Dark Lover | Chapter 42 of 67

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

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Chapter Thirty-two

 

Beth went to her apartment, fed Boo, and got into the office just after noon. For once, she wasn’t famished, and she worked through lunch. Well, sort of. She couldn’t really concentrate and mostly engineered a rotation of the paper piles on her desk.

Butch left her two messages during the day, confirming they were going to rendezvous at her apartment around eight.

By four o’clock, she decided to cancel her meeting with him.

Nothing good could come out of it. There was no way she was turning Wrath over to the police, and if she thought Hard-ass was going to go easy on her because he liked her and they were in her home, she was just lying to herself.

Still, she wasn’t going to put her head in the sand. She knew she was going to be called in for questioning. How could she not be? As long as Wrath was a suspect, she was on the hot seat. She needed to get herself a good lawyer and wait to be called down to the station.

On her way back from a trip to the copier, she glanced out a window. The late-afternoon sky was cloudy, with the promise of thunderstorms hanging in the creamy, thick air. She had to look away. Her eyes ached, and the discomfort didn’t fade as she blinked repeatedly.

Back at her desk, she popped two aspirin and called the station house looking for Butch. When she was told by Ricky that he’d been put on administrative leave, she demanded to talk to José. He got right on the phone.

“Butch’s suspension. When did it happen?” she asked.

“Yesterday afternoon.”

“Are they going to fire him?”

“Off the record? Probably.”

So Butch wasn’t going to show up at her place after all.

“Where are you, B-lady?” José asked.

“Work.”

“You lying to me?” His voice was more sad than confrontational.

“Check your caller ID.”

José let out a long sigh. “I need to bring you in.”

“I know. Can you give me some time to get a lawyer?”

“You think you’re going to need one?”

“Yeah.”

José cursed. “You gotta get away from that man.”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Another prostitute was killed last night. Same MO.”

The news gave her a moment of pause. She couldn’t have said what Wrath had been doing when he’d been out. But what possible purpose could a dead prostitute have for him?

Make that two dead prostitutes.

Anxiety spiked, making her temples throb.

Except she just couldn’t see Wrath slitting some poor, defenseless woman’s throat and leaving her to die in an alley. He was lethal, not evil. And though he operated outside of the law, she didn’t imagine he’d take the life of someone who hadn’t threatened him. Especially after what had happened to his parents.

“Listen, Beth,” José said. “I don’t need to tell you how serious this situation is. That man is our prime suspect for three murders, and obstruction of justice is a serious charge. It’ll kill me, but I will put you behind bars.”

“He didn’t murder anyone last night.” Her stomach rolled.

“So you admit you know where he is.”

“I gotta go, José.”

“Beth, please don’t protect him. He’s dangerous—”

“He did not kill those women.”

“That’s your opinion.”

“You’ve been a good friend, José.”

“Goddamn it.” He added a couple of words in Spanish. “Get that lawyer fast, Beth.”

She hung up the phone, grabbed her purse, and shut down her computer. The last thing she wanted was for José to come to her office and take her away in handcuffs. She needed to go home, pick up some clothes, and get to Wrath’s as soon as she could.

Maybe they could just disappear together. It might be their only choice. Because sooner or later the police would find them in Caldwell.

As she walked out onto Trade Street, her belly was in knots, and the heat sucked the energy right out of her. The minute she walked into her apartment, she poured some ice-cold water into a glass, but as she tried to drink it, her intestines cramped up. Maybe she had a stomach bug. She popped two Tums and thought of Rhage. She might have picked up something from him.

God, her eyes were killing her.

And even though she knew she needed to start packing, she got out of her work clothes, put on a T-shirt and shorts, and sat down on the futon. She only meant to take a little breather, but once she was off her feet, she couldn’t seem to get her body moving again.

Sluggishly, like the channels in her brain were clogging up, she pictured Wrath’s injury. He’d never told her how he’d gotten hurt. What if he’d attacked the prostitute and the woman had fought back?

Beth pressed her fingers to her temples as a wave of nausea brought bile into her throat. Lights flickered in front of her eyes.

No, this wasn’t the flu. She was coming down with the Godzilla of migraines.

 

 

 

Wrath dialed his phone again.

Tohrment was obviously using caller ID and avoiding his ass.

Hell. He sucked at apologies, but he really wanted to get this one out on the table. Because it was going to be a doozy.

