Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(6)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(6)
Author: J.R. Ward


Crossing his arms over his chest, he cut the pacing and faced off at the good doctor. “I’m not saying I know anything about females. Like, about their moods and shit. Except … Layla’s crying a lot. I mean, she tries to hide it from Blay and me, but … every time we go in to see her, I find Kleenex wads in the wastepaper basket, and her eyes are too shiny, and her cheeks are flushed. She smiles, but it never reaches past the surface. Her eyes are … fucking tragic. And … I don’t know what to do, I just know it’s not right.”

Doc Jane nodded. “How is she with the kids?”

“Great, as far as I can see. She’s totally devoted to them, and they are thriving. Matter of fact, the only time I see her even halfway to happy, it’s when she’s holding them.” He cleared his throat. “So I guess what I’m wondering … asking … whatever, is, like, can’t pregnant females, once they’re unpregnant, can’t they, like …”

Jesus, he was winning all kinds of awards here for self-expression. And the technical terms he was throwing around? He was one step away from being an M.D. like her.


But at least Doc Jane seemed to recognize that his conversational airplane was out of runway: “I think you’re asking about postpartum depression.” When he nodded, she continued, “And I can tell you that it’s not uncommon in vampires, and it can be debilitating. I’ve spoken with Havers about it before, and I’m really glad you’re raising the issue. Sometimes the new mom isn’t even aware of it becoming an issue.”

“Is there a test for the … or a … I don’t know.”

“There are a couple of different ways of assessing what’s going on, and behavior is a big one. I can absolutely talk with her, and I can run some blood tests to check her hormones. And yes, there are a lot of things we can do to treat her and support her.”

“I don’t want Layla to think I’m going behind her back or anything.”

“Totally understandable. And, hey, I was going to go up and see her and the young anyway. I can frame everything in terms of routine assessments. I won’t have to bring you into the discussion at all.”

“You’re the best.”

With his business done, he supposed it was time to go back to his mate and the billiards tournament. But he didn’t leave. For some reason, he couldn’t.

“It’s not your fault,” Doc Jane said.

“I got her pregnant. What if my …” Okay, yes, she was a doctor, but he still didn’t want to say the word sperm around her. Which was nuts. “What if my half is the cause—”

The door opened wide and Manny put his head in. “Hey, you ready—oh, sorry.”

“We’re almost done here.” Doc Jane smiled. “And you didn’t see the two of us together.”

“You got it.” Manny knocked on the jamb. “If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.”

And then the guy was gone as if he’d never been.

Doc Jane got up and came over. She was shorter than Qhuinn was, and not built like a nearly three-hundred-pound male. But she seemed to tower over him, the authority in her voice and her eyes exactly what he needed to calm his irrational side.

As she put her hand on his forearm, her stare was steady. “It’s not your fault. This is nature’s course sometimes and with some pregnancies.”

“I put those young in her.”

“Yes, but assuming this is a case of her hormones regulating themselves following birth, no one is to blame. Besides, you’ve done the right thing coming here, and you can also do a lot to help her by just talking to her and giving her the time and space to talk to you in return. And honestly, I’d already noticed that she hasn’t been coming to meals. I think we need to encourage her to join the rest of us so she knows how much we all are there for her.”

“Okay. Yeah.”

Doc Jane frowned. “May I give you a piece of advice?”


She squeezed his arm. “Don’t feel responsible for something over which you have no control. It’s a recipe for stress that will make you insanely miserable. I know that’s easier said than done, but try to keep it in mind? I’ve seen you be with her every step of the way during the pregnancy. There’s nothing you haven’t done or wouldn’t do for her, and you’re a fantastic father. Only good things are ahead, I promise you.”

Qhuinn took a deep breath. “Yeah.”

Even as his worry persisted, he reminded himself that over the course of Layla’s pregnancy, he had learned he could trust Doc Jane. The healer had helped him walk the life-and-death road, and she had never let him down, never led him astray, never lied to him or offered bad advice.

“It’s all going to be okay,” she promised.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the good doctor was wrong.

But then she had no control over fate.

And neither did he.


The young was ruined. Possessing naught but a mutated, ugly version of Hharm’s features, the upper lip all wrong, like that of a hare.

Hharm dropped the babe upon the cave’s dirty ground, and the thing made no sound as it landed, the arms and legs barely moving, its flesh of blue and gray, the cord still linking it with the female. It was going to die, as all results against the rules of breeding and nature should—and that outcome was not cause for indignation.

The fact that Hharm had been cheated, however, was. He had wasted these eighteen months, these number of hours, that moment of hope and happiness on a monstrosity that was untenable. And what he knew for sure? It wasnae his fault.

“What have you wrought?” he demanded of the female.

“A son!” She arched back as if in agony anew. “I have brought forth—”

“A curse.” Hharm rose to his full height. “Your womb is foul. It has corrupted the gift of my seed and produced that—”

“Your son—”

“Regard it for yourself! See with thine eyes! ’Tis an abomination!”

The female strained and lifted her head. “He is perfect, he is—”

Hharm shoved the young with his boot, causing it to jerk its tiny limbs and let out a weak cry. “Even you cannot deny what is in plain sight!”

Her bloodshot eyes latched onto the young, and then widened. “It is …”

“You did that,” he announced.

Her lack of argument was an inevitable capitulation, for the defect was undeniable. And then she moaned as if she were in labor still, her bloody fingers clawing at the cold ground, her legs trembling as they split wider. Upon further straining, something passed out of the female, and he thought perhaps there was another. Indeed, his heart caught with optimism as he prayed that the first was the dhoble, the cursed of a pair of twins.

Alas, no, it was some manner of the female’s interior, perhaps her stomach or bowel.

And the young cried on, its chest pumping in and out with lesser effect.

“You shall die here and so shall he,” Hharm said without care.

“I shall not—”

“Your innards are coming out.”

“The young is …” she mumbled. “The young …”

“Is an abomination of nature against the Scribe Virgin’s will.”

The female fell silent and went lax as if the process of expulsion were concluded, and Hharm waited for a final paroxysm wherein her soul departed from her body. Except she continued to breathe and meet his stare … and exist. What manner of trickery was this? The idea she would not go to Dhunhd for this was an insult.

“This is your doing,” he spat at the female.

“How do you know ’twas not your seed that was—”

Hharm put his boot at her throat and pressed down, cutting off her words. As a tide of rage made his warrior body seek mortal action, only the fact that this occurrence could be in punishment for things he’d done previously stopped him from crushing her neck.

She must pay, he thought abruptly. Yes, the fault was hers, and for the disappointment she had caused him, the female had to atone.

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