Lover eternal, p.51
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       Lover Eternal, p.51

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

  Mary waved as the big Mercedes eased to a stop in front of the hospital. She jogged over at such a clip that Fritz was just getting out of the driver's side as she jumped into the car.

  "Thanks, Fritz! Listen, I've called Rhage six times and he's not answering his cell. Is everything okay?"

  "All is well. I saw your sire this afternoon. "

  She beamed at the doggen. "Good! And as it's eight o'clock, it's still early for him to have gone out. "

  Fritz put the car in drive and gently eased into traffic. "Is there anything you require¡ª"

  She reached across the seat, threw her arms around the little old man, and kissed him on the cheek. "Take me home fast, Fritz. Faster than you've ever gone before. Break every traffic law. "

  "Madam?"

  "You heard me. As fast as you can!"

  Fritz was all flustered from the attention, but he recovered quickly and punched the gas.

  Mary put her seat belt on and then popped the visor down and looked at herself in the little lighted mirror. Her hands were shaking as she put them to her cheeks, and giggles broke out of her mouth, especially as the car careened around a corner and she was thrown against the door.

  When sirens sounded, she laughed even harder.

  "I beg your pardon, madam. " The doggen glanced over at her. "But I must evade the police and this might get rather bumpy. "

  "Blow their doors off, Fritz. "

  The doggen flipped something and all the lights in and outside the car were extinguished. Then the Mercedes let out a roar that reminded her of that ride in the GTO with Rhage through the mountains.

  Well, except they'd had headlights then.

  She grabbed on to the seat-belt strap and shouted over the din of squealing tires, "Tell me you have perfect night vision or something!"

  Fritz smiled at her calmly, as if they were just chatting it up in the kitchen. "Oh, yes, madam. Perfect. "

  With a jerk to the left he swerved around a minivan and then shot down an alley. Slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting a pedestrian, he nailed the gas pedal to the floor again as soon as he had a clear path down the narrow street. Darting out the other side, he cut off a taxi, dodged a bus. Even made an SUV the size of the QE II think twice before pulling out in front of him.

  The old guy was an artist behind the wheel.

  Okay, an artist in a Jackson Pollock kind of way, sure, but amazing nonetheless.

  And then he shot into a parking spot. Right on the main drag. Just like that.

  The chorus of sirens got so loud she had to yell. "Fritz, they're going to¡ª"

  Two police cars sped right by them.

  "One more moment, madam. "

  Another cop car went flying down the street.

  Fritz eased out and continued at a brisk pace.

  "Nice trick, Fritz. "

  "With no offense to you, madam, human minds are rather easily manipulated. "

  As they sped along, she laughed and fidgeted and tapped her fingers on the armrest. The trip seemed to take forever.

  When they got to the compound's first set of double gates, she was practically vibrating, she was so excited. And the moment they pulled up in front of the house, she bolted from the car, not even bothering to shut the door.

  "Thanks, Fritz!" she called out over her shoulder.

  "You're welcome, madam!" he shouted back.

  She burst through the vestibule and bounded up the grand staircase. As she took the corner at the top, going at a dead run, her purse swung out and clipped a lamp. She doubled back and righted the thing before it crashed.

  She was laughing out loud as she burst into their bedroom¡ª

  Mary careened to a halt.

  In the center of the room Rhage was naked and kneeling in a trance on some kind of black slab. He had white binds tied around his neck and wrists. And there was blood dripping onto the rug, though she couldn't see where it was coming from.

  His face looked as if he'd aged decades since she'd seen him.

  "Rhage?"

  His eyes slowly opened. They were opaque, dull. He blinked at her and frowned.

  "Rhage? Rhage, what's going on?"

  Her voice seemed to snap him to attention.

  "What are you¡ª" He stopped. Then shook his head as if he were trying to clear a vision. "What are you doing here?"

  "I'm cured! I'm a miracle!"

  As she ran to him, he leaped out of the way, holding his hands up and glancing around frantically. "Get out! She'll kill you! She'll take it all back! Oh, God, get away from me!"

  Mary stopped dead. "What are you talking about?"

  "You took the gift, didn't you!"

  "How do you. . . how do you know about that weird dream?'

  "Did you take the gift!"

  Jesus. Rhage had lost it completely. Shaking, naked, he was bleeding from his shins and white as limestone.

