Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(8)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(8)
Author: J.R. Ward

“Let’s go, Tohr,” V said. “Now.”

Tohrment bared his fangs, but not at his brother. “You bastard, I’m going to kill—”

“Nope, not doing this.” V hooked an arm around Tohr’s bicep and all but dragged him into a do-si-do. “Outside—”

“You’re not God—”

“And neither are you, which is why you’re leaving.”

In the back of his mind, Tohr was aware the rat fucker had a point. He was not even halfway rational—and P.S., fuck V for remembering what night it was.

His beloved shellan, his first love, would have been two hundred and twenty-six. And she would have had a two-year-old in her arms.

But fate had not provided that.

“Don’t make me shoot you,” V said roughly. “Come on, my brother. Please.”

The fact that the p-word came out of Vishous’s mouth was what did it. The shit was just that shocking, disarming Tohr from the swords of his anger and madness.

“Come on, Tohr.”

This time, Tohr allowed himself to be led off, his grand scheme deflating, the too-quiet aftermath of his craziness making him shake in his skin. What the fuck had he been doing? What the fuck?

Yeah, he had been granted the right to kill Xcor by royal proclamation, but only when he was released by Wrath to do so. And that had explicitly not happened yet.

This could have been a mess of treasonous proportions.

Talk about trading places. One dead betrayer for a living, breathing one.

When they came up to the gate that Tohr had unlocked to get access, V put out his gloved hand. “Key.”

Tohr didn’t look at the brother as he took the thing from his leather jacket and handed it over. After some clanking and a creak, the way was open and Tohr walked forward without prompting, hands on his hips, shitkickers grinding into the dirt, head down.

When there was another round of metal-on-metal, he figured he was being locked out on his own. But then V was right next to him on the far side.

“I promise you,” the brother said. “You and you alone will kill him.”

Was that going to be enough, Tohr wondered. Would anything ever be enough?

Before they came up to the mouth of the cave, Tohr stopped. “Sometimes … life just isn’t fair.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“I hate that. I fucking hate that. I go through … periods of time, not just nights, but weeks, sometimes even a month or two … when I forget about everything. But the shit always comes back, and after a while, you can’t hold it in anymore. You just can’t.” He banged the side of his head with his fist. “It’s this worm inside me, and I know killing Xcor won’t distract me for longer than ten minutes. But on a night like tonight, I’d take even that.”

There was a shhcht as V lit up a hand-rolled. “I don’t know what to say, my brother. I’d tell you to pray about it, but there’s no one up there to hear you.”

“Not sure your mother was ever listening. No offense.”

“None taken.” V exhaled. “Trust me.”

Tohr focused on the way out of the cave, and as he tried to take a breath, he was strangely exhausted. “I’m tired of fighting the same fight. Ever since Wellsie was … murdered … I feel like a limb of mine has never healed, and I can’t take the hurt one more second. Not for one more goddamn second. Even if it just migrated to another place, it would be better.”

There was a long silence between them, only the muffled howl of the winter wind breaking up the quiet in the cave.

Eventually, V cursed. “I wish I knew what would help you, my brother. I mean, if you need a reassuring hug … I can probably pay someone to give you one.”

Tohr shook his head as his upper lip twitched into a smile. “That’s almost funny.”

“Yeah, I’m going for levity.” V exhaled again. “It’s either that or I shoot you, and I’d hate filling out all of Saxton’s paperwork, true?”

“I can see your point.” Tohr scrubbed his face. “Totally …”

V’s diamond eyes shifted over. “Just know that I’m sorry. You don’t deserve any of this.” A heavy hand landed on Tohr’s shoulder and squeezed. “If I could take the pain for you, I would.”

As Tohr blinked fast, he thought it was a good thing V wasn’t a hugger, or there would be a serious fucking breakdown happening all over the place.

The kind of breakdown a male didn’t come back from in one piece.

Then again, was he really whole now?

SHADOWS NIGHTCLUB, DOWNTOWN CALDWELL

Trez Latimer felt a little like a god as he stared out of the glass wall of his second-floor office at his club. Down below, in the converted warehouse’s vast open area, a crowd of sexed-up humans established patterns of attraction and disdain in a tumultuous sea of deep purple lasers and pounding bass beats.

In large measure, his clientele were millennials, that generation born between 1980 and 2000. Defined by the Internet, the iPhone, and a lack of economic opportunity, at least according to the human media, they were a demographic of lost moralists, committed to saving each other, preserving the rights of everyone, and championing a false utopia of mandated liberal thinking that made McCarthyism looked nuanced.

But they were also, in the manner of youth, baselessly hopeful.

And how he envied them that.

As they collided and crashed into each other, he witnessed the rapture on their faces, the rampant optimism that they would find true love and happiness this very evening—in spite of all the other nights that they had come to his club and dawn had ushered in nothing but exhaustion, a new STD, and a crap load of shame-based self-doubt as they wondered exactly what they had done and with who.

He suspected, however, that for most of them the cure for that angst was two hours of sleep, a Starbucks venti latte, and a shot of penicillin.

When you were that young, when you had yet to face challenges that you couldn’t even begin to comprehend, your resilience knew no bounds.

And there was where he wished to trade places with them.

It was odd to pedestal humans on any level. As a two-hundred-plus-year-old Shadow, Trez had long viewed those rats without tails as an inferior, inconvenient clutter on the planet, rather like ants in one’s kitchen or mice in the basement. Except you weren’t allowed to exterminate the humans. Too messy. Better to tolerate them than risk a species exposure by murdering them just to free up parking spaces, supermarket lines, and your Facebook feed.

And yet here he was, aching in his chest to be in the shoes of even one of them, if only for an hour or two.

Unprecedented.

Then again, they hadn’t changed. He had.

My queen, is it time for you to go? Tell me if it is.

As memories bullied through his brain, he covered his eyes and thought, oh, God, not again. He didn’t want to go back to the Brotherhood’s clinic … to the bedside of his beloved Selena, to him dying on the inside while she expired in fact.

In truth, however, he had never left those events, even as calendar days suggested the contrary. After the passage of well over a month, he could still recall each and every detail about the scene, from her tortured breathing to the panic in her stare to the tears that rolled down her face and his.

His Selena had been struck by a disease known to rarely affect members of her sacred class. Throughout the generations of Chosen, certain of them had had the Arrest, and it was a horrible way to die, your mind left alive in the frozen shell of your body, no escape possible, no treatment to help you, no one to save you.

Not even the male who loved you more than life itself.

As Trez’s heart tripped in his chest, he dropped his hands, shook his head, and tried to reconnect with reality. He had been struggling recently with these intrusive episodes, and they were getting more frequent instead of less so—something that made him worry about his sanity. He’d heard that adage that “time heals all wounds,” and shit, maybe that was true for other people. For him? His mourning had transitioned from the incandescent pain at the beginning, an agony so hot it rivaled the flames of her funeral pyre, to this chronic racetrack of reminiscing that seemed to spin ever faster around the open-field fulcrum of his loss.

   
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