Home > The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(7)

The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)(7)
Author: J. R. Ward

They had parted badly, however, him putting an end to their clandestine meetings when she had forced him to acknowledge his feelings. And then things had gone from sad to tragic when he had been caught and taken into the Brotherhood’s custody.

At first, she had been unable to gain information on his condition. But then she had traveled in the way of a Chosen, going unto him and witnessing him near death in a stone corridor filled with jars of every shape and color.

There had been naught that she could do. Not without coming forward and exposing herself—and even if she did as such, she could not save him.

So she was stuck here, a ghost haunting a tangled stretch of emotions studded with the poison ivy of guilt and regret, never, ever to be free.

“—right? I mean …” As Blay continued speaking to her about something or another, she had to force herself not to rub her eyes. “… end of a night when you’ve just been up here with the young. Which is not to say that you don’t like being with them.”

Get out, she willed the two males. Please, just go away and leave me be.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want them with the young or that she held some kind of animus unto Lyric and Rhamp’s fathers. She just needed to breathe, and every time either one of the fighters stared at her as they were doing the now, that became next to impossible.

“Does that sound good?” Qhuinn asked. “Layla?”

“Oh, yes, of course.” She had no idea what she had agreed to, but she made sure she smiled. “I’m just going to rest now. They were up a lot during the day.”

“I wish you’d let us help more.” Blay frowned. “We’re just a knock away.”

“You are both out fighting most nights. Sleep is required.”

“You matter, too, though.”

Layla shifted her eyes to the bassinets, and as she remembered cradling the young in her arms and feeding them, she felt even worse. They deserved a mahmen who was better than her, one uncomplicated and unburdened by decisions that should never have been made, one who was uncontaminated by a weakness for a male who should never have been approached … much less loved.

“I do not matter at all in comparison to them,” she whispered starkly. “They are everything.”

Blay came over and took her hand, his blue eyes full of warmth. “No, you are also very important. And mahmen need time for themselves.”

To do what? Ruminate on regrets? No, thank you, she thought.

“I shall go to my grave without them and enjoy my own company, then.” As she realized how grim that sounded, she hurried forth with, “Besides, all too soon they will be grown. It will happen faster than the three of us know.”

There was further conversation at that point, none of which she heard because of the screaming in her head. But then, finally, she was left in peace when the bonded pair departed.

The fact that she was so glad to see them go was one more sadness to carry.

Shifting off the bed, she went back to the bassinets, her eyes watering once again. Wiping her cheeks, over and over, she took a tissue out of a hidden pocket and blew her nose. The young were fully asleep, their lids closed, their faces turned to each other as if they were communicating telepathically in their slumber. Perfect little hands and precious little feet, rounded, healthy bellies wrapped in a flannel sheet. They were such good young, cheery and smiley when awake, peaceful and angelic when at rest. Rhampage was gaining weight faster than Lyric, but she seemed heartier than he, fussing less when being changed or bathed, meeting eyes with greater focus.

As tears dropped off Layla’s face and landed on the carpet at her feet, she didn’t know how much longer she could do this.

Before she was aware of moving, she went to the house phone and dialed a four-digit number.

The doggen she summoned arrived in a moment, and Layla put her social mask in place, smiling at the servant with a serenity she did not feel. “Thank you for watching my most precious ones,” she said in the Old Language.

The nursemaid replied with happy words and sparkling eyes, and it was all Layla could do to withstand the two or three seconds of communication. Then she was out of the room, and traveling on quick, slippered feet down the hall of statues. When she reached the doors at the far end, she pushed them wide and entered the staff wing.

As with all mansions of its size and distinction, the Brotherhood’s home required tremendous servant support, and the doggens’ rooms lined a number of corridors, the segregations of age, sex, and job titles forming communities within the larger whole. Within the maze of hallways, Layla chose her direction with no particular thought other than the goal of locating a room that was unclaimed—and she found one some three doors forth from some turn she made. Entering the bare, simple space, she went over to the window, cracked the sash, and closed her eyes. Her heart was pounding and her head was swirling, but as she breathed deep and scented the fresh, cold air …

… she ghosted away through the whistling gap she’d created, becoming one with the night, her molecules scrambling forth and heading away from the Brotherhood mansion.

As usual, the freedom was temporary.

But desperate as she was, she took it in like oxygen to the suffocated.




Qhuinn was a male’s male. And not just because he was a fighter and had a mate who was a dude.

Yeah, sure, before he’d settled down with his Blay, he’d liked fucking females and women well enough. But then again, his data screen for sexual partners had been set so low that even vacuum cleaners and the occasional tailpipe had been candidates.

No sheep, though. #standards

But he couldn’t say that females had ever captivated or particularly interested him. It wasn’t that there was shit wrong with them or that he didn’t respect them in the same way he did anything else rocking the living-and-breathing job descript. They simply weren’t his cuppa, as it were.

On a night like tonight, however, he regretted his lack of experience. Just because he’d done some laps with the opposite in the sack didn’t mean he was equipped in any way to deal with what was confronting him now.

As he and Blay came to the bottom of the grand staircase, he stopped and looked at his mate. In the background, emanating from the billiards room across the foyer, the sounds of deep male voices, thumping music, and ice hitting crystal glasses announced that the Brotherhood pool tournament was already in full swing.

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