BDB and BDL


THE CHOSEN (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15) by J. R. Ward

April 4th, 2017
The Black Dagger Brotherhood has won a major victory over the Lessening Society, but the threat to their way of life is ever-present and life for the brotherhood is as chaotic as ever. Xcor, a tortured soul and a member of the brotherhood’s rival group, is in custody waiting to be beaten and interrogated. They believe he is a major threat, but Layla knows the truth.

Although she has just given birth to two infants, thoughts of Xcor consume her. He has fallen in love with Layla, but they both know it is impossible to be together unless the brotherhood gives Xcor a chance to prove himself. Their connection could end Xcor’s lifetime of agonizing loneliness or tear apart everything Layla holds dear.





EXCERPT


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.


from http://www.ew.com/article/2016/08/10/excerpt-jr-ward-chosen-exclusive 


 












THE BEAST: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward

   April 5th, 2016
Rhage and Mary return in a new novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a series “so popular, I don’t think there’s a reader today who hasn’t at least heard of [it]. 

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from... 

 


Chapter 1


The Brownswick School for Girls, Caldwell, NY

Ants under the skin.

As Rhage transferred his weight from one shitkicker to the other, he felt like his bloodstream had come to a soft boil and the bubbles were tickling the underside of every fucking square inch of his flesh. And that wasn’t the half of it. Random muscle fibers misfired all over his body, the spasms causing fingers to twitch, knees to jerk, shoulders to tighten like he was about to go tennis racket on something.

For the one millionth time since he’d materialized into his position, he peeper-swept the ragged, overgrown meadow up ahead. Back when the Brownswick School for Girls had been a functioning entity, the field in front of him had no doubt been a rolling lawn that had been well mowed in the spring and summer, deleafed in the autumn, and snow-covered pretty as a children’s book in the winter. Now, it was a touch-football field from hell, studded and tangled with gnarled bushes that could do more than just aesthetic damage to a guy’s crotchticular region, saplings that were the ugly, misshapen stepchildren of the more mature maples and oaks, and late October-brown long grass that could trip you like a little bitch if you were trying to sprint.

Likewise, the brick buildings, which had sheltered and provided instructional spaces to the privileged elite’s offspring, were aging badly without regular maintenance: windows broken, doors rotting, off-kilter shutters opening and shutting in the cold wind as if the ghosts couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be seen or just heard.

It was the campus from Dead Poets Society. Assuming everyone had packed up after the movie had been shot in 1988 and nobody had touched a fucking thing since.

But the facilities were not empty.

As Rhage took a deep inhale, his gag reflex did a couple of push-ups in the back of his throat. So many lessers were hiding in the abandoned dormitories and classrooms that it was impossible to isolate individual scents from the sinus-numbing stench of the whole. Christ, it was like putting your face in a chum bucket and inhaling like the world were about to run out of oxygen.

Assuming someone had added baby powder to all the day-old fish heads and goo.

For that sweet finish, don’tcha know.

As his skin went on another shimmy-shimmy, he told his curse to hold its hey-nannies, that hell yeah, it was going to get let off the chain tonight. He wasn’t even going to try to hold the damn thing in—not that trying to throw the brakes on was ever successful, anyway—and whereas giving the beast free rein was not always a good thing, tonight it was going to be an offensive bene. The Black Dagger Brotherhood was facing how many lessers? Fifty? A hundred and fifty?

That was a lot to handle, even for them—so yeah, his little . . . present . . . from the Scribe Virgin was going to come in handy.

Talk about your ringer from out of town. Over a century ago, the Mother of the Race had given him his own personal T.O. system, a behavior modification program that was so onerous, so unpleasant, so overwhelming that it did, in fact, manage to bring him back from the brink of total douche-baggery. Courtesy of the dragon, unless he managed his energy levels properly and moderated his emotions, all hell broke loose.

Literally.

