Lover eternal, p.50
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       Lover Eternal, p.50

         Part #2 of Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward
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Chapter Fifty

  Butch's first stop when he got home from the hospital was the mansion's upstairs study. He had no idea why Rhage had called and told him to leave Mary's room. His impulse had been to argue with the brother, but the sound of the guy's voice had been freaky, so he'd left it alone.

  The Brotherhood was waiting in Wrath's room, all grim and focused. And they were waiting for him. As Butch stared at them all, he felt as if he were about to make a report to the department, and after a couple months of sitting on his ass, it was good to be back on the job.

  Though he was damn sorry his skills were needed.

  "Where's Rhage?" Wrath asked. "Someone go get him. "

  Phury disappeared. When he came back he left the door open. "My man's in the shower. He'll be right with us. "

  Wrath looked across his desk at Butch. "So what do we know?"

  "Not much, although I'm encouraged by one thing. Some of Bella's clothes were gone. She was a neat type, so I could tell it was just jeans and nightgowns, not the kind of stuff she might have taken to a dry cleaners or something. It gives me hope they might want her alive for a while. " Butch heard the door shut behind him and figured Rhage had come in.

  "Anyway, both sites, Mary's and Bella's, were pretty clean, although I'm going to do one more sweep¡ª"

  Butch realized nobody was listening to him. He turned around.

  A ghost had walked into the room. A ghost who looked a lot like Rhage.

  The brother was dressed in white and had some kind of scarf wrapped around his throat. There were white binds on both his wrists, too. All his drinking points, Butch thought.

  "When did she go unto the Fade?" Wrath asked.

  Rhage just shook his head and went over to one of the windows. He stared out of it even though the shutters were down and he couldn't see anything.

  Butch, who was floored by the death that had apparently come so fast, didn't know whether to continue or not. He glanced at Wrath, who shook his head and then got to his feet.

  "Rhage? My brother? What can we do for you?"

  Rhage looked over his shoulder. He stared at each one of the males in the room, ending on Wrath. "I can't go out tonight. "

  "Of course not. And we will stay in and mourn with you. "

  "No," Rhage said sharply. "Bella's out there. Find her. Don't let her. . . go. "

  "But is there anything we can do for you?"

  "I can't. . . I find that I can't concentrate. On anything. I can't really. . . " Rhage's eyes drifted to Zsadist. "How do you live with it? All the anger. The pain. The. . . "

  Z shifted uneasily and stared at the floor.

  Rhage turned his back to the group.

  The silence in the room stretched out.

  And then with a slow, halting walk, Zsadist went over to Rhage. When he was standing next to the brother, he didn't say a word, didn't lift a hand, didn't make a sound. He just crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his shoulder into Rhage's.

  Rhage jerked as if surprised. The two men looked at each other. And then both stared out the obscured window.

  "Continue," Rhage commanded in a dead voice.

  Wrath sat back down behind the desk. And Butch started to speak again.

  By eight o'clock that night, Zsadist was finished at Bella's.

  He poured the last bucket of suds out in the kitchen sink and then put the container and the mop away in the closet next to the garage door.

  Her house was now clean and everything was back where it needed to be. When she came home, all she would see was a whole lot of normal.

  He fingered the small chain with little diamonds in it that was at his throat. He'd found the thing on the floor the night before, and after he'd fixed the broken link he'd put it on. It barely went around his neck.

  He scanned the kitchen one more time and then took the stairs down to her bedroom. He'd refolded her clothes neatly. Slid the dresser drawers back in place. Lined up her perfume bottles again on the vanity. Vacuumed.

  Now he opened her closet and touched her blouses and sweaters and dresses. He leaned in and breathed deeply. He could smell her, and the scent made his chest burn.

  Those fucking bastards were going to bleed for her. He was going to tear them apart with his bare hands until their black blood ran over him like a waterfall.

  With vengeance throbbing in his veins, he went over to her bed and sat down. Moving slowly, as if he might crash the frame, he lay back and put his head on her pillows. There was a spiral-bound book on top of the duvet and he picked it up. Her handwriting filled the pages.

  He was illiterate, so he couldn't understand the words, but they were beautifully composed, her penmanship curling into a lovely pattern over the paper.

  On a random page, he caught the one word that he could read.


  She'd written his name. He flipped through the journal, looking closely. She'd written his name a lot recently. He cringed as he imagined the content.

  Closing the book, he returned it to the precise spot it had been in. Then he glanced to the right. There was a hair ribbon on the bed stand, as if she'd whipped the thing off before getting into bed. He picked it up and wound the black satin through his fingers.

  Butch appeared at the base of the stairs.

  Z shot up off the bed as if he'd been caught doing something wrong. Which, of course, he had been. He shouldn't be all over Bella's private space.

  But at least Butch didn't seem any more comfortable than he was at their meeting.

  "What the hell are you doing here, cop?"

  "I wanted to look at the scene again. But I see you're handy with a paper towel. "

  Zsadist glared across the room. "Why do you care about all this? What's the abduction of one of our females to you?"

  "It matters. "

  "In our world. Not yours. "

  The cop frowned. " 'Scuse me, Z, but given your reputation, what's all this to you?"

  "Just doing my job. "

  "Yeah, right. Then why are you marking time on her bed? Why'd you spend hours cleaning up her house? And why are you holding that ribbon so tight your knuckles are white?"

  Z looked down at his hand and slowly released his grip. Then he pegged the human with a stare.

  "Don't fuck with me, cop. You won't like what comes back at you. "

  Butch cursed. "Look, I just want to help find her, Z. I gotta. . . It means something to me, okay? I don't like women getting brutalized. I got some nasty personal history with this kind of shit. "

  Zsadist pushed the strip of satin into his pocket and circled the human, closing in on him. Butch sank into a defensive position, waiting for the attack.

  Z stopped dead in front of the guy. "The lessers have probably killed her already, haven't they?"

  "Maybe. "

  "Probably. "

  Z leaned forward and took a deep breath. He could smell no fear coming out of the human even though his big body was tense and ready to fight. This was good. The cop was going to need some balls if he really wanted to play in the Brotherhood's sandbox of hell.

  "Tell me something," Z muttered. "Will you help me slaughter the lessers that took her? You got the stomach for that, cop? Because. . . straight up, I'm going to go crazy over this. "

  Butch's hazel eyes narrowed. "They take from you, they take from me. "

  "I'm nothing to you. "

  "You're wrong about that. The Brotherhood's been good to me, and I stick with my boys, you feel me?"

  Z measured the male. The aura Butch threw off was all business. Down-to-the-blood business.

  "I don't do gratitude," Z said.

  "I know. "

  Z braced himself and extended his hand. He felt the need to seal the pact between them, even though he was going to hate the sensation. Luckily, though, the human's grip was gentle. Like he knew how hard the contact was for Z to handle.

  "We go afte
r them together," the cop said as they dropped their arms.

  Z nodded. And the two of them headed upstairs.

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