Dark Lover | Chapter 18 of 67

Author: J.R. Ward | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 300561 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Eight


Standing in her pristine cream-and-white bedroom, Marissa was unsure of herself.

As Wrath’s shellan, she could feel his pain and knew by its strength that he must have lost another of his warrior brothers.

If they’d had a normal relationship, there would be no question. She would go to him and try to ease his suffering. She would talk with him or hold him or cry with him. Warm him with her body.

Because that was what shellans did for their mates. What they got in return, too.

She glanced at the Tiffany clock on her bedside table.

He’d be heading off into the night soon. If she wanted to catch him she’d better do it now.

Marissa hesitated, not willing to fool herself. She wasn’t going to be welcome.

She wished it were easier to support him, wished she knew what he needed from her. Once, a long time ago, she’d spoken with his brother Tohrment’s shellan, hoping Wellsie could offer some hint as to what to do. How to behave. How to make Wrath see her as worthy of him.

After all, Wellsie had what Marissa wanted. A true mate. A male who came home to her. Who laughed and cried and shared his life with her. Who held her.

A male who stayed with her during those torturous, mercifully rare times when she was fertile. Who eased her terrible cravings with his body for as long as the needing period lasted.

Wrath did none of that for or with her. Especially not the last part. As it was, Marissa had to go to her brother for relief of her needing. Havers would put her out cold, tranquilizing her until the urges passed. The practice embarrassed them both.

She’d so hoped that Wellsie could help, but the conversation had been a disaster. The other female’s pained looks and carefully couched replies had burned them both, pointing out everything Marissa didn’t have.

God, she was so alone.

She closed her eyes, feeling Wrath’s pain again.

She had to try to reach him. Because he was hurting. And because what else was there to her life other than him?

She sensed that he was in Darius’s mansion. Taking a deep breath, she dematerialized.




Wrath slowly eased off his knees and stood up, hearing his vertebrae crack back into place. He brushed the diamonds off his shins.

There was a knock on the door, and he allowed it to open, thinking it was Fritz.

When he smelled the ocean, he tightened his lips.

“What brings you here, Marissa?” he said without turning to her. He went to the bathroom and covered himself with a towel.

“Let me wash you, my lord,” she murmured. “I’ll take care of your skin. I can—”

“I’m fine.”

He was a fast healer. By the end of the night the cuts would barely be discernible.

Wrath walked over to the closet and looked through the clothes. He took out a black long-sleeved shirt, a pair of leather pants, and—jeez, what was this? Oh, not fucking likely. He was not going to fight in BVDs. He’d go commando before he got caught dead in those things.

The first thing he had to do was make contact with Darius’s daughter. He knew he was almost out of time, because her transition was coming quick. And then he had to link up with Vishous and Phury to find out what was up with that dead lesser’s leftovers.

He was about to drop the towel to get ready to roll, when it occurred to him Marissa was still in the room.

He looked over at her.

“Go home, Marissa,” he said.

Her head dropped. “My lord, I can feel your p—”

“I’m perfectly fine.”

She hesitated a moment. And then quietly disappeared.

Ten minutes later he came up to the drawing room.

“Fritz?” he called out.

“Yes, master?” The butler seemed pleased to have been summoned.

“Do you have some red smokes on hand?”

“Of course.”

Fritz went across to an antique mahogany box. He brought the thing over, opening the lid and angling the contents outward.

Wrath took a couple of the hand-rolled cigarillos.

“If you have a taste for them, I’ll get more.”

“Don’t bother. This is enough.” Wrath wasn’t into drugging, but he was willing to put the smokes to good use tonight.

“Will you be needing something to eat before you go out?”

Wrath shook his head.

“Perhaps when you return?” Fritz’s voice grew small as he closed the lid.

Wrath was about to shut the old male down when he thought of Darius. D would have treated Fritz better. “Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”

The butler’s shoulders squared off with purpose.

Good God, he seemed to be smiling, Wrath thought.

“I shall make you lamb, master. How do you like your meat cooked?”


“And I’ll wash your other clothes. Shall I also order you a new set of leathers?”

“Don’t—” Wrath shut his mouth. “Sure. That’d be great. And, ah, could you get me some boxers? Black? XXL?”

“With pleasure.”

Wrath turned away and headed for the door.

How the hell had he found himself with a servant?


“Yeah?” he growled.

“Take care of yourself out there.”

Wrath paused and looked over his shoulder. Fritz seemed to be cradling the box against his chest.

It was goddamned weird having someone waiting for him to come home, Wrath thought.