In the course of the last century, he had become largely successful at making sure the thing didn’t eat his nearest and dearest, or get them on the nightly news with a “Jurassic Park Is Alive” headline. But with what he and his brothers were facing right now—and how isolated this campus was? If they were lucky, the great purple-scaled bastard with the chain-saw teeth and hollow-legged hangry was going to get his Nobu on. Although, again, a lesser-only diet was what they were looking for.

No brothers as Hot Pockets, please. And no humans as tapas or dessert, thank you very much.

The latter was more out of discretion than affection. Shit knew those rats without tails never went anywhere without two things: a half dozen of their evolutionarily inferior, nocturnally codependent, fuck-twit buddies, and their goddamn cell phones. Man, YouTube was a total pain in the ass when you wanted to keep your war with the undead under wraps. For nearly two thousand years, vampires fighting the Omega’s Lessening Society had been no one else’s business except for the combatants involved, and the fact that humans couldn’t stick to their core competencies of ruining the environment and telling each other what to think and say was only one of the reasons he hated them.

Fucking Internet.

Changing gears so he didn’t get loose too soon, Rhage GoPro’d his vision to a male taking cover about twenty feet away from him. Assail, son of Whoever-the-Fuck, was dressed in funeral-cortege black, his Dracula-dark hair requiring no camouflage, his handsome-as-sin face furrowed so tight with murder that you had to respect the guy. Talk about doing a solid—and a one-eighty. The drug dealer had come through for the Brotherhood, making good on his promise to cut business ties with the Lessening Society by delivering the Fore-lesser’s head in a box to Wrath’s feet.

He’d also divulged the location of this bolt-hole the slayers had been using as HQ.

Annnnnd that was how everyone had ended up here, up to their nuts in the overgrowth, waiting for the countdown on their V-synchronized watches to hit 0:00.

But this attack wasn’t some bullshit, buckshot approach to the enemy. After a number of nights—and days, thanks to Lassiter, a.k.a. 00-a-hole, having done recon during sunshine hours—the attack was properly coordinated, staged, and ready for execution. All of the fighters were here: Z and Phury, Butch and V, Tohr and John Matthew, Qhuinn and Blay, as well as Assail and his two cousins, Fang I and II.

’Cuz who cared what their names were as long as they showed up weaponized with plenty of ammo.

The Brotherhood medical personnel were also on standby in the area, with Manny in his mobile surgical unit about a mile away and Jane and Ehlena in one of the vans at a two-mile radius.

Rhage checked his watch. Six minutes and change.

As his left eye started to do the stanky leg, he cursed. How the fuck was he going to hold his position for that long?

Baring his fangs, he exhaled through his nose, blowing out twin streams of condensed breath that were nothing short of a bull’s charging notice.

Christ, he couldn’t remember the last time he was this juiced. And he didn’t want to think about the why of it. In fact, he’d been avoiding the whole why thing for how long?

Since he and Mary had hit this strange rough spot and he’d started to feel—

“Rhage.”

His name was whispered so softly he wrenched around, because he wasn’t sure whether or not his subconscious had decided to start talking to him. Nope. It was Vishous- and given his brother’s expression, Rhage would have preferred to be pulling a split-personality on himself. Those diamond eyes were flashing with a bad light. And those tattoos around that temple were so not helping.

The goatee was a neutral- unless you assessed it on style. In which case the fucker was a travesty of Rogaine proportions.

Rhage shook his head. “Shouldn’t you get into position—”

“I’ve seen this night.”

Oh, hell, no, Rhage thought. Nope, you are not doing this to me right now, my brother.

Turning away, he muttered, “Spare me the Vincent Price, ‘kay? Or are you trying for the guy who does the movie-trailer voice-overs—”

“Rhage.”

“—’cuz you got a future in that. ‘In a world . . . where people need . . . to shut up and do their jobs—’”

“Rhage.”

When he didn’t look back, V came around and glared up at him, those fucking pale eyes a twin set of nuclear blasts that spelled mushroom cloud forward and backward. “I want you to go home. Now.”

