Home > The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13)(2)

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13)(2)
Author: J.R. Ward

“You’re not the only one who can kill. And unlike yourself, I have been trained in the art of making living things suffer. Go back to your quarters and I will not make your brother wish, as you do, that he had never been born.”

Trez looked at his hands. “I didn’t ask for this.”

“No one asks for life.” The executioner hiked iAm’s body up higher. “And sometimes they do not ask for death. You, however, are in the position to control the latter when it comes to this male. So what are you going to do. Fight against a destiny you can’t change and sentence this innocent to a wretched, prolonged suffering? Or fulfill a sacred duty many before you have found great honor in providing our people?”

“Let us go. Let us both go.”

“It is not up to me. Your chart is what your chart is. Your lot was determined by the contractions of your mother. You can no more fight this than you could fight them.”

When Trez finally tried to stand up, he found the floor slippery. The blood. The blood he had spilled. And when he was on his feet, he had to scramble through the gruesome tangle of bodies, stepping over lives that he knew had not been his to take.

The footsteps he left on the marble were red. Red as a Burmese ruby. Red as the core of a fire.

And the ones he left now were parallel to his first set of tracks, heading away from the escape he had so desperately sought.

It would have heartened him to know that in some twenty years, three months, one week, and six days from this moment, he would get free and make it stick for quite some time.

And it would have shocked him to the numb core of his soul that he would, sometime after that, voluntarily return to the palace.

The executioner spoke the truth that night.

Destiny was as uncaring and influential as the wind to a flag, carrying the fabric of an individual’s existence this way and that, subjecting that which it rocked to its whims without an inquiry as to what the banner may have desired.

Or may have prayed for.

ONE

SHADOWS NIGHTCLUB, CALDWELL, NEW YORK

There was no knock. The door to the office just flew open like someone had hit it with C4. Or a Chevy. Or a—

Trez “Latimer” looked from the paperwork on his desk. “Big Rob?”

—cannonball.

As his security second in command stuttered and went into all kinds of hand flapping, Trez glanced over his shoulder at the twenty-by-ten-foot one-way mirror behind all his Captain Kirk, command central. Down below, his new club was poppin’, humans milling around the converted warehouse’s open floor space, each one of the poor sick bastards representing a couple hundred dollars of profit, depending on what their vice was and how much of it they needed to juice up.

It was opening night at shAdoWs, and he’d expected trouble.

Just not the kind that would make a veteran bouncer go twelve-year-old girl on him.

“What the fuck is going on?” he demanded as he got up and came around.

“I—you—I … the guy … he…”

Find your vocab fast, Trez thought. Or I’ma have to bitch-slap some words into you, my man.

Finally, the bouncer choked out, “Need to see this for yourself.”

Trez followed Big Rob out and jogged down the stairs. His office was self-locking, not that he had any secrets shut in there. He did, however, have a couple of nice leather sofas, and some video-monitoring equip that could go the eBay route—plus he didn’t like people in his spaces on principle.

“Silent Tom is containing the issue,” Big Rob called out over the noise as they hit the ground floor.

“Like it’s a chemical spill?”

“I don’t know what it is.”

T.I.’s “About the Money” was so pumped it formed a physical presence in the air, becoming something that Trez had to fight through as they made their way past the security guy guarding the entrance to the private lounges hallway.

As with his other club, The Iron Mask, there had to be little slices of Nobody Can See for his customers. It was tricky enough running a prostitution ring in Caldwell, New York, without having people flash their slappin’ body parts out in the open.

“Back here,” Big Rob said.

Silent Tom was a wall of human in front of the closed door of the third private room down. But Trez didn’t need to have any reveal for him to put two and two together: His nose added that math up just fine.

The sickly sweet stench of a lesser permeated the hall, prevailing over the sweat and sex of the humans that were all around.

“Lemme have a look,” he said grimly.

Silent Tom stepped aside. “Still moving. Whatever the hell it is.”

