Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(5)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(5)
Author: J.R. Ward

Before she was aware of moving, she went to the house phone and dialed a four-digit number.

The doggen she summoned arrived in a moment, and Layla put her social mask in place, smiling at the servant with a serenity she did not feel. “Thank you for watching my most precious ones,” she said in the Old Language.

The nursemaid replied with happy words and sparkling eyes, and it was all Layla could do to withstand the two or three seconds of communication. Then she was out of the room, and traveling on quick, slippered feet down the hall of statues. When she reached the doors at the far end, she pushed them wide and entered the staff wing.

As with all mansions of its size and distinction, the Brotherhood’s home required tremendous servant support, and the doggens’ rooms lined a number of corridors, the segregations of age, sex, and job titles forming communities within the larger whole. Within the maze of hallways, Layla chose her direction with no particular thought other than the goal of locating a room that was unclaimed—and she found one some three doors forth from some turn she made. Entering the bare, simple space, she went over to the window, cracked the sash, and closed her eyes. Her heart was pounding and her head was swirling, but as she breathed deep and scented the fresh, cold air …

… she ghosted away through the whistling gap she’d created, becoming one with the night, her molecules scrambling forth and heading away from the Brotherhood mansion.

As usual, the freedom was temporary.

But desperate as she was, she took it in like oxygen to the suffocated.

THREE

Qhuinn was a male’s male. And not just because he was a fighter and had a mate who was a dude.

Yeah, sure, before he’d settled down with his Blay, he’d liked fucking females and women well enough. But then again, his data screen for sexual partners had been set so low that even vacuum cleaners and the occasional tailpipe had been candidates.

No sheep, though. #standards

But he couldn’t say that females had ever captivated or particularly interested him. It wasn’t that there was shit wrong with them or that he didn’t respect them in the same way he did anything else rocking the living-and-breathing job descript. They simply weren’t his cuppa, as it were.

On a night like tonight, however, he regretted his lack of experience. Just because he’d done some laps with the opposite in the sack didn’t mean he was equipped in any way to deal with what was confronting him now.

As he and Blay came to the bottom of the grand staircase, he stopped and looked at his mate. In the background, emanating from the billiards room across the foyer, the sounds of deep male voices, thumping music, and ice hitting crystal glasses announced that the Brotherhood pool tournament was already in full swing.

Qhuinn smiled in a way he hoped looked chill. “Hey, I’ll meet you in there, ’kay? I’m supposed to go down and talk to Doc Jane about my shoulder for, like, ten minutes? Shouldn’t be long.”

“Of course. Do you want me to go with you?”

For a second, Qhuinn got lost just staring at his male. Blaylock, son of Rocke, was everything he himself was not: Blay was flawless with a Michelangelo body, a face to die for, and a head of red hair that was thick and shiny as a pony’s tail; he was smart, but also levelheaded, which made all the difference; and he was as steady and reliable as a granite mountain, the kind of guy who never wavered.

In all the ways that mattered, compared to Blay, Qhuinn was the plastic tub to the porcelain bowl, the partial set to the perfect dozen, the crack down the middle to the never-been-broken.

For some reason, though, Blay had picked him. Against all odds, the disowned, bad-seed son of a Founding Family, the sex fiend with the mismatched eyes, the mercurial, hostile, snarling stray … had somehow landed Prince Charming, and shit, it was almost enough to make you religious.

Blay was the reason he breathed, the home he’d never had, the sunlight that powered his earth.

“Qhuinn?” Those iridescent blue eyes frowned. “Are you okay?” “Sorry.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to the male’s jugular. “Distracted. But you do that to me, don’t you.”

As Qhuinn eased back, Blay was blushing—and aroused. And that scent was a diversion not easily conquered.

Except he had a real problem he needed to deal with.

“Tell the brothers I’ll be fast.” Qhuinn nodded in the direction of the billiards room. “And I’ma beat their ass.”

“You always do. Even Butch.”

The words were soft, and backed up with an adoration that made Qhuinn count every one of his blessings.

Giving in to instinct, Qhuinn got up close again and whispered in the guy’s ear, “You may want to food up at Last Meal. I’m going to keep you busy all day long.”

With a quick lick of the throat he intended to work on later, Qhuinn stalked off before he couldn’t leave his mate at all.

Heading around the base of the staircase, he went through a hidden door and down into the tunnel system that connected the components of the estate. The Brotherhood’s underground training center was located about a quarter of a mile away from the mansion, and this subterranean pass connecting the two was a broad, concrete expanse lit by fluorescent ceiling panels.

As he stomped along, his footfalls echoed all around, like his shitkickers were applauding his initiative.

He wasn’t so sure they were right, though. He had no fucking clue what he was doing here.

The door into the back of the supply closet opened without a sound after he entered the correct code, and then he was passing by shelves of legal pads, printer paper, pens, and other Staples shit. The office beyond presented your typical desk-chair-computer and old-school filing cabinets setups, none of it particularly registering as he punched through the glass door across the way and hit the corridor beyond. With long, impatient strides, he went by all kinds of professional-grade facilities, from the full-size gym and the Dwayne Johnson–worthy weight room, to the locker rooms and the first of the classrooms.

The clinic portion of the training center had a number of treatment spaces, an OR, and several patient bunks. Doc Jane, V’s shellan, and Dr. Manny Manello, Payne’s mate, took care of all manner of war-related injuries in it as well as household-whoopsies, and even the pregnancies and deliveries of L.W. as well as Nalla, Lyric, and Rhampage.

He knocked on the first door he came to, and he didn’t have to wait more than a heartbeat.

“Come on in!” Doc Jane called out from the other side.

The good doctor was in surgical scrubs and Crocs as she sat at the computer on the far side of the well-equipped clinical space, her fingers flying over the keys as she updated someone’s record, her head bent, her short blond hair sticking up like she’d been dragging her hand through it for hours.

“One sec …” She punched the enter key and spun herself around. “Oh, hey there, Dad. How are you?”

“Oh, you know, soaking up the love.”

“Those babies of yours are amazing. And I don’t even like kids.”

Her smile was as easygoing as apple pie. Her forest-green eyes, on the other hand, were laser sharp.

“Thanks to you, they’re doing great.”

Annnnnnnd cue the quiet. As the conversation stalled out, he wandered around because he couldn’t stay still, checking out the shiny, sterile equipment in the stainless-steel cabinets, inspecting the empty gurney under the operating light, jacking up his leathers.

Doc Jane just sat there on her little stool, calmly and quietly letting him thrash around in his own head. And when her phone went off, she let it go to voice mail without even checking to see who it was.

“I’m probably wrong,” he said eventually. “You know, what the fuck do I know.”

Doc Jane smiled. “I actually think you’re a very smart guy.”

“Not about shit like this.” Clearing his throat, he told himself to get on with it—even though Doc Jane didn’t seem in a rush, he was annoying himself. “Look … I love Layla.”

“Of course you do.”

“And I want the best for her. She’s the mother of my children. I mean, behind Blay, she’s my partner because of those kids.”

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