Home > The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13)(10)

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13)(10)
Author: J.R. Ward

Vishous cocked a brow. “What’re you going to do? Kick me out?”

“Don’t want to get shut down on my first night.”

“You got bigger problems than the Department of Public Health.”

Fuck you, V, Trez thought.

“You need something?” he asked Rhage. “I got all kinds of things that don’t have alcohol in them.”

“Nah, I’m all right.” The Brother rubbed his face and then looked over. “So you’ve bonded with that Chosen, huh—”

“I even have food, if you want—”

“Come on, man.” Rhage shook his head. “You just tried to eat my lunch.”

Trez glanced at his watch. “Actually, it was over an hour ago.”

“I mean, whatever—what’s the problem? Why don’t you get with her.”

“You’re still a little pale.”

“Fine, fine. You wanna hit the mute button, that’s your business.”

Cue. Awkward. Silence.

OMG, this was the best fucking night, Trez thought. What next, a meteor hitting Caldwell?

Nah, probably just his club.

“Sooooo … I’ll take the drugs,” V said, pocketing the cellophane packets. “You get any more—”

The third goddamn flash in the room was bright enough to blind, and Trez put up an arm to cover his face as he fell back into a defensive stance.

“Oh, fuck!” one of the Brothers barked.

Bomb? Deadly slayer retaliation?

All that new electrical wiring failing on an epic scale?

Or maybe he shouldn’t have given the universe a suggestion about the whole meteor thing.

As Trez blinked the spots in his vision clear, it turned out to be a case of None of the Above.

A figure was standing where the great burst of light had flared—a figure that was about as impressive as a garden gnome gone Goth: Whatever it was was four feet tall, covered from head to foot in black robing … and evidently the source of illumination: From beneath the hem, brilliant light glowed. Like maybe La Perla had gone Las Vegas strip under there.

Abruptly, Trez stopped breathing as he put the math together and came up with the impossible. Holy shit, that was the—

“Hello, Mother,” Vishous said dryly.

—Scribe Virgin.

“I have come for a purpose.” The female voice was hard as crystal and just as clear. “And it must be served.”

“Really.” V took a drag on his hand-rolled. “You gonna take candy from a baby? Or is it kick-a-puppy night?”

The figure turned Her back on the Brother. “You.”

Trez recoiled, his head banging into the wall. “Excuse me?”

“You’re not supposed to make inquiries of Her,” V bit out. “Just FYI.”

“Me?” Trez repeated. “What do you want me for?”

“You are summoned by one of mine own.”

“You taking him to Disneyland?” V muttered. “Lucky you, Trez—but She’s probably only tight with Maleficent, the Shadow Man, Cruella—”

“How do you know so much Disney shit?” Rhage cut in.

“Come with me,” the Scribe Virgin said, extending her robed arm.

“Me?” Trez blurted a third time.

“You have been summoned.”

“Selena…?” he breathed.

Rhage shook his head. “Should I just get the marshmallows? ’Cuz you are about to get toasted for those questions, buddy.”

That was the last thing Trez heard before a swirling vortex of energy claimed him and carried him off to God only knew …

… where.

As the sense of having been transported disappeared, he steadied himself on his feet with a shout, both arms punching out from his torso, his head spinning so badly he figured he was going to dreidel it to the ground.

A sudden awareness of his surroundings stopped all that.

Parkland. He’d been relocated to some kind of postcard-perfect parkland, rolling green lawns interspersed with top-heavy trees, blooming flower beds and, in the distance, white marble buildings of Greco-Roman extraction. Except the horizon struck him as all wrong. A forest boundary offered a verdant stretch of green off in the distance, but there was an unnatural quality to it, the same trees seeming to mark the acreage, as if nature were on a repeat pattern. And overhead, the sky was likewise an all-wonky, its milky brightness appearing to have no distinct source, like there was just an enormous fluorescent light up there.

“Where am I?”

When there was no answer, he twisted around. The small robed figure was gone.

Great. Now what did he do?

Later, he would wonder what exactly made him turn and start walking … then running. A noise? His name? Some instinct…?

He found the body on the far side of a rise in the undulating ground. Whoever it was was facedown, in the traditional garb of a Chosen female, the soles of the sandals—

“Selena!” he shouted. “Selena…!”

Skidding to a halt, Trez dropped to his knees. “Selena?”

Her black hair was a mess, the traditional twist of her chignon ratted and sloppy, falling over her face. As he lifted the tangle, her skin was paper white.

“Selena…” He wasn’t sure whether she was injured or had collapsed, and with no medical training, he had no clue what to do.

“Breathing, are you breathing?” He put his ear down on her back. Then he leaned across her and took her arm to check for a—

“Oh … God.”

The limb was stiff, as if rigor mortis had set in. Except … when he placed his two fingers on the inside of her wrist, there was a pulse.

Selena moaned and her foot twitched. Then her head jerked against the grass.

“Selena?” His heart pounded so hard, he could barely hear anything. “What happened?”

No reason to ask if she was okay. That was a resounding fucking no.

“Are you hurt?”

More moaning as she seemed to struggle against something.

“I’m going to roll you over.”

Bracing himself, he took her arm and began to try to move her—but he had to stop. Her position did not change, her contoured limbs and stiffened torso were so rigid, it was as if he were dealing with a statue made of stone—

“Oh, shit!”

At the sound of Rhage’s voice, Trez jerked his head up. V and Rhage had materialized out of nowhere, and while he had always liked the two of them, at the moment, he could have kissed the pair of warriors.

“You gotta help me,” he barked. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”

The Brothers knelt down, and Vishous went for that wrist, checking the pulse.

“She can’t seem to move. But I don’t know why?”

“She has a pulse,” V murmured. “She’s breathing. Shit, I need my stuff.”

“Can we get her to … where the fuck are we?” Trez demanded.

“Yeah, I can transport her—”

“No one moves her but me,” he heard himself growl.

The position paper was hardly a bene in this situation. The bonded male in him, however, didn’t give a fuck.

Conversation rolled out between the Brothers, but damned if he heard any of it. His brain was tripping over itself, snippets of the past couple of months filtering through as he tried to look for signs that there had been something wrong with her.

There had been nothing that he’d seen, or heard of through the grapevine. If she’d only collapsed, it might have been the result of offering her vein too much, but that wouldn’t explain the fact that her body had seized up in the way it had—she seemed to have literally turned to stone.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. Rhage.

“Give me your hand.”

Trez put his palm out and felt himself get lifted to his feet. Before they could talk at him, he said, “I have to carry her. She’s mine—”

“We know.” Rhage nodded. “Nobody’s going to touch her without your permission. We need you to pick her up—then V will help you both back, okay? G’on now, gather your female.”

Trez’s arms were shaking so badly, he wondered whether he’d be able to hold her in his arms. But as soon as he bent down, a profound sense of purpose wiped away all the nerves and trembling: The goal of getting her to the training center’s clinic gave him a physical power and a mental clarity that he had never known before.

He would die in the effort.

God, she weighed so little. Less than he remembered.

And beneath the robes he could feel her hard bones, as if she were wasting away.

Just before that whirlpool effect overtook him again, his eyes shifted to a thick row of stocky trees that were broken by a trellis. On the far side of the arch, there was a courtyard of some kind in which marble statues of females in various poses were set up on pillars.

Had she been on the way there?

For some reason, the sight of those statues terrified him to the core.

SEVEN

Standing in front of the long mirror in her bedroom, Layla tried to pull the supposedly loose coat around herself, but getting what seemed like its copious folds across her belly was like asking a throw blanket to cover a king-size bed.

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