He took the cell phone with him to bed and leaned back against the headboard. He wanted to call Beth. Just to hear her voice.

Yeah, and he’d thought he was just going to waltz away after her transition? He could barely stand being away from her for a couple of hours.

Man, he had it bad for that female. He couldn’t believe what had come out of his mouth when she’d been making love to him. And then he’d topped off the simpering praise by calling her his leelan before she left.

He might as well admit it. He was probably falling in love.

And if that wasn’t enough of a shocker, she was half-human. As well as Darius’s daughter.

But how could he not adore her? She was so strong, with a will to match his own. He thought of her standing up to him, confronting him about his past. Few would have dared, and he knew where she got her courage from. Her father probably would have done the same thing.

When his cell phone went off, he flipped it open. “Yeah?”

“We got issues.” It was Vishous. “I just read the paper. Another dead prostitute. In an alley. Bled out.”

“So?”

“I hacked into the coroner’s database. In both cases, the females had had their necks chewed on.”

“Shit. Zsadist.”

“That’s what I’m thinking. I keep telling him he’s got to pull back. You have to talk with him.”

“Tonight. Tell the brothers to come here first. I’m going to set him straight in front of everyone.”

“Good plan. Then the rest of us can peel your hands from his throat when he mouths off.”

“Hey, you know where Tohr is? I can’t reach him.”

“No idea, but I’ll go to his house on the way over to D’s if you want.”

“Do that. He needs to be here tonight.” Wrath hung up.

Damn it. Someone was going to have to put a muzzle on Zsadist.

Or a dagger in his chest.

 

 

 

Butch let the car roll to a stop. He had no real hope Beth was going to be at the apartment, but he went to the lobby door and hit the buzzer anyway. No answer.

Surprise, surprise.

He walked around the side of the apartment building and through the courtyard. It was after dark, so he was not encouraged by her lights being off. He cupped his hands and leaned into the sliding glass door.

“Beth! Oh, God! Sweet Jesus!”

Her body was facedown on the floor, one arm extended in front of her toward a phone that was just out of reach. Her legs were sprawled, as if she’d been writhing in pain.

“No!” He pounded on the glass.

She moved a little, as if she’d heard him.

Butch went over to a window, whipped off his shoe, and pushed his hand deep inside the sole. He punched at the glass until it cracked and then shattered. As he reached in to free the lock, he cut himself, but he didn’t care if he lost an arm getting to her. He threw his body inside and knocked over a table as he lunged forward.

“Beth! Can you hear me?”

She opened her mouth. Worked it slowly. No words came out.

He looked for blood and found none, so he gingerly rolled her onto her back. She was pale as a grave marker, clammy, barely conscious. When she opened her eyes, her pupils were totally dilated.

He extended her arms, searching for track marks. There were none, but he wasn’t about to waste time stripping off her shoes and checking between her toes.

Butch flipped open his cell phone and dialed 911.

When the service picked up, he didn’t wait for the greeting. “I have a probable drug overdose.”

Beth’s hand fluttered up, and she started to shake her head. She was trying to bat the phone away.

“Baby, be still. I’m going to take care—”

The operator’s voice cut him off. “Sir? Hello?”

“Take me to Wrath,” Beth moaned.

“Fuck him.”

“Excuse me?” the operator said. “Sir, can you tell me what’s happening?”

“Drug overdose. I think it’s heroin. Her pupils are fixed and dilated. She hasn’t vomited yet—”

“Wrath, I need to go to Wrath.”

“—but she’s going in and out of consciousness—”

And then Beth jerked up from the floor and snatched the phone out of his hand. “I’m going to die….”

“The hell you are!” he yelled.

She gripped the front of his shirt. Her body shook, sweat staining the front of her T-shirt. “I need him.”

Butch stared into her eyes.

He’d been wrong. So very wrong. This wasn’t an OD. It was withdrawal.

He shook his head. “Baby, no.”

Please. I need him. Going to die.” Suddenly, she jackknifed into the fetal position, like a wave of pain had snapped her in half. The cell phone skittered out of her hand, out of reach. “Butch…please.”

Fuck. She looked bad. As in death’s-doorstep bad.

If he took her to an ER, she might die on the way over or while waiting to be treated. And methadone was meant to ease cravings, not pull an addict out of a free fall.

Fuck.

“Help me.”