He left the mansion and walked down the long drive to the tree-lined street. Lightning streaked across the sky, a promise of the storm that he could smell brewing to the south.

Where the hell was Darius’s daughter right now?

He’d try her apartment first.

After Wrath materialized in the courtyard behind her place, he looked into her windows and returned her cat’s purr of welcome with one of his own. She wasn’t inside, so Wrath took a seat on the picnic table. He’d give her an hour or so, and then he was going to have to find the brothers. He could always come back at the end of the night, although given how things had gone the first time he’d come into her place, he figured waking her up at four A.M. wasn’t the smartest move.

He took off his sunglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

How was he going to explain what was about to happen to her? And what she’d have to do to live through the change?

He had a feeling she wasn’t going to be too happy about the news flashes.

Wrath thought back to his own transition. What a goddamned mess that had been. He hadn’t been prepared either, because his parents had always wanted to shelter him, and they’d died before they’d told him what to expect.

His memories came back with a terrible clarity.

London in the late seventeenth century had been a brutal place, especially for someone who was all alone in the world. His parents had been slaughtered in front of him two years before, and he’d run from his species, thinking his cowardice on that awful night was a shame only he should bear.

Whereas in vampire society he’d been nurtured and protected as the future king, he’d found the world of humans to be based largely on a physical meritocracy. For someone built as he’d been before he went through his change, that had meant he’d been on the bottom of the social rung. He’d been whip-thin then, scrawny and weak, and easy prey for human boys looking for fun. Over the course of his time in London’s slums, he’d been beaten so many times he’d grown used to parts of him not working right. It was nothing new to have a leg that wouldn’t bend because the kneecap had been stoned. Or to have an arm that was useless because it’d been popped out of his shoulder as he’d been dragged behind a horse.

He’d been living off garbage, squeaking by on the edge of starvation, when he’d finally found work as a servant in a merchant’s stable. Wrath had cleaned shoes and saddles and bridles until the skin on his hands had cracked, but at least he’d been fed. His pallet had been in the stables, on the second-floor hayloft. It was softer than the ground he’d grown used to, but he’d never known when he’d be woken up with a kick to the ribs because some stable boy wanted to bed down a maid or two.

Back then he’d still been able to be out in the sunshine, and the dawn was the only thing in his pitiful existence that he looked forward to. To feel the warmth on his face, to draw the sweet mist into his lungs, to relish the light—these pleasures were the only ones he had, and they were dear to him. His eyesight, impaired from birth, had been poor back then but far, far better than it was now. He could still remember with aching clarity what the sun had looked like.

He’d been at the merchant’s for nearly a year when everything had been turned upside down.

The night the change had come upon him, he’d fallen into his nest of hay, utterly exhausted. He’d been feeling sickly lately, struggling through his work, but that was nothing new.

The pain, when it hit, had racked his weak body, starting in his abdomen and radiating outward until the tips of his fingers, his toes, the ends of every piece of hair on his head had screamed. No broken bone, no concussion, no fever or beating had even come close. He’d curled into a ball, eyes straining against the agony, breath coming in bursts. He’d been convinced he was going to die, and he’d prayed for the darkness. He’d only wanted some peace, an end to the suffering.

And then a beautiful blond waif had appeared before him.

She was an angel sent to carry him to the other side. He’d been convinced of it.

Like the pathetic wretch he was, he’d begged her for mercy. He’d reached out to the apparition, and when he’d felt her touch, he knew the end was near. As she’d called him by name, he’d tried to smile at her in gratitude, but his lips hadn’t been working. She’d told him she was the one who had been promised to him, who had taken a sip of his blood when he was a small boy so she would always know where to find him when the transition hit. She’d said she was there to save him.

And then Marissa had scored her wrist with her own fangs and held the wound to his mouth.

He’d drunk desperately, but the pain hadn’t stopped. It only changed. He’d felt his joints popping out of shape, his bones shifting in horrible waves of snapping. His muscles had strained and then split open, and his skull had felt as if it were going to burst. As his eyes had bulged, his sight had receded, and then all he’d had was his hearing.

His rasping, guttural breath had hurt his throat as he’d tried to hang on. He’d blacked out at some point, finally, only to wake up to a fresh agony. The sunlight he’d loved so much was streaming through the gaps in the barn’s clapboards, pale shafts of gold. A strip had landed on his arm, and the smell of burning flesh was terrifying. He’d snapped his arm back and looked around himself in a panic. He hadn’t been able to see anything but vague shapes. Blinded in the light, he’d lurched to his feet, only to find himself falling facedown in the hay. His body hadn’t acted at all like his own, and it had taken him two tries before he could stand, wobbling on his legs like a foal.

