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Lover mine, p.1
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       Lover Mine, p.1

         Part #8 of Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward  
Lover Mine
Chapter Three

  "Induction? What, like it's a fucking club?"

  As the words bounced around the inside of the Mercedes, Lash tightened his hands on the steering wheel and stared out the windshield. He had a switchblade in the inside pocket of his Canali suit and the urge to out the blade and slice this human's throat open was goddamned tempting.

  Of course, then he'd have a dead body to deal with and blood all over the leather.

  Both of which were bores.

  He looked across the seats. The one he had picked out of a cast of hundreds was your typical bottom-feeding, drug-dealing, shifty-eyed motherfucker. The kid's history of child abuse was written in the old circular scar on his face--perfectly round and the size of the burning end of a cigarette--and his hard life on the street was in his smart, twitchy eyes. His greed was in the way he looked around the inside of the car, like he was trying to figure out how to make it his own, and his resourcefulness was obvious by how quickly he'd made a name for himself as a go-to dealer.

  "More than a club," Lash said in a low voice. "Much more. You've got a future in this business and I'm offering it to you on a silver platter. I'll have my men pick you up here tomorrow night. "

  "What if I don't show?"

  "Your choice. " Of course, then the fucker was going to wake up dead in the morning, but details, details. . .

  The kid met Lash's eyes. The human wasn't built like a fighter; he was more the size of someone who'd gotten his ass cheeks duct-taped together in the school locker room. But it had become amply clear that the Lessening Society needed two kinds of members now: moneymakers and soldiers. After having had Mr. D scope the Xtreme Park and watch who was moving the most product, this wiry little shit with the reptilian stare was at the top of the heap.

  "Are you queer?" the kid said.

  Lash allowed one of his hands to leave the steering wheel and duck into his jacket. "Why do you ask that?"

  "You smell like one. Dress like one, too. "

  Lash moved so fast, his target didn't have a chance to even lean back in the seat. With a quick lunge, he rocked out the switch and laid that sharp blade right against the vital, beating pulse at the side of the white neck.

  "The only thing I do to males is kill them," Lash said. "You want to get fucked like that? Because I'm ready if you are. "

  The kid's eyes went cartoon wide and his body trembled beneath his dirty clothes. "No. . . I don't got a problem with the queers. "

  Fidiot was missing the point, but whatever. "Do we have a deal?" Lash said, pressing the point of his knife in. As the penetration was achieved, blood welled up in a bubble and stayed put for a split second, like it was trying to decide whether to flow down the shiny metal or the smooth column of skin.

  It picked the blade, meandering forth in a ruby red stream.

  "Please. . . don't kill me. "

  "What's your answer. "

  "Yeah. I'll do it. "

  Lash pressed in harder, watching the blood run. He was momentarily captivated by the reality that if he took the weapon and pushed it farther through the flesh, this human would cease to exist, like a breath of air disappearing into a chilly night.

  He enjoyed feeling like a god.

  As whimpering breached the kid's chapped lips, Lash relented, easing back. With a quick lick, he cleaned off the blade and flicked the weapon shut. "You're going to like where you end up. I promise you. "

  He gave the guy a chance to recover and knew it wasn't going to take long for the kid to get his groove back. Asswipes like this one had egos like balloons. Pressure, particularly the kind that came with a knife at the throat, caused them to collapse in on themselves. But the instant the stress was relieved, they rebounded, puffing back up into place.

  The kid snapped his crappy leather jacket down. "I like where I is just fine. "

  Bingo. "Then why are you looking at my car like you want it in your garage?"

  "I got a better ride than this. "

  "Oh. Really. " Lash eyeballed the bitch from head to foot. "You come here every night on a BMX. Your jeans are torn and not because they're designer. How many jackets you got in your closet? Oh, wait, you keep your shit in a cardboard box under the bridge. " Lash rolled his eyes as all kinds of surprise bubbled up from the passenger seat. "You think we didn't check you out? You think we're that stupid?"

