Home > The Sinner (Black Dagger Brotherhood #18)(4)

The Sinner (Black Dagger Brotherhood #18)(4)
Author: J.R. Ward

What if the Prophecy itself is not enough, Butch thought to himself.

After all, mortals weren’t the only things that had a shelf life. History likewise decayed and was lost, over time. Lessons forgotten . . . rules mislaid . . . heroes dead and gone . . .

Prophecies dismissed when another future comes along to claim the present as its victim, proving that that which had been taken as an absolute was in fact only a partial truth.

Everyone was talking about the end of the war, but was there ever really an end to evil? Even if he succeeded, even if he was, in fact, the Dhestroyer, what then. Sweetness and light forever?

No, he thought with a conviction that made his spine tingle with warning. There would be another.

And it would be the same as what had been defeated.

Only worse.

The woman—she liked to call herself that, needed to, really, her true identity aside—stood in the crowd of bodies, the scents of those around her a once-tantalizing blend of humanity’s sweat and blood and mortality. Music united them all through their ears, the beat stringing them one by one onto an audio-gasm garland that draped around the dance floor, the links swinging as hips rolled, backs arched, and arms swung in slow, sensual motion.

She was unmoving and unmoved as she sipped her fruit and alcohol alchemy through a metal straw, tasting none of the sweetness, feeling none of the buzz.

Closing her eyes, she yearned to find the metronome of the music, the penetration of the bass, the tickle of the treble. She wanted a body against her own, hands that palm’d down her waist to her hips, fingers that gripped her ass, a cock pressing against her skintight skirt. She wanted a mouth at the hollow of her throat. A tongue to lick into her between her legs. She wanted the beast with two backs, the down-and-dirty, the hard pound.

She wanted . . .

The woman was unaware of giving up again. But as she bent down and set her half-finished drink on the floor, she realized she was leaving. Again. With grace, she walked forth, turning to one side and another and then back again as she navigated between the men and the women who breathed and schemed, lived and died, chose and denied. She envied them the chaos of their free will, all those repercussions that would find them, good and bad, all the illusive goals never to be scored, all the distant horizons that would e’er be out in front, precious for the never-captured nature of their sunsets.

As much as she knew about damnation—and that was a lot—it turned out that a land of unwanted plenty was a fresh kind of hell, and she had a feeling the dogged, low-level malaise she suffered from was all about accessibility. If everything was within reach, nothing mattered, for the obtainable was a meal already gorged upon, the appetite ever-slaked creating a bloated, sickly feeling that disinclined one to ever dine again.

While the woman passed through all the shoulders and torsos, many eyes stared at her, double-taking, or never looking away in the first place. Lids popped wide, and jaws lowered ever so slightly, the impact of her presence jumping the wait line of so many chemically altered senses, barging its way into those brains ahead of other kinds of feedback.

When she had first returned here, to Caldwell, she had looked back at them, all of them, not just the ones in this club, but those striding on the sidewalks of the city, and stuck in traffic jams in their cars, and filing in and out of shops and offices and homes. With fervent expectation, she had searched for a response within herself to any of the unspoken invitations, a yes, a harmonizing drive to complete the chord, a brick to add to a collective wall, a penny of her own to make the dollar whole.

It had not come.

Lately, she stayed out a shorter time each night. And now, she did not venture out in the day at all.

The club’s rear exit was tattooed with a warning in red letters that it was to be used In Case of Emergency Only. The woman pushed the bar and stepped out. As the alarm started going off, she walked away down the alley, lifting her face to the spring rain that fell from storm clouds above.

Is it cold? she wondered. It had to be cold after she had been in that oven of body heat.

Her stilettos clipped over the dirty pavement, and kicked up puddles, and, on occasion, failed to find suitable purchase on the uneven ground. And when she lowered her head, wind swept her hair back, as if the night wanted to see her properly, as if it wanted to regard her sadness as a kind friend would, with pity, with concern.

The shouting bass of the club faded in her wake, replaced by softer conversations created by rain dripping off fire escapes, and windowsills, and the fenders of abandoned cars. A stray cat howled and received no reply for its throaty efforts. A cop car sped by, in pursuit of a felon or perhaps, in a rush to save somebody from one.

The woman walked with no destination, although an empty berth of sorts found her when she sensed someone following her. Looking over her shoulder, she thought she might have been mistaken. But then . . . yes. There it was. A figure with long legs and broad shoulders, the man emerging from the shadows into the disinterested peach glow of the city’s illumination halo.

