Home > The Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood #16)(2)

The Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood #16)(2)
Author: J.R. Ward

Hell, she didn’t even know his last name. For all the spying on him that she had been hired to do, and then that which she had done on her own, she knew almost nothing about him. He had a glass house on the Hudson that was owned by a real estate trust. His two closest associates were his twin cousins, and both were as mute as brick walls when it came to his personal details. He’d had no wife or children.

At least not around him, but who knew. A man like that certainly had plenty of options for companionship.

Shifting to the side, she took her old iPhone out and looked at its black screen. When she woke the thing up, there was a picture of the beach from back right after she had arrived here.

No texts, no missed calls, no voicemails.

For a long while, she had had these regular hang-ups from a restricted number.

The intermittent calls were the only reason she’d kept the phone. Who else would be reaching her on it except for Assail? Who else had the number? It wasn’t the phone she’d used with Benloise or any of her shadowy business, and the account was under an alias. He was the only one who had the digits.

She really should have left the thing up north and canceled the service. Clean cut was best. The safest.

The issue seemed to have resolved itself, however. Assuming Assail had been the one calling, he’d stopped—and maybe it wasn’t because he’d found his grave. He had probably moved on—which was what people did when they got left behind. The whole pining-away-for-a-lifetime thing only happened in Victorian novels, and then usually on the woman’s side.

Yeah, no Mr. Havisham going on up north. No way—

Another memory took her back in time, and it was one she hated. Even after Benloise had ordered her off the trail, she had followed Assail out to an estate, to what had appeared to be a caretaker’s cottage. He hadn’t gone there for a business transaction. No, it was for a dark-haired woman with a body and a half, and he’d taken her down onto a sofa like he’d done it before. Just as he’d started to have sex with her, he had looked directly at the window Sola had been watching him through—as if he were putting on the show for her.

At that point, she had decided to pull out of the surveilling and had resolved never to see him again.

Fate had had different ideas, however. And had turned her silver-eyed drug dealer into a savior.

The sad thing was, under different circumstances, she might have stayed with him in that glass house of his. But in the end, her little deal with God had superseded that kind of fantasy.

Getting to her feet, she lingered at the rail for a while longer, wondering exactly what she hoped she would find in the view. Then she turned away, shut herself back in the condo, and kicked off her flip-flops. On silent, bare feet, she whispered through the living room area and went into the kitchen. Her grandmother’s standards were such that not only could you eat off the floor, you could toss a salad in any of the drawers, roll your bread dough out inside the cupboards, and use the shelving to cut your steak on.

The tool kit was under the sink, and she got out a full-sized hammer.

The iPhone went into a double Ziploc bag–setup on her way to the door and she disengaged the alarm before exiting into the corridor. The fire stairwell was down on the right, and as she strode over to it, she listened out of habit, but not necessity. The people in the building were elderly, and what little she saw of them confirmed she had chosen the right unit. This was the land of snowbirds who didn’t have the money to fly up and back for the spring and summer, so the building never emptied out.

There would always be nosy witnesses, even if those eyes and ears were not quite as sharp as they had once been. And her fellow residents represented a complication that people coming after her would think twice about.

Plus, as always, she had a compact nine with a laser sight on her. Justincase.

The stairwell was cooler, but no dryer than the great outdoors, and she didn’t go far. She put the phone in its little plastic bag–coffin on the concrete floor underneath the coiled fireman’s hose and checked one last time that there had been no calls.

Then she drove the hammer down once. Twice. Three times.

That was all it took to destroy the phone.

As she went back to the condo, she turned the loose pieces over in her hands, the two baggies keeping things together. Tomorrow morning, she would go online from a secured computer and cancel the service, her last tie, flimsy though it was, cut forever.

The idea that she would never know what happened to Assail was almost as bad as the reality that she would never see him again.

Letting herself in once more, she resolved to go to bed, but was drawn back to the view of the water and the moon.

She missed the man she shouldn’t have ever had as if he were a piece of her soul, left behind.

But that was the way of it.

Destiny was such a thief.

TWO

THE BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD TRAINING CENTER

CALDWELL, NEW YORK

Doc Jane checked her watch and resumed her pacing. As she went back and forth in the concrete corridor outside her main exam room, she was very aware of her own heartbeat—which was a little odd considering she was, for all intents and purposes, not alive.

In the back of her head, she heard Bill Murray saying, Have you or your family ever seen a spook, specter, or ghost?

Pretty much every time she looked in the mirror, Dr. Venkman. Thanks.

On that note, she headed down a couple of doors and stopped. Staring ahead without seeing anything, she found that she couldn’t breathe right and decided that, of all the parts of her job as a trauma surgeon, what was about to happen next was something that she had never gotten good at. No matter how much training, experience, or continuing education she had, proficiency in this most vital part of her calling had not come.

And she hoped it never did.

Assail, I have failed you, she thought. I am so sorry. I did everything I could.

A clanking sound brought her head around. Down at the far end of the training center’s long, main corridor, past all kinds of class-, break, and interrogation rooms, the reinforced-steel vault panel that separated the subterranean facility from its multi-level parking area opened wide. Rhage, one of the Brotherhood’s newest fathers, came in and stood off to the side.

The two dark-haired males who entered after him were, from what she understood, an anomaly in the vampire species. Identical twins did not happen that often and few of them made it to adulthood. Ehric and Evale had proven to be the exception to a lot of rules, however.

For example, she wasn’t sure they were any more living than she was. For all the emotion they had ever shown, they might as well have been cyborgs. Such dead eyes—they had stares with all the luminosity of matte paint. Then again, they had probably seen a lot. Done a lot. And that translated, from what she had learned about war, into people who dissociated from the world around them, trusting no one.

Not even themselves.

Rhage indicated the way toward her, even though her presence was a self-explanatory destination, and as the twins walked forward, John Matthew entered as well, adding a caboose to the train.

Where was Vishous, she wondered. He and Rhage were supposed to be on transport with them?

Taking out her phone, she did a quick check. No texts or calls from her mate, and for a moment, she considered reaching out to him.

Shaking her head, she put the cell away and refocused on her job. She had to get through this conversation first, before she did anything personal.

As the twins approached, proximity didn’t increase the warm and fuzzies of those males in the slightest. The closer they got, the bigger they became, until they were stopping in front of her and reminding her that immortality was so not a bad thing. They were killers, these two, and though they had extended a professional courtesy exemption to the Brotherhood’s household by virtue of shared interest, she was glad she was a ghost.

Especially given what she had to tell them.

“Thank you for coming,” she said.

The one on the left—the one that…yup, there was that mole behind the ear, so he had to be Ehric, not Evale—nodded once. And that was it from the both of them. No greeting. No nervousness. No anger. No sadness, even though they knew exactly why she’d asked them here. In all their robotic stoicism, with their black hair, and their platinum eyes, and their powerful builds, the cold-as-ices were like a matched set of Glocks, deadly and emotionless.

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