He’d known that he needed to find shelter from the daylight, and he’d dragged himself to where the loft’s ladder should have been. He’d miscalculated, however, and had plunged down the hay shaft. Lying in a daze, he’d figured he might be able to make it to the grain cellar. If he went down there, he’d be in darkness.

He’d flailed around the barn, banging into stalls and tripping over tack, trying to stay out of the sunlight while controlling his unruly arms and legs. As he’d headed for the back of the barn, his head had struck a beam he’d always easily walked under. Blood had run into his eyes.

Right after that, one of the stable hands had come in, demanding to know who Wrath was. Wrath had turned to the familiar voice, thinking maybe he could get help. He’d reached out and started to speak, but his voice hadn’t sounded like his own.

And then he’d heard a pitchfork coming through the air at him in a vicious stab. He’d meant only to deflect the blow, but when he’d grabbed the handle and pushed at it, he’d sent the stable hand smashing into a stall door. The man had let out a screech of fear and run off, no doubt looking for reinforcements.

Wrath had finally found the cellar. He’d taken out two huge bags of oats and put them next to the door so no one would have to come in during the day. Exhausted, hurting, blood dripping off his chin, he’d crawled inside and settled his bare back against the earthen wall. He’d drawn his knees up to his chest, aware that his thighs were four times the size they’d been the day before. Closing his eyes, he’d rested his cheek on his forearms and shivered, fighting not to disgrace himself by crying. He’d stayed awake all day long, listening to the footsteps above him, the stamping of the horses, the patter of talk. He’d been terrified someone would open the double doors and expose him. And glad that Marissa had gone so she wasn’t exposed to the threat from humans.

Coming back to the present, Wrath heard Darius’s daughter walk into her apartment. A light came on.




Beth tossed her keys down on the hall table. The quick meal with Hard-ass had been surprisingly easy. And he’d given her some other details about the bombing. They’d found one of those modified Magnums in the alley. And Butch had mentioned the martial-arts throwing star she’d pointed out to Ricky. The CSI folks were working on the weapons, trying to get any prints or fibers or other evidence off them. The gun didn’t appear to offer much, but the star, not surprisingly, had blood on it, which they were putting through DNA analysis. As for the bomb, the police were thinking it was a drug-related hit. The BMW had been sighted before, parked in the same spot behind the club. And Screamer’s was a hotbed for dealers who were very particular about their territories.

She stretched and changed into a pair of boxers. It was another hot night, and as she pulled out the futon, she really wished the air conditioner were still working. She turned the box fan on and fed Boo, who, as soon as he’d polished off his Fancy Feast, took up pacing in front of the sliding door.

“We’re not going to be doing this again, are we?”

Lightning flashed, and she went over and slid back the glass door, moving the screen into place and locking it. She’d leave the thing open for only a little bit—the night air smelled good for once. Not a whiff of garbage.

But man, it was hot.

She ducked into the bathroom. After taking out her contacts, brushing her teeth, and scrubbing her face, she ran a washcloth under some cold water and rubbed the back of her neck. Cool rivulets ran down her skin, and she welcomed the shivers as she walked back out.

She frowned. There was the strangest scent in the air. Something rich and spicy…

She went over to the screen and sniffed a couple of times. As she breathed in, she felt the tension in her shoulders ease.

And then she saw that Boo had sat down on his haunches and was purring as if he were welcoming someone he knew.

What the…

The man from her dream was on the other side of the screen.

Beth leaped back and dropped the washcloth, dimly hearing the fleshy flop when it hit the floor.

The screen slid open. In spite of the fact that she’d locked it.

And that wonderful smell got thicker as he stepped into her home.

She panicked, but found she couldn’t move.

Oh, man, he was colossal. If her apartment was small to begin with, he turned it into a shoe box. And all that black leather just seemed to make him bigger. He had to be six-feet-six, two seventy-five at least.

Wait a minute.

What was she doing, measuring him for a suit? Running, she should be running. She should be making a break for the other door, running like hell.

But all she could do was stare at him.

He was wearing a biker jacket in spite of the heat, and his long legs were covered in leather as well. He had steel-toed shitkicker boots on, and he moved like a predator.

Beth craned her neck to look up at his face.

God, he was gorgeous.