“Goddamn him,” Butch said. “How far away?”

“Wallace.”

“Avenue?”

She nodded.

Butch couldn’t allow himself to think. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her out through the courtyard.

He was so going to nail that bastard.

 

 

 

Wrath crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall in the drawing room. The brothers stood around, waiting for him to speak.

And Tohr was there, though from the minute he’d come through the door with Vishous, he’d refused to meet Wrath’s eyes.

Fine, Wrath thought. We’ll just do this in public.

“My brothers, we’ve got two pieces of business.” He stared at Tohr’s face. “I have gravely injured one of you. Accordingly, I offer Tohrment a rythe.”

Tohr snapped to attention. The brothers likewise were surprised.

It was an unprecedented action, and he knew it. A rythe was essentially a free shot, and the one to whom it was offered could choose the weapon. Fist, dagger, gun, chains. It was a ritual way of assuaging honor, both for the offended and the offender. Both could be cleansed.

The shock in the room didn’t come from the act itself. The brothers were quite familiar with the ritual. Given their aggressive natures, every one of them at some time or another had offended the hell out of someone else.

But Wrath, for all his sins, had never offered a rythe before. Because according to vampire law, anyone who raised an arm or weapon to him could be condemned to die.

“In front of these witnesses, hear me now,” he said loudly and clearly. “I absolve you of the repercussions. Do you accept?”

Tohr’s head went down. He put his hands in the pockets of his leathers and slowly shook his head. “I cannot strike you, my lord.”

“And you cannot forgive me, can you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t blame you for that.” But man, he wished Tohr had accepted. They needed to be healed. “I will offer again at another time.”

“And I will ever decline.”

“So be it.” Wrath pegged Zsadist with a dark glare. “Now about your goddamned love life.”

Z, who’d been standing behind his twin, sauntered forward. “If anyone nailed Darius’s daughter, it was you, not me. What’s the problem?”

A couple of the brothers muttered curses under their breath.

Wrath bared his fangs.

“I’m going to let that pass, Z. But only because I know how much you like to get hit, and I’m not in the mood to make you happy.” He straightened, in case the brother lunged. “I want you to chill with the whores. Or at the very least, clean up after yourself.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We don’t need the heat.”

Zsadist glanced back at Phury, who said, “The bodies. The cops found them.”

“What bodies?”

Wrath shook his head. “Christ, Z. Do you think the cops are going to let two dead women left to bleed out in alleys slide?”

Zsadist came forward, getting so close their chests touched. “I don’t know dick about that. Smell me. I’m telling the truth.”

Wrath breathed deep. He caught the scent of outrage, a tangy flare in his nose like someone had blasted him with citrus air freshener. But there was no anxiety, no emotional subterfuge.

Trouble was, Z not only was a black-souled cutthroat, he was an accomplished liar.

“I know you too well,” Wrath said softly, “to believe any word you say.”

Z started to growl, and Phury moved fast, wrapping a thick forearm around his twin’s neck and hauling the brother back.

“Easy, Z,” Phury said.

Zsadist grabbed onto his twin’s wrist and yanked free. He glowed with hatred. “One of these days, my lord, I’m going to—”

A noise like cannonballs hitting a wall cut him off.

Someone was pounding the holy hell out of the front door.

The brothers left the drawing room and went to the foyer in a group. The sounds of weapons being drawn and cocked followed their heavy footfalls.

Wrath checked the video monitor that was mounted on the wall.

When he saw Beth in the cop’s arms, he stopped breathing. He threw open the front door and grabbed for her body as the man rushed inside.

This is it, he thought. She was in the transition.

The cop was vibrating with anger as Beth’s weight was transferred between them. “You goddamn son of a bitch. How can you do this to her?”

Wrath didn’t bother responding. Cradling Beth in his arms, he strode quickly through the knot of brothers. He could feel their astonishment, but he wasn’t about to stop and explain.

“Nobody kills the human but me,” he barked. “And he does not leave this house until I come back.”

Wrath sped into the drawing room. Pushed the painting aside. Ran down the stairs as fast as he could go.

Time was of the essence.

 

 

 

Butch watched the drug dealer disappear with Beth. Her head bounced as they rushed away, her hair a silken flag trailing behind them.

For a moment, he was utterly immobilized, caught between wanting to scream and needing to cry.

The waste. The horrible waste.