  "Calm down, Rhage. " Boy, this was so not how she'd pictured this conversation going. "I don't know about any gift. But listen to this! I fell asleep while I was getting another MRI and something happened to the machine. It exploded or something, I guess, I don't know, they said there was some flash of light. Anyway, when they took me back upstairs, they drew some blood and everything was perfect. Perfect! I'm clean! No one has any idea what happened. It's like the leukemia just disappeared and my liver fixed itself. They're calling me a medical miracle!"

  Happiness poured through her. Until Rhage grabbed her hands and squeezed so hard he hurt her.

  "You need to leave. Now. You can't know me. You have to go. Don't ever come back here again. "

  "What?"

  He started pushing her out of the room, and then dragged her when she resisted.

  "What are you doing? Rhage, I don't¡ª"

  "You have to go!"

  "Warrior, you can stop now. "

  The wry female voice halted them both.

  Mary looked over his shoulder. A small figure covered in black was in the corner of the room, light glowing from underneath the flowing robe.

  "My dream," Mary whispered. "You were the woman in my dream. "

  Rhage's arms crushed her as they went around her body, and then he thrust her away from him.

  "I did not not go to her, Scribe Virgin. I swear, I didn't¡ª"

  "Be at ease, warrior. I know you kept the bargain. " The small figure floated over to them, not walking, just moving through the room. "And all is well. You just left out one small detail about the situation, something I did not know until I approached her. "

  "What?"

  "You failed to tell me she could no longer bear children. "

  Rhage looked at Mary. "I didn't know. "

  Mary nodded and wrapped her arms around herself. "It's true. I'm infertile. From the treatments. "

  The black robes shifted. "Come here, female. I will touch you now. "

  Mary stepped forward in a daze as a glowing hand appeared from the silk. The meeting of their palms resulted in a warm electrification.

  The woman's voice was low and strong. "I regret that your ability to bring forward life has been taken from you. The joy of my creation sustains me always, and I take great sorrow that you will never hold flesh of your flesh in your arms, that you will not see your own eyes staring at you from the face of another, that you will never mix the essential nature of yourself with the male you love. What you have lost is enough of a sacrifice. To take the warrior from you as well. . . that is too much. As I told you, I give you life eternal until you decide to go unto the Fade of your own volition. And I have a feeling that choice shall be made when it is this warrior's turn to leave the earth. "

  Mary's hand was released. And all the joy she'd felt drained out of her. She wanted to cry.

  "Oh, hell," she said. "I'm still dreaming, aren't I? This is all just a dream. I should have known. . . "

  Low, feminine laughter came ou
t of the robes. "Go to your warrior, female. Feel the warmth of his body and know this is real. "

  Mary turned. Rhage was staring at the figure in disbelief as well.

  She stepped up to him, wrapped her arms around him, heard his heart beating in his chest.

  The black figure disappeared, and Rhage started speaking in the Old Language, words falling from his mouth so fast she couldn't have understood them even if they'd been in English.

  Prayers, she thought¡ªhe was praying.

  When he finally stopped, he looked down at her. "Let me kiss you, Mary. "

  "Wait, will you please tell me what just happened? And who she is?"

  "Later. I can't. . . I'm not thinking clearly right now. Actually, I'd better go lie down for a minute. I feel like I'm going to faint, and I don't want to fall on you. "

  She threw his heavy arm over her shoulder and grabbed him around the waist. When he leaned on her, she grunted from the weight.

  As soon as Rhage was lying down flat, he tore off the white sashes at his wrists and neck. It was then that she saw that sparkles were mixed with the blood on his shins. She eyed the black slab. There were chips on it, like glass. Or diamonds? God, he'd been kneeling on them. No wonder he'd been cut raw.

  "What were you doing?" she asked.

  "Mourning. "

  "Why?"

  "Later. " He pulled her down on top of him and held her hard.

  Feeling his body under hers, she wondered whether it was possible for miracles to actually happen. And not as in the I've-just-had-some-really-good-luck kind, but the mystical, incomprehensible variety. She thought of the doctors racing around with her blood work and her charts. Felt the shock of electricity going through her arm and into her chest as the black-robed figure had touched her.

  And she thought about the desperate prayers she'd thrown to the sky.

  Yes, Mary decided. Miracles did actually happen in the world.

  She started laughing and crying at the same time and drank in Rhage's soothing response to the outburst.

  A little later she said, "Only my mother could have believed this. "

  "Believed what?"