Yeah, the slayer probably was. Those fuckers had to be killed in a specific way or they just kept on keepin’ on—even if they were in pieces.

“We’re going to have to call an ambulance,” Big Rob said. “I did it. I didn’t mean to—”

Trez held up his hand. “You’re fine. And hold off on the nine-one-one.”

Opening the door, he grimaced as the stench ramped up, and then stepped inside the ten-by-ten-foot room. The walls and floor were painted black, the ceiling mirrored, a single inset light glowing softly overhead. The slayer was curled up in the far corner under the built-in fuck bench, moaning and bleeding an oil slick that smelled like dead roadkill mixed with fresh-baked oatmeal cookies and Johnson & Johnson baby powder.

Nauseating. And once again, it put him off Mrs. Fields, which he did not appreciate—and children, which he didn’t care about.

He checked his watch. Midnight. Xhex, his head of security, was enjoying a rare evening off with her mate, John Matthew—and Trez had had to force the female to take the break, because it was the only time that week her hellren was off his rotation with the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

He was going to have to deal with this himself.

Trez stepped back out into the hall. “Okay, so what happened?”

Big Rob discreetly flashed a handful of small cellophane packets with powder in them as well as a wad of bills. “We found him pushing this. He got mouthy. I popped him and then he fought back—he was a fucking demon, and when he pulled the knife, I realized I was in trouble. I did what I had to do.”

Trez cursed as he recognized the symbol stamped on the heroin bags. It was nothing human—and the second time he’d seen it.

It was the vampiric Old Language—and the shit was on a lesser again? This time as a dealer?

He took the drugs and put them in his pocket. Let his bouncer keep the cash. “You were lucky you weren’t killed.”

“I’ll talk to the police. Everything’s on tape.”

Trez shook his head. “We’re not involving the CPD.”

“We can’t just leave him in there.” Big Rob glanced at his mute partner. “He’s going to die.”

It was the work of a moment to overpower the humans’ minds. Both of them. As a Shadow, Trez was like any other vampire, capable of barging into a cerebellum and rearranging thoughts and memories like they were armchairs and sofas in a living room.

Or maybe removing them from the house altogether.

Big Rob’s body instantly relaxed and he nodded. “Oh, sure. We can hang here. No problem, boss—and don’t worry, you don’t want no one in there? You got it.”

Trez clapped the man on the back. “I can always count on you.”

Heading back to his office, he kept up with the cursing. He’d gone to the Brothers months ago, when he’d first found a slayer with this shit on him. And he’d meant to follow up even more with them. But life had gotten in the way, things like the s’Hisbe coming after him, and Selena and him …

The mere thought of the Chosen female made him close his eyes and falter his feet on the stairs.

But then he threw off the sting. ’Cuz it was either that or go into a black-hole tailspin. The good news? He’d spent a lot of time over the last nine months trying to pull his mind, his emotions, his soul off the topic of Selena.

So he was used to this kind of power lifting.

Unfortunately, she remained a constant preoccupation, as if he had a low-level fever that dogged him no matter how much he slept and attempted to eat right.

And on some nights, it was a lot more than preoccupation—which was why he’d had to leave the Brotherhood mansion at times and crash back at his condo at the Commodore.

After all, bonded males could be dangerous, and the fact that he wasn’t with her—and shouldn’t be—meant absolutely nothing to that side of him. Especially when she was feeding fighters who could not, for whatever reason, take their mates’ veins.

It was straight-up crazy.

She was a virtuous servant of the Scribe Virgin’s, and he was a reformed sex addict with a life-in-prison-type sentence hanging over his head—and yet, according to his cock and balls, this was a recipe for true love.

Yup. There was some righteous math for you.

God, he was almost relieved he had a slayer leaking all over one of his sex rooms. At least it gave him a bomb to dismantle—which was better than staring out at that anonymous crowd of strangers who were feeding their own addictions thanks to the women and booze he supplied them with.

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