Dark Lover | Chapter 19 of 67

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

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Chapter Nine

 

In his bedroom, Mr. X changed into black cargo pants and pulled on a black nylon shirt. He was satisfied by the way the meeting with the society had gone this afternoon. Every single lesser had shown up. Most of them had fallen into line well enough. A few were going to be trouble. And a small number of them had tried sucking up.

Which had gotten them nowhere.

At the conclusion of the session, he’d chosen twenty-eight more to stay in the Caldwell area, based on what he knew about their reputations and the impressions he had of them up close. Twelve of this group were on the very top of their game, and those he’d split equally into two prime squadrons. The other sixteen he’d cut into four groups of secondaries.

None of them liked the arrangement. They were used to working on their own, and the primes in particular resented being tied down. Tough. The advantage to the squadron orientation was that he could assign different parts of the city to them, establish quotas, and monitor performance more closely.

The rest he’d sent back to their outposts.

Now that he had his troops aligned and assigned, he was going to focus on the information-gathering procedure. He had an idea as to how to make it work, one he was going to beta test this evening.

Before he headed out for the night, he tossed his pit bulls two pounds of raw hamburger apiece. He liked to keep them hungry, so they were fed every other day. He’d had the dogs, both males, for about five years, and he chained them on opposite sides of his house, one in front, one in back. It was a logical arrangement from a defense perspective, but there was also the matter of expediency. He’d tied them up together once and they’d gone for each other’s throats.

He picked up his bag, locked the house, and walked across his lawn. The ranch was an early-seventies nightmare of fake-brick siding and he’d purposely kept the outside ugly. He needed to fit in, and the rural neighborhood’s price point wasn’t breaking a hundred thousand anytime soon.

Besides, the house was immaterial. The land was what mattered. Ten acres, so he had privacy. Plus there was an old barn in back that was surrounded by trees. He’d turned that into his workshop, and the buffer of oaks and maples was going to be important.

After all, screams could carry.

He fingered his ring of keys until he got to the right one. Because he was going to be working tonight, he was leaving his only extravagance, a black Hummer, in the garage. The four-year-old Chrysler Town & Country minivan was much better cover, and it took him ten minutes to drive the POS downtown.

Caldwell’s Whore Valley was a stretch of three dimly lit, trash-strewn blocks over by the suspension bridge. Traffic was heavy tonight down the corridor of iniquity, and he pulled over to watch the action under a broken light. Cars meandered the dark street, brake lights flaring as drivers inspected what was working the pavement. In the thick summer heat, the girls were out in a big way, tottering in their mile-high shoes, their breasts and asses barely covered by easy-access clothing.

Mr. X zipped open his bag, taking out a hypodermic needle filled with heroin and a hunting knife. He hid both in the door and put the passenger-side window down before easing into the flow of cars.

He was just one of many, he thought. Another schmo, trying to get a little.

“You lookin’ for a date?” he heard one of the whores call out.

“Wanna ride?” another said, shaking her ass like it was a can of paint.

On the second pass, he found what he was looking for, a blonde with long legs and a big rack.

Just the kind of whore he would have bought for himself if he’d still had an operational phallus.

He was going to enjoy this, Mr. X thought as he hit the brakes. Killing what he couldn’t have anymore carried its own special satisfaction.

“Hey, sugar,” she said, coming over. She put her forearms on the door and leaned in through the window. She smelled like cinnamon gum and sweaty perfume. “How you doin’ tonight?”

“I could be better. What’s it going to cost me to buy a smile?”

She eyed the inside of the car, his clothes. “Fifty will get you off good. Any way you like.”

“That’s too much.” But he was just playing. She was the one he wanted.

“Forty?”

“Let me see your tits.”

She flashed him.

He smiled, unlocking the doors. “What’s your name?”

“Cherry Pie. But you can call me anything you like.”

Mr. X drove them around the corner to a secluded spot under the bridge.

He tossed the money down on the floor at her feet, and when she bent over to pick it up, he drove the needle into the back of her neck and pushed the plunger home. Moments later she slumped like a rag doll.

Mr. X smiled and moved her back against the seat so she was sitting up. Then he tossed the needle out the window, where it joined about a dozen others, and put the van in drive.

 

 

 

In his underground clinic, Havers looked up from his microscope, startled out of his concentration. The grandfather clock was chiming in the corner of his lab, telling him it was time for the evening repast, but he didn’t want to stop working. He put his eye back to the scope, wondering if he’d imagined what he saw. After all, desperation could be affecting his objectivity.

But no, the blood cells were living.

Breath left his lungs on a shudder.