The woman didn’t vary her pace, but not because she wanted to be caught.

The capture soon occurred, however, the man closing the distance to come beside her, the erection in his pants and the testosterone surging in his veins making some kind of intersection between their bodies a foregone conclusion in his mind.

She stopped and looked up to the storm again. The rain tiptoed on her cheeks and forehead, a thoughtful guest that did not want to overly disturb its host.

“Where you at, girl,” the man said.

Righting her head, she cranked a stare in his direction.

He had an almost-attractive face, something about the slightly-too-short distance between those dark eyes and the pinch of his too-thin lips robbing him of true handsomeness. And maybe the latter was why he’d gotten that tattoo on his neck, and why he greased his black hair back. He wanted to refute the priggish tint to his features. Probably also explained the way he stuck that blunt straight-out from between his uneven teeth, like it was an extension of his arousal.

“Now why you gotta be like that.” He took the blunt away. Spit on the wet ground. Put the thing back. “What’s your problem.”

Neither were a question, so she did not answer that which he was not actually asking. She just stared into his greedy, gleaming black eyes, sensing his heartbeats even if they were something he did not notice.

Taking an inhale on the weed, he blew the smoke right in her face. And as she coughed a little, he looked down her body like she was an object to be taken off a shelf. As if he had a right to her, but hoped she fought him. As if he intended to hurt her and was looking forward to the pain he was going to cause.

“I’m giving you one chance,” she said in a low voice. “Go. Now.”

“Nah, don’t think so.” He flicked the blunt away, the lit tip flashing orange as it end-over-end’d into a run-off stream flowing to God only knew where. “I’m a nice guy. You gonna like me—”

She knew exactly when he was going to move and in what direction. He went for her long brunette hair, grabbing ahold of it like a rope and yanking her off balance, something that was easily done given the height of her heels. As her back twisted, and one of her ankles bent wrong, she resented the inelegant manner in which she fell.

And that was all on him.

Given the easy way he caught her, with a strong arm around her breasts, and a knife to her throat, she had the sense that he had perfected this over many attempts and successes, his best practices and training leading him to drag her out of what little light there was to the dense darkness of the alley’s flanks.

Yanking her back against his body, he said, “You scream, I cut you. You give me what I want, I let you go. Nod, bitch.”

She shook her head. “You really want to release me—”

The knife bit into the side of her throat, cutting her. “Nod, bitch—”

Devina took control of the situation by freezing the human where he stood, with that arm of his around her, that knife up to her jugular, that weight tilted back on his tailbone. Then she disappeared from his grip, and re-formed in front of him. Without her body where it had been, he looked like he was dancing with himself. Or about to slit his own throat.

Gathering her hair, which had been dislodged by his rough handling, the woman smoothed the gorgeous brunette lengths as if she were calming a skittish horse, and then she pulled the waves over one shoulder, where they were promptly content to rest in a profusion of beauty. With a steady hand, she put her fingers up to the wound he had made and collected the blood that welled from where the blade had dug into her neck. Looking down, she regarded the red gloss sadly.

Only an illusion. Part of the “clothes” she covered her true essence with when she wanted to pass. She wished it was real—

A strangled moan brought her eyes back up. The man was having a lot of trouble understanding the current turnabout, his mouth gaping, the shock and dismay on his face making him seem like a teenage boy who’d lost his bluster in the principal’s office.

“I told you,” she said softly. “You should have left me alone.”

Leaning forward, she marked his lax lips with her blood, giving him a nice splash of lipstick to go with those beady eyes and that prissy little mouth.


She slapped him with her open hand, hard enough to stun him. And then she slapped him again, drawing his own blood as he bit the inside of his cheek.

Putting her face in his, she whispered, “I’m going to make you pay for all the things you’ve taken that were not yours.”

Then she kissed him, putting her mouth to his, sucking his lower lip in between her teeth—at which point, she bit through and pulled back, ripping a chunk off him. As he started to scream, she spit the flesh out into her hand and then rubbed the chunk in his face, smearing him with his own blood.

“You don’t like this?” she gritted as he tried to move out of the way of his lower lip. “You don’t like being forced to kiss when you don’t want to?”

After she threw the piece of his mouth at him, she flicked her hand and sent him flying back through the air, slamming him into the damp, soot-stained bricks of the building he had intended on raping her against. Splaying out his arms and legs by force of her will, he reminded her of a turkey about to be trussed for Thanksgiving.

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