Home > Dearest Ivie (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15.5)(4)

Dearest Ivie (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15.5)(4)
Author: J.R. Ward

“You must be on your feet a lot at work.”

“I don’t mind that part.” She touched her sternum and then her temple. “It’s the heart and mind stuff that is exhausting.”

“Do you ever…I mean, you’ve watched patients die, yes?”

Ivie slowly nodded her head.

“How do you do that?” he said softly. “How do you get through that?”

“Well.” She took another sip. “First of all, not everyone passes. There are so many people we help at the clinic. And Havers, I mean, he’s old school and a half—his idea of casual night is a pastel bow tie instead of his more serious navy blue and maroon ones. But he is a phenomenal healer.”

As Silas laughed, she realized that she liked the sound. Liked that he thought she was witty.

Really liked that he was listening to what she was saying so closely.

Ivie took a deep breath. “When it does come time for someone to leave and go unto the Fade…I’m not numb to it. Not at all. But I also see it as my job to try to ease their way. I’m not scared of death, it’s the suffering that bothers me—and I know I can help that. It’s the journey, not the outcome, that I can change, if that makes sense.”

“You’re not afraid of death?”

She shook her head. “It’s peaceful. Death can be a release and a relief for the person, and that is a blessing. The thing is, a lot of times, it is work to die. It requires physical and emotional effort. What sucks is that for most, particularly if they’re dying out of sequence, it’s a job they don’t want. It’s about loss of control, loss of function, loss of identity and independence…loss of choice and decision, of family and friends. But if you can let go of all that, what comes with it is freedom. A soaring freedom, the soul released from its temporary prison of mortality.”

When he just stared at her, she flushed. “Annnnnd now is when we switch to sports and weather, right. Sorry, but you did ask, and I’m not good at half answers.”

He stayed silent as her wine arrived, and the waitress read them correctly, backing off without revisiting the whole ready-to-order thing.

“I’m terrified of death,” he said. “What if there is nothing afterward? What if the Fade is a bunch of bullshit, a self-medicating fallacy created by the living and breathing because they don’t want to consider the likelihood we are nothing but worm food?”

“Yeah, except here’s the thing.” She put her hands up. “Ya dead, either way. So it’s a win/win. You get eternal life with calorie-free M&M’s and fettuccini Alfredo—or, you’re worm food with no consciousness so you won’t know and won’t care. Might as well assume the best because it’s less likely to drive you crazy with a depressing distraction while you’re whooping it up on this side, right?”

As he did that stare-at-her thing again, she put her hand on the closed leather menu. “This is getting really heavy and deep for a first date, isn’t it.”

“This doesn’t feel like a first date.”

Ivie found herself swallowing hard, mostly because she felt the same way. And then there were those eyes of his. Low-lidded, intense…compelling.

“I always thought aristocrats were frivolous, somehow,” she blurted. “You’re not like that.”

Silas’s broad chest rose and fell. And then he picked up his menu. “Frivolous is a fair critique of many of us, for sure.”

“What do you do for a living?”

He opened the leather cover and peered over the top of it at her. “Do you want me to be honest?”

“You better be. I’m putting everything on the table, I expect you to do the same.”

Silas smiled, glanced at the menu. Shut the thing. Put it down in front of him. “Do you know what you’d like?”

“The fettuccini Alfredo. That is my idea of heaven. Cream, cheese, and noodles, and I will not apologize for picking that over the salad and grilled chicken most of your dates usually have.”

“I don’t go on a lot of dates.”

“Really? I find that really hard to believe.”

“It’s true. And as for what I do? To be honest, I’m rich for a living. I started with assets that have been in my family for generations, and then I pulled a Forrest Gump with them, investing in a fruit company in the eighties. I hung on through the non-Jobs era and came out on the iUniverse side of things like you read about. Then I jumped on a jungle company called Amazon in the nineties and now I’m into Bitcoin. So yes, I don’t do anything, and feel free to judge me. I know I do.”

“Good Lord, you have it made in the shade. I am so jealous.”

His eyes drifted off toward the fire. “Don’t be. I would trade it all to be someone else.”

* * *

“Would you care for the check?”

As their waitress threw the inquiry out, it was clear by the exhaustion in her voice that she was so flippin’ ready to have the pair of them out of sight, out of mind.

“That would be great.” Silas sat back. “Please compliment the chef for us? Everything was fantastic.”

“My pleasure.”

Even though her tone was more along the lines of My God my feet hurt.

“I would like to pay for this.” Silas motioned around their table, which had been cleared of eighty percent of its contents. All that was left were their coffee cups and the half of a cannoli he hadn’t eaten. “I respect you as a modern female and don’t want you to feel—”

“Hell yeah, you can pay. This was your idea and I’m not blowing part of my rent money this month just to prove I’m a feminist. I can do that for free by demanding respect and getting it.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “Fair enough.”

Ivie took a deep breath and glanced at the fire. “Thank you. For this. I didn’t expect…”

“Didn’t expect what?”

“I didn’t expect to have anything in common with you. Or to like you, actually.”

“So I’m not that bad, huh,” he said with a wink. “Surprise.”

As she studied those features of his, she found it interesting that after the shock of his physical beauty had faded, she was noticing imperfections that she liked even better than the forest-for-the-trees attractiveness: One of his eyebrows was higher than the other, his nose was ever so slightly crooked at the tip, his jaw was growing a shadow of beard already.

All of this made him real…which, she supposed, made him obtainable. Not that she wanted—

Oh, who the hell was she kidding.

“Shall we?”

Silas got up first, and grimaced as if something hurt. When she glanced over, he muttered. “Damn workouts.”

“You spend time in the gym?”

“Try to.” He picked her coat up off the back of her chair and held it open for her. “That’s probably the problem. Better if it’s consistent, right?”

“I’ve heard that.” Stepping into the wool, she felt his hands brush her shoulders, but—tragically—they did not linger. “I’ve always thought the exercise mentality was a cult, however, so I’m not your best resource on this one.”

That laugh of his made her eyes close for a moment. She really didn’t want the night to end—

“May I just say, I love your perfume.”

“Ahh…” Did she mention it was air freshener? NOPE. “Thank you.”

Together, they walked out past the hostess stand, and then he was holding the door open so they could leave the restaurant. Strolling under the awning, they were side by side without touching—and yet she was exquisitely aware of his body and the way he moved and how tall he was.

When they got to the end of the arching cover, they stopped. The parking lot was empty except for one car, and she tried to figure out what kind it was. Looked big and fancy, and it was not a Mercedes.

“I’m over there.” He looked at her. “Would you like a ride home? And I’m not asking with any other expectation than dropping you at the curb and waiting to make sure you are safely inside. It ends right there—what’s the human expression? Scout’s honor?”

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