  Lash jabbed a finger toward the Xtreme Park, where skateboarders were making like metronomes on the ramps, up and down, up and down. "You are the shit in this playground over here. Fine. Congratulations. But we want you to go farther. You join with us, you've got muscle behind you. . . money, product, protection. You hit it with us, you're going to be something more than a two-bit punk swinging your cock around a concrete lot. We've got your future. "

  The kid's calculating stare shifted toward his little slice of territory in Caldwell and then floated over to the horizon where the skyscrapers loomed. The ambition was there, and that was why he'd been chosen. What this little bastard needed was a way up and a way out.

  The fact that he'd have to sell his soul to do it was going to dawn on him only when it was too late, but that was the way of the Society. From what Lash had been told by the lessers he now commanded, there was never a full-disclosure thing before they got inducted--and this was understandable. Like any of them would have believed that evil was waiting on the other side of the door they were knocking on? Like any one of them would have volunteered for what they were getting into?

  Surprise, motherfucker. This ain't no Disney World, and once you get on the ride, you are never, ever getting off.

  Lash was totally fine with deception, however.

  "I'm ready for bigger shit," the kid murmured.

  "Good. Now get the fuck out of my car. My associate will pick you up tomorrow night at seven. "

  "Cool. "

  With business concluded, Lash was impatient to move the little bastard along. The kid smelled like a sewer and was screaming for more than a shower--he needed to be hosed down like a dirty stretch of sidewalk.

  As soon as the door was shut, Lash backed out of the parking lot and hooked up with the road that ran parallel to the Hudson River. He headed for home, his hands gripping the steering wheel for another reason than the urge to kill.

  The urge to fuck was just as strong a motivator for him.

  The street he lived on in Old Caldwell had Victorian-era brownstones running down it and sidewalks planted with trees and property values no lower than a million dollars. The neighbors picked up after their dogs, never made any noise, and put their trash out only in the back alleys, and only on the right days. As he drove past his town house and cut around the block to the garage, he was tickled fucking pink to think all these tight-ass WASPs had a neighbor like him: He might have looked and dressed like them, but his blood ran black and he was as soulless as a wax statue.

  As he hit the garage door opener, he smiled and his fangs, a gift from his mother's side, elongated as he got ready for his Hello, Lucy-I'm-home shit.

  Never got old. Coming back to Xhex never got old.

  After he'd parked the AMG, he got out and had to stretch his body. She put him through the wringer, she abso did, and he loved how she left him stiff. . . and not just in the cock.

  Nothing like a good opponent to cheer his shit up.

  Cutting through the back garden and entering the house through the kitchen, he smelled grilled sirloin and fresh bread.

  He wasn't into food at the moment, though. Thanks to that convo at the park, that little shit skater was going to be his first induction, the first offering he brought to his father, the Omega. And didn't that make him jones for some sex.

  "Y'all ready to eat?" Mr. D asked from the stove as he flipped the piece of meat over. The little Texan had proved useful not only as an initial tour guide through the Lessening Society, but also as a killer and a halfway decent cook.

  "Nah, I'm going up now. " He tossed his keys and his cell phone on the granite countertop. "Leave the food in the fridge and lock the door behind you. "

  "Yessuh. "

  "We're on for tomorrow night. You pick the target up at seven. You know where to take him. "

  "Yessuh. "

  That two-syllable word was the SOB's favorite response--which was another reason he remained upright and the second in command.

  Lash passed through the butler's pantry and the dining room and hung a right to the carved staircase. When he'd first seen the place, it had been emptied out, with nothing but the remnants of graceful living left behind: silk wallpaper, damask drapes, and one wing chair. Now, the brownstone was filling up with antiques and statuary and proper rugs. It was going to take longer than he'd thought to get it where it needed to be, but you couldn't pull a household of shit out of your ass overnight.

