Home > Blood Truth (Black Dagger Legacy #4)(3)

Blood Truth (Black Dagger Legacy #4)(3)
Author: J.R. Ward

As that hard stare locked on Boone, it was not a surprise that the male ignored Rochelle. To him, females were nothing but background, something pretty on the periphery, an accessory rather than an active participant in one’s life.

Boone got to his feet. “Rochelle has come to tell me I am not worthy of our arrangement. She has rejected me, and because she has honor, she wanted to do it in person. She is taking her leave the now.”

He could feel Rochelle looking at him in shock, but he was prepared to shoot down any attempt she might make to deny what he’d laid out. Meanwhile, over Altamere’s shoulder, Marquist was a watchful presence, a living, breathing camcorder that was taking everything in.

“You are not going to embarrass me like this,” Altamere hissed. “I will not allow it.”

As if he sensed there was a deeper story.

The anger that had curdled in Boone’s chest found further purchase in his very soul. “The choice is not yours to make.”

“You are my son. It is no one else’s—”

“Bullshit.” As his sire blanched at the curse word, Boone’s voice grew deeper and louder. “We’re done with me trying to please you. I was never very good at it, anyway—at least not according to you, and it is beyond time that I stand up for myself.”

In the back of his mind, the tally of his sire’s neglect and condescension was like an electric meter going haywire, the count spiraling up into the stratosphere: Boone’s body type. Boone’s desire to read rather than be social. Boone’s mahmen’s death ignored. Boone’s stepmahmen entering the house like a cold draft. Boone’s never measuring up no matter what the standard.

Altamere jabbed a finger in Boone’s direction. “I’m giving you one last chance. I don’t know what the two of you are doing with this nonsense, but it stops here. The mating goes forward, or you’re going to find that how the glymera shuns you holds not a candle to what I will do to shut you out.”

Rochelle burst to her feet. “It is I who is unworthy of him—”

“I’m not afraid of you,” Boone interrupted with clarity. “And you’re right, sire mine, things are going to change around here.”

Altamere narrowed his eyes. “What’s gotten into you?”

Boone slowly shook his head. “This has been a long time coming. What is that economic theory you quote so often? That which cannot continue, does not. I’m done with living lies.”

As he stared into the eyes of the male who was supposedly his sire, he challenged Altamere to keep pushing him. And made it clear, at least psychically, that if that happened, he would pop the top off the great unthinkable.

Namely, the doubts around his paternity.

In front of witnesses.

You want to talk about shame? The glymera generally reserved its strictures and scorn for females, but a cuckolded male? Well . . . that didn’t bear thinking about, did it. To the point where Altamere had never even brought up the idea of a paternity test because the ramifications were too socially dangerous. Instead, the unanswered possibility that Boone had been fathered by another had lurked around the house, a ghost of infidelity that followed the “son” wherever he went.

Condemned for a suspected sin that had not been his own.

But that ended tonight.

After a long, tense silence, Boone’s sire finally looked at Rochelle. “I do not blame you for this choice.”

Altamere turned around and walked out, Marquist falling in behind him, the two disappearing into the study.

In the wake of the departure, Boone reached up to the knot of his tie and pulled it loose. It felt great to breathe.

“Why did you do that!” Rochelle said.

He thought of everything his father had ever said about him. “I am unworthy. It’s not a lie.”

“This is all my fault,” Rochelle groaned as she collapsed back onto the sofa.

As Boone dismantled the Windsor knot altogether, he thought back to the fact that he’d had to tie it with his eyes closed. Had entered this parlor with his lids down. Had lived . . . his whole life . . . in a blindness that was not just a choice, but a matter of survival.

Subconsciously, he had known that if he looked too closely—or at all—he was not going to be able to keep going. There was so much he had absorbed without realizing it, sure as if the toxic airs of the aristocracy had been an actual gas that he had breathed in and been poisoned by. Except that was stopping the now.

If Rochelle could stand up for her love, he could gather the reins of his own life and decide who he would like to be. Where he would like to go. What he would like to learn. Without apology.

Her courage had inspired his own.

“I am so sorry,” Rochelle said with dejection.

Boone shook his head. “No matter what happens next, I am not.”

29th and Market Streets

Caldwell, New York

Boone’s shitkickers shredded the frozen tire tracks down the middle of the alley, his powerful body churning through the dirty city snow, air sucking into his lungs cold and punching out hot as steam from a locomotive’s stack. In his right hand, he had a twelve-inch serrated hunting knife. In his left, a length of chain.

