Dark Lover | Chapter 35 of 67

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

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Chapter Twenty-five

 

Beth watched Wrath saunter away as if he didn’t give a rat’s ass whether or not she ate with him.

If she hadn’t been having second thoughts herself, she would have been totally insulted. He’d invited her to dinner. So why was he all bent out of joint when she showed up? She was tempted to hightail it right back out the front door.

Except she followed because she felt like she had no choice. There were so many things she wanted to know, things only he could explain.

Although as God was her witness, if there were any way to get the information from someone else, she would have.

As he walked in front of her, she shot a glare at the back of his head and tried to ignore his powerful stride. The latter was an abject failure. He just moved too superbly. With each sharp impact of his heel, his shoulders shifted under the expensive jacket, counterbalancing the thrust of his legs. As his arms swung loosely, she knew that his thighs were clenching and releasing with every step. She pictured him naked, his muscles flexing under his skin.

Butch’s voice bounced around in her head. A man like that has murder in his blood. It’s his nature.

And yet Wrath had sent her away last night when he’d been a danger to her.

She told herself to forget attempting to reconcile the contradictions. She was just trying to read tea leaves with all the mental aerobics. She needed to go with her gut, and her gut said Wrath was the only help she had.

As she stepped into the dining room, the beautiful table that had been set for them was a surprise. There were flowers in the center, tuberoses and orchids. And ivory candles. And gleaming china and silver.

Wrath went around and pulled out a chair, waiting for her to sit in it. Looming over the thing.

God, he looked fantastic in the suit. And the open collar of his shirt showed off his throat, the black silk making his skin look tanned. Too bad he was flat-out pissed. His face was as harsh as his temper, and with his hair pulled back, the aggressive thrust of his jaw was even more prominent.

Something had set him off. Big-time.

Perfect date material, she thought. A vampire with the social equivalent of road rage.

She approached cautiously. As he slid the seat under her, she could have sworn he bent down to her hair and inhaled deeply.

“Why were you so late?” he demanded while sitting at the head of the table. When she didn’t answer, he cocked an eyebrow at her, the dark arch rising over the rim of his black sunglasses. “Did Fritz have to talk you into coming?”

To give herself something to do, she took her napkin and unfolded it in her lap. “It was nothing like that.”

“So tell me what it was.”

“Butch followed us. We had to wait until we got free of him.”

She sensed the space around Wrath darkening as if his anger sucked the light right out of the air.

Fritz came in with two small plates of salad. He put them down.

“Wine?” he asked.

Wrath nodded.

After the butler had finished pouring and left, she picked up a heavy silver fork and forced herself to eat.

“Why are you afraid of me now?” Wrath’s voice was sardonic, as if he were bored by her fear.

She jabbed at the greens. “Hmmm. Could it be because you look like you want to strangle someone?”

“You walked into this house scared of me again. Before you even saw me, you were frightened. I want to know why.”

She kept her eyes on her plate. “Maybe I was reminded that last night you almost killed a friend of mine.”

“Christ, not that again.”

“You asked,” she shot back. “Don’t get mad if you don’t like my answer.”

Wrath wiped his mouth impatiently. “I didn’t kill him, did I?”

“Only because I stopped you.”

“And that bothers you? Most people like to be heroes.”

She put her fork down. “You know what? I don’t want to be here with you right now.”

He kept eating. “So why did you come?”

“Because you asked me to!”

“Believe me, I can handle the rejection.” As if she were of no concern to him whatsoever.

“This was a mistake.” She put her napkin down next to her plate and stood.

He cursed. “Sit down.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Let me amend that. Sit down and shut up.”

She gaped at him. “You arrogant ass—”

“Someone’s already called me that tonight, thank you very much.”

Fritz picked that moment to breeze in with some warm rolls.

She glared at Wrath and pretended she was only reaching across the table for the wine bottle. She wasn’t about to march off in front of Fritz. And besides, she suddenly felt like sticking around.

