Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(12)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(12)
Author: J.R. Ward

She recoiled with indignation. “What say you? I am their mahmen. I—”

“Not anymore you’re not.”

There was a heartbeat of silence, and then her voice exploded from her. “You can’t—you can’t take Lyric and Rhamp … you can’t take them away from me! I’m their mahmen! I have rights—”

“No, you don’t. You have consorted with the enemy. You have committed treason. And you are going to be lucky to come out of this alive—not that I give a damn whether you live or die. The only thing I care about is that you never see those young again—”

The change in her was as instantaneous as it was consuming.

All at once, Layla went from angry to stone-cold silent. And the shift was so abrupt that he wondered if she hadn’t stroked out.

But then her upper lip curled off fangs that had descended. And the sound that came out of her was something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up in warning.

Her voice, when she spoke, was as deadly as a dagger blade. “I do not recommend you try to prevent me from seeing my son and daughter.”

Qhuinn bared his own fangs. “Watch me.”

Her body curled into a springing crouch, and the hiss she let out was that of a viper. Except she didn’t spring at him to claw his face to ribbons.

She up and dematerialized.

And there was only one place she was going to.

“Oh, hell no,” he shouted at the cold, uncaring winter landscape. “You want war, you’re going to fucking get it!”

“—times I still crave one,” Blay was saying as he took a sip off the rim of his rocks glass. “I mean, for humans, it’s a deadly habit. But vampires don’t have to worry about getting cancer from smoking.”

The Brotherhood’s billiard room was mostly empty, the tournament having fallen apart when Butch had had to stay with Xcor, Tohrment had begged off, Rhage had been injured in the field, and Rehv had decided to stay up north at the Great Camp with Ehlena. But it was cool. Blay had still found a game with Vishous, the pair of them circling the middle of the five tables, edging each other out. The good news? Lassiter was somewhere else, which meant ESPN was on mute on the TV over the huge stone hearth.

No Disney movies with all that ridiculous singing tonight.

If Blay heard that shit from Frozen one more time, he was going to let it goooooooooooo, all right.

As in emptying a clip, right into his own frontal lobe.

On the far side of the table, Vishous lit up another hand-rolled. “So why did you quit smoking?”

Blay shrugged. “Qhuinn hates it. His father smoked cigarettes and pipes, so I think it reminds him of things he’d rather not think about.”

“You shouldn’t have to change for anyone.”

“I was the one who chose to stop. He never asked me.”

As the Brother leaned over the table and lined up his cue, Blay thought back to the beginning of him and Qhuinn. The whole smoking thing on his side had coincided with having to watch the male he was in love with fuck anything that moved. Horrible, that period. No, they hadn’t been in a relationship—and every time Qhuinn had gone off with someone else, it had served as a reminder that they never were going to be in one.

Hell, back then, Blay hadn’t even come out yet.

The stress and sadness of it all had been tough to handle, but there had also been a simmering, irrational resentment on his side. So yes, he had embraced a coping mechanism that he’d known Qhuinn hadn’t approved of or liked. It had been a subversive, petty payback for sins the male wasn’t actually committing.

But at least quitting had been simple. Once the two of them had gotten their act together? He’d put the Dunhills down and never looked back.

Well … maybe it was more accurate to say that he’d never backslid. Sometimes, when he saw Vishous light up, and that fragrant exhale hit the air, he did get a hankering for one—

Just as V sent the cue ball cracking through the racked setup in the center, a horrible pounding sounded out in the foyer. Loud, repeated, hard enough to shake, rattle, and roll the mansion’s solid-as-an-oak front door, it sounded like an entire horde of lessers were trying to break into the mansion.

Blay outed his house gun from under his arm as he and V ditched their cues and ran out of the billiards room to the main entrance.

Bam-bam-bam-bam!

“What the fuck?” V muttered as he looked into the security monitor. “What the hell is wrong with your boy?”

“What?”

The question was answered as V released the lock and Qhuinn exploded into the foyer. The male was furious to the point of possession, his face screwed down tight in anger, his body breaking into a full-on run, his state such that he didn’t seem to be aware of anyone else’s presence.

“Qhuinn?” Blay said as he tried to catch hold of a shoulder or an arm.

Nothing doing. Qhuinn hit the grand staircase and pulled a Usain Bolt, the red carpeted steps being consumed by leaps and bounds.

“Qhuinn!” Blay took off in the wake of the drama, trying to catch up. “What’s going on?”

At the top of the stairs, Qhuinn’s shitkickers dug into the carpet and all but tire-screeched as he went left to the hall of statues. Tight on his heels, Blay pounded after him, and as the direction became clear, a sudden terror took hold.

Layla and the young must be in danger—

At the door to Layla’s bedroom, Qhuinn grabbed the knob and twisted—only to slam right into the locked panels.

Curling up a fist, he started hitting the wood so hard, chips of paint went flying.

“Open this fucking door!” Qhuinn yelled. “Layla, you open this fucking door right now!”

“What the hell are you doing!” Blay tried to stop him. “Are you insane—”

Qhuinn’s gun came up from out of nowhere, and as the Brother pulled a twist and shoved the muzzle into Blay’s face, it became obvious this was some kind of nightmare, the inevitable result of a second glass of port after Fritz’s lamb dinner.

Except it wasn’t.

“Stay out of this,” Qhuinn snapped. “You stay out of this.”

As Blay put both hands up and backed off, Qhuinn turned his shoulder to the door and rammed his body into the thing so hard the wood splintered, the panels splitting under the force of the blow.

What was revealed inside the pretty lavender room was equally terrifying.

As Vishous skidded to a halt next to Blay, and Z broke out of his suite down the hall, and Wrath emerged from his study at the head of the stairs, Blay’s brain was forever stained by the inescapable, incomprehensible sight of Layla with one young under each arm, her fangs bared in attack, her face that of a demon, her body trembling—but not in fear.

She was prepared to kill anyone who came at her.

Qhuinn pointed the gun right at her through the hole he’d made. “Drop them. Or I drop you.”

“What the fuck is going on here!” Vishous’s voice was so loud it was like he had a bullhorn. “Have you lost your fucking minds?”

Qhuinn reached in, unlocked the mechanism, and sprung what was left of the door. As he stepped inside, Blay stopped the others from entering. “No, let me do this.”

If anyone other than he went in there, bullets were going to go flying and Layla was going to attack, and people were going to get hurt—or worse.

And what the fuck was happening here?

“Drop them!” Qhuinn barked.

“So kill me!” Layla shouted back. “Do it!”

Blay put his body right in between the two of them, his torso blocking the path of any bullets. Meanwhile, Layla was breathing hard and Lyric and Rhamp were both wailing—shit, he was never going to forget the sound of those cries.

Facing off with Qhuinn, he put his palms out and spoke slowly. “You’re going to have to shoot me first.”

He didn’t focus on anything other than Qhuinn’s blue and green eyes … as if he could somehow telepathically communicate with the guy and calm him down.

“Get out of the way,” Qhuinn snapped. “This is not your business.”

Blay blinked at that. But considering he was staring down the barrel of a forty, he figured he’d shelve that insult for the time being.

   
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