SLICES OF LIFE
Slices of Life are scenes from the every day lives of the Brothers and their Shellans. These scenes are intended for those readers 18 years old or older.
Wrath and the Letter Opener
Whoever said it couldn’t snow in July had their fucking head wedged.
Wrath sat back in his throne and looked at the piles of white before him: Requests to him as king
for intervention on civil matters. Powers of attorney to Fritz for banking transactions. The
glymera’s constant stream of ‘helpful suggestions’ all of which served only them.
It was a wonder the pansy desk could hold it all up.
From behind him, he heard a series of metallic clicks and then the shutters rose for the night on a
whirring noise. Along with the lifting of steel came a rolling bass rumble, advance warning that
one of Caldwell’s summer thunderstorms was getting its groove on.
Wrath sat forward and picked up his magnifying glass. The damn thing was getting to be an
extension of his arm and he hated it. First, the piece of shit didn’t really work: he couldn’t see
much better when he used it. And secondly, it reminded him that for all intents and purposes his
life had been reduced to a desk job.
A desk job with purpose and honor and nobility, sure. But still.
Idly, he picked up an envelope opener that bore his royal seal and he balanced the tip of it on the
end of his forefinger, suspending the knife-shaped slice of silver in mid-air. To make the game
harder on himself, he closed his eyes and moved his hand around, creating instability, testing
himself, using senses other than his weak eyes.
With a curse, he cracked his lids back open. Christ, why was he wasting time here? He had about
ten thousand things he needed to do. All of which were urgentFrom the open double doors across the study, he heard voices. Riding this uncharacteristic wave
of procrastination, he tossed the opener onto the snow bank of shit he had to do and walked out.
At the balcony, he planted his hands on the gold-leafed balustrade and looked down.
In the foyer below, Vishous, Rhage and Phury were getting ready to go out, yakking it up while
they doubled checked their weapons. And off to the side, Zsadist was leaning back against a
malachite column, one shitkicker crossed over the other. He had a black dagger in his hand and
he was twirling it up into the air and catching it, over and over again. On each trip, the blade
caught the light in flashes of navy blue.
Damn those daggers V made were fantastic. Sharpened to a razor edge, weighted perfectly, the
handle contoured with precision for Z’s grip alone, the weapon was not state of the art, it was a
state of grace: a simple configuration of steel that meant survival for the race.
And fuck you, have-a-nice-trip-back-to-the-Omega for the lessers.
“Rock on,” Rhage said as he went for the door. Heading over the mosaic tiles of the foyer, he
moved with his typical swagger and impatience, clearly craving the fight he was damn well
going to find, his beast no doubt as ready for some hand to hand as he was.
Vishous was right behind him, all cool strides and lethal calm. Phury was likewise collected, his
limp not noticeable in the slightest thanks to the new prosthesis he was using.
In their wake, Zsadist stood from the column and sheathed his dagger. The slide of metal on
metal reverberated up to Wrath like a sigh of satisfaction.
Z’s vicious black eyes followed the sound as it lifted. In the light from overhead, his scar was
very noticeable, that distorted upper lip more pronounced than ever. “’Evening, my Lord.”
Wrath nodded down at his brother, thinking that the Lessening Society was facing a demon in
the male who stood down there. Even though Bella was in Z’s life, whenever he left to go
fighting, his hatred came back. With a nasty aura, the burn weaved through his bones and
muscles, becoming indistinguishable from his body, making him as he had always been: a savage
capable of anything.
Though considering what the guy’s shellan had been put through, Wrath didn’t fault him for the
killing rage. Not in the slightest.
Z walked to the door and then paused. Over his shoulder he said, “You look tight tonight.”
The smile that flashed was a slash of aggression, nothing happy. “I can’t count to ten for very
long. Can you?”
Wrath frowned, but the brother was already out the door. Out into the night.
Left by himself, Wrath headed back for his study. He sat down behind the frilly desk and his
hand found the envelop opener, his forefinger running up and down the dull edge. As he looked
at the thing, he knew someone could kill with it. Just not with any finesse.
Cranking his fist tight as if it actually was a weapon, he pointed the thing out in front of him,
leveling it over his paper mountain. As he moved, the tattoos running up his forearm stretched
out, his crystal clean lineage all loud and clear in black ink. Not that he could read the pure bred
stamp of approval.
Jesus, what the fuck was he doing here ass-rotting on this throne?
How had this happened? His brothers out working the war. Him sitting here with a goddamned
He looked up. Beth was in the doorway, wearing a pair of old cut offs and a muscle shirt. Her
long dark hair was down past her shoulders and she smelled like night blooming roses… night
blooming roses and his bonding scent.
As he stared at her, for some reason he thought about the workouts he put himself through in the
gym… those hardcore, hamster-wheel, full-body masturbations that got him exactly nowhere.
God… there were edges you just couldn’t work off on a treadmill. There were things that were
missing even if you burned yourself out until the sweat ran fast as the blood in your veins.
Yeah… before you knew it, you lost your edge. You went from being a dagger to a desk
“Wrath? Are you okay?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I’m steady.”
Her dark blue eyes narrowed and the color struck him as being the same as Z’s dagger blade
catching the light: Midnight blue. Beautiful.
And the intelligence in them was just as sharp as that weapon.
“Wrath, talk to me.”
Downtown on Tenth Street, Zsadist jogged over the pavement quick as a breeze, quiet as a ghost,
a leathered-up wraith tracking his prey. He had found his first kills for the night, but at the
moment he had his body on MasterLock, holding himself back, waiting until there was a little
No fighting in public for the Brotherhood. Unless you absolutely had to.
And this little impending shindig was going to create some noise. The three lessers ahead of him
were Primes, all paled-out, looking to go at it, moving with a deadly rhythm of heavy bodies on
For fuck’s sake, he needed to get them in an alley.
As all of them went along, the storm overhead stretched out its arms and started to pound on the
night, its lightening flashing, its thunder cursing. Wind sprinted down the streets then tripped and
fell, forming gusts that pushed and then relented at Z’s back.
He told himself patience, but he felt like holding back was punishment.
