Home > The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)(8)

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)(8)
Author: J.R. Ward

For a split second, the tableau sank in hard. The figure on the bed had dark hair that had thinned out and skin that was gray and eyes that were closed and a mouth that was lax—and during that first infinite instant as Mary took in the female who was dying, she couldn’t decide whether she was seeing her own mother or herself on that bright white pillow.

I can’t do this, she thought.

“Come on, Bitty,” she said hoarsely. “Let’s go hold her hand. She’s going to want to know you’re here.”

As Mary led the girl in, Havers and his staff disappeared into the background, retreating without a fuss as if they knew damn well that there was nothing they could do to stop the inevitable, so Bitty’s chance to say her good-bye was the critical path.

Over at the bedside, Mary kept her palm on Bitty’s shoulder. “It’s okay, you can touch her. Here.”

Mary leaned forward and took the soft, cold hand. “Hello, Annalye. Bitty’s come to see you.”

Glancing at the girl, she nodded encouragement . . . and Bitty frowned.

“Is she dead already?” the girl whispered.

Mary blinked hard. “Ah, no, sweetheart. She’s not. And she can hear you.”

“How?”

“She just can. Go ahead. Talk to her. I know she’ll want to hear your voice.”

“Mahmen?” Bitty said.

“Take her hand. It’s all right.”

As Mary inched back, Bitty reached out . . . and when contact was made, the girl frowned again.

“Mahmen?”

All at once, alarms started to go off with renewed panic, the shrill sounds cutting through the fragile connection between mother and daughter, bringing the medical staff toward the bed in a rush.

“Mahmen!” Bitty grabbed on with both hands. “Mahmen! Don’t go!”

Mary was forced to pull Bitty out of the way as Havers started barking orders. The girl fought against the hold, but then collapsed as she screamed, her arms stretching toward her mother, her hair tangling.

Mary held on to the small straining body. “Bitty, oh, God . . .”

Havers got up on the bed and began chest compressions as the crash cart was brought over.

“We’ve got to go,” Mary said, pulling Bitty back toward the door. “We’ll wait outside—”

“I killed her! I killed her!”

* * *

As Vishous skidded up to Rhage, he fell to his knees and went for the brother’s leather jacket and shirt, ripping the layers wide, exposing—

“Oh . . . fuck.”

The bullet had entered to the right of center, exactly where the six-chambered heart of a vampire beat within its cage of bone. And as Rhage gasped for breath and spit blood, V looked around with a whole lot of frantic. Fighting everywhere. Cover nowhere. Time . . . running out—

Butch came running at them, head ducked, body hauling ass and then some as he shot a pair of forties all around himself, pumping rounds off so that the slayers in range had to hit the ground and go fetal to avoid getting plugged with lead. The former cop slid into base feet-first, his weapons still up and kicking, his bulldog legs and torso plowing to a stop in the thick brown grass.

“We gotta move him,” that Boston accent announced.

Rhage’s mouth opened wide, and the inhale that came next rattled like a box of rocks.

Ordinarily, V’s brain was slick as shit, his intelligence so great that it was as much a personal characteristic as a faculty, defining everything about his life. He was the rational one, the logical one, the cynical sonofabitch who was never wrong.

And yet his gray matter promptly crashed.

Years of performing medical assessment and intervention in the field told him that his brother was going to die within a minute or two, assuming that the heart muscle had in fact been torn or pierced and one, or more than one, of the chambers was spilling blood into the chest cavity.

Which would both cut off cardiac function as the peritoneal sac flooded and fatally compromise blood pressure.

It was the kind of catastrophic injury that required immediate surgical intervention—and even assuming you had all the necessary technology and equipment available in a sterile clinical situation, success wasn’t on lock.

“V! We gotta move him—”

Bullets sizzled by and they both hit the ground. And with a terrible mental recalculation, V’s processing unit came to an untenable conclusion: Rhage’s life or theirs.

Fuck! I did this to him, V thought.

If he hadn’t told the brother about the vision, Rhage wouldn’t have run out early and he would have been more in control during the fight—

Vishous upped his muzzles and dropped three slayers who were closing in, while Butch twisted on the ground and did the same in the opposite direction.

“Rhage, stay with us,” V grunted as he popped out the empty clips and refilled the butts of his guns one after the other. “Rhage, you’ve got to—shit!”

More shooting. And he was hit in the goddamn arm.

As his own blood flowed, he ignored it, his brain reengaging to find a solution that didn’t equal Rhage on a funeral fucking pyre. He could call his Jane in, because she couldn’t be killed. But she couldn’t perform open-heart surgery here, for fuck’s sake. What if—

The flash of light was so bright, so sudden, that he wondered who the hell was wasting time stabbing a slayer back to the Omega—

The second blast of illumination had him cranking around and looking down at Rhage. Oh . . . shit. Twin shafts of brilliant light streamed out of the brother’s eye sockets, lasering up into the sky in parallel streams that could have bull’s-eyed the face of the moon.

   
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