Rhage opened his mouth. Clapped it shut. Opened it again—and had to remind himself to keep his voice down. “Look, it’s not a good time for your one-eight-hundred psychic headquarters shit-”

The brother snapped a hold on his arm and squeezed. “Go home. I’m not fucking you.”

Cold terror washed through Rhage’s veins, bottoming out his body temperature—and yet he shook his head again. “Fuck off, Vishous. Seriously.”
No, thank you, Rhage thought. I gave at the office.

He was not interested in testing out any more of the Scribe Virgin’s magic. He wasn’t—

“You’re going to fucking die tonight.”


EXCERPTS


Mary tripped over something—oh, God, it was a lesser that was missing an arm—and kept going, blowing another whistle. And a third—-
The beast froze, his flanks pumping in and out, purple scales flashing in the darkness as if the thing were lit from within by an electrical source.
The fourth whistle brought its head around.
Slowing her run, Mary cupped her hands to her mouth. “Come here! Come on, boy!”
Like the beast was just the world’s largest dog.
The dragon let out a chuff and then blew through its nostrils, the sound something between a whoopee cushion and a jet engine taking off.
“Come here, you!” she said. “Leave that alone. It’s not yours...”



Mary was up on her tiptoes, leaning over the top of the bureau, trying to put a pearl stud into her earlobe and missing the hole. With her head titled to the side, her deep brown hair flowed over her shoulder, and man, he just wanted to stroke the stuff. And what do you know that wasn't the only thing he wanted to get his hands on. The clean cut of her jaw caught and held the light from the crystal sconce on the wall and her cream silk blouse draped over her breasts and her slacks fell to her flats. No make up on her. No perfume.
But that would be like touching up the Mona Lisa or hitting a rose bush with some Febreeze.
There were a hundred thousand ways to detail his mate's physical attributes and not one single sentence, or indeed an entire book, that could come close to describing her presence.
She was the watch on his wrist, the roast beef when he was starving, and the pitcher of lemonade when he was thirsty. She was his chapel and his choir, the mountain range to his wanderlust, the library for his curiosity and every sunrise and sunset that ever was or would ever be. With one look or the mere syllable of a word, she had the power to transform his mood, giving him flight even as his feet stayed on the ground. With a single touch, she could chain his inner dragon, or make him come before he was even hard. She was all the power in the universe coalesced into a living, breathing thing, the miracle that he had been granted in spite of the fact that he had long been undeserving.
Quite simply, Mary was his life.
Yeah... even after all this time, he was still feelin' her.

-The Beast, pg. 8 of the manuscript




"I love you, too." He tucked her hair behind her ear and massaged her shoulders. "And, Mary... it's all going to be okay. I promise."
"They might not let us have her. Even if she wants us."
"Why?"
"You know why. We're not exactly 'normal,' Rhage."
"Who is?"


-The Beast, pg. 351





As V bared his fangs, Rhage shook his head. "You might want to rethink the attitude. My brother's looking like he wants to turn you into confetti."
"Well?" Throe pressed. "Did you send him to seduce me? You'd have more luck with a female- not that you would find aught out from the effort. I am retired from all conflict."
"You risked your life," V said, "to send this message, true?"
"I thought it would mean more if it were in person."
"You vastly overestimate your appeal. Or the significance of your sexual orientation."
 

-THE BEAST, pg. 318-319



How did it come to this? Qhuinn wondered silently.
But as soon as the thought hit him, he shook his head. What the f**k had he assumed was going to happen with two young in there?
"Is she all right?" he barked. "Are they alive?"
"Here comes one," Blay said roughly...
 
-THE BEAST, pg. 417




Rhage: What the hell are you doing?
Lassiter: *looks up from booklet* Did you know that that Dyson over there never loses suction?
Rhage: *eyes vacuum cleaner* You're reading an instruction manual. For a vacuum.
Lassiter: *flips through* Do I need to go buy you another snorkle set?
Rhage: F*** you. And what a waste of time. You're never going to use the damn thing. First of all, Fritz would get twitchy. And second, the idea of you cleaning anything is to terrifying to contemplate.
Lassiter: Not what I'm after.
Rhage: So you're looking at the pictures. Are you really that sad.
Lassiter: I want dating tips for it.
Rhage: *blinks*
Lassiter: *glances up* It. Never. Loses. Suction.
Rhage: *blinks*
V: *shaking his head over at the pool table* If he won't say it, I will. You are a g**damn FREAK.
Lassiter: This coming from you, black wax, boy?