Then he heard the door shut and lock behind him. And realized he was surrounded by five of the meanest, biggest bastards he’d ever seen.

A hand landed on his shoulder like an anvil. “How’d you like to stay for dinner?”

Butch looked up. The guy was wearing a baseball cap and had some kind of marking—was that a tattoo, on his face?

“How’d you like to be dinner?” said another one, who looked like some kind of model.

Anger returned to Butch, thickening his muscles, strengthening his bones.

He jacked up his pants.

These boys wanna play? he thought. Fine. We’ll fucking dance.

To show he wasn’t afraid, he met each of them in the eye. The two who’d spoken. A relatively normal-looking one who was hanging back. Another guy with an outrageous mane of hair, the kind of stuff women would pay hundreds for at some ritzy salon.

And then the last man.

Butch stared at the scarred face. Black eyes glared back.

This fella, he thought, was the one to really watch out for.

With a deliberate shrug, he stepped free of the hold on his shoulder.

“Tell me something, boys,” he drawled. “Do you wear that leather to turn each other on? I mean, is it a dick thing with you all?”

Butch got slammed so hard against the door that his back teeth rattled.

The model shoved his perfect face into Butch’s. “I’d watch your mouth, if I were you.”

“Why bother, when you’re keeping an eye on it for me? You gonna kiss me now?”

A growl like none Butch had ever heard came out of the guy.

“Okay, okay.” The one who seemed the most normal came forward. “Back off, Rhage. Hey, come on. Let’s relax.”

It took a minute before the model let go.

“That’s right. We’re cool,” Mr. Normal muttered, clapping his buddy on the back before looking at Butch. “Do yourself a favor and shut the hell up.”

Butch shrugged. “Blondie’s dying to get his hands on me. I can’t help it.”

The guy launched back at Butch, and Mr. Normal rolled his eyes, letting his friend go this time.

The fist that came sailing at jaw level snapped Butch’s head to one side. As the pain hit, Butch let his own rage fly. The fear for Beth, the pent-up hatred of these lowlifes, the frustration about his job, all of it came out of him. He tackled the bigger man, taking him down onto the floor.

The guy was momentarily surprised, as if he hadn’t expected Butch’s speed or strength, and Butch took advantage of the hesitation. He clocked Blondie in the mouth as payback and then grabbed the guy’s throat.

One second later, Butch was flat on his back with the man sitting on his chest like a parked car.

The guy took Butch’s face into his hand and squeezed, crunching the features together. It was nearly impossible to breathe, and Butch panted shallowly.

“Maybe I’ll find your wife,” the guy said, “and do her a couple of times. How’s that sound?”

“Don’t have one.”

“Then I’m coming after your girlfriend.”

Butch dragged in some air. “Got no woman.”

“So if the chicks won’t do you, what makes you think I’d want to?”

“Was hoping to piss you off.”

Stunning electric-blue eyes narrowed.

They had to be contacts, Butch thought. No one really had peepers that color.

“Now why’d you want to do that?” Blondie asked.

“If I attacked first”—Butch hauled more breath into his lungs—“your boys wouldn’t have let us fight. Would’ve killed me first. Before I had a chance at you.”

Blondie loosened his grip a little and laughed as he stripped Butch of his wallet, keys, and cell phone.

“You know, I kind of like this big dummy,” the guy drawled.

Someone cleared a throat. Rather officiously.

Blondie leaped to his feet, and Butch rolled over, gasping. When he looked up, he was convinced he was hallucinating.

Standing in the hall was a little old man dressed in livery. Holding a silver tray. “Pardon me, gentlemen. Dinner will be served in about fifteen minutes.”

“Hey, are those the spinach crepes I like so much?” Blondie said, going for the tray.

“Yes, Sire.”

“Hot damn.”

The other men clustered around the butler, taking what he offered. Along with cocktail napkins. Like they didn’t want to drop anything on the floor.

What the hell was this?

“Might I ask a favor?” the butler said.

Mr. Normal nodded with vigor. “Bring out another tray of these and we’ll kill anything you want for you.”

Yeah, guess the guy wasn’t really normal. Just relatively so.

The butler smiled as if touched. “If you’re going to bloody the human, would you be good enough to do it in the backyard?”

“No problem.” Mr. Normal popped another crepe in his mouth. “Damn, Rhage, you’re right. These are awesome.”

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

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