So she could yell at Wrath a little longer.

When they were alone again, she hissed, “Where do you get off talking to me like that?”

He took a final bite of salad, placed his fork on the edge of his plate, and dabbed the corners of his mouth with his napkin. Like he’d been trained by Emily Post herself.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” he said. “You need me. So get over your hangups about what I might have done to that cop. Your good buddy Butch is still above ground, right? So what’s the problem?”

Beth stared at him, trying to read through his sunglasses, searching for some softness, something she could connect to. But the dark lenses shut her out of his eyes completely, and the tight lines of his face gave her nothing to go on.

“How can life mean so little to you?” she wondered aloud.

The smile he gave her was cold. “How can death mean so much to you?”

Beth sank back in her chair. Cringed from him, was more like it. She couldn’t believe she’d made love—no, had sex—with him. He was utterly callous.

Abruptly, her heart hurt. Not because he was being hard on her, but because she was disappointed. She’d really wanted him to be different than he appeared. She’d wanted to believe the flashes of warmth he’d shown her were as big a part of him as those hard edges.

She rubbed the raw patch at her sternum. “I’d really like to go, if you don’t mind.”

There was a long pause.

“Ah, hell…” he muttered, letting out his breath. “This isn’t right.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“I thought that you deserved…I don’t know. A date. Or something. Something normal.” He laughed harshly as she looked at him with surprise. “Dumb idea, I know. I should stick to what I’m good at. I’d be better off teaching you how to kill.”

Underneath his thick pride, she sensed a kernel of something else. Insecurity? No, that wasn’t it. Naturally with him, it would be more intense.

Self-hatred.

Fritz came in, picked up their salad plates, and reappeared with soup. It was cold vichyssoise. Interesting, she thought absently. Usually it was soup first, then salad, wasn’t it? But then, she had to imagine vampires had lots of different social traditions. Like the men having more than one woman.

Her stomach lurched. She wasn’t going to think of that. She simply refused to.

“Look, just so you know,” Wrath said as he picked up his spoon, “I fight to protect, not because I’ve got a jones for murder. But I’ve killed thousands. Thousands, Beth. Do you understand? So if you want me to pretend I’m not comfortable with death, I can’t do that for you. I just can’t.”

“Thousands?” she mumbled, overwhelmed.

He nodded.

“Who in God’s name are you fighting?”

“Bastards who would kill you as soon as you go through the transition.”

“Vampire hunters?”

Lessers. Humans who have traded their souls to the Omega in return for a free reign of terror.”

“Who—or what—is the Omega?” As she spoke the word, the candles flickered wildly, as if tormented by invisible hands.

Wrath hesitated. He actually seemed uncomfortable with the subject. He, who wasn’t afraid of anything.

“You mean the devil?” she prompted.

“Worse. You can’t compare them. One’s just a metaphor. The other’s very, very real. Fortunately, the Omega has a counterpart, the Scribe Virgin.” He smiled wryly. “Well, maybe fortunately is too strong a word. But there is a balance.”

“God and Lucifer.”

“Maybe according to your lexicon. Our legend has it that vampires were created by the Scribe Virgin as her one and only legacy, as her chosen children. The Omega resented her ability to generate life, and he despised the special powers she gave to the species. The Lessening Society was his defensive response. He uses humans because he is incapable of creation and because they are a readily available source of aggression.”

This is just too strange, she thought. Trading souls. The undead. The stuff just didn’t exist in the real world.

Then again, she was having dinner with a vampire. So was anything really all that impossible?

She thought of the gorgeous blond man who’d stitched himself up.

“You have others who fight with you, right?”

“My brothers.” He took a drink from his wineglass. “As soon as the vampires recognized they were under siege, the strongest and most powerful males were weeded out. Trained to fight. Turned loose against the lessers. Those warriors were then bred to the strongest females over generations until a separate subspecies of vampires emerged. The most powerful of this class were indoctrinated into the Black Dagger Brotherhood.”