Except then, like a gift from the Scribe Virgin, the trio turned into an alley. And wheeled around
to face him.
Ah, so it wasn’t a gift or luck. They knew he’d been in their trunks and had been looking for
some dark and corner to do business in.
Yeah, well, time to waltz, motherfuckers.
Z unsheathed his dagger and fell into a jog, triggering the start gun on the fight. As he came
forward, the lessers backed up, disappearing farther into the long alley, finding the shadows
necessary to keep what was about to happen from human eyes.
Zsadist targeted the slayer on the right because the bastard was the biggest and had the largest
knife so disarming him was a tactical priority. It was also something Z was just plain jonesing to
His momentum carried him faster and faster until he was skimming the ground, shitkickers
barely touching the pavement. As he moved in, he was the wind, carrying along, rushing
forward, sweeping down on what was ahead of him.
The lessers got ready, switching positions, crouching for conflict, so that the big guy was up in
front and the other two flanked him.
At the last moment, Z tucked into a ball and rolled on the asphalt. Then he sprung up and led
with his dagger, catching the linebacker lesser in the gut, opening the bastard up like a pillow.
Man, abdominal cavities were always a messy affair, even if you didn’t eat, and the slayer went
down on a waterfall of black blood.
Unfortunately, on the way to his dirt nap, he managed to clip Z right in the neck with his
Z felt his skin split open and his vein start leaking, but there wasn’t time to get thought up about
the injury. He focused on the other two slayers, popping free his second dagger so he was a twofisted slashing machine. The fight went into hardcore territory fast, and as a second wound broke
open on his shoulder, he thought he might even need a pick up at the end of it.
Especially as a length of steel chain snaked around his neck and went tight as a tire rim. With a
yank, he was whipped off his feet and he back-landed it so hard he felt like he’d been body
punched. All the air left his lungs on that eviction notice and it stayed away, his ribcage refusing
to re-expand no matter how much he worked his mouth.
Right before he blacked out, he thought of Bella and the panic of leaving her gave him the crash
cart shock he needed. His sternum heaved for the heavens, drawing in breath so hard the shit
went all the way down to his balls. And just in time.
As the two lessers fell on him, he twisted to the side and somehow found footing. Going on
instinct and experience, he lick-splited a classic two knife lock and cross on the first of the
slayers, all but decapitating the thing. Then he stabbed the other one in the ear, shorting him out
Except then four more showed up: back ups called in, all nice and fresh, ready to work.
Z was now in goat fuck territory.
He sheathed a dagger and palmed one of his SIGs, even though the gun would make noise. And
took a bite out of his pride. He was just flipping the safety off when he saw the twin, pale green
lights at the back of the alley.
As the lessers went all standstill, clearly they noticed, too.
Z cursed. Dollars to dickheads, that was some new kind of Xenon headlight and they were about
to get a visit by a carload of kibitzers.
Except then the air temperature dropped twenty degrees. Just like that. As if someone had
unloaded two tons of dry ice back there and hit the shit with an industrial blower.
Zsadist threw his head back and laughed loud and long, the power coming back into his body
even with his slit throat and his dripping shoulder. As rain started to fall, he positively sizzled
The lessers clearly thought he was nuts. But then lightening snapped out and turned the alley
Wrath was revealed at the far end, his massive legs set like oak trunks in the ground, his arms
stretched out like I-beams, the storm’s wind whipping his waist length hair around. His glowing
eyes were a roaring call of death in the night, his fangs white and sharp and visible from yards
and yards away. In his hands were his trademark throwing stars, on his hips were his Berettas…
and across his chest, crisscrossed with handles down, were the daggers, the black daggers of the
Brotherhood, the weapons that he had not used since his ascension.
The king had come out to kill.
Zsadist glanced at the lessers, one of whom was dialing for more back up.
Man, Z thought, he was so ready to get back in the game.
He and Wrath had never fought together before, but they would tonight. And they were going to
Much later, back at the mansion, Beth paced around the Billiard’s room. Over the course of the
night, she’d turned the pool table into the center of her universe: the green felt square with its
pockets and its rainbow balls was the sun to her solar system and around and around she went…
God. She didn’t know how Mary and Bella handled this… knowing that their hellrens were out
there in that evil night fighting an endless enemy, an enemy with weapons that didn’t just maim,
When Wrath had told her what he wanted to do, what he needed to do, she’d had to force herself
not to scream at him. But Christ, she’d seen him laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to wires and
machines and tubes, injured, dying, lurching back and forth between life and nothingness.
She had zero interest in reliving that nightmare.
Sure he’d done his best to reassure her. And told her he’d be careful. And reminded her that he’d
fought for some three hundred years and been trained and honed and bred for this.
Except like that all mattered? She wasn’t thinking about the three centuries he’d come home at
the crack of dawn safely. She was worried about this specific night when he might not make it
back. After all, he was flesh and blood and there was a timer on his life, a timer that could zeroout in the work of a moment. All it would take was a bullet in the chest or the head orShe looked down and realized she wasn’t moving anymore. Which kind of made sense.
Evidently, her feet had just super-glued themselves to the floor.
Forcing them to start walking again, she told herself that he was what he was: a warrior. She
hadn’t married a goddamned nancy. That fighting blood was in him and he’d been chained to the
house for the past year so it was inevitable he’d crack.
But oh, Christ, did he have to go out there andThe grandfather clock started chiming. Five o’clock.
Why weren’t they backThe door to the vestibule opened and she heard Zsadist and Phury and Vishous and Rhage come
in. Their deep voices were hopping, their words fast with power and life. They were juiced about
Surely if Wrath were injured they wouldn’t behave like that. Right? Right?
Beth went to the doorway… and had to grab onto the jamb. Z was bleeding, his skin tight
turtleneck soaked with a red rush, his daggers wet and glossy as well. Except it wasn’t as if he
noticed. His face was shining, a sparkle lighting up those eyes of his. Hell, he carried himself as
if he had a couple of bug bites instead of two gaping wounds.