  Mounting the stairs, his feet were light and his body humming as he unbuttoned his coat and then his jacket.

  As he closed in on Xhex, he was well aware that what had started out for him as payback had turned into an addiction: What was waiting for him on the other side of his bedroom door was much more than he'd bargained for.

  It had been so simple at first: He'd taken her because she'd taken from him. When she'd been up at the colony in that cave, she'd pointed her gun and pulled the trigger and pumped a shitload of lead into his bitch's chest. Not acceptable. She'd robbed him of his favorite toy and he was exactly that flavor of dickhead where an eye for an eye was his theme song.

  When he'd brought her here and locked her into his room, his goal had been to take pieces out of her, to trim off bits from her mind and her emotions and her body, putting her through shit that was going to bend her until she snapped.

  And then, like any broken thing, he was going to throw her away.

  At least, that had been the plan. It was becoming amply clear, however, that her edges didn't dull.

  Oh, no. She was titanium, this one. Her reserves of strength were proving inexhaustible and he had the bruises to prove it.

  As he came up to the door, he paused to take all his clothing off. Generally speaking, if he liked the threads he had on, they needed to hit the floor before he went inside, because he got trashed pretty quick the moment he got near her.

  Unplugging his button-down from his slacks, he released his cuff links, left them on the hall table and took his silk shirt off.

  He had marks on him. From her fists. Her nails. Her fangs.

  The tip of his cock tingled as he looked at his various wounds and bruises. He healed quickly, thanks to his father's blood running thick in his veins, but sometimes the damage she did lasted and that thrilled him to the core.

  When you were the son of evil, there was little you couldn't do, own, or kill, and yet her mortal self was an elusive trophy he could touch, but not put on his shelf.

  This made her rare. This made her precious.

  This made him. . . love her.

  Fingering a blue-black contusion on the inside of his forearm, he smiled. He had to go to his father's tonight to confirm the induction, but first he would spend some QT with his female and add to his collection of scrapes. And before he took off, he would leave some food for her.

  Like all prized animals, she needed to be provided for.

  Reaching out to the doorknob, he frowned as he thought about the larger feeding issue. She was only half symphath and that vampire side of her worried him. Sooner or later, she was going to require something that couldn't be bought at the local Hannaford. . . and wasn't something he could give her.

  Vampires needed to take the vein of the opposite sex. It was immutable. If you had that biology in you, you died unless you put the hardware in your mouth to use and swallowed fresh blood. And she couldn't have what was in his body--everything in him ran black now. As a result, his men, what few he had left, were searching for a male of good age, but they'd been coming up with nothing. Caldwell was close to empty when it came to civilian vampires.

  Although. . . he did have that one in deep freeze.

  Trouble was, he'd known that motherfucker in his old life, and the idea of her taking the vein of someone he'd been friends with just cranked his shit right out.

  Plus the bastard was Qhuinn's brother--so yeah, not a bloodline he wanted her to have anything to do with.

  Whatever. Sooner or later, his men were going to come up with something--they just had to. Because his new favorite toy was the kind of thing he wanted to have around for a very long time.

  As he opened the door, he started to smile. "Hi, honey, I'm home. "

  Across town, in the tat shop, Blay stayed mostly focused on what was doing on John's back. There was just something hypnotic about watching that needle trace over the blue transfer lines. Then from time to time, the artist paused to swipe the skin with a white paper towel before resuming his work, the whirring sound of the gun filling the silence once again.

  Unfortunately, as captivating as it all was, he still had enough attention span left over to be very aware of when Qhuinn decided to fuck that human woman: After the pair chatted softly and swapped a lot of casual stroking down arms and shoulders, those astounding, mismatched eyes drifted over to the front door.

  And a moment later, Qhuinn strolled across and checked to make sure it was locked.

  That green-and-blue stare didn't meet Blay's as he came back to the tat station.

  "You doing good?" he asked John.