“Are you brothers by blood?”

He smiled tightly. “In a matter of speaking.”

His face shuttered, as if the matter were private. She had the sense that he would say no more about the brotherhood, but she was still curious about the war he was fighting.

Especially because she was about to turn into one of those he protected.

“So it’s humans you kill.”

“Yes, although they’re basically dead already. In order to give his fighters the longevity and strength they would need to fight us, the Omega had to strip them of their souls.” Distaste flickered across his harsh features. “Not that having a soul ever prevented a human from coming after us.”

“You don’t like…us, do you?”

“First of all, half of what’s in your veins is from your father’s side. And secondly, why would I like humans? They beat the crap out of me before my transition, and the only reason they don’t fuck with me now is because I scare the hell out of them. And if it got widely known that vampires existed? They’d come after us even if they weren’t in the society. Humans are threatened by anything different, and their response is to fight. They’re bullies, picking on the weak, cowering from the strong.” Wrath shook his head. “Besides, they irritate me. Look at how their folklore portrays our species. There’s Dracula, for Christ’s sake, an evil bloodsucker who preys on the defenseless. There’s piss-poor B movies and porn. And don’t get me started on the whole Halloween thing. Plastic fangs. Black capes. The only things the idiots got right are that we drink blood and that we can’t go out in the daylight. The rest is bullshit, fabricated to alienate us and stimulate fear in the masses. Or just as offensive, the fiction is used to create some kind of mystique for bored humans who think the dark side is a fun place to visit.”

“But you don’t really hunt us, right?”

“Don’t use that word. It’s them, Beth. Not us. You are not wholly human right now, and soon you won’t be human at all.” He paused. “And no, I don’t hunt them. But if they get in my way, they’ve got a serious problem.”

She considered what he’d said, trying to ignore the panic that rose every time she thought about the transition she was supposedly about to go through.

“When you went after Butch like that…Surely he’s not a…whatever, a lesser.”

“He tried to keep me from you.” Wrath’s jaw clenched. “I will level anyone and anything before I’d let that happen. And whether he’s your lover or not, if he does it again—”

“You promised me you wouldn’t kill him.”

“I won’t take him out. But I’m not going to go easy on him.”

Something worth giving Hard-ass a heads-up on, she thought.

“Why aren’t you eating?” Wrath demanded. “You need food.”

She looked down. Food? Her life was suddenly a Stephen King novel and he was worried about her diet?

“Eat.” He nodded at her bowl. “You want to be as strong as possible for the change.”

Beth picked up her spoon, just to get him off her back. The soup tasted like Elmer’s glue even though she imagined it was perfectly made, perfectly seasoned.

“You’re armed right now, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you ever put down your weapons?”

“No.”

“But when we were…” She shut her mouth before the words making love popped out.

He leaned forward. “There’s always something within my reach. Even when I take you.”

Beth swallowed. Hot thoughts warred with the horrible realization that he was either paranoid or evil was truly always close.

And damn, she thought. Wrath was a lot of things. But he sure wasn’t the hysterical type.

There was a long silence between them, until Fritz cleared the soup bowls and brought in plates of lamb. She noticed that Wrath’s meat had been cut up for him into bite-sized pieces. Odd, she thought.

“I have something I want to show you after dinner.” He picked up his fork, and it took him two tries to spear some meat with the tines.

And that was when she realized he wasn’t even bothering to look at his plate. His gaze was focused down the table.

A chill went through her. Something was very off.

She looked carefully at the sunglasses he wore.

She remembered his fingertips searching her face that first night they were together, as if he’d been trying to see her through touch. And then thought of the fact that he always wore those lenses, as if he weren’t just blocking out light, but covering his eyes.

“Wrath?” she said softly.

He reached out for his wineglass, his hand not closing around it until the crystal hit his palm.

“What?” He brought the glass to his lips, but put it back down. “Fritz? We need red.”