You can get a personalized copy at 
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BLOOD VOW (Black Dagger Legacy #2) by J. R. Ward

December 6th, 2016 

Trainees at the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center continue to prepare for the war against the Lessening Society, but fighting is the last thing on Axe’s mind. Still plagued with the guilt of his father’s death, the brooding loner finds himself battling an unlikely attraction to Peyton’s enticing, aristocratic cousin, Elise. Elise feels it, too – especially when the two are thrown together in unusual circumstances, and she must decide whether she can trust Axe as she uncovers the mystery surrounding her sister’s death.

Meanwhile, Mary and Rhage are fostering Bitty, a young pretrans orphan, and hope to adopt her… until the appearance of a young male claiming to be Bitty’s blooded uncle threatens to tear the new family apart.








EXCERPTS


CHAPTER TWO


The Black Dagger Brotherhood Mansion


So what is that?”
As Rhage’s daughter piped up, he froze with his gun halfway into his under-arm holster. For a split second, he decided to pretend that he hadn’t heard her—but that was going to get him nowhere. In the two months or so that he and Mary had had Bitty, they’d both learned that she was smart as a whip and tenacious as flypaper.
Ordinarily, he got a kick out of those two defining characteristics. When it came to describing the technical specs of a forty-caliber killing weapon to his thirteen-year-old? Pass. He wished she had an empty skull and ADD.
Ah . . .”
He glanced into the mirror over the bureau, hoping against hope that she had moved on to something, anything else. Nope. Bitty was sitting on his and Mary’s new bed, the one in the third-floor suite that Trez had graciously moved out of so the three of them could have adjoining rooms. The girl was way on the small side, her skinny arms and legs the kind of thing that made him want to move to the tropics instead of live in Upstate New Freezing-Fucking-Cold. Hell, even under a body weight’s worth of fleece, she seemed fragile.
But the oh, dainties ended right there. Her brown eyes were direct as an adult’s, old as a mountain range, keen as an eagle’s. Her dark hair was thick and shiny, falling past her shoulders, nearly the exact color of Mary’s. And her aura, her . . . whatever, life force, spirit, soul . . . was as tangible as her physical form seemed almost transient.
He took pride in the fact that the longer she stayed with them, the more she was emerging. Not like a flower.
Like a fucking oak.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut that didn’t mean he wanted to get into the nitty gritty of his job killing lessers with her.
And nope. Really not interested in the whole birds-and-bees talk, either. At least they had another twelve years or so to prepare for that.
Father?” she prompted.
Rhage closed his eyes. Okay, so every time she called him that, his heart got too big for his chest and this unreal, won-the-lottery feeling sunrised all over him. It took him back to right after he and Mary had been mated and he’d gotten to call her shellan for the first time.
Pure, full-bore awesomeness.
What is it?” Bitty prompted.
That happy pink bubblegum glow faded as he seated the gun and clipped its strap over the butt. “It’s a weapon.”
I know—it’s a gun. But what kind?”
A Smith and Wesson forty.”
How many bullets are in it?”
Enough.” He picked up his leather jacket and smiled. “Hey, you ready for movie night when I get home?”
Why don’t you want to tell me about your gun?”
Because if you’re the audience, I can’t separate what I do with it from a discussion of its specs. “It’s just not all that interesting.”
It’s what keeps you alive, though, right?” The little girl’s eyes locked on the black daggers that were holstered on his chest, handles down. “Like your knives.”
Among other things.”
So that’s interesting. To me, at least.”
Look, how ’bout we talk about this when your mom and I are both here? You know, like, later tonight.”
But how do I know you’ll come home safe?”
Rhage blinked. “I am never not coming back to you and Mary.”
What if you die, though?”
His first thought was:
MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARY!
His Mary, as a trained therapist—who had treated Z with all his demons, for godsakes—could deal with this so much better than some meathead fighter like him could. But his shellan was at Safe Place, working, and he didn’t feel right about calling and possibly interrupting her with anything other than an arterial bleed or a house fire. Zombie apocalypse. H-bomb behind the compound.
And fine, maybe if they were out of cheesecake.
Except he needed to man up. What was going down right now? This was Father Shit, and not only had he signed up for exactly these kinds of hard conversations when he and Mary had started the adoption process, he really didn’t want to admit this early that he couldn’t handle the job.
Okay, note to self: Find an online course on being a father. Surely there had to be a curriculum for this kind of thing.
I’m just worried,” she said. “It’s scary for me, okay?”
Jesus, it was scary for him, too. He had so much more to lose with her in his life.
Rhage went over and knelt down. Bitty had tucked her arms around herself and her eyes were steady as if she were not going to accept a load of bullcrap.
Opening his mouth, he . . .
Closed it. And wondered what he needed to do to jump-start his brain. Maybe bang it into a wall?
You know my car?” he heard himself say.
As Bitty nodded, he had an image of Puskar Nepal–ing himself until he passed the fuck out from foot-to-forehead contact: Of all the things for his subconscious, or whatever was running his program, to spit out, he led with his GTO?
Well, you know when I was teaching you to drive?”
Yeah, Bits, right before those kids attacked Mary and you found out that I have a dragon for an alter ego? Har-har, good times, good times.
God, he wanted to throw up.
As she nodded again, he said, “You remember when you were figuring out the gears and the steering wheel and the brakes? Going back and forth, again and again, until you could get it right?”
Yes.”
You know how I drive that car?”
Oh, yes.” Now, she smiled. “Fast. Very fast and fun. It’s like a rocket.”
So, someday, you’re going to drive her just as well as I do. You’re going to know where the gears are by feel, and you’re going to work the clutch and the gas without thought. And if someone swerves in front of you, you’re going to react so quick and so sure, you’re not going to be aware of even thinking about it. If somebody slams on the brakes, you’re going to shift lanes instinctually. You’re going to feel the tires hydroplaning on the highway in the rain and you’re going to know to slow up on the gas, but not hit the brakes. And all of that is going to happen because you’re going to practice, practice, practice on a car that is kept in tip-top shape.”
I’m going to practice. So I drive better.”
Right. Even if the people around you drive dangerously, you’re going to be aware and focused and trained to deal with whatever comes at you.” He put his palm over his daggers, over his heart. “I have been out there fighting for a century, Bitty. And everything I take with me into the field—the weapons, the gear, the support in the form of my brothers—all of it is engineered to keep me safe. Is it a perfect system? No. But it’s the best it gets, I promise you that.”
Bitty’s arms uncoiled and she looked down. The pink and green bracelet on her wrist was made out of faceted beads that sparkled like real gems. Moving the thing around and around, she took a deep breath.
Are you . . . good at it? I mean, the fighting?”
God, he wished he was an accountant. He really did. Because if he were some pocket-protector’d numbers cruncher, he wouldn’t be having to tell an innocent that he excelled at killing things.
Are you?” she prompted.
I’m very good at keeping myself and my brothers safe. I’m so good at it, they’re having me teach younger people how to do it.”
She nodded once again. “That’s what they were saying. At Last Meal the other night. I heard people talking about you and the other Brothers teaching people.”
That’s where I’m heading right now. While you hang here with Bella and Nalla, I’m meeting the trainee class out in Caldwell to show them how to stay safe.”