Feeling lightheaded, because she felt like someone should on his behalf, she watched the four
head for the hidden door under the staircase. She knew they were making a beeline for the First
Aid station in the training center and wondered how Bella would feel if she saw Z like that. Then
again, knowing the Brothers, she wouldn’t get a chance to. The mated males in the house were
always careful to get stitched and cleaned before they found their shellans.
Beth stepped into the foyer, unable to stand it any longer. “Where is he?” she said loudly.
The bunch of them stopped and their faces masked-up tight, as if they didn’t want to offend her
by how pumped they were.
“He’ll be right here,” Phury said, his yellow eyes kind, his smile even kinder. “He’s just fine.”
Vishous smiled darkly. “He’s more than fine. He’s alive tonight.”
And then she was left alone.
Just as she was about to get pissed off, the vestibule’s door swung opened and a cold rush
unfurled across the foyer like a rug rolling out.
Wrath stepped into the mansion and her eyes popped wide. She hadn’t seen him leave earlier,
hadn’t been able to watch, but she saw him now.
Holy Christ did she see him now.
Her hellren was as she had first known him that night he had come into her old apartment: a
killing menace dressed in black leather, the weapons strapped on his body as fundamental as his
skin or his muscles. And in his war dress, he radiated power, the kind that broke bones and slit
throats and bloodied faces. In this his fighting dress, he was a horror, a nightmare… who was
nonetheless the male she loved and had mated and always slept beside, who fed her from his
hand, who held her during the day, who gave himself to her body and soul.
Wrath’s head twisted on his thick neck until he stared at her. In a distorted voice, one that she
barely recognized it was so low, he said, “I need to fuck you right now. I love you, but I need to
fuck you tonight.”
She had one and only one thought: Run. Run because he wants you to. Run because he wants to
come after you. Run because you’re just a little scared of him and it makes you hot as hell.
Knowing that she smelled of her arousal, Beth took off in her bare feet, flashing toward the
stairs, taking them fast, her legs a blur. Within seconds, she heard him behind her, his shitkickers
pounding like thunder, the erotic threat of him bearing down on her, enticing her until she
couldn’t breathe not because of exertion but because she knew what was coming as soon as he
got his hands on her.
When she got to the second floor, she randomly tore down a hallway, not knowing where she
was headed, not caring. With every yard she covered, Wrath was closing in on her… she could
feel him tight on her heels, a wave about to break all over her, crash down on her, sweep her up
and hold her down.
She bursting into the second floor sitting room andHe caught her by the hair and the arm, pulling her around, tripping her up, sending her to the
Just before she made impact, he twisted so his body absorbed their fall and cushioned hers. As
she fought to get up, she had the dim thought that she was face up on him, his chest under her
shoulders, his erection right where it needed to be.
And then she didn’t think anymore.
Wrath’s legs shot up and linked around her shins, splaying her legs wide, trapping her. With
rough authority, his hand shot between her thighs and she arched with a cry as he found out
exactly how turned on she was. As she stopped fighting, the double doors in front of her
slammed shut and then he rolled her, laying her out face down on the floor. He mounted her,
holding her in place by the back of the neck and the way he straddled her legs. Up close, he
smelled like clean sweat and the bonding scent and the leather of his clothes and the death of
She nearly came.
Wrath was breathing hard and so was she as he hauled back and split her old cut offs right up the
crotch, the worn fabric letting go as if it didn’t dare disobey him.
Jesus, she knew how that felt.
Cool air hit her ass as his fangs bit through one side of her panties and then there was the sound
of a zipper. His hands angled her hips and the head of him bumped down to what was waiting for
him, what was his for the taking.
He slammed into her, shoving in hard as a board, wide as a fist.
Beth splayed her hands out on the marble as he locked into her body and started pumping with a
fierce stride, two hundred and eighty pounds of sex all over the top of her, stretching the inside
of her. Her palms squeaked against the marble as the first of the orgasms jumped into her.
She was still climaxing as he clamped his hand on her chin and twisted her mouth around. His
rhythm was so hard he couldn’t kiss her…
So he hissed and bit her right in the jugular.
He froze in mid-stroke as he started to feed, sucking hard, pulling at her vein with a wild
supremacy. The pain swirled and tingled, mixed with the tail end of the orgasm, kicked off
another rush of pleasure. And then he was riding her again, his lower belly rubbing on her ass,
his hips slapping against her, his growl that of a lover…
And an animal.
He roared loud as a beast as he started to come, his erection kicking in her like a living thing
with its own mind. The bonding scent rose even stronger as he filled her up, his pulses hot as
embers, thick as honey.
The instant he was finished, he flipped her over, and loomed between her legs, his sex glistening
and proud and completely erect. He wasn’t done with her yet. Linking his tattooed forearm
behind one of her knees, he pulled her leg up high and entered her from the front, his huge arms
knotting up as he held himself above her body. As he stared down at her, his hair came forward,
great falls of black that tumbled from his widow’s peak and got tangled in the weapons on his
His fangs were so long he couldn’t close his mouth, and as his jaw unhinged and he got ready to
bite into her again, she shivered. But not from fear.
This was the raw edge, the reality of him under the clothes he wore and the daily life he led. This
was her mate at his purest, distilled essence: Power.
And God, she loved him.
Especially like this.
Wrath was taking Beth with furious action, his cock hard as a bone, his fangs like ivory nails
driven deep in her neck. She was everything he needed and would ever want: the soft landing for
his aggression, the female sex squeezing him, the love that captivated and captured him.
He was the storm bearing down on her; she was the land with the strength to take what he had to
As she sang again from her body splinting apart with pleasure, he pitched himself off the ledge
and went flying with her. His balls clenched up hard and his orgasm pistoled out of him… bang,
bang, bang, bang…
Releasing her vein, he collapsed into her hair as he shuddered and bucked.
And then there was only their desperate breathing.
Dizzy, out of it, satiated, he lifted his head. Then his arm.
He bit into his own wrist and brought it to her lips. As she nursed quietly, he stroked her hair
with a gentle hand and felt a stupid fucking weak-ass urge to tear up.
When her blue black eyes lifted to his, everything disappeared. Their bodies dematerialized. The
room they were in ceased to exist. Time became nothing.