His race was almost free.

He was almost free.

Finally, stored blood that was still viable.

As a physician, his hands had always been tied when it came to treating patients surgically and addressing certain labor and delivery complications. Real-time transfusions from vampire to vampire were possible, but as their race was scattered and their numbers small, it could be hard to find donors in a timely manner.

For centuries he’d wanted to establish a blood bank. The trouble was, vampire blood was highly unstable, and storage of it outside the body had always been impossible. Air, that life-sustaining, invisible curtain blanketing the earth, was one cause of the problem, and it didn’t take a lot of those molecules to contaminate a sample. Just one or two and the plasma disintegrated, leaving the red and white blood cells to fend for themselves. Which, of course, they couldn’t do.

At first it didn’t make sense to him. There was oxygen in blood. That was why it was red after leaving the lungs. The discrepancy had led him to some fascinating discoveries about vampire pulmonary function, but had ultimately gotten him no closer to his objective.

He’d tried drawing the blood and channeling it immediately into an airtight container. This most obvious solution didn’t work. The disintegration occurred anyway, just at a decelerated pace. This had suggested there was another factor at work, something inherent in the corporal environment that was missing when the blood was removed from the body. He’d tried isolating samples in warmth, in cold. In suspensions of saline or human plasma.

Frustration had kept his mind burning through the permutations of his experiments. He ran more tests and tried different approaches. Retried. Walked away from the project. Came back to it.

Decades passed. And more decades.

And then personal tragedy gave him a very intimate reason to solve the problem. Following the deaths in childbirth of his shellan and infant son a little over two years ago, he’d become obsessed and had started from scratch.

His own need to feed was the driver.

He usually needed to drink only every six months, because his bloodline was strong. After his beautiful Evangaline’s death, he’d waited as long as he could, until he had taken to his bed with the pain of the hunger. When he’d finally asked for help, he’d hated the fact that he wanted to live badly enough to drink from another female. And he’d allowed himself to consider the feeding only because he’d been convinced that it wouldn’t be as it had been with Evangaline. Surely he wouldn’t betray her memory by taking pleasure in someone else’s blood.

There were so many whom he had helped that it wasn’t hard to find a female willing to offer herself. He’d chosen a friend who was unmated and had hoped he’d be able to keep his sadness and humiliation to himself.

It had turned out to be a nightmare. He’d held back for so long that as soon as he’d smelled blood, the predator in him had come out. He’d attacked his friend and drunk so hard, he’d had to stitch up her wrist afterward.

He’d nearly bitten her hand off.

His actions flew in the face of his notions of himself. He’d always been a gentleman, a scholar, a healer. A male not subject to the base desires of his race.

But then, he’d always been well fed.

And the terrible truth was, he’d relished the taste of that blood. The smooth, warm flow down his throat, the roaring strength that came afterward.

He’d felt pleasure. And he’d only wanted more.

The shame had made him retch. And he’d vowed never to drink of another’s vein again.

It was a promise he’d kept, though as a result he’d grown weak, so weak that focusing his mind was like herding a fog bank. His starvation was a constant ache in his belly. And his body, craving sustenance that food couldn’t give it, had cannibalized itself to keep him alive. He’d lost so much weight his clothes hung off of him like bags, his face turning haggard and gray.

But the state he was in had shown him the way.

The solution was obvious.

You had to feed that which was hungry.

An airtight process coupled with a sufficient quantity of human blood and he had his living cells.

Under the microscope, he watched as the vampire cells, larger and more irregularly shaped compared to the human ones, slowly consumed what he had given them. The human count was decreasing in the sample, and when it was extinguished he was willing to bet the viability of the vampire component would dwindle down to nothing.

All he had to do was conduct a clinical trial. He would extract a pint from a female, mix with it an appropriate proportion of human blood, and then transfuse himself.

If everything went well, he would set up a donor and storage program. Patients would be saved. And those who chose to forgo the intimacy of drinking could live their lives in peace.

Havers looked up from the microscope, suddenly aware that he’d been staring at the cells for twenty minutes. The salad course for luncheon would be waiting on the table upstairs for him.

He removed his white coat and walked through the clinic, pausing to talk to some of his nursing staff and a couple of patients. The facility took up about six thousand square feet and was hidden deep in the earth beneath his mansion. There were three ORs, a fleet of recovery and examination rooms, the lab, his office, and a waiting area with a separate access to the street. He saw about a thousand patients a year, and made house calls for birthing and other emergencies as needed.

Although as the population had dwindled, so had his practice.