  "My mother was a good Catholic. She had faith in God and salvation and eternal life. " She kissed his neck. "So she would have believed in all this instantly. And she would have been convinced the mother of God had been under those black robes just now. "

  "Actually, that was the Scribe Virgin. Who's a lot of things, but not Jesus's mom. At least, not as far as our lexicon goes. "

  She lifted her head. "You know, my mother always told me I'd be saved whether I believed in God or not. She was convinced I couldn't get away from the Grace because of what she named me. She used say that every time someone called out for me or wrote my name or thought about me, I was protected. "

  "Your name?"

  "Mary. She named me after the Virgin Mary. "

  Rhage's breath caught. And then he laughed softly.

  "What's so funny?"

  His eyes were a bright, shining teal blue. "Just that V. . . well, Vishous is never wrong. Oh, Mary, my beautiful virgin, will you let me love you for as long as I live? And when I go unto the Fade, will you come with me?"

  "Yes. " She stroked his cheek. "But does it bother you that I can't have your children?"

  "Not in the slightest. I have you, that's all that matters. "

  "You know," she murmured, "there's always adoption. Do vampires ever adopt?"

  "Just ask Tohrment and Wellsie. I can already tell they think of John as their own. " Rhage smiled. "You want a baby, I'll get you one. And you know, I might be okay as a dad. "

  "I think you'll be more than okay. "

  When she bent down to kiss him, he stopped her. "Ah, there's just one other thing. "

  "What?"

  "Well, we're stuck with the beast. I kind of bargained with the Scribe Virgin¡ª"

  Mary pulled back. "You bargained?"

  "I had to do something to save you. "

  She stared at him, stunned, and then closed her eyes. He had set the wheels in motion; he had saved her.

  "Mary, I had to trade something¡ª"

  She kissed him hard. "Oh, God, I love you," she breathed.

  "Even if it means you're going to have to live with the beast? Because the curse is perpetual now. Set in stone. Forever. "

  "I told you, that's fine with me. " She smiled. "I mean, come on. He's kind of cute, in a Godzilla sort of way. And I'll look at it as a two-for-one kind of deal. "

  Rhage's eyes flashed white as he rolled her over and put his mouth on the side of her neck.

  "I'm glad you like him," he murmured, his hands tugging up her shirt. "Because the two of us are yours. For as long as you'll have us. "

  "That would be eternally," she said as she let herself go.

  And reveled in all the love.

  Turn the page for a sneak peak at the story of Zsadist,

  the darkest vampire brother in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. . .

  Look for his book

  Lover Awakened

  in September 2006.

  Twelve hours after having been rescued from the lessen by the Brotherhood, Bella looked around the opulent bedroom she'd been given and felt as if she had to transcribe what she was seeing. The safety she was surrounded by now seemed like another language, one she had forgotten how to speak or read.

  She couldn't believe she'd really been saved. Or that she'd been brought to the Brotherhood's compound to recover.

  In the corner of the room, the grandfather clock chimed. Now it was thirteen hours, she thought. Thirteen hours since the brothers had come for her and taken her from the earth back into the air.

  She pulled the silk robe more tightly around her.

  After God only knew how many weeks in that pipe in the ground, being free was alarming. It had been what she'd prayed for, and then given up any hope of, and she felt as though she should be rejoicing. The problem was that everything around her felt fake and insubstantial, especially given the luxury of this room: The heavy velvet drapes, the canopied bed, the museum-quality antiques should have been grounding in their stately beauty. Instead it was all papier-mach¨¦ to her.

  Only one thing felt real. And she had to find him.

  Bella opened the door and put her head out. The hall was empty.

  Which was perfect. She didn't want to be seen.

  Slipping from the room, she glided over the oriental runner, making no sound at all in her bare feet. When she got to the head of the grand staircase, she paused, trying to remember which way to go.

  The corridor with the statues, she thought, remembering another trip down that hall so many, many weeks ago.

  She walked quickly and then ran, clutching the lapels of the robe and holding the slit on the bottom closed over her thighs. She passed statues and doors until she remembered the right combination of the two.

  As she stopped, she didn't bother to collect herself because she was uncollectible. She was loose, ungrounded, in danger of disintegration. She knocked loudly.

  Through the door came a growl. "Fuck off. I've crashed. "

  She turned the knob and opened.

  In the light from the hall, she watched as Zsadist sat up on a pallet of blankets that lay on the floor in the corner. He was naked, his muscles flexing, his nipple rings flashing silver. His fearsome face, with that scar, was full of aggression.

  "I said, fuck off¡ªBella?" He covered himself with his hands. "Jesus Christ. What are you doing?"

  Good question, she thought as her courage dimmed. "Can¡ªcan I stay here with you?'