And in the void, in the worm hole, Wrath’s chest opened up sure as if he’d been shot, a piercing
pain licking over his nerve endings.
He knew then that there are many ways for a heart to break. Sometimes it’s from the crowding of
life, the compression of responsibility and birth right and burden that just squeezed you until you
couldn’t breathe anymore. Even though your lungs were working just fine.
And sometimes it’s from the casual cruelty of a fate that took you far from where you had
thought you would end up.
And sometimes it’s age in the face of youth. Or sickness in the face of health.
But sometimes it’s just because you’re looking into the eyes of your lover and your gratitude for
having them in your life overflows… because you showed them what was on the inside and they
didn’t run scared or turn away, they accepted you and loved you and held you in the midst of
your passion or your fear… or your combination of both.
Wrath closed his eyes and focused on the soft pulls at his wrist. God, they were just like the beat
of his heart. Which made sense.
Because she was the center of his chest. And the center of his world.
He opened his eyes and let himself fall into all that midnight blue.
“I love you, leelan.”
© Copyright 2006 by J.R.Ward. All Rights Reserved. No portion or the entirely may be
reproduced without the express written permission of J.R. Ward.
So the question was asked on the loop what free time is like for the Brothers. And what the girls
did at the mansion. And I figured I’d share this little Slice of Life with folks…
The Brotherhood did movie night the other night and it was hysterical! Well, movie day as it
were. The bunch of them ended up piling into the Pit- which I’d like to point out only has two
leather couches and not a lot of floor space. Picture this: Wrath and Beth in one corner of a
couch. Rhage and Mary on the opposite side. Z on the floor with Bella in his lap. Butch and
Phury on the other couch. V behind the Four Toys on his chair. The place was like a Frat house
and they watched the first two Die Hards back to back. Between Phury’s red smoke and V’s
handrolls the place smelled delicious. Butch was drinking a lot of Scotch (well… duh). V was
into the Grey Goose. Mary and Bella were drinking Chardonnay. Rhage was into the Perrierbusy rehydrating from a hard night on the streets with the lessers.
Halfway through the first movie, someone fell asleep. And can you believe it? It was Wrath!
He’s usually so incredibly focused and he’s been working too hard. But the things was, he had
his Brothers and his shellan- his family- all around him and they were safe. He literally passed
out, head flopping back on the top of the sofa, his long, long hair all over his chest (he’s grown it
out super long because Beth loves it.) Beth slid his sunglasses off and tucked a blanket around
him- which was a nice thing to do except… Unfortunately, the movements woke him a little and
he ended up repositioning himself all over her- he fell back asleep mashing her up against Rhage.
She just laughed. She was so relieved he was relaxing a little. She has to see him get up during
the day and pace and pace and pace around their bedroom. It just about kills her because he’s
almost stopped sleeping at all and he’s losing weight. Straight up? This king stuff is killing him.
Anyway… Fritz kept bringing over hors duerves- you remember the spinach crepes Rhage
loves? The group of them went through trays of those and other things. Fritz was so happy,
running back and forth in the tunnel between the main house and the Pit.
Rhage of course insisted on yelling out lines. You know what his favorite one is, of course:
Yippee Kiyay Motherf. But ’bout half way through the second movie, he started nuzzling the back of Mary’s neck. And then his hands started traveling. She tried to get him to cut it outbut not too hard. When his eyes flashed white, they disappeared for a little while. Um… Er… ANYWAY, Phury was really quiet. He’s gotten terribly quiet. Sadly quiet. He keeps to himself mostly and was there really more because he felt he had to be than because he wanted to be. Z watched both movies for the first time. He was ABSORBED by them. Imagine the surprises in store- when Mr. Takagi (SP?) gets shot by Ivan Reikman? When the body shows up in the elevator with Ho Ho Ho on the shirt? When McClain is in the ventilator shaft? Then later when McClain’s wife tasers that idiot reporter? Z LOVED the movies… he jumped in the right places and cursed at the screen and snarled and yelled. He was all involved and had a death grip on Bella through the whole thing. The only time he looked away from the TV was to make sure she had something to drink. Or to eat. Or to ask if she was comfortable? Too cold? You need another fleece maybe? I will say… even though I shouldn’t… that Bella had a huge bite mark on her neck. He’d fed from her about an hour before they started to watch the movies. He’d gotten home from a night of fighting and he felt this… urge… to feed. He ended up sidling up to her in the bathroom. She was just out of the shower and was talking to him about this writing class she’s taking on line. Anyway… he was staring at her in the mirror and she was chatting away and toweling off her hair and… she stopped and asked him what was wrong. When she got the picture, she turned and smiled at him. Um… dropped the towel she had wrapped around herself. At first he was apologetic about it. Like, embarrassed almost because he hadn’t come to her before. But then she was in his arms and he dropped his mouth to her throat and……………….. well, they really got into the swing of things. clears throat Boy, did they ever… blushes Er… ANYWAY… V stayed out of the movie thing for the most part. He was doing searches on the internet although what he was looking for I have no clue. Every once in a while someone would yell at him to get off the computer. He ignored them until Butch fired an empty beer can at him (and who was drinking the beer? Beth… she likes Sam Adams, remember.) V ended up sitting with Phury and Butch. The bachelors, as the others call them. Sooooooooooooo that was movie night (day). Next one is going to be an Aliens marathon. And yeah, Rhage is going to insist on acting out the alien out of the stomach routine on the floor in front of the TV. sigh Hollywood’s just like that, you know? © Copyright 2006 by J.R.Ward. All Rights Reserved. No portion or the entirely may be reproduced without the express written permission of J.R. Ward. In The Nature of Phury Over this past weekend, I found myself alone in the house, pacing around. I was skipping over the surface of everything around me… not really tracking, roaming. Restless. I do this alot because I’m a high strung nutcase and my head just chews on things practical and impractical until I think I’ll go mad. In a Hail Mary move, I got into the car and opened the windows and the sunroof and cranked the bass: Sometimes our escape hatches have four wheels and righteous beats. And