"The Tomb's mansion. I'm telling you, that's where we should go," Tohr said, as he stabbed some roast beef off the silver tray Fritz held out to him. "Thanks, man."
Beth looked over at Wrath, thinking that in the month since he'd been shot, he'd fully recovered. He was healthy and strong. Formidable as always. Arrogant. Loving. Impossible and irresistible.
As he settled back in his chair at the head of the table, he reached for her hand, stroking her palm with his thumb.
She smiled at him.
They'd been living in her father's house while he recovered, working on plans for the future. And every night, the brotherhood came for dinner. Fritz was beside himself with glee from all the people coming and going.
"You know, that's a damn good idea," V said. "I could really wire that place tight. It's isolated enough on that mountain. And built of stone, so it's fireproof. If we throw some retractable metal shutters across all the windows, we could move around during the day. Which was a critical weakness in this house when..." He stopped. "And doesn't it have extensive underground rooms? We could use them for training."
Rhage nodded. "The place is also big enough. We could all live there without killing each other."
"That depends more on your mouth than any floorplan," Phury said with a grin. The warrior shifted in his chair, making room for Boo on his lap.
"What do you think?" Tohr asked Wrath.
"It's not my call. As those buildings and facilities were Darius's holdings, they have now passed to Beth." Wrath looked at her. "Leelan? Would you consider letting the brothers use one of your houses?"
One of her houses. Her houses. As someone who'd never even owned an apartment, she was having a little trouble coming to terms with everything that was now hers. And it wasn't only real estate. Art. Land. Cars. Jewelry. And the money she controlled was insane.
Fortunately, V and Phury were sharing their in-depth knowledge about the stock market with her. As well as teaching her about the ins and outs of bonds. T-bills. Gold. Commodities. They were amazingly good with money.
And very, very good to her.
She looked down the table at the men. "Whatever the brotherhood needs, they can have."
There was a rumble of gratitude, and wineglasses were lifted to her in salute. Zsadist left his on the table, but nodded in her direction.
She glanced at Wrath. "Except don't you think that we should live there, too?"
"You'd want to do that?" he asked. "Most females would prefer their own place."
"It is mine, remember? Besides, these are your closest advisers, the people you trust more than any others. Why would you want to be separated from them?"
"Hold up," Rhage said. "I thought we'd agreed we wouldn't have to live with him."
Wrath shot a glare at Hollywood and then looked back at her. "You're sure about this, leelan?"
"There's safety in numbers, right?"
He nodded. "But more exposure, too."
"We'd be in very good company, though. There is nobody I'd rather have protecting us than these wonderful men."
'"Scuse me," Rhage interjected. "Is everyone else here in love with her?"
"Hell, yeah," V said, tipping his Red Sox hat. "Totally."
Phury nodded. "And if she lives with us, we get to keep the cat."
Wrath kissed her and looked at Tohr. "Guess we've got ourselves a home."
"And Fritz will come, too," Beth said, as the butler walked into the room. "Won't you? Please?"
The butler seemed tickled pink to be included, and he eyed the brothers with happiness. "Anywhere for you and the king, mistress. And the more to care for, the better."
"Well, we're going to have to get you some help."
V spoke up, addressing Wrath. "Listen, about the cop. What do you want to do with him?"
"Are you asking because he's a friend of yours or a threat to us?"
"Why do I have a feeling you're going to suggest something?"
"Because I am. He should come with us."
"Any particular reason?"
"I have dreamed of him."
The table fell silent.
"Done," Wrath said. "But dreams or not, he bears watching."
V nodded. "I will accept that responsibility."
As the brothers started to make plans, Beth stared at her husband's hand in hers, feeling an absurd urge to cry.
"Leelan?" Wrath said softly. "You okay?"
She nodded, marveling that he could read her so easily.
"I'm very okay." She smiled at him. "You know something, right before I met you I was looking for an adventure."
"And I got more than that. I got a past and a future. A whole... life. Sometimes I don't know how to handle the good fortune. I just don't know what to do with it all."
"Funny, I feel the same way." Wrath took her face in his hands and put his lips on hers. "And that's why I kiss you so often, leelan."
She put her arms around his wide shoulders and nuzzled his lips with her mouth.
"Oh, man," Rhage said. "Are we going to have to watch them smooch all the time?"
"You should be so lucky," V muttered.
"Yeah." Rhage sighed. "All I want is one good female. But I guess I'll settle for quantity until I find her. Life just sucks, doesn't it?"
There was a rolling swell of laughter. Someone pitched a napkin.
Fritz brought in dessert.
"Please, if you would," the butler said, "no throwing the linens. Peaches, anyone?"
Read on for a preview of the next novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood
Coming from Signet Eclipse in March
Rhage felt like holy hell as he weaved down the corridor. Every time the beast came out of him, his vision headed off for a little vacation, and as usual, it was taking its own sweet time in getting back to work. And his body was whacked out, too. His legs and arms were heavy, not exactly useless, but definitely subpar.