His jaw was a straight shot of bone, his lips full, the hollows under his cheeks casting heavy shadows. His hair was straight and black, falling to his shoulders from a widow’s peak, and he had the shadow of a dark beard. The black sunglasses he wore, wraparounds that fit his carved face perfectly, made him look like a hit man.

As if all that menace wouldn’t have given him away as a killer.

He was smoking some kind of thin, reddish cigar, and he took a long drag, the end flaring bright orange. He blew out a cloud of that fragrant smoke, and as it hit her nostrils, her body loosened even further.

He must be coming to kill her, she thought. She didn’t know what she’d done to deserve a hit, but as he breathed out another drag of whatever he was smoking, she could barely remember where she was.

Her body swayed as he closed the distance between them. She was terrified of what was going to happen when he reached her, but noticed, absurdly, that Boo was purring and wrapping himself in and around the man’s ankles.

That cat was a traitor. And if by some miracle she lived through the night, he was getting downgraded to Tender Vittles.

Beth’s neck jacked back up as she met the man’s steady, feral gaze. She couldn’t see the color of his eyes through the glasses, but his stare burned.

And then the extraordinary happened. As he stopped in front of her, she felt a blast of pure, unadulterated lust. For the first time in her life her body got wickedly hot. Hot and wet.

Her core bloomed for him.

It was chemistry, she thought numbly. Pure, raw, animal chemistry.

Whatever he had, she wanted.

“I thought we’d try this again,” he said.

His voice was low, a deep rumble in his solid chest. He had the sliver of an accent, but she couldn’t place it.

“Who are you?” she breathed in a whisper.

“I’m here for you.”

Dizziness made her reach out for the wall.

“For me? Where—” Confusion closed her mouth. “Where are you going to take me?”

To the bridge? Where he’d toss her body into the river?

His hand crossed the distance between their bodies, and he took her chin between his forefinger and thumb. He tilted her face to one side.

“Are you going to kill me fast?” she mumbled. “Or slow?”

“No killing. Protection.”

As his head bent down, she told herself she should fight him off in spite of his words. She needed to get those arms of hers working, her legs, too. Trouble was, she didn’t really want to push him away. She took a deep breath.

Good heavens, he smelled fantastic. Fresh, clean sweat. A dark, masculine musk. That smoke.

His lips touched her neck, and she heard him inhale. The leather of his jacket creaked as his lungs were filled and his chest expanded.

“You’re almost ready,” he said softly. “And it’s coming fast.”

If the it he was referring to had anything to do with their getting naked, she was totally on board with the plan. My God, this had to be what people talked about when they waxed poetic about sex. She didn’t question the need to have him inside of her. She only knew that she was going to die if he didn’t take his pants off. Now.

Beth reached out, curious to touch him, but when she let go of the wall she started to fall. In what seemed like one motion, he put the cigarillo between those cruel lips of his and caught her easily. As he swept her off the floor, she leaned into him, not even bothering to put up a pretense of fighting. He handled her as if she were weightless, crossing the room in two strides.

When he laid her down on the futon his hair fell forward, and she lifted her hand, touching the black waves. They were thick, soft. She put her palm on his face, and though he seemed surprised, he didn’t pull back.

God, everything about him radiated sex, from the strength in his body to the way he moved to the smell of his skin. He was like no man she’d ever come across before. And her body knew it just as clearly as her mind did.

“Kiss me,” she said.

He hovered above her, a silent menace.

On impulse her hands went to the lapels of his jacket, and she tried to pull him down to her mouth.

He captured both her wrists in one of his hands. “Easy.”

Easy? She didn’t want easy. Easy was not part of the plan.

She struggled against his hold, and when she couldn’t get free she arched her back. Her breasts strained against her T-shirt, and she rubbed her thighs together, anticipating what it would feel like to have him between them.

If he’d only put his hands—

“Sweet Jesus,” he muttered.

She smiled up at him, relishing the sudden hunger in his face. “Touch me.”

The stranger started shaking his head. As if he were trying to clear it.

She opened her lips and moaned in frustration.

“Pull up my shirt.” She arched again, offering her body to him, dying to know if there was something even hotter inside of her, something he could bring out with his hands. “Do it.”

He took the cigarillo from his mouth. His eyebrows were drawn tight, and she had some vague thought that she should be terrified. Instead, she brought her knees up and lifted her hips off the futon. She imagined him kissing the insides of her thighs, finding her sex with his mouth. Licking her.

Another moan boiled out of her mouth.




Wrath was dumbfounded.

And he wasn’t a vampire who got struck stupid very often.

Holy shit.

