret that. Better for them not to be born at all than to have half of you in them.”

Layla threw out a hand to catch herself against the tree once more—and as it was the hand that he had wrapped with his bandana, he was struck by a need to rip the cheap cloth from her palm. Then burn it.

“I did the best I could,” she said.

He laughed hard at that one, until his throat burned. “Are you talking about when you were sleeping with Xcor? Or when you were endangering the lives of my young?”

All at once, she returned his anger with a blast of her own. “You have the one you love! You lay beside him every day, and you get to build a family with him! Your life has purpose and meaning beyond service to others—whereas I have nothing! I’ve spent all my nights and days serving a deity who no longer cares for the race she begot and now I am mahmen to two young whom I love with all my heart, but who are not me. What do I have to show for my life? Nothing!”

“You got that right,” he said tightly. “Because you’re not going to mother my young anymore. You’re out of a job.”

   
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