Bitty tilted her head, her brown hair cascading over her shoulder. And he let her stare at him for as long as she wanted. If that made him a little late to work, who cared.
You must be really good at it to be a teacher.”
I am. I swear to you, Bitty. I am effective and I take no more chances than I absolutely have to in order to get my job done.”
And the beast will keep you safe, won’t he.”
Rhage nodded. “You better believe it. You saw him. You know what he’s like.”
She smiled, sunshine replacing the worry. “He likes me.”
He loves you. But he doesn’t love people who get aggressive with me.”
That makes me feel better.”
Good.” He put his palms up, and as she high-fived him, he said, “You’re never going to be alone, Bitty. I promise you.”
In that moment, as he sought to relieve any and all of her anxiety— and his own, for that matter—he nearly came out with the one thing Bitty didn’t know about her adoptive parents. Yes, her new old man had a dragon living under his skin, but her new mom had an even fancier secret.
Mary was a unique flavor of immortal. Thanks to the Scribe Virgin— and this remained true even though V’s mahmen was no longer in charge—Mary did not age, and could choose when she went unto the Fade. It was a gift beyond measure, insulating this family in ways that other people’s weren’t.
Except Rhage stayed quiet on that front. Even though the knowledge might have helped Bitty in the moment, he really felt like it was Mary’s information to share, not his.
You’re never going to be alone, Bitty,” he repeated. “I swear to you.”
***
As Mary sat behind her desk at Safe Place, she put her bag down and shrugged out of her parka. Extending her arm, she pulled the sleeve of her turtleneck up and smiled at the pink and green bracelet that twinkled at her wrist.
She and Bitty had made matching ones the other night, the pair of them sitting at Fritz’s kitchen table in the mansion, a jewelry-making kit spread out everywhere, a huge array of clear plastic boxes holding a rainbow’s worth of iridescent beads. They had talked about nothing and everything, and greeted each person who came in, and split a bag of Combos and a Mountain Dew. They had also made a necklace for Rhage, a different-colored bracelet for Lassiter, and braid for Nalla to play with. And even Boo had come over and curled up to watch, the black cat’s green eyes inspecting everything.
In a mansion full of priceless stuff? That time together had been the most precious, irreplaceable thing.
Looking across her desk, Mary reached out and picked up a photograph of Bitty from two weeks before, when the little girl had been taking selfies with Rhage’s phone. Bit was making a crazy face, her dark hair back-brushed until she looked like something out of an eighties glam metal band.
And in fact, Lassiter was over on the left, doing his best Nikki Sixx impression.
Unexpected tears pricked Mary’s eyes. In all her life, she had never expected to be a woman who had pictures of a daughter at her work desk. Nah, that hypothetical, blessed, stranger of a person, that lucky female who had a husband and a family, and holidays to look forward to, and homemade things on her wrist? That had always been someone else, a stranger whose reality was something you watched on TV or saw in Maytag ads or overheard at the table next door in a restaurant.
While you were eating alone.
Mary Luce was the nurse to an ailing mother who had died horribly and too young. Mary Luce was the cancer survivor left infertile after chemo. Mary Luce was the ghost on the fringes, the shadow that passed unnoticed through a room, an allegory of where you didn’t want to end up.
Except life had corkscrewed on her in the best of all possible ways. Now? She was exactly where she had never even dared to dream of being.
And yup, this unexpected destiny came with a not-too-small dose of PTSD. Hell, sometimes, when she woke up next to her gorgeous vampire of a husband? And especially now, when she tiptoed into another bedroom to check on Bitty at nightfall? She expected to wake up, back in her nightmare of a real life.
But no, she thought as she put the picture down. This was the real stuff. Here and now was the story she was living.
