Home > The Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood #16)(9)

The Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood #16)(9)
Author: J.R. Ward

“Where is he being treated? St. Francis?”

“He has availed himself of private physicians.” She would recognize Doc Jane and Manny, and he’d cross that bridge when they got to it. “The treatment he is receiving is top-notch. There is no better, I can assure you of that.”

“How long…” She cleared her throat. “How long does he have?”

“It is hard to say. But he suffers. Greatly.”

There was a long period of silence, punctuated only by their eating.

“He stopped calling me,” Marisol blurted.

“He has been in touch, then?” Not a surprise. And then Ehric became concerned. “Did he tell you aught?”

“He didn’t speak to me. He just hung up, but it was him, I know it was. And then the calls stopped.”

“Yes.”

More plates arrived, this time with something made from corn. And another thing of potato derivation that he recognized from that which Mrs. Carvalho had frozen for them before she left. The grandmother did not join them. She began to wash her dishes at the sink, and he knew better than to offer to help. Up in Caldwell, during their cohabitations, he and Evale had asked but once to be of any aid in her kitchen endeavors and she had been offended sure as if they had cursed before her.

It was not until he and his twin had finished their second and third servings that Marisol finally spoke.

“I’m really sorry,” she said. “I can’t go back there. You have to understand. Even for him, it’s not safe for us up in Caldwell—”

Mrs. Carvalho interjected with sharp words in their native tongue, and the granddaughter bowed her head as if it would not do that she disrespect her elder with any disagreement. Still, Ehric knew by the line of the younger woman’s chin that she would not relent.

“We can keep you safe,” he offered. “Both of you. You have our word of honor that naught will befall either of you.”

The grandmother spoke again, her hands on her hips, her wrinkled face drawn in disapproval.

Marisol got to her feet. “No. It is not safe. Maybe I can FaceTime with him, or something. Or talk to him on the phone. Or—”

As Ehric rose from his chair, Evale followed that lead. “I understand. Forgive us for bothering you.”

“I wish I could help.” Marisol crossed her arms over her chest. “Seriously, if the circumstances were different, I—”

“Madam,” he said unto her grandmother. “You have paid us much grace and respect with this meal. We shall hold on to the strength it gives us and use that gift in your honor.”

Evale murmured an affirmation as both of them bowed to her.

When he straightened, Mrs. Carvalho had her hands tucked up under her bosom. She appeared by turns delighted by the honor they paid her and frustrated by her kin.

Turning to Marisol, Ehric bowed to her as well. “We shall not tarry herein nor bother you again.”

Marisol opened her mouth as if to speak, but he walked away, proceeding to the door. As he let himself out, he held the exit wide for his twin.

“Do not say it,” he muttered as Evale paused in the doorway. “Stay silent.”

As always, his twin was content not to speak.

SEVEN

Abruptly, Vishous looked up as he sensed Jane’s presence. There, he thought, there in the darkness, in the cold wind, she had come.

He jumped off his rack, his heart beating hard. Without setting eyes on her, he sensed her emotions—and knew she had found out somehow.

“Jane,” he barked as he strode over the bare floor.

Out on the terrace, she was in her ghost form, nothing but an indistinct hologram of herself in her white coat, scrubs, and her Crocs. With her blond hair and her wide, dark green eyes, she was at once achingly familiar…and something from a different, earlier incarnation of his life.

When did this separation happen to us, he wondered.

“What have you done,” she said in a low voice.

Raw pain, the kind that threatened his balance, lit off in his chest. “I didn’t fuck her. I didn’t touch her.”

“Why…” She put a hand over her mouth. Then dropped it. “Vishous, why?”

As a gust tore through the empty space between them, he heard himself say, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t…you don’t know?” As her anger started to come out, her brows dropped low, her hard stare the sort of thing he accepted like a dagger to his chest that he’d well earned. “You meet another woman—female, whatever she is—behind my back and you don’t know why you did it? You’re the smartest person I have ever met, and even dumb people know why they cheat.”

Vishous shook his head. “I didn’t cheat.”

“Where’s your shirt.”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen—”

“You most certainly did. You asked Fritz to bring liquor here, and someone else clearly showed up.”

“I told you, I didn’t touch her—”

“Bullshit! And please spare me the denials. I won’t believe you. Why should I”—she pointed to all the glowing candles—“when I get to have this lovely picture in my mind for the rest of my life? So romantic, Vishous. I hope she was properly impressed—”

“You left us.”

Jane recoiled and then glared at him. “Excuse me?”

“You left me even though you didn’t go anywhere.”

“What the hell are you saying,” she snapped.

“I never see you. We are never together. You are more worried about your patients than—”

“Wait.” She put her palm into his face. “Are you seriously spinning what you just did like it is my fault? Oh, grow up—”

V’s voice exploded out of chest. “After the warehouse fight, I was all fucked up in your clinic with a head injury and you told me you would be back! You were going to get medication for me—but as you walked out the door of my patient room, you know what I said to myself? She’s not going to come—”

“I sat beside you while you were unconscious! For two hours!”

“—back, and you didn’t.”

“You checked yourself out AMA! When I returned, Ehlena said you’d left!”

The two of them were leaning toward each other, screaming into the wind, faces contorted, fists clenched—and in the back of his mind, he felt a sadness that this was what they had come down to: Betrayal. Hurt. Anger. It was the flip side to everything that he had thought they had. Everything he thought they were.

This was the kind of argument that wiped all the good parts away, he thought. Permanently.

Jane slashed her hand through the cold air that neither of them paid any attention to. “I took excellent care of you—”

“How long,” he ground out.

“What?”

“How long until you ended up back in my patient room.” When she looked away and crossed her arms over her chest, he nodded. “An hour, right. Maybe longer. And while you were sitting at my hospital bed, while I was out cold, were you giving orders to Ehlena? Consulting with Manny? Tell me, how many patients did you manage to triage or treat during those two hours when you were supposedly taking care of me.”

Her forest-green eyes shot back to him. “Don’t you dare deflect this onto me. I wasn’t the one making a date with someone else.”

“What I did was wrong, I admit it. But I didn’t follow through on it. I couldn’t. And even though that’s no excuse—”

“Damn right it’s no excuse! You’re a liar now. You’re a liar forever to me—”

Without warning, a truth came out of him. “My mother is dead. Have you noticed that? Have you stopped to think about that at all?”

She was momentarily nonplussed. “What does the Scribe Virgin have to do with this?”

Vishous shook his head slowly. “You never once asked me how I felt. You never even asked me how I found out she was gone.”

Jane looked away again. Swung her eyes back. “I didn’t think it bothered you. You kept going like it was nothing. You hated her.”

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