Compared to humans, vampires had tremendous advantages when it came to health. Their bodies healed fast. They were not subject to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV. But lord help you if you had an accident at high noon. No one could get to you. Vampires also died during their transitions or right afterward. And fertility was another tremendous problem. Even if conception was successful, females frequently did not survive childbirth, either from blood loss or soaring preeclampsia. Stillborns were common, and infant mortality was through the roof.

For the sick, injured, or dying, human doctors were not a good option, even though the two species shared much of the same anatomy. If a human physician ordered a CBC on some blood from a vampire, they would find all sorts of anomalies and imagine they had something worthy of the New England Journal of Medicine. It was best to avoid that kind of attention.

On occasion, however, a patient would end up at a human hospital, a problem that was on the rise since the advent of 911 and fast-response ambulances. If a vampire was hurt badly enough to lose consciousness away from home, he was in danger of being picked up and taken in to a human ER. Getting him out of a facility against medical advice was always a struggle.

Havers wasn’t arrogant, but he knew he was the best doctor his species had. He’d gone through Harvard Medical School twice, once in the late 1800s and then again in the 1980s. He’d stated on his application in both instances that he was disabled, and HMS had permitted him special allowances. He hadn’t been able to attend the lectures because they’d taken place during the day, but his doggen had been allowed to take notes and hand in his examinations. Havers had read all the texts, corresponded with the professors, and even attended seminars and talks that were scheduled at night.

He’d always loved school.

When he got upstairs, he wasn’t surprised to see that Marissa had not come down to the dining room. Even though luncheon was served at one A.M. every night.

He went to her rooms.

“Marissa?” he said at the door. He knocked once. “Marissa, it’s time to eat.”

Havers stuck his head inside. Light from the chandelier in the hall drifted in, cutting a golden slice through the blackness. The draperies were still down across the windows, and she hadn’t turned any of the lamps on.

“Marissa, darling?”

“I’m not hungry.”

Havers stepped through the door. He could make out her canopy bed and the small swell of her body under the covers.

“But you missed luncheon last night. As well as dinner.”

“I’ll come down later.”

He shut his eyes, concluding that she’d been to feed the night before. Every time she saw Wrath, she would retreat into herself for days afterward.

He thought of the living cells down in his lab.

Wrath might be their race’s king by birth, and he might have the purest blood of them all, but the warrior was a bastard. He seemed totally unconcerned with what he was doing to Marissa. Or perhaps he didn’t even know how much his cruelty affected her.

It was hard to decide which was the worse crime.

“I’ve made some important progress,” Havers said, going over to the bed and sitting down. “I’m going to set you free.”

“From what?”

“That…assassin.”

“Don’t talk about him like that.”

He gritted his teeth. “Marissa—”

“I don’t want to be free of him.”

“How can you say that? He treats you with no respect. I hate the idea of that brute feeding off you in some back alley—”

“We go to Darius’s. He has a room there.”

The idea that she was being exposed to another of those warriors didn’t make him any happier. They were all frightening, and a few were downright horrific.

He knew the Black Dagger Brotherhood was a necessary evil to defend the race, and he knew he should be grateful for their protection. Except he couldn’t feel anything save dread at their existence. The fact that the world was dangerous enough, the race’s enemies powerful enough, so as to mandate the likes of those warriors was tragic.

“You don’t have to do this to yourself.”

Marissa rolled over, turning her back to him. “Leave me.”

Havers planted his hands on his knees and pushed himself to his feet. His memories of Marissa before she’d begun to service their dreadful king were so very dim. He could recall only bits and pieces of the way she’d been, and he feared the joyous, smiling young female was forever lost now.

And what was in her place? A somber, subdued shadow who floated around his house, pining for a male who treated her with no regard whatsoever.

“I hope you will reconsider luncheon,” Havers said softly. “I would love to have your company.”

He shut the door quietly and went down the ornate, curving staircase. The dining room table was set as he liked it, with a full complement of china, glassware, and silver. He sat down at the head of the glossy table, and one of his doggen came in to serve him some wine.

Looking down at the plate of Bibb lettuce before him, he forced a smile. “Karolyn, this salad is lovely.”

Karolyn bowed her head, eyes glowing from his praise. “I went to a farm stand today just to find the right leaves for you.”

“Well, I most certainly appreciate the effort.” Havers cut into the delicate greens as she left him alone in the beautiful room.

He thought of his sister, curled up in her bed.

Havers was a healer by nature and profession, a male who had marked his entire life in service to others. But if Wrath were ever injured enough to come and see him, Havers would be tempted to let that monster bleed out.

Or kill him on the OR table with a slip of the scalpel.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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