“Right here, master.” Fritz came in with another bottle. “Mistress?”

“Ah, yes, thank you.”

When the door to the kitchen flapped shut, Wrath said, “You have something else to ask me?”

She cleared her throat. She had to be reading into things. Desperate to find a weakness in him, she was now trying to convince herself that he was blind.

If she were smart, and that was seriously debatable, she’d quickly run through her list of questions. And then go home.

“Beth?”

“Yeah…ah, so it’s true you can’t go out during the day?”

“Vampires do not do sunlight.”

“What happens?”

“Second-to third-degree burns will immediately pop up upon exposure. Incineration occurs not long afterward. The sun is not something you want to screw with.”

“But I can go outside now.”

“You haven’t gone through the change. Although who knows? Afterward you might still be able to tolerate it. It’s different for people who have a human parent. Vampire characteristics can be diluted.” He took a drink from his glass, licking his lips. “Then again, you’re going to go through the transition, so Darius’s blood is strong in your veins.”

“How often will I have to…feed?”

“In the beginning, fairly frequently. Maybe twice, three times a month. Although again, there’s no way of knowing.”

“After you help me through the first time, how will I be able to find a man who I can drink—”

Wrath’s growl stopped her. When she looked up, she shrank into the chair. He was back to being pissed.

“I’ll take care of finding you someone,” he said, his accent thicker than usual. “Until then, you will use me.”

“Hopefully that won’t be for long,” she muttered, thinking that he didn’t look happy about getting stuck with her.

His mouth curled as he looked her way. “So eager for someone else?”

“No, I just thought that…”

“What? You thought what?” His tone was hard, hard as the stare shooting out from behind the sunglasses.

The fact that he clearly didn’t want to be tied to her was difficult to put into words. The rejection hurt even though she’d no doubt be better off without him.

“I…ah, Tohr said you were the king of the vampires. I kind of figure that would make you busy.”

“My boy’s got to learn to zip it.”

“Is it true? That you’re the king?”

“No,” he snapped.

Well, if that wasn’t a door getting slammed in her face.

“Are you married? I mean, do you have a mate? Or two?” she said quickly, figuring she might as well let it all fly. His mood was already back in black. It wasn’t like she could make it worse.

“Christ. No.”

Well, that was a relief of sorts. Although it was clear what he thought of relationships.

She took a sip of wine. “Do you have a woman in your life at all?”

“No.”

“So who do you feed from?”

Long silence. Not an encouraging one.

“There was someone.”

“Was?”

“Was.”

“Since when?”

“Recently.” He shrugged. “We were never close. It was a bad match.”

“Who do you go to now?”

“God, you really are a reporter, aren’t you?”

“Who?” she pushed.

He looked at her for a long time. And then his face changed, the aggression seeming to bleed out of him. His fork came gently down to his plate and his other hand was placed palm up on the table. “Ah, hell.”

In spite of his curse, the air suddenly seemed softer.

She didn’t trust the change in his mood at first, but then he whipped off his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes. When he put the lenses back in place, she watched his chest expand, as if he were collecting himself.

“God, Beth, I think I wanted it to be you. In spite of the fact that I’m not going to be around for long after your change.” He shook his head. “Man, I am one stupid SOB.”

Beth blinked, feeling a kind of sexual heat that he would drink her blood to survive.

“But don’t worry,” he said. “That’s not going to happen. And I’ll find you another male fast.”

He pushed his plate away, food left half-eaten on the china.

“When was the last time you fed?” she asked, thinking of the powerful craving she’d watched him battle.

“Last night.”

Pressure in her chest made her feel as if her lungs were clogged. “But you didn’t bite me.”

“It was after you left.”

She pictured him with another woman in his arms. When she reached for her wineglass, her hand shook.

Wow. Her emotions were breaking all kinds of land speed records tonight. She’d been terrified, pissed off, insanely jealous.

She had to wonder what was next.

Happiness, she had a feeling, probably wasn’t it.

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

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