bless these chariots of relief. When I took off, it was on the edge of night and I drove far, far from home… I drove to the Ohio River and took the road that coasts along its bank. I’ve been doing this lately… just getting away, nothing but me and the car and the summer air and the music. The trees were black green overhead, a tunnel I followed with desperate hope that it could take me somewhere other than I was. It worked. As I went along, to the left, the sun was a big fat disk drifting down, like someone had hooked it and was trying to pull out of the sky but its inherent boyancy was fighting the draw. Around me, the air was so damned wet, thick as a cloud, smelling like… summer really. And that sweet humidity coated my skin and I liked what I was wearing when it was there. Out there on the road, life was sweet. Life was a precious gift, not the burden it can be sometimes. Life was the vivid mystery it should be. And I found myself thinking of Phury. Driving along, driving alone, driving out far from home… he followed me. Like he was in the car with me, elbow on the open window sash, the air moving all that hair of his around. I pictured his yellow eyes as the color of the setting sun, glowing like that, warm like that, beautiful like that. Now, of course, he wasn’t with me. Would have been up in flames had he been. But he was in my head and looking out of my eyes and listening to what was around me. And he slid into my chest like a ghost and took up the space in my marrow and he assumed the wheel and the gear shift and the gas pedal. And while he was with me, he spoke to me of the nature of the Do Not Have. The Cannot Have. The Never Possible. The Unfulfilled. I saw him sitting at the dining room table. Bella was across the way, across the china and the silver and the crystal, across the divide of the mahogony… across a million miles that would never be walked. He was watching her hands. Watching her cut her meat and switch the fork and knife back and spear the lamb and bring it to her lips. He watched her hands because it was the only remotely, socially acceptable option he had. It is a special hell to want what you cannot have. Because his mind wanders. Takes him in directions he doesn’t want. Teases him with tastes he will never have on his tongue, curves he will never learn, feelings he can never ever express. He is trapped in his honor and his love for his twin, trapped also by his respect for Bella… a slave to his moral nature. I think what makes it hardest for him is that she is always around him. He sees her every day. He knows each dawn when he returns she is where he lives. What does he do? He lies in his big bed and smokes the blunts that keep him calm and he prays that it will all fade soon. What makes it even worse is his honest to God happiness for Z: There is tremendous relief in Phury’s special hell because he knows that Z has a future now. Relief… yes, relief. But there are times that that pales. Phury looks down at his missing leg and feels unwhole and unworthy and weak and lame and it’s not really all about the amputation because he has no regrets there. What stings during the days when the house is quiet and Bella and Z are sleeping entwined in their mated bed… what stings Phury is the fact that he is sexually clueless and inept and there is no way out of that desert. Even if he gave up the celebacy, even if he found a female and put her on her back and rode her out, what would that cure exactly? A graceless, uncaring sex act wouldn’t make him feel any better. If anything, that would cut him deeper… because he knows that isn’t what’s doing between Z and Bella. No… Phury’s on the other side of the river bank, watching a sunset. Unable to touch. Only able to look. And Never Have. So in his ineptiness and his pathetic yearning, in his despisable weakness, in his deplorable swill of emotion… he watches Bella’s hands as she eats. Because that’s all he can do. He waits for some relief. Knowing it’s not coming anytime soon. And he hates himself. The decent he is on seems bottomless and he has no rope to cast out for purchase, no net to fall into, nothing to break his fall. All he can do is anticipate a hard impact, a shattering body blow whenever the bottom finds him. For Phury, the nature of the Do Not Have, the Cannot Have, the Never Possible, the Unfulfilled is taking him into darker places than he could have predicted. I think he assumed that if Z ever healed a little, that his own suffering would be over. Wrong. Because the flavor of Z’s healing is a taste Phury would kill to have. Anyway… that was what I found out by the Ohio River the other night in the summer air… in the bass-ridden solitude… where all there was was myself and the headlights of on coming cars and the wet breeze of the air. Some distances will never ever be closed. © Copyright 2006 by J.R.Ward. All Rights Reserved. The Interview That Never Happened Last night, I showed up at the Brotherhood’s compound for a scheduled interview with Butch and Vishous. They kept me waiting- which shouldn’t have been a surprise and wasn’t. And the interview didn’t happen, either. Also not a surprise… Fritz is the one who lets me into the Pit and he fusses over me as he usually does. I swear, nothing makes a doggen more agitated than if they can’t do anything for you. He’s getting so worked up, I actually hand him my purse- a move marked with the kind of desperation usually associated with folks who perform the Heimlich on a choking person. Now, I’m not in the habit of turning over my day bag to other people- even a butler who’s suffering from a terminal case of the need-to-pleases. But here’s the thing. My purse has a lot of pale-ish leather detailing and the strap that runs over the top and down the front has a streak of blue pen ink on it. No one notices this relatively tiny mess-up except me, but it’s bugged me since I did it and I’ve wanted to get rid of the imperfection like you read about. (Hell, I even went back to LV and asked them if they could take it out. They said no, they couldn’t, because the leather is porous and has absorbed the ink into its fibers. I assuaged my depression with sundry purchases, needless to say.) As I hand the bag over to Fritz, and ask him if there’s any way he could get the pen ink out, he glows like I’ve given him a birthday present and beats feet out the front door. Just as the Pit’s huge eight-paneled, fortress-worthy, portal-from-a-dungeon-movie slams shut, I realize my only pen, the one that made the mark, is in the dayum bag. Fortunately, V and Butch tend to be memorable so I figure I’ll just take mental notes. The Pit is empty except for me. Jane is out, doing physical exams at Safe House. Marissa is there as well, still running the place. It’s 3 a.m. and Butch and V are supposed to be coming home from fighting soon. The plan is for them to do me and for me to move along smartly when they’re done. Interviews aren’t high on the Brotherhood’s list and I understand. They get precious little