He was born upon a winter’s night, during a historic blizzard’s gale. Deep within a damp and dirty cave, as the icy gusts threatened the earthen womb, the female who bore him had screamed and bled to bring forth unto the Black Dagger Brother Hharm the son that had been demanded of her.
Xcor had been breach. The first of many of his wrongs, and mayhap the only one that had not been his fault. And he had been wanted… until his face had emerged.
His physical defects overshadowed even the triumph of his gender, and thusly, his sire had leveled the care of his nascent self as a curse upon his mahmen, a punishment for her failure to gestate a proper offspring.
And that was the beginning of his story… which had landed him here.
In another cave. On another December’s eve. And as with his actual birth, the wind howled to greet him, although this time, it was a return to consciousness as opposed to an expelling to independent life that awoke him.
As with a newly born young, he had little control over his body. Incapacitated he was, and that would have been true even without the steel chains and bars that were locked across his chest, his hips, his thighs. Machines, at odds with the rustic environs, beeped behind his head, monitoring his respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood was keeping him alive… so that they could kill him.
And as his brain began to function properly behind his skull, as thoughts finally coalesced and formed rational sequences, he recalled the series of events that had landed him, the leader of the Band of Bastards, in the custody of what had been his enemies: an attack upon him from behind, a concussive fall, a stroke or some such that had rendered him prone and on life support at the non-extant mercy of the Brothers.
Xcor had surfaced once or twice during his captivity, but the connectivity in his mental arena had been unsustainable for any length of time.
This was different. He could sense the shift within his flesh. Whate’er had been injured had finally healed. He was back from the foggy landscape of neither-life-nor-death.
Even with his eyes closed, he could not feign unconsciousness forever.
“… really worry about is Tohr.”
The tail end of the sentence uttered by a male entered his ear as a series of vibrations, the translation of which was on a delay. But the name…
“Nah, he’s tight.” There was a soft scratching sound and then he smelled rich tobacco. “And if he slips up, I’ll be there.”
The deep voice who had first been speaking got dry. “To chain him back in line — or help him murder this piece of meat?”
The Brother Vishous — yes, that was who it was — laughed like a serial killer. “Such a dim f—ing view of me you have.”
It was a wonder they were not better aligned, Xcor thought.
Then again, the Brotherhood and the Bastards had been on different sides of Wrath’s kingship. Indeed, the bullet Xcor had put into the throat of the lawful leader of the vampire race had been a clarifying event when it came to affiliation.
Since that time, however, there had been a countervailing force that had interceded upon his destiny.
The image that came to his mind was of a tall, slender female in the white robing of one of the Scribe Virgin’s Chosen. Her blond hair waved down o’er her shoulders and trailed off on a gentle breeze, and her eyes were the color of jade, and her smile was a benediction he had done naught to deserve.
The Chosen Layla had changed everything for him, recasting the Brotherhood from target to tolerable, from enemy to co-existable tenant in the world.
She had had more effect upon his black soul that e’erone who had come before, evolving him a greater distance in a lesser time that he would have thought possible.
“I almost want Tohr to get in here and rip him the f— apart. He’s earned the right.”
The Brother Vishous cursed. “We all have. F—ing traitor. The hardest thing about this is gonna be making sure there’s anything left at the end for Tohr to have at.”
And herein was the problem, Xcor thought behind his closed lids. His evolution was unknown to his previous enemy- and the only way out of this deadly scenario was to reveal the love he’d found with a female who was not his, had never been, and was not going to be.
But he would not sacrifice The Chosen Layla for anyone.
Not even to save himself…
Excerpted from The Chosen by J.R. Ward Copyright © 2017 by J.R. Ward. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.