Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(3)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(3)
Author: J.R. Ward

That rule had had to bend, however, at least with respect to its quarter-mile-long entrance hall.

As he came up to the cave system’s inconspicuous entrance, he halted and felt his anger surge.

For the first time in his tenure as a brother, he was not welcome.

All because of a traitor.

Xcor’s body was in there on the far side of the gates, halfway down the shelved passageway, lying on a gurney, his life force monitored and kept going by machines.

Until that bastard woke up and could be interrogated, Tohr was not allowed inside.

And his brothers were right not to trust him.

As he closed his eyes, he saw his King shot in the throat, relived the moment when Wrath’s life had been slipping away along with his red blood, recast that scene as Tohr had had to save the last purebred vampire on the planet by cutting a hole in the front of his throat and sticking tubing from his Camelbak into that esophagus.

Xcor had ordered the assassination. Xcor had told one of his fighters to put a bullet through that male of worth’s flesh, had plotted with the glymera to overthrow the rightful ruler—but the motherfucker had failed. Wrath had lived in spite of the odds, and in the first democratic election in the history of the race, had then been appointed the leader of all vampires, a position he now held by consensus as opposed to bloodline.

So fuck you very much, you sonofabitch.

Curling his hands into fists, Tohr easily ignored the creak of his leather gloves and the constriction along the backs of his knuckles. All he knew was a hatred so deep it was a mortal disease.

Fate had seen fit to take three from his and his own: Destiny had stolen from him his shellan and his young, and then taken Trez’s love. You want to talk about balance in the universe? Fine. He wanted his balance, and that was only going to come when he snapped Xcor’s neck and gouged the fucker’s warm heart out from between his ribs.

It was about time for a source of evil to be taken out of commission and he was just the one to even the goddamn score.

And the waiting was now over. As much as he respected his brothers, he was done cooling his jets. Tonight was a sad anniversary for him and he was going to give his mourning a special little present.

Party time.


The squat crystal glass was so clean, so free of soap spots, dust, and debris, that its corpus was as both the air and the water within it: utterly invisible.

Half full, the Chosen Layla wondered. Or half empty?

As she sat upon a padded stool, between two sinks with golden fixtures, and a’fore a gold-leafed mirror reflecting the deep tub behind her, she stared at the surface of the liquid. The meniscus was concave, the water licking ever so slightly up the inside of the glass as if its more ambitious molecules were seeking to scale their confines and escape.

She respected the effort whilst mourning its futility. She knew well what it was to want to be free of that which you had been housed in through no fault of your own.

For centuries, she had been the water in the glass, poured unwittingly, by virtue solely of birth, into a role of service unto the Scribe Virgin. Along with her sisters, she had long performed the sacred duties of the Chosen up at the Sanctuary, worshiping the mother of the race, recording the events upon the earth for vampire posterity, awaiting a new Primale to be appointed so she could be impregnated and give birth to more Chosen and more Brothers.

But all that was done and dusted the now.

Leaning over the glass, she looked more closely at the water. She had been trained as an ehros, not a scribe, but she knew well the practice of peering into the seeing bowls and playing witness to history. Within the Scribing Temple, those Chosen tasked with recording the stories and lineages of the race had sat for hours upon hours, watching as births and deaths, love and matings, wars and times of peace unfolded, slender hands with sacred quills putting to parchment the details, keeping track of it all.

There were no pictures for her to see. Not here on earth.

And there were no more witnesses up above.

A new Primale had eventually come. But instead of laying with the stable of females, and continuing the Scribe Virgin’s breeding program, he had taken the unprecedented step of freeing them all. The Black Dagger Brother Phury had broken the mold, broken tradition, broken the binds, and in doing so, the Chosen who had been sequestered since their planned births had embraced their liberation. No longer living, breathing representatives of rigid tradition, they had become individuals, developing their own likes and dislikes, dipping their toes in the waters of earthly reality, seeking and finding destinies that centered around self, not service.

In doing so, he had set in motion the demise of the immortal.

The Scribe Virgin was no more.

Her birthed son, the Black Dagger Brother Vishous, had sought her out in the Sanctuary above only to find her gone, a last missive written upon the wind for his eyes only.

She had said that she had a successor in mind.

No one knew who that was.

Sitting back, Layla regarded the white robe she wore. It was not the sacred kind she had clothed herself in for all those years. No, this one was from a place called Pottery Barn, and Qhuinn had bought it for her just last week. With the winter coming on hard, he was concerned that the mother of his young be always warm, always cared for.

Layla’s hand went to her now-flat stomach. After having carried their daughter, Lyric, and their son, Rhampage, within her body for those many months, it was both strange and familiar to have naught within her womb—

Murmuring voices, low and deep, penetrated the door she had closed.

She had come in here from her bedroom to use the toilet.

She had stalled out after she had washed her hands.

Qhuinn and Blay, as usual, were with the young. Holding them. Cooing to them.

Each evening, she had to brace herself to witness the love, not among them and the young … but betwixt the two males. Indeed, the fathers exhibited a resonant, resplendent bond one to another, and although it was beautiful, its radiance made her feel the empty coldness in her own existence all the more.

Brushing away a tear, she instructed herself to pull it together. She couldn’t go back into her bedroom with too-bright eyes and a red nose and flushed cheeks. Now was supposed to be a joyous time for their family of five. Now, with the twins having survived the emergency of their birth, and Layla having come through as well, they were all to revel in the relief that everyone was safe and sound.

Now was the happy life to be lived.

Instead, she was as yet the sad water in the invisible glass, clamoring to get out.

This time, however, the jail was of her own making, instead of her luck of genetic draw.

The definition of treason, at least according to the dictionary, was “the action of betraying someone or something”—

The knock on the closed door was soft. “Layla?”

She sniffed and turned on one of the faucets. “Hello!”

Blay’s voice was quiet, as was his way. “Are you all right in there?”

“Oh, indeed. I have decided to give myself a bit of a facial treatment. I’m coming out promptly.”

She got to her feet, bent down, and splashed her cheeks. Then she scrubbed her forehead and chin with a hand towel so that the flush was more evenly dispersed across her skin. Tightening the sash on her robe, she straightened her shoulders and went for the door, praying that she could keep her composure long enough to hustle them out to Last Meal.

But she had a reprieve.

As she opened things up, Blay and Qhuinn weren’t even looking in her direction. They were bent over Lyric’s bassinet.

“—Layla’s eyes,” Blay said as he reached in and let the young grab onto his finger. “Definitely.”

“She has her mahmen’s hair, too. I mean, check out the blond coming in.”

Their love for the little one was incandescent, shining in their faces, warming their voices, tempering their movements so that everything they did was with care. And yet that was not what Layla focused on.

Her stare locked on Qhuinn’s broad palm as it stroked up and down Blay’s back. The caress of connection was unconscious on both sides, the proffer and the acceptance both nothing at all and everything that mattered. And as she played witness from across the room, she had to blink fast once again.

Sometimes kindness and love could be just as difficult as violence to witness. Sometimes, when you were on the outside looking in, watching two in-sync people was a scene from a horror film, the kind of thing that you wanted to look away from, forget about, banish the memory of—especially when you were about to go to bed for the day and facing hours upon hours of being alone in the dark.

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