  When John glanced up and nodded, Qhuinn quickly signed, You mind if I get a little exercise behind that curtain?

  Please say yes, you do mind, Blay thought. Please tell him he has to stay here.

  Not at all, John signed. You take care of yourself.

  I'll be on it if you need me. Even if I have to come out with my cock out.

  Yeah, if we could avoid that, I'd appreciate it.

  Qhuinn laughed a little. "Fair enough. " There was a heartbeat of a pause; then he turned away without looking at Blay.

  The woman went into the other room first, and given the way she was working her hips, she was as ready for what was going to happen as Qhuinn was. Then Qhuinn's big shoulders shifted as he ducked out of sight and the veil fell back into place.

  The overhead light in the room and the curtain's anorexic fibers provided plenty of get-a-load-of-this, so Blay got a distilled picture of Qhuinn reaching out and pulling her by the neck against him.

  Blay redirected his eyes to John's tattoo, but the refocusing didn't last. Two seconds later he was locked on that peep show, not so much watching it happen as absorbing the details. In typical Qhuinn fashion, the woman was now on her knees and the guy had his hands bunched into her hair. He was working her head, his hips flexing and releasing as he drilled her mouth.

  The muted sounds were as incredible as the visual and Blay had to shift in his seat, his body hardening. He wanted to be in there, on his knees, led by Qhuinn's hands. He wanted to be the one whose mouth was full. He wanted to be responsible for making Qhuinn pant and strain.

  Not going to be in the cards.

  Man, what the hell? The guy had fucked people in clubs and bathrooms and cars and alleys and occasionally in beds. He'd done ten thousand strangers, men and women and males and females alike. . . he was Wilt Chamberlain with fangs. To be denied was like getting shut out of a public park.

  Blay took another shot at looking away, but the ripple of a deep moan once again brought his eyes to the--

  Qhuinn's head had turned so that he was staring out of the curtain. And as their eyes met, his mismatched stare flashed. . . almost like he was turned on more by who was watching him, than who he was hooking up with.

  Blay's heart stopped. Especially as Qhuinn dragged the woman up, spun her around, and bent her over the desk. One yank and her jeans were to her knees. And then it was. . .

  Jesus Christ. Was it possible his best friend was thinking like he was?

  Except then Qhuinn pulled the woman's upper body against his chest. After he whispered something in her ear, she laughed and turned her head to the side so he could kiss her. Which he did.

  You stupid fuck, Blay thought to himself. You stupid motherfucker.

  The guy knows precisely who he's doing. . . and who he's not.

  Shaking his head, he muttered, "John, you mind if I go have a cigarette outside?"

  When John shook his head, Blay got to his feet and put the clothes on the seat. To the tattoo guy he said, "I just flip the lock?"

  "Yup, and you can leave it open if you're just outside the door. "

  "Thanks, man. "

  "No prob. "

  Blay walked away from the buzz of the tattoo gun and the symphony of groans behind that curtain, slipping out of the shop and leaning against the building right next to the entrance. Palming up a flat pack of Dunhill reds, he withdrew a cigarette, put it between his lips, and lit the thing with his black lighter.

  The first drag was heaven. Always the best out of all that followed.

  As he exhaled, he hated that he read into things, saw connections that weren't there, misinterpreted actions and stares and casual touches.

  Pathetic, really.

  Qhuinn hadn't been looking up as he'd been getting blown to meet Blay's eyes. He'd been checking on John Matthew. And he'd spun that woman around and taken her from behind because that was how he liked it.

  Fuckin' A. . . hope didn't so much spring eternal as it drowned out common sense and self-preservation.

  Inhaling hard, he was so tangled in his own thoughts that he failed to notice the shadow at the head of the alley across the street. Unaware he was being watched, he smoked along, the chilly spring night eating up the puffs that rose from his lips.

  The realization that he couldn't keep going like this anymore was a deep freeze that went right into his bones.

 
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