free time and they’re under constant stress. I check my watch and find it hard not to worry. Man, I don’t know how their shellans stand waiting for them to get home. The what-ifs must be a killer. I look around. The Foosball table is hale and hearty-looking, fresh as a fricking daisy. This, of course, is the new new one, though. The old new one gave up the ghost during some kind of showdown involving a can of Silly String, twelve feet of duct tape, two paintball guns and a Rubbermaid container the size of a small car. At least that’s what I heard from Rhage. Who has a big mouth, but never lies. Across the way, on V’s desk, the Four Toys are humming away, the computers looking like a bunch of gossips all huddled together, trading stories about who is where doing what within the Brotherhood’s compound. The stereo system stacked behind them looks just as high tech- like you could use it to do a brainscan on someone if you had to. Rap is on, but not as loudly as it’s been in the past. 50Cent’s Curtis. Yeah, I kind of figured it wouldn’t be Kanye. What I can see of the kitchen is kind of a shock. It’s neat as a pin, the countertops free of glasses, the cupboards all shut tight, the clutter down to a minimum. I’m willing to bet there’s something else in the refridge other than Taco Bell leftovers and packets of soy sauce. Damn, there’s even a bowl of fruit. Peaches. Natch. Change, I think. Things have changed here. And you can tell, not just because there’s a pair of black stillies next to the couch and copies of The New England Journal of Medicine in the midst of all those SIs. Looking around, I get to thinking about the two guys who live here now with their mates. And I remember back to the good old DARK LOVER days, when V and Butch spent the night in that guestroom upstairs at Darius’s. Butch asked about V’s hand. V i.d.’d Hard Ass’s death wish. The two of them clicked. My favorite part was when Wrath came in the next evening and gave them a Well, isn’t this cozy. I think you remember what their response was, right? Here we are, two years later and they’re still together. Then again we members of the Red Sox Nation are a loyal lot. But everything is different, isn’tThe door in from the underground tunnel flips open and Butch comes in. He smells like lesser, all sweet baby powder. I put my hand up to my nose to keep from gagging. “Interview’s off,” he says hoarsely. “Ah… that’s okay, I don’t have a pen,” I murmur, measuring how grim he looks and how he weaves in his boots. Butch trips over his own feet and bangs off the walls as he goes down to his bedroom. Great. Now what do I do? I wait for a minute. Then I go down the hallway because… well, in a situation like this, you want to help, don’t you? When I get to the door of his room, I catch a shot of his naked back and quickly look away. “You need anything?” I ask, feeling like an idiot. I may write about the Brothers, but let’s face it, I’m a ghost in their world, an observer, not a participant. “V. But he’s coming-” The front door bangs open and my head whips around like it’s on a pull-cord. Oh… sh…
Now, see, here’s the thing about V. He doesn’t like me. Never has. And considering he’s nearly
three hundred pounds of vampire and he’s got that hand of death thing happening, every time I
get around him I am reminded of all the panic attacks I’ve ever had in the course of my life.
They come back to me. Each one of them. At the same time.
I swallow hard. V is dressed in black leather and bleeding from a shoulder wound and in a bad
fing mood. One look at me, and he bares his fangs.
“You have got to be kidding me.” He all but rips off his leather jacket and throws it across the
Pit. He’s more careful as he removes his daggers. “Man, this night just keeps getting worse.”
I kept my pie hole shut. I mean, like there’s any response to that kind of welcome? Short of
hanging myself in the bathroom, I’m pretty confident there’s nothing I can do to cheer him up.
Vishous stomps by me to get to Butch and I make like a wall hanging, trying to get as flat as I
can. Which is easy. I’m built like a plank to begin with, long and flat.
I’d like to point out that V is huge, by the way. HUGE. As he passes by, my head barely reaches
the top of his shoulder and the size of his body makes me feel like I’m five years old and in a sea
of grown ups.
As he pauses in Butch’s bedroom doorway, I find myself unable to leave even though I know I
should go. I just can’t, though. Fortunately, V focuses on the cop.
“What the f* were you doing?” V barks. The cop’s voice is rough, but not weak. “Can we shelve this for about ten minutes? I’m about to throw up-” “Did you think those slayers weren’t armed?” “You know, this shrewish wife thing is so not helping-” “If you’d used your brain for once-” As the two start in on each other, I think, okay, I am ready to leave. Too much testosterone in the air like this and I get woozy. And not in a good way. I back down the hall, wondering what the hell I’m going to do about the interview I was supposed to have with them, when I realize… bloody footprints. V has left bloody footprints. And he must have been injured quite badly, given the amount of glossy crimson on the floorboards. Stupid male. Stupid, arrogant, miserable, reclusive SOB. Stupid, reckless, pig-headed, nastytempered, bull-horned, I-am-an-island, close lipped bast*-
Have I mentioned that after the horrid process of writing V’s book that I have a couple of issues
with him, too? He’s not the only hater in our relationship.
As Butch and V continue to growl at each other like a pair of Doberman’s, I get pied. I march over to V’s leather jacket and grunt as I pick it up off the floor. The thing weighs almost as much as I do and to be honest, I really don’t want to know what’s in it. But I find out because I go through his pockets. Ammo for his Glock. Hunting knife with lesser blood on it. Solid gold lighter. IPod that I’m willing to bet is stacked with hardcore rap. A little black book I don’t flip through (because hey, that is SUCH an invasion of privacy.) Wrigley’s spearmint gum. Swiss Army knife (probably because his hunting one doesn’t have that nifty scissors attachment.) Cell phone. I flip the RAZR open and hit *J. Two seconds later, Jane answers the ring. “Hey, you. How’s my puppy?” Yeah, she calls him puppy. I’ve never asked for deets. V would just bite my head off and it seems too intrusive to ask Jane herself. Although Rhage would know… hm… “Hi, Jane,” I say. “Oh, it’s you!” She laughs. Jane has a warm laugh, the kind that makes you take a deep breath and release it nice and slow because you know everything’s going to be all right if she’s involved. “How’s the interview going?” “It isn’t. Your man’s injured, Butch is down for the count, and I get the sense that if I don’t leave ASAP, I’m going to be shown the door by your mate. Head first.” “Oh, for God’s sake, V can be such an a.”
“Which is why I dedicated LOVER UNBOUND to you.”
“I’m coming right now. Let me just tell Marissa.”
