Home > The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)(6)

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)(6)
Author: J.R. Ward

The slayer popped out of the last window he’d ducked under, and without the creak of the sash, V would have gotten drilled. Instinct rather than training had his arm swinging out and around before he was conscious of moving, and his index finger pumped off a pound of lead right into the fucker’s face, clouds of black blood exploding out the rear of the skull like ink bottles getting dropped from a great height.

Unfortunately, an autonomic contraction of the slayer’s grip on whatever autoloader it had in its hand caused a number of bullets to go flying, and the burning stripe on the outside of V’s hip meant he’d been hit at least once. But better there than any other place—

A second slayer came around the corner, and V caught it in the throat with his left-hand gun. That one appeared to be unarmed, nothing of note dropping to the overgrown grass as the thing grabbed for the front of his neck to try to hold in the black gusher.

No time to peel any weapons off either of them—or to stab them back to the Omega.

Up ahead, Rhage was in trouble.

Out in the heart of the campus, in the town square–like area formed by a circle of buildings set some five acres apart, Rhage was center-of-attention with a peanut gallery of at least twenty slayers closing in on him.

“Jesus Christ,” V muttered.

No time for strategy. Duh. And no one else coming to Hollywood’s aid, either. The other brothers and fighters were engaged all around, the attack having dissipated into half a dozen skirmishes that were being fought in different quadrants.

There was nobody to spare in a situation that could have used three to four wingmen.

Instead of one who had a thigh wound and a grudge the size of Canada.

Goddamn it, he was used to always being right, but sometimes it sucked ass.

Vishous surged forward and focused on one side of the melee, picking off slayers as he tried to give his brother a viable escape route. But Rhage . . . fucking Rhage.

He was somehow on it. Even though the math didn’t add up to anything but a casket equation, the dumb bastard was a thing of deadly beauty as he slowly circled ’round and ’round, discharging his weapons on a first-come, first-served basis, refueling his autoloader without missing a beat, creating a ring of writhing, half-dead undead bodies like he was the eye of a helter-skelter hurricane.

The only thing that wasn’t in control? His handsome-for-the-history-books face was contorted into a monster’s snarl, the killing rage within him not even partially leashed. And that would have been almost acceptable.

If it weren’t for the fact that he was supposed to be a professional.

That sort of murderous emotion was an amateur’s downfall, the kind of thing that blinded you instead of focused you, weakened you instead of made you invincible.

Vishous worked as fast he as could, spot-on’ing chests, guts, heads, until the stench saturated the open air even with the wind blowing in the opposite direction. But he had to compensate for Rhage’s ever-rotating shooting field, staying out of range himself, because shit knew he had no confidence that the brother would differentiate between targets.

And that was the fucking problem when you were half-cocked in battle.

Then it was done.


Even after those twenty or twenty-five lessers were down on the ground, Rhage still spun around and continued shooting, a death carousel with no more riders left on its demon horses that was too stupid to know where its own off switch was.

“Rhage!” V glanced around as he kept his guns up, but stopped his own discharging. “You fucking idiot! Stop!”

Pop! Pop! Pop-pop!

Hollywood’s muzzle kept coughing out flashes of light even though there was nothing to shoot at—except other fighters off in the distance who just happened to be out of range for the moment.

But were not guaranteed to stay that way.

Vishous moved in closer, stepping over the animated corpses on the ground, keeping at Rhage’s back as the rotation continued. “Rhage!”

The temptation to shoot the guy in the ass was so strong, his right hand lowered a muzzle to butt-cheek level. But that was just a fantasy. Giving Hollywood a lead injection would only trigger the beast when V himself was within appetizer range.


Something must have gotten through to the brother, because the barrage of do-nothing shooting slowed . . . then stopped, leaving Rhage in a panting, sagging neutral.

That was so out in the open, they both might as well have had neon arrows over their heads.

“You’re out of here,” V barked. “Are you fucking even kidding me with this shit—”

That was when it happened.

One second, he was moving around to get in front of his brother . . . and the next, he saw, out of the corner of his eye, one of the not-dead-enough lessers lift an unsteady arm . . . that had a gun attached to the end of it. As the bullet came blasting out of that muzzle, V’s brain did the triangulation as fast as the lead slug flew.

It was going into Rhage’s chest.

Right into the center of Rhage’s chest—because, hello, that was the biggest target outside of one of the fucking dormitory doors on the campus.

“No!” V screamed as he went to jump into the path.

Yeah, ’cuz him dying instead was such a great outcome? Lose/lose, either way.

No blaze of pain as he airborned, no resounding kick of a bullet’s entry into his side, his hip, his other thigh.

Because the goddamned thing had already found home.

Rhage let out a grunt and both of his arms punched to the sky, that patented, autonomic compression on the triggers in those hands emptying those clips: Bang, bang, bang, bang! up to the sky, up to the heavens, as if Rhage were cursing in pain.

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