Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(14)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(14)
Author: J.R. Ward

“How the fuck can you say that—”

“Because you just turned a gun on their mahmen!”

Next to Qhuinn, Blay was looking like he had seen death up close and personal, his expression one of distilled horror and sorrow, his hands shaking as he pushed them through his red hair again and again.

“I am the King, this is my house. Get him out of here, Blay—that is an order.”

Blay said something to Qhuinn that didn’t carry. And then Qhuinn marched out of the bedroom, his shitkickers crunching across the iced-over carpet. As he went, Blay stayed with him, like a bodyguard would.

Except Blay was more likely to protect others from him.

When it was only Wrath and her, Layla took a deep breath that hurt. “Permit me to place the young in their bassinets, my Lord?”

“Yeah, yeah. Do whatever you need.”

Her legs felt like they had no bones in them, and with her fury gone, she feared she was not strong enough to stand and keep both young in safe grips at the same time. It was a struggle to decide which one to put aside gently, and in the end, she carefully set Rhamp down on the Oriental rug. Cradling Lyric in both arms, she struggled to her feet and limped over to the bassinets. After she laid Lyric upon the soft nest, she returned and picked up Rhamp, who had begun to fuss with the absence of his sister. Tucking blankets around them to keep them warm, she steeled herself and faced the King.

“May I sit?” she whispered.

“Yeah, you better.”

“There is aught before your feet, my Lord. If you should wish to come further inside.”

He ignored her efforts to help him in his blindness navigate an unfamiliar room. “You want to tell me what the hell’s going on here?”

Qhuinn couldn’t remember a goddamned thing.

As he went into the second-story sitting room on the far side of the mansion, he tried to piece together the series of events, because it gave him something to do other than screaming: His last moment of crystal clear was of him nearly breaking down the vestibule’s door to get into the house. Everything from that split second on—until now as he prowled around the silk sofas and the side tables—was a blank slate.

And the harder he tried to remember, the more elusive that gap in reality became, as if pursuit made his prey faster.

For fuck’s sake, he couldn’t fucking think here. He couldn’t …

Dimly, he was aware of Blay watching him. And then the male was speaking. But all Qhuinn could do was keep pacing, around and around, the territorial urge to protect his young a prime directive that demanded all his concentration.

What the fuck was Wrath going to do? Surely, the King wasn’t going to let Layla—

From out of nowhere, Blay stood in front of him, the male stone-faced and stiff backed. “I can’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Be in the same room with you for even a minute longer.”

Qhuinn blinked. “Then leave. I’m unarmed, remember? And there are fifty million pounds of brother loitering around that goddamn bedroom.”

Otherwise, yes, he would still be in there. With his children.

“You got it,” Blay muttered. “I’m going home to check on my mahmen.”

As the syllables hit the tense air between them, it took a minute before Qhuinn’s salad of a brain deciphered them. Home …? Mahmen …—oh, right. Her ankle.

“Okay. Yeah.”

Blay stayed where he was. And then in a low voice, he said, “Do you even care if I come back before dawn?”

When there was a heartbeat of pause, the male stepped off, shaking his head as he went for the exit. Qhuinn noted the departure—and a part of him knew he should call out, reconnect … stop the leaving. But an even bigger part of him was back in that bedroom, trying to pull out threads of recollection from the white-hot blind spot that had taken him over.

Jesus … had he really discharged his gun in the mansion? With his young in the room—

“Qhuinn.”

He refocused across the room. Blay was in the doorway, his eyes narrowed, his jaw set.

The male cleared his throat. “Just so you and I are clear, I will never be able to get what you just said out of my head. And the same goes for the sight of you with that gun in your hand.”

“That makes one of us,” Qhuinn muttered.

“Excuse me?”

“I can’t remember any of it.”

“That’s a fucking cop-out.” Blay jabbed a finger in Qhuinn’s direction. “You don’t get to erase a scene like that by claiming you’re pulling a blank.”

“I’m not going to argue with you about it.”

“Then we don’t really have much to say to each other.”

When Blay just stared at him, Qhuinn shook his head. “Look, no disrespect, but the lives of my kids are the only thing I’m thinking about right now. Layla isn’t who I thought she was, and she—”

“FYI, you just told me I wasn’t a parent.” Blay’s voice was stilted, like he was trying to keep the hurt out of it. “You looked me in the eye and told me that those kids and their mother were none of my business.”

Some distant echo, deep within the recess of Qhuinn’s consciousness, rose up through the still-hot anger. But it was a tie that he couldn’t hold onto. All he wanted to do was go back to that bedroom and grab his son and daughter and leave. He didn’t care where he went—

Blay cursed. “Don’t wait up for me. I’m not coming back.”

And then Qhuinn was alone.

Fantastic. Now his relationship was also in the shitter.

Leaning to the side, Qhuinn looked out through the open doorway, but it was more to try to gauge if there were still brothers in the hall of statues. Yup, the fighters were milling around—but come on, like any one of them would leave? Even with Wrath ordering them away?

They’d probably sleep outside of that fucking bedroom, protecting a female who didn’t deserve it—

The next thing Qhuinn knew, there was a lamp in his hand, and he was holding the converted Oriental vase like he was an MLB pitcher. And huh, go fig—apparently, he’d decided to throw it at himself: He was standing in front of one of the antique mirrors, his reflection distorted in the old glass.

He looked like a monster, like some version of himself that had been sausage’d through the cogs of a nightmare, his face as a fist curled up tight, his features compressed until he could barely recognize them. Staring at himself, he knew without a doubt that if he sent this lamp flying, he would trash the entire room, tearing the paintings off the walls, breaking the windows, taking the burning logs in the fireplace and throwing them onto the sofas to make proper blazes.

And he wouldn’t stop there.

He wouldn’t stop until someone made him, either with lengths of chains or maybe a bullet or two.

Oddly, his eyes went to the cord that was swinging loose from the lamp’s base, the brown tail like that of a nervous dog begging for forgiveness and mercy for something it had no clue it had done.

Qhuinn’s whole body trembled as he put the vase with its silk shade down on the floor.

Just as he was straightening, he caught sight of a window, and before he could think twice, he went over, cranked it open, and closed his eyes.

But he couldn’t dematerialize. He had nowhere in mind to go, he—

No, wait—he did have a destination. He absolutely fucking had a destination.

All at once, he became calm and focused, and as he ghosted out and away from the mansion, he wished he’d been able to play things cooler. If he had, maybe his restitution would have been more obvious sooner.

As he re-formed, the scent of evergreens was thick in the winter air, and the wind plowed through the pine boughs, making the trees scream. The cave he had come for had an entrance that was hidden by boulders, but if you knew what you were looking for, you had no problem finding its mouth. Inside, he made quick strides to the Tomb’s great gates, and as he triggered the granite partition to move aside, he was perfectly composed as he stood at the iron bars, the easy smile on his face like whitewash on a rotting fence.

“I’m here to relieve,” he shouted out as he rattled the ancient metal. “Just like Alka-fucking-Seltzer. Tums. Pepcid. You get the deal.”

   
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