Up ahead, by about thirty feet, a lesser was running as if its undead life depended on all the Usain Bolt the thing was pulling. The telltale sickly sweet stench of the enemy was thick in its wake, a tracker that Boone’s sensitive nose had picked up on seven blocks ago. The slayer was sloppy of foot, flappy of hand, and given how saturated its smell was, Boone wondered whether it was already injured.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood’s commanding officer, Tohrment, son of Hharm, set the nightly territories for the Brothers and fighters, carving up sections of downtown into quadrants that would be stalked for the enemy. Trainees such as Boone were paired with more experienced people, either Brothers or members of the Band of Bastards, in the interest of safety—especially as there was a new threat out on the streets.

Shadow entities. That were killing innocent vampire civilians.

Boone glanced over his shoulder. Tonight, he was working with Zypher. The Bastard was a great partner, a big, brutal male who nonetheless had a teacher’s patience and an eye for constant improvement.

It was supposed to have been Syn. And a relief when it wasn’t.

Syn was . . . different.

Boone’s favorite to work with, bar none, was Rhage. But the Brotherhood was otherwise occupied tonight. Every last one of them.

And Boone was the one who had set them on a mission that he hoped and prayed didn’t result in death.

His father’s, specifically.

In the intervening twelve months since their blowup over the broken arrangement, he and Altamere had settled into an uneasy détente. Which was what happened when you finally called a bully on their push-and-shove. The two of them kept up appearances, something that was not hard given how starchy and superficial their relationship had always been, but Boone had drawn a line and instead of the threatened repercussions, in return he’d gotten a retreat of hostility.

He probably should have moved out, but as petty as it was, he had enjoyed getting the upper hand and keeping it. Especially after he joined the Brotherhood’s training program, something he was well aware his father disapproved of. Altamere’s “son” a soldier? Fighting in the war? How brutish. The move had made Boone’s bookish decades seem like a fine hand of cards.

But he loved the challenge and he was damn good at the work—and a new kind of life and rhythm had started, where he and his sire rarely saw each other.

Except then came the invitation: The pleasure of his father and stepmahmen’s company requested at an aristocrat’s home this very evening. Going by the card stock alone, it was clear that other members of the glymera were included on the guest list.

Social gathering? Maybe. Treasonous violation of Wrath’s ban on the Council coming together? More likely.

It had been the first time in a year that Boone had spoken to his sire about anything of note. Yet how could he not urge the male to stay home? That viper pit of aristocrats had already tried to take down Wrath’s throne, and if they were planning another attempt?

The training center had taught him in detail all of the things the Brothers were capable of doing to someone who crossed them. And he might not like his father . . . but that was the point. With his alarm bells going off about treason, if he didn’t at least try to keep the male away from that party, he would feel like he had killed Altamere himself.

And that was too close to what he had at times wanted to do, and who needed to live with that guilt?

Predictably, his father had refused the wise counsel. So Boone had gone to the Brothers directly, and that was why he was paired with a member of the Band of Bastards this fine, crystal-cold winter’s evening.

Refocusing on his hunt, he threw some more speed into his legs, his thighs beginning to burn, his calves tightening, his bum ankle issuing the first of what was going to be a lot of complaints. All of that was background chatter easily ignored, utterly forgettable.

Just breathe, he told himself. The more oxygen he could get into his lungs, the more he got into his blood, fuel for his muscles, speed for his body.

Power.

And what do you know, he was closing the distance. The problem? He was getting farther and farther away from Zypher, who was dancing with a slayer of his own three blocks—now four blocks—back.

Time to do this.

Per protocol, he hit the locator beacon on his shoulder to notify the other squads that he was about to engage. And then he closed his eyes.

Dematerializing was something that vampires ordinarily had to concentrate and calm themselves in order to accomplish. Boone, however, had trained himself to find that place of inner equilibrium even when he was running full tilt boogie in pursuit of the enemy. And courtesy of all his practice, his physical form disintegrated into a scatter of molecules and he shot forward, passing the lesser.

He re-formed in front of the enemy, his boots planted, his knife up and his chain down, ready to party.

The slayer did what it could to slow its roll, arms pinwheeling, shoes slapping at the snow and skidding as it tried to stop on ice. Momentum was not its friend. Unlike some of the scrawny new recruits, this one had a football player’s thick neck and barrel chest, and all that body weight was a boulder bouncing down the side of a mountain, all keep-going instead of back-that-ass-up.

   
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