As I hang up, I realize the Pit is much more quiet now… and that there’s a glow coming from the
hallway. I tip-toe down and freeze when I get to the doorway of Butch’s room.
They’re on the bed. Together. Vishous has laid down and wrapped his arms around Butch and
his whole body is glowing softly. Butch is flush against the Brother, breathing slowly. V’s
healing power is working. You can tell because the smell of lesser is going away.
V’s ice white eyes flip open and nail me with the unblinking stare of a predator. My hand goes to
In this moment between us, I wonder why he hates me so much. It hurts.
The response I get is his voice in my head: You know why. You know exactly why.
Yeah, I kind of do, don’t I. And strike the kind of.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
He closes his eyes. And that’s when Jane materializes right next to me.
Jane is only a little different as a ghost than she was as a human. She takes up space the same and
sounds the same and looks the same… and as she gives me a hug, she feels as warm and solid to
me as she did before what happened to her happened.
“Baby…” V drawls from the bed.
Dayum, that’s an erotic sound.
Jane looks into the bedroom and the smile that lights her up is breathtaking. Jane’s not supergorgeous. But she’s got a intelligent-looking face to match her enormous brain, and as I like
smart people, I really like her.
“Hey, pup,” she says to Vishous.
V smiles at Jane. Have I mentioned that before? When he sees her, his truly smiles. With
everybody else, he just smirks. If he feels like it.
“Heard you’re hurt,” Jane says, putting her hands on her hips. She’s wearing a white doctor’s
coat and has a stethoscope around her neck, both of which are solid to the eye. The rest of her is
a little hazy, unless she wants to pick something up or hug someone in which case she becomes
“I’m fine,” he shoots back.
“He’s hurt,” Butch and I say at the same time. V glares at me. Then soothes the cop by running
his hand down the male’s spine.
Is it a sexual touch? A while ago, before Jane came along, I would have said yes, it was. Because
that’s the way things were. But now that Jane’s in V’s life, that stroke is one of comfort.
“Meet me in our room when you’re finished,” Jane says to her hellren. “I’m going to check you
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” V replies on a husky purr.
I follow Jane out because it’s starting to feel a little voyeuristic staring at V and Butch together…
(I’d like to put in here, by the way, that Jane isn’t bothered at all by how close the two males are
and neither is Marissa. Which shows you how secure those two females are. How secure and
“So Safe House is really coming along,” Jane says as we go into the book-filled bedroom she
shares with her male. The place could be a library if not for the king-sizer in the center and the
two of them are happy with it that way. They are both big readers.
“Yeah, I’ve heard.” I pick up the title on the bureau. It’s a biochemistry text book. Grad school
level. Could be either of theirs. “You have how many females now?”
“Nine mothers, fifteen children.”
Jane starts to talk and her enthusiasm and commitment are obvious in her animation. I let her go
on, but I’m only half listening. I’m thinking back to a conversation she and I had about three
months ago, in June.
It was about death. Hers. I asked her whether she was disappointed with where she’d ended up.
As a ghost. Her answering smile held a lot of well, duh in it and she’d said to me something I
haven’t been able to get out of my mind since: Forty years as a human versus four hundred with
him? she’d murmured, shaking her head. Yeah, I have a real hard time doing that math. Right. I
mean, the tragedy gave me life with the man I love. Where’s the disappointment?
I guess I can see her point. Yeah, there are some things they don’t have. But Jane was very well
into her thirties when the two of them met. Which means she’d have been lucky to get another
two to three decades with him before the aging process really sank its teeth into her. And that’s
assuming she didn’t get cancer or heart disease or something else God awful that either killed her
or crippled her. Also, she’s already lost her sister and both her parents and jeez… countless
trauma patients. After all the death she’s seen, I think it’s kind of nice that she gets a pass on that
from now on. And she doesn’t have to worry about V’s dance with the Reaper. She can go back
and forth to the Fade. They will always be together. Always.
So she’s living eternity. With the male she loves. Not a bad deal.
Plus… erhm, from what I understand the sex is still out of this world.
“Off with your clothes,” she says.
I look down at the black outfit I have on and wonder if I spilled anything on myself. But no, it’s
Vishous. He’s finished with Butch.
I get out of his way as he comes in and yeah, I look down at the floor as I hear the rustle of
clothes getting removed. V laughs in a throaty way and I smell his bonding scent. I’m willing to
bet the second I leave they’re going to…
Great, now I’m blushing.
Jane curses and I hear a box getting flipped open. I look up. It’s a First Aid kit and after she
finishes cleaning what seems like an enormous gash in Vishous’s thigh, she takes out a needle
and black surgical thread and a syringe I’m thinking is full of Lidocaine.
Okay, I’m so looking down again for this part. I love to watch medical shows on TV, but I
always have to avoid the gory sections- and as this is happening right in front of me, it seems
twelve times more vivid. Or maybe twelve hundred time more so.
I hear V hiss and Jane murmur something.
Crap. I have to watch. I glance up. Jane’s hands are very much a solid and she’s stitching up her
man with quick precision like she’s done this a million times. Vishous is staring at her, a dippy
little smile on his face-
“It’s not dippy,” he cuts in. “I do not have a dippy little smile on my face.”
Funny, now that he’s with Jane, he’s softer all the way around. He’s not exactly nice to me, but I
don’t wish I was wearing body armor anymore.
“It’s kind of dippy,” I say as Jane laughs. “But I mean, sure, it’s dippy in a very, I’m-a-warriorvampire-I-eat-lessers-for-lunch sort of way. You’re straight up gansta. No one’s going to mistake
you for a lightweight.”
“Wise of them,” he says as he reaches up to Jane’s hair with his glowing hand. It’s kind of cool
what happens. The instant the light of him hits any part of her, she becomes solid and the longer
he touches her, the greater the area becomes. If the two of them are cuddling on the couch, and
yes, he does cuddle with her, she’ll become wholly solid and stay that way for a time afterwards.
His energy pulls her form together.
Which is kind of romantic.