And his stomach was still off. The very idea of food made him nauseous.
But he'd had it with being stuck in his room. Twelve hours flat on his back was enough wasted time. He was going to go to the training center's gym, get on a recumbent bike, loosen himself up a little.
Rhage stopped, tensing. He couldn't see much, but he knew for sure he was not alone in the hall.
He wheeled around and pulled the figure out of a doorway, grabbing it by the throat, forcing the body into the wall. Too late, he realized it was a female and the high-pitched gasp shamed him. He immediately eased up on his grip, but he didn't let her go.
Good lord, she is a human.
What was a human doing in the brotherhood's private compound?
"Who are you?" he demanded. "What are you doing here?"
There was no answer, just quick breathing. She was utterly terrified of him, the smell of her fear like woodsmoke in his nose.
He softened his voice. "I'm not going to hurt you. But you don't belong here and I want to know your name."
The skin under his palm was warm, soft. The throat was slender, the blood racing through the veins running up from her heart. Her hair was a dark, rich brown, falling over her shoulders.
"My name is Mary. I'm here with a friend."
Rhage stopped breathing. His heart skipped a beat and then slowed.
"Say that again," he whispered.
"Ah, my name is Mary Luce. I'm a friend of Bella's..."
Rhage shivered, a balmy rush breaking out all over his skin. The musical lilt of her voice, the rhythm in her speech, the sound of her words spread through him, calmed him, comforted him.
Chained him sweetly.
He closed his eyes. "Say something else."
"What?" she asked, obviously confused.
"Talk. Talk to me. I want to hear your voice again."
She was silent, and he was about to beg her to speak, when she said, "You don't look well. Do you need a doctor?"
He found himself swaying. The words didn't matter so much, it was her tone. Low, soft, a quiet brushing in his ears. He felt as if he were being stroked on the inside of his skin.
"More," he said, twisting his palm around to the front of her neck so he could feel the vibrations in her throat better.
"Could you... could you please let go of me?"
"No." He put his other hand up on her collarbone so she couldn't get away from him. "Talk."
She started to struggle. "You're crowding me."
"I know. Talk."
"Oh, for God's sake, what do you want me to say?"
Even exasperated, her voice was beautiful.
"Fine. Get your hand off my throat and let me go or I'm going to knee you where it counts."
Then put his lower body against her, trapping her with his thighs and hips. She stiffened against him, but he got an ample feel of her. She was built lean, but he had no doubt she was a female. Her breasts hit his chest, her hips cushioned his, her stomach was soft.
"Keep talking," he said in her ear. God, she smelled good. Clean. Fresh. Like lemon.
She pushed against him and he leaned his full weight into her. Her breath came out in a rush.
"Please," he murmured.
"Since you won't let me go, I have nothing to say."
He smiled, careful to keep his mouth closed. There was no sense showing off his fangs. "So say that."
"Nothing. Say nothing. Over and over and over again. Do it."
She bristled, the scent of fear replaced by a sharp spice, like fresh, pungent mint from a garden. She was annoyed now.
"Fine. Nothing. Nothing." Suddenly, she laughed and the sound shot right through to his spine, burning him. "Nothing, nothing. No-thing. No-thing. Noooooothing. There, is that good enough for you? Will you let me go now?"
She fought against him some more, creating a delicious friction between their bodies.
And he knew the moment when her anxiety and irritation turned to something hot. He smelled her arousal, a lovely sweetening in the air. His body answered her call, his hips moving in a circle, rubbing against her.
He was hard as a diamond.
Her hands flattened on his waist and slowly slid around to his back, as if she were unsure why she was responding to him the way she was. He arched against her and felt her palms move up his spine.
Rhage growled low in his throat and dropped his head down so his ear was next to her mouth. He wanted to give her another word to say, something like luscious or whisper or strawberry.
Hell, antidisestablishmentarianism would do it.
The effect she had on him was druglike, a tantalizing combination of sexual need and profound ease. Like he was having an orgasm and falling into a peaceful sleep at the same time. It was like nothing he'd ever felt before.
A chill shot through him, sucking out the warmth in his body.
He snapped his head back as he thought about the warning Vishous had given him.
"Are you a virgin?" Rhage demanded.
"I beg your pardon. What kind of question is that?" She shoved hard against his body.
Anxiety tightened his hand on her collarbone. "Have you ever been taken by a male? Answer the question."
Her lovely voice turned high, frightened. "Yes. Yes, I've had... a lover."
Disappointment loosened his grip. But relief was right on its heels.
All things considered, he wasn't sure he needed to meet his destiny this ten minutes.
Besides, even if she wasn't his fate, this human female was extraordinary... something special.
Something he had to have for himself.
About the Author
J. R. Ward lives in the South with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. After graduating from law school, she began working in health care in Boston and spent many years as chief of staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. Writing has always been her passion, and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog, and her coffeepot. Visit her and the Brotherhood at www.jrward.com.
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