And it was . . . amazing. So full of love, family, and happiness that it felt as though the sun lived in the center of her chest.
They were all survivors, her, Rhage, and Bitty. She of her illness. Rhage of the curse he had to live with. Bitty of the unimaginable domestic abuse she and her mahmen had suffered at the hands of her birth father. The three of their lives had started to intersect here, at Safe Place, when Bitty and her mahmen had come in seeking shelter. And then Bitty’s mother had died, leaving her an orphan.
The opportunity to take the girl in had seemed too good to be true. It still did, sometimes.
If they could just get through this six-month waiting period, the adoption would be final and Mary could take a deep breath. At least there were no relatives coming forward. Even though Bitty had talked initially about some uncle, her mother had never mentioned having a brother or disclosed anything about any blood relations, either during intake or in subsequent therapy sessions. Notices posted on closed Facebook and Yahoo groups had yielded nothing so far.
God willing, it would stay that way.
On that note, Mary signed in to the computer network, her heart starting to bang in her ribs, a sick flush blooming in her body. As social media aficionados went, she was below amateur status, the anti-Kardashian—and yet every night, but only once a night, she hopped onto Facebook.
And prayed she found nothing.
The FB group she checked was one specifically devoted to vampires, its closed roster restricted to members of the species. Created by V after the raids, moderated by Fritz’s staff, the clearinghouse was an opportunity for folks to connect about anything from safe-house locations—always in code—to garage sales.
Scanning the posts in the last twenty-four hours, she exhaled in a rush. Not at thing.
The relief made her office spin around—at least until she went to check the Yahoo group. Recipe for Crock-Pot. Knitting group having a meeting . . . snowblower for sale . . . question about where to get a computer fixed . . .
Also nothing.
Thank you, God,” she whispered as she put another small check on her wall calendar.
Almost to the end of December, which meant they were nearly two whole months down. By May? They could move forward.
As her heart shifted out of tachycardia, she wondered how in the hell she was going to face this IT gauntlet another hundred and thirty times or so. But she had no other choice. The good news was that she was able to stick to this once-and-only-once-a-night check. Otherwise she’d be on her damn phone every fifteen minutes.
She had to be fair, though, to whoever else might be out there. Extinguishing parental rights in blood relations was serious business, and with no modern precedents in the vampire race to follow, she, Marissa, as head of Safe Place, Wrath, the Blind King, and Saxton, the King’s head counsel, had had to devise a procedure that provided an adequate notice period.
Emotions did not have waiting periods, however, and moms and dads who loved their kids couldn’t toggle back the speed of their hearts.
As if Marissa could read minds, the female put her head in the open doorway. “Anything?”
Mary smiled at her boss and her dear friend. “Nothing. I swear, I have never been more excited for May to get here.”
I’ve always had a good feeling about this, you know.”
I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m staying quiet.” Mary focused on the calendar again. “Hey, I’m not going to be in tomorrow night. Bitty’s got her physical exam scheduled.”
Oh, that’s right. Good luck—and it’s too bad you have to go all the way in to Havers’s.”
Doc Jane says she just doesn’t have the appropriate knowledge base. Pediatrics for vampires is a thing, apparently.”
Marissa smiled gently. “Well, my brother may be complicated for me personally, but I have never questioned his ability to provide good care to his patients. Bitty couldn’t be in better hands.”
I’d really rather just keep her with us at the training center’s clinic. But at the end of the day, what’s right for her is all we care about.”
That’s called being a good parent.”
Mary looked at her bracelet. “Amen to that.”