Out in the hall, I hear a door open and shut and footsteps coming toward us all. I know it’s
Marissa because I can smell the ocean… and because I hear Butch start to growl with an erotic
kind of welcome. Marissa pauses and pokes her head into V and Jane’s room. Her hair is cut now
so it’s just down to her shoulder blades and she’s wearing a very nice black Chanel suit that I
wish was in my closet.
The four of us talk a little, but then Butch gets impatient and calls out for his female and Marissa
smiles and leaves. She’s taking off her jacket as she turns away. Probably because she knows her
clothes aren’t going to be on for long.
“There,” Jane says as she snips the thread. “All better.”
“I have something else that needs attention, true?”
“Oh, really? Would that be the graze on your shoulder?”
As V reaches for her hand, I clear my throat and make for the door. “Glad everyone’s okay.
Maybe we can reschedule the interview. Yeah… um, take care. I’ll see you later. Have a good-”
I’m saying all these things because I’m feeling awkward. Like the intruder I am. Jane replies
with some nice words as V starts to pull her down to him. I shut their door.
I walk down the hall and take a last look around the Pit’s living room. Change is good, I think.
And not just because in this case, there is less Frat and more Home to this place now. I like the
change that’s happened because those two guys are settled and happy and their lives are better
because of who they ended up with. And Butch and Vishous are still together.
I step out into the September night and have to wrap my arms around myself. It’s cold in
Caldwell; I’ve forgotten how upstate New York gets cold so early. I find myself hoping my
rental car has heated seats.
I’m getting into the car when the front door to the mansion opens and Fritz comes rushing out.
He’s like Tattoo from Fantasy Island, holding my bag up while he runs calling through the dark,
“The purse! The purse!”
I get out of the sedan. “Thanks Fritz, I would have forgotten.”
The doggen bows low and says in a heartbroken tone, “I’m so sorry. So very sorry. I couldn’t get
the pen mark out.”
I take my bag and look at the strap. Yup, the little blue streak is still there. “It’s okay, Fritz. I
really appreciate your trying. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
After a little bit more soothing, and my declining the offer of a picnic basket of food, he goes
back into the house. As I hear the door thunch shut, I stare down at my bag’s defect.
The moment I noticed the pen streak, I’d wanted to get a new purse. Totally. I kind of like things
perfect and I was so frustrated I’d messed up my own bag… its imperfection made it lesser in my
Now I measure the thing in the moonlight, looking at all its little dings and faults. Man… it’s
been with me for almost two years now. I’ve taken it to New York City to meet with my editors
and my agent. On vacation to see my two best friends in Florida. It’s been to signings with me in
Atlanta and Chicago and Dallas. It’s held my two cell phones: the one I use for my friends in the
states and the one for my friends overseas. I’ve put in it receipts from car tows and bank deposits
and dinners out with my husband and movies with my mother and my mother in law. It’s held
pictures of people I love and change I didn’t want and business cards of folks I needed to keep in
touch with. It’s been locked in my car during walks with my mentor and quick trips into shops
for bottled water and…
I smile a little and toss the thing into the front seat of the Toyota Prius I rented from Enterprise. I
get in and close the door and reach for the key I’d left in the ignition.
A knock on the Prius’s windshield scares the sh** out of me and I nearly dislocate my neck to
look toward the sound. It’s Vishous with a towel around his hips and a bandage on his shoulder.
He points down like he wants me to disappear the window.
I do. A cold breeze comes in and I hope it’s just the night and not him.
V gets down on his haunches and puts his massive forearms on the side of the car. He’s not
making a lot of eye contact. Which gives me a chance to study the tattoos on his temple.
“She made you come out here didn’t she,” I say. “To apologize for being a pri**.”
His silence means yes.
I run my hand up and over the wheel. “It’s okay that you and I don’t get along. I mean… you
know. You shouldn’t feel badly.”
“I don’t.” There’s a pause. “At least, not usually.”
Which means, he actually does feel bad.
Jeez. Now I don’t know what to say.
Yeah, this is awkward. Very awkward. And frankly, I’m surprised he’s staying out here with me
and the car. I expect him to go back to the Pit and to the two people he feels comfortable with.
See, V doesn’t do relating. He’s a thinker, not a feeler.
As time passes, I kind of decide that his presence with me now proves that yeah, in his own way,
he really does care that it’s been rough between the two of us. And he wants to make amends. So
“Nice bag,” he says, nodding to my purse.
I clear my throat. “It has pen on it.”
“You can’t really see the mark.”
“I know it’s there, though.”
“Then you need to stop thinking so much. It’s a really nice bag.”
V bounces his fist against the car’s panel, as a little goodbye kind of thing, and gets to his feet.
I watch him go into the Pit. Across his shoulders, cut into his skin, are the Old English letters: J,
A, N, E.
I glance at my purse and think of everything its held and everywhere its been. And I start to see it
for what it does for me, instead of what it lacks because of that imperfection.
I start the car and turn it around, being careful not to hit Rhage’s purple GTO or that giant black
Escalade or Phury’s sleek 650i or Z’s Carrera S4. As I leave the compound’s courtyard, I reach
into my bag and take out my cell phone and call home. My husband doesn’t pick up because he’s
asleep. The dog doesn’t answer because he doesn’t have opposable thumbs so operating the hand
held is difficult for him.
“Hi Boat, I didn’t get the interview, but I got something to write about anyway. I’m wired so I’m
just going to drive until I get to the other side of Manhattan. Probably end up crashing in the
middle of the day in Pennsylvania. Call me when you’re up.”
I tell my husband I love him then I hang up. Phone goes back in my bag. I focus on the road
ahead, thinking of the Brothers…
There’s nothing new in that. I’m always thinking about them. I start to get stressed about Phury.
On a whim, praying to get my head to shut up, I lean forward and turn on the stereo. I start to
laugh. Dream Weaver’s on.
Cranking the music as loud as the Prius can bear, I turn the heater on full bore, put the windows
down and floor the accelerator. The Prius does what it can. It’s no GTO, but the effect for me is
just as good. Suddenly, I’m enjoying the night, just like Mary did when she needed to get away
Racing through the night, hugging the curves of Route 22, I am the bird that fly, fly, flies away.
And I hope this stretch of between Caldwell and real life lasts forever.