This half-human was the hottest thing he’d ever gotten anywhere near. And he’d cozied up to a lightning strike once or twice before.

It was the red smoke. That had to be it. And the stuff must be getting to him, too, because he was more than ready to take her.

He eyed the cigarillo.

Well, that’s some damn good rationalizing, he thought. Too bad the shit was a relaxant, not an aphrodisiac.

She groaned again, her body undulating in a sexy wave, her legs opening wide. The scent of her arousal hit him hard as a body shot. God, he would have been sent to his knees if he hadn’t already been sitting down.

“Touch me,” she moaned.

Wrath’s blood pumped as if he were in a flat-out run, his erection throbbing like it had its own heartbeat.

“That’s not what I’m here for,” he said.

“Touch me anyway.”

He knew he should say no. This wasn’t fair to her. And they needed to talk.

Maybe he should come back later in the night.

She arched up, pushing against the hand he’d clamped around her wrists. As her breasts strained against her T-shirt, he had to close his eyes.

Time to go. It was really time to—

Except he couldn’t leave without at least having a taste.

Yeah, but he was a selfish bastard if he laid one finger on her. A nasty selfish bastard to take any of what she was offering in the haze of smoke.

With a curse, Wrath opened his eyes.

Man, he was so cold. Cold down to his marrow. And she was hot. Hot enough to make that ice go away, at least for a little while.

And it had been so long for him.

He willed the lights in the room off. Then he used his mind to close the back door, usher the cat into the bathroom, and slide home every lock in the apartment.

He carefully balanced the cigarillo on the edge of the table next to them and let her wrists go. Her hands grabbed his jacket, trying to push it back from his shoulders. He wrenched the thing off, and as it hit the floor with a thud, she laughed with satisfaction. His holster of daggers followed, but he kept that within reach of the futon.

Wrath bent down over her. Her breath was sweet and minty as he captured her lips with his mouth. When he felt her flinch, he pulled back immediately. Frowning, he touched the side of her mouth.

“Forget it,” she told him, pulling at his shoulders.

The hell he would. God help that human who’d hurt her. Wrath was going to rip the guy’s limbs off and leave him to bleed out in the street.

He dropped a soft kiss to the healing bruise and then drew his tongue down her neck. This time when she thrust her breasts out, he slid his hand under her thin shirt and onto her smooth, warm skin. Her belly was flat, and he spanned it with his hand, filling the space between her hip bones. Greedy to know the rest of her, he peeled her shirt off and tossed it aside. Her bra was pale in color, and he traced the edges of it with his fingertips before cupping the creamy swells with his hands. Her breasts filled his palms, her nipples tight buds underneath the soft satin.

Wrath’s control snapped.

He bared his fangs, let out a hiss, and bit through the bra’s front closure. The thing snapped back, and he latched onto one of her nipples with his lips, drawing it into his mouth. As he suckled, he shifted his body and stretched out on top of her, falling in between her legs. She absorbed his weight with a throaty sigh.

Her hands came between them as she reached for the front of his shirt, but he didn’t have the patience to let her undress him. He lifted up and ripped the material off his body, popping buttons and sending them scattering across the floor. When he came back down, her breasts hit the wall of his chest and her body surged under his.

He wanted to kiss her mouth again, but he was way past anything soft and gentle, so he worshiped her breasts with his tongue and then moved down to her belly. When he got to the waistband of her boxers, he drew them off her long, smooth legs.

Wrath felt something in his head pop as her scent reached him in a fresh wave. He was perilously close to orgasm already, his release poised in his shaft, his body shaking with the need to take her. He put his hand between her thighs. She was so wet and hot that he growled.

Crazed though he was, he had to taste her before he invaded her.

Drawing off his sunglasses, he put them next to the cigarillo before pressing kisses over her hips and across the tops of her thighs. Her hands tangled in his hair as she urged him exactly where he was headed.

He kissed her softest skin, drawing her core into his mouth, and she came over and over again for him until he couldn’t fight his own need any longer. He pulled back, shrugged out of his pants, and covered her with his body once more.

She wrapped her legs around his hips, and he hissed as her heat burned his erection.

He used what was left of his strength to pull back and look down into her face.

“Don’t stop,” she breathed. “I want to feel you inside me.”

Wrath dropped his head into the fragrant hollow of her neck. And slowly drew his hips back. The tip of his erection slid into place beautifully, and he sheathed himself in her body with one powerful stroke.

He let out a bellow of ecstasy.

Heaven. Now he knew what heaven was like.

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user comment image
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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