I knew you would come after me,” she said roughly.
“And I knew you’d be waiting.”
She kicked up her chin. “I wasn’t waiting.”
“If I hadn’t rushed out here, you would have.”
Axe liked the way her jaw set like he was pi&&ing her off. But then
she smiled. “If you knew I’d wait for you, why did you rush?”
“You’re worth it.”
She opened her mouth as if she had expected him to say something
else and had something prepared. Shaking her head, she smiled some more as she glanced away. “Isn’t that a line from a hair ad.”
“I wouldn’t know.”


-BLOOD VOW, pg. 54





No, Axe told his libido. No, absolutely not. You are not going to have that female. 
Forget it. Drop it. Walk away. 
FFS, it was like he was talking at recalcitrant dog.

 
-BLOOD VOW, pg. 51






Bitty started to scream in pain.

And no more than a split second later, a brilliant light flashed through the exam room, as bright as an explosion.
At first, Mary thought the overhead fixtures had gone out, but then her brain made a horrible connection.
Ripping her eyes away from Havers, she looked at Rhage in horror. “No, not now!”
But it was too late.
The beast had been triggered.

-Blood Vow, pg. 89



The way Elise saw it, having already been caught sneaking be­hind her father’s back, it wasn’t as if she could get in any worse trouble by going out one last time before the sehclusion ham­mer fell and she was locked in. Besides, Peyton was going to be with his fellow trainees. What could be safer than joining him?
The bottom line was that he was the only person she could think of to go to. Maybe there was a way out, a way to … she didn’t know.
“Let me introduce you,” her cousin was saying as he indicated the people sitting in a circle of heavy chairs.
Elise would have preferred to catch him alone, but she wasn’t going to miss her chance. Besides, they could always step off into a corner together.
“This is Craeg—and you know Paradise.”
Elise lifted her hand to the female. “Hi, wow, hello.”
Paradise was the daughter of the King’s First Advisor, a high-bred descendant of a Founding Family—and yet she had somehow man­aged to talk her way out of traditional roles and into the Brotherhood’s training program. As a soldier. A fighter.
Maybe she could give some advice?
“That’s Boone, Novo … and Axe.”
Elise nodded at each of the trainees—until she got to the last one. Then she wasn’t sure what she did.
Maybe she had a seizure? Or a spontaneous concussion? Because sure enough, she forgot about everything and everybody the instant she met his eyes, with the cigar bar, the humans around them, and even her reason for coming out disappearing as if someone had hit the world with a dry eraser.
He was extraordinary.
Or maybe … extraordinarily dangerous was more like it.
However she defined the effect of him, she had a sixth sense he was going to change her life.
The male was sitting outside the dim pool of light that fell from the ceiling, shadows blanketing him as if protecting one of their own. He had dark hair, black hair, that was thick and spiky, and a huge body that was arranged like he could spring forward on an attack in the blink of an eye. The tattoos that ran up half of his neck and piercings that marked his left ear and brow made him seem even more sinister. And then there were his clothes, black and draped over him, suggesting there could be weapons underneath.
With his chin dropped to his chest, he was staring at her from under his brows, his pale yellow eyes glowing as they locked on her and her alone.
Her first cogent thought was that he was a predator.
Her second … was that she wanted to be caught.
“Elise?”
As Peyton said her name and stepped in between them, she shook herself. “Sorry, what?”
Her cousin’s frown suggested he’d noticed the connection, and—no surprise—he didn’t approve. Then again, with the way that male in the corner was looking at her? You didn’t have to be a possessive blood relative to not want any female anywhere near the guy.

Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy #1) by J. R. Ward 

 

         December 1st, 2015
The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…

Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself...be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated--and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power...on the field, and off. 


EXCERPT




As Butch stood in the mansion’s grand foyer, he frowned and looked at his phone.  He’d checked the time on his Audemars Piguet watch about three minutes prior, and figured his Samsung whatever-the-f*ck-it was might give him an answer he could live with better.

 Negative.

 And his seventh call to his mate Marissa went unanswered.  Just like the other six.

 Off in the distance, the sounds of Last Meal being consumed bubbled out of the dining room.  

 For no good reason, he thought about the first night he’d listened to sounds like that.  It had been over at what was now the audience house.  He’d been a homicide detective back then, out of control and looking for a source of total immolation so that he could just be done with life.  

 And then came the rabbit hole.

 Beth had gone down it first, her mixed heritage as half human, half vampire sucking her in.  His entree had been something else entirely...

 If you’re going to bloody the human, would you be good enough to do it in the backyard? Fritz had asked the Brothers.

 “Have you reached her?”

 Butch closed his eyes at the sound of that familiar male voice.  Even though it was not even partially true, sometimes he felt like Vishous’s acerbic mutter had been in his head for his entire life.

 “No,” Butch said.  "She's not answering... something is wrong."

-Blood Kiss, pg. 25-26


 
"Do me a favor," Craeg said. "You see that rock over there?"
Paradise glanced to the left. "That one? That's the size of an ice cooler?"
"Yeah. Could you pick it up and drop it on my head? That'd be great. Thanks."


-BLOOD KISS, pg. 102