Home > Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)(5)

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)(5)
Author: J.R. Ward

The idea of putting on twenty pounds in one night was damned appealing; it really was. She couldn't help the way her face looked, but she was willing to bet that Neanderthal misogynist attacker of hers preferred his victims with a tight ass.

She blinked her eyes, trying to get his face out of her mind.

God, she could still feel his hands, those awful, heavy palms bruising her breasts.

She needed to file a report. She should go down to the station.

Except she didn't want to leave her apartment. At least not until morning.

She went over to the futon she used as a couch and a bed and curled her legs in tight to her body. Her stomach was doing a slow churn job on the mac and cheese, waves of nausea followed by marching rows of shivers passing over her skin.

A soft meow brought her head up.

“Hey, Boo,” she said, wiggling her fingers listlessly. The poor guy had run for cover when she'd come through the door tearing her clothes off and throwing them across the room.

Meowing again, the black cat padded over. His wide green eyes looked worried as he leaped into her lap with grace.

“Sorry about the drama,” she murmured, making room for him.

He rubbed his head against her shoulder, purring. His body was warm, his weight grounding. She didn't know how long she sat there stroking his fine, soft fur, but when the phone rang, she jumped.

As she reached for the receiver, she managed to keep pace with the petting. Years of living with Boo had honed her cat/phone coordination skills to perfection.

“Hello?” she said, thinking it was past midnight, which ruled out telemarketers and suggested either work or some sicko crank-calling her.

“Yo, B-lady. Get your dancing shoes on. Some guy's car blew up outside of Screamer's. With him in it.”

Beth closed her eyes and wanted to weep. José de la Cruz was one of the city's police detectives, but he was also a friend of sorts.

As were most of the men and women in blue, come to think of it. Because she spent so much time at the station, she'd gotten to know them all pretty well, although José was one of her favorites

“Hey, you there?”

Tell him. Tell him what happened. Just open your mouth.

Shame and remembered horror tightened her vocal cords.

“I'm here, José.” She pushed her dark hair out of her face and cleared her throat. “I can't come tonight.”

“Yeah, right. When you ever turn down a good tip?” He laughed easily. “Oh, but take it smooth. Hard-ass is on the case.”

Hard-ass was Homicide Detective Brian O'Neal, better known as Butch. Or just plain sir.

“I really can't… make it tonight.”

“You getting busy with someone?” Curiosity spiked his voice. José was married. Happily. But she knew down at the station that they all speculated about her. A woman who looked like her without a man? Something had to be up. “Well, are you?”

“God, no. No.”

There was a stretch of silence as her friend's cop radar obviously kicked in. “What's up?”

“I'm fine. Just tired. I'll come to the station tomorrow.”

She'd file the report then. Tomorrow she'd be strong enough to go through what had happened without breaking down.

“Do I need to do a drive-by?”

“No, but thanks. I'm okay.”

She hung up.

Fifteen minutes later she was in a pair of freshly laundered jeans and a floppy shirt that covered her butt and then some. She called for a cab. Before she left she rummaged through her closet until she found her other purse. She grabbed the pepper spray and held it hard in her hand as she stepped out of her apartment.

In the two miles between her front door and the bomb scene, she was going to find her voice. And she was going to tell José everything.

As much as she hated the idea of reliving the attack, she wasn't going to let that asshole walk free and do the same thing to someone else. And even if he was never caught, at least she would have done her part to try to nail him.

Wrath materialized in the drawing room of Darius's house. Damn, he'd forgotten how well the vampire lived.

Even though D was a warrior, he had the tastes of an aristocrat and it made sense. He'd started life as a highborn princeps, and fine living was still of value to him. His nineteenth-century mansion was well cared for, filled with antiques and works of art. It was also secure as a bank vault.

But the drawing room's soft yellow walls hurt Wrath's eyes.

“What a pleasant surprise, my lord.”

Fritz, the butler, came in from the front hall and bowed deeply while shutting off the lights to ease Wrath's squint. As usual, the old male was dressed in black livery. He'd been with Darius for about a hundred or so years and was a doggen, which meant he could go out in the day but aged faster than vampires did. His subspecies had been serving aristocrats and warriors for millennia.

“Will you be with us for long, my lord?”

Wrath shook his head. Not if he could help it. “Hour, tops.”

“Your room is ready. Should you need me, I am here.” Fritz bent at the waist again and walked backward out of the room, closing the double doors behind him.

Wrath went over to a seven-foot-tall portrait of what he'd been told was a French king. He put his hand on the right side of the heavy gold frame, and the canvas pivoted to reveal a dark stone hall lit with gas lamps.

Stepping inside, he took a set of stairs deep into the earth. At the bottom landing there were two doors. One went to Darius's sumptuous quarters. The other opened to what Wrath supposed was a home away from home for him. Most days he slept in a warehouse in New York City, in an interior room made out of steel with a lock system along the lines of Fort Knox's.

But he would never invite Marissa there. Or even any of the brothers. His privacy was precious.

As he stepped inside, candles mounted into the walls flared around the room at his will. Their golden glow barely made headway against the darkness. In deference to Wrath's eyesight, Darius had painted the walls and twenty-foot-high ceiling black. In one corner there was a massive bed with black satin sheets and a thicket of pillows. Across the way was a leather couch, a wide-screen TV, and a door that opened into a black marble bathroom. There was also a closet full of weapons and clothes.

For some reason, Darius was always bugging him to stay at the mansion. It was a goddamned mystery. There wasn't a defense issue, because Darius could handle himself. And the idea that a vampire like D would be lonely was ludicrous.

Wrath sensed Marissa before she came into the room. The scent of the ocean, a clean breeze, preceded her.

Let's get this over with , he thought. He was itching to get back to the streets. He'd had only a taste of battle, and tonight he wanted to gorge himself.

He turned around.

As Marissa bowed her slight body to him, he sensed devotion and uneasiness weaving together in the air around her.

“My lord,” she said.

From what little he could see, she was wearing some kind of flowing white chiffon thing, and her long blond hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. He knew she dressed to try to please him, and he wished like hell she wouldn't make the effort.

He took off his leather jacket and the chest holster he carried his daggers in.

Damn his parents. Why had they given him a female like her? So… fragile.

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