  He frowned as if she'd lost her mind. "What are you¡ªNo, you can't. "

  He grabbed something off the floor and held it in front of his hips as he stood up. She drank in the sight of him: the tattooed slave bands around his wrists and neck, the plug in his left earlobe, his black eyes, his skull-trimm
ed hair. His body was as starkly lean as she remembered, all striated muscles and hard-cut veins. And he threw off raw power like a scent.

  To her, he was utterly beautiful.

  "Bella, get out of here, okay? This is not the place for you. "

  She ignored the command in his eyes and his voice. Because although her bravery was gone, desperation gave her strength. Now her voice no longer faltered.

  "When I was so out of it in the car, you were behind the wheel. " When he didn't respond, she said, "Yes, you were. That was you. You spoke to me. You were the one who came for me, weren't you?"

  He flushed. "The Brotherhood came for you. "

  "But you drove me away from there. And you brought me here first. To your room. " When he stayed silent, she said, "Let me stay. Please. "

  "Look, you need to be safe¡ª"

  "I am safe only with you. You saved me. You won't let them get me again. "

  "No one's getting you here. This place is wired like the goddamned Pentagon. "

  "Please¡ª"

  "No," he snapped. "Now get the hell out of here. "

  She started to shake, fear surging. "I can't be alone. Please let me stay with you. I need to. . . " She needed him specifically, but didn't think he'd respond well to that "I need to be with someone. "

  Zsadist ran his hand over his head. A number of times. Then his chest expanded.

  "Please," she whispered. "Don't make me go. "

  He cursed. "I have to put some pants on. "

  That was as close to a yes as she was going to get, she thought.

  Bella stepped inside and closed the door, lowering her eyes only for a moment. When she looked up again, he'd turned away and was pulling a pair of black nylon sweats up his thighs.

  His back, with its streaks of scars, flexed as he bent over. Seeing the evidence of old wounds, she was struck with the need to know exactly what he'd been through. All of it. Each and every lash. The idea that he knew what it was like to be at the mercy of someone cruel was a powerful common thread.

  He'd survived. So had she. They were. . . linked.

  Zsadist walked over to the bed and pulled the covers back. Then he stood to one side. Awkwardly.

  "Get in," he told her.

  As she came forward, she noticed that he wore something around his neck¡ª

  Oh, my God. . .

  "My necklace. You're wearing my necklace. "

  She reached out to touch it against his skin, but he flinched away and removed the thing.

  He dropped it in her hand. "Here. Take it back. "

  She looked down at the fragile gold and the little diamonds that were set every couple of inches. Diamonds by the Yard. By Tiffany. She'd worn it for years and now couldn't remember what it felt like against her throat.

  Such a symbol of the normal life she'd led, she thought. And an opportunity to get back to herself.

  She put it into the pocket of the robe, hiding it.

  "Have you eaten?" he asked.

  She moved a little closer to him. She wanted to throw her arms around him, but he wasn't looking at her. He was staring at the floor.

  "Yes, Phury brought me food. "

  A flicker of expression passed over Zsadist's face. But it was gone so fast she couldn't read it.

  "Are you in pain?" he demanded.

  "Not particularly. "

  Please look at me, she thought.

  Except he didn't, so she got into the bed. When he leaned down, she scooched over to make room for him.

  All he did was pull the covers over her and then go back to the corner, to the pallet on the floor.

  Bella closed her eyes for a few minutes. Then she grabbed a pillow, slid out of the bed, and went over to him.

  "What are you doing?" His voice was high. Alarmed.

  She dropped her pillow next to him and lay down, easing onto the floor beside his big body. His scent was so much stronger now, smelling of evergreen and pine and distilled male power, and she sought the heat of him, inching closer until her forehead hit the back of his arm. He was so hard, like a stone wall that had been warmed by the sun.

  Her body relaxed. Next to him she was able to feel the weight of her own bones, the hard floor underneath her, the currents in the room as the heat came on. His presence somehow helped her connect to the world around her again.

  She pushed herself forward with her feet until she was flush against the side of him, from breast to heel.

  As he trembled, she recalled that he couldn't bear to be touched, but she couldn't help herself. Not this day. Maybe tomorrow.

  "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I need this from you. My body needs. . . " You. "Something warm. "

  Z shifted, moving away until he hit the wall. Then he abruptly leapt to his feet.

  Oh, no. He was going to kick her out.

  "Come on," he said gruffly. "We're going to the bed. I can't stand the idea of you on the floor. "

  J. R. Ward

 
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