Home > The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)

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

ONE

BROWNSWICK SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, CALDWELL, NEW YORK

Ants under the skin.

As Rhage transferred his weight from one shitkicker to the other, he felt like his bloodstream had come to a soft boil and the bubbles were tickling the underside of every fucking square inch of his flesh. And that wasn’t the half of it. Random muscle fibers misfired all over his body, the spasms causing fingers to twitch, knees to jerk, shoulders to tighten like he was about to go tennis racket on something.

For the one millionth time since he’d materialized into his position, he peeper-swept the ragged, overgrown meadow up ahead. Back when the Brownswick School for Girls had been a functioning entity, the field in front of him had no doubt been a rolling lawn that had been well mowed in the spring and summer, de-leafed in the autumn, and snow-covered pretty as a children’s book in the winter. Now, it was a touch-football field from hell, studded and tangled with gnarled bushes that could do more than just aesthetic damage to a guy’s crotchticular region, saplings that were the ugly, misshapen stepchildren of the more mature maples and oaks, and late-October brown long grass that could trip you like a little bitch if you were trying to sprint.

Likewise, the brick buildings, which had sheltered and provided living and instructional spaces to the privileged elite’s offspring, were aging badly without regular maintenance: windows broken, doors rotting, off-kilter shutters opening and shutting in the cold wind as if the ghosts couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be seen or just heard.

It was the campus from Dead Poets Society. Assuming everyone had packed up after the movie had been shot in 1988 and nobody had touched a fucking thing since.

But the facilities were not empty.

As Rhage took a deep inhale, his gag reflex did a couple of push-ups in the back of his throat. So many lessers were hiding in the abandoned dormitories and classrooms that it was impossible to isolate individual scents from the sinus-numbing stench of the whole. Christ, it was like putting your face in a chum bucket and inhaling like the world were about to run out of oxygen.

Assuming someone had added baby powder to all the day-old fish heads and goo.

For that sweet finish, don’tcha know.

As his skin went on another shimmy-shimmy, he told his curse to hold its hey-nannies, that hell yeah, it was going to get let off the chain ASAP. He wasn’t even going to attempt to hold the damn thing in—not that trying to throw the brakes on it was ever successful, anyway—and whereas giving the beast free rein was not always a good thing, tonight it was going to be an offensive bene. The Black Dagger Brotherhood was facing how many lessers? Fifty? A hundred and fifty?

That was a lot to handle, even for them—so yeah, his little . . . present . . . from the Scribe Virgin was going to come in handy.

Talk about your ringer from out of town. Over a century ago, the mother of the race had given him his own personal T.O. system, a behavior modification program that was so onerous, so unpleasant, so overwhelming that it did, in fact, manage to bring him back from the brink of total douche-baggery. Courtesy of the dragon, unless he managed his energy levels properly and moderated his emotions, all hell broke loose.

Literally.

Yup, in the course of the last century, he had become largely successful at making sure the thing didn’t eat his nearest and dearest, or get them on the nightly news with a “Jurassic Park Is Alive” headline. But with what he and his brothers were facing right now—and how isolated this campus was? If they were lucky, the great purple-scaled bastard with the chain-saw teeth and the hollow-legged hangry was going to get his Nobu on. Although, again, a lesser-only diet was what they were looking for.

No brothers as Hot Pockets, please. And no humans as tapas or dessert, thank you very much.

The latter was more out of discretion than affection. Shit knew those rats without tails never went anywhere without two things: a half dozen of their evolutionarily inferior, nocturnally codependent, fuck-twit buddies, and their goddamn cell phones. Man, YouTube was a total pain in the ass when you wanted to keep your war with the undead under wraps. For nearly two thousand years, vampires fighting the Omega’s Lessening Society had been no one else’s business except for the combatants involved, and the fact that humans couldn’t stick to their core competencies of ruining the environment and telling each other what to think and say was only one of the reasons he hated them.

Fucking Internet.

Changing gears so he didn’t get loose too soon, Rhage GoPro’d his vision to a male taking cover about twenty feet away from him. Assail, son of Whoever-the-Fuck, was dressed in funeral-cortege black, his Dracula-dark hair requiring no camouflage, his handsome-as-sin face furrowed so tight with murder that you had to respect the guy. Talk about doing a solid—and a one-eighty. The drug dealer had come through for the Brotherhood, making good on his promise to cut business ties with the Lessening Society by delivering the Fore-lesser’s head in a box to Wrath’s feet.

And also divulging the location of this bolt-hole the slayers had been using as HQ.

Which was how everyone had ended up here, up to their nuts in the overgrowth, waiting for the countdown on their V-synchronized watches to hit 0:00.

This attack wasn’t some bullshit, buckshot approach to the enemy. After a number of nights—and days, thanks to Lassiter, a.k.a. 00-a-hole, having done recon during sunshine hours—the attack was properly coordinated, staged, and ready for execution. All of the fighters were here: Z and Phury, Butch and V, Tohr and John Matthew, Qhuinn and Blay, as well as Assail and his two cousins, Fang I and II.

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