Dark lover, p.1
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       Dark Lover, p.1
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         Part #1 of Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward
Dark Lover


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  Dark Lover

  A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

  By

  J.R. Ward

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  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  Chapter Forty-two

  Chapter Forty-three

  Chapter Forty-four

  Chapter Forty-five

  Chapter Forty-six

  Chapter Forty-seven

  Chapter Forty-eight

  Chapter Forty-nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-one

  Chapter Fifty-two

  Chapter Fifty-three

  Chapter Fifty-four

  Chapter Fifty-five

  Epilogue

  * * *

  A dangerous passion…

  Wrath walked into the hall, feeling particularly ferocious. Man, Beth had better be alive and well. Or God help whoever had hurt her.

  And if she'd decided to avoid him? That didn't matter. Her body was about to need something only he could provide her. So sooner or later she would come around. Or she would die.

  He thought of the soft skin of her neck. Felt the sensation of his tongue stroking over the vein that ran up from her heart.

  His fangs elongated as if she were before him. As if he could sink his teeth into her and drink.

  Wrath closed his eyes as his body began to shake. His stomach, full with food, turned into a bottomless, achy pit.

  He tried to remember the last time he'd fed. It has been a while, but surely not that long ago?

  He forced himself to calm down. Get control. It was like trying to slow down a train with a hand brake, but eventually a cooling stream of sanity replaced the whacked-out, blood-lust spins.

  As he came back to reality he felt uneasy, his instincts crying out for airtime.

  That female was dangerous to him. If she could affect him like this without even being in the damn room, she might just be his pyrocant…

  Praise for Dark Lover

  "An awesome, instantly addictive debut novel. It's a midnight whirlwind of dangerous characters and mesmerizing erotic romance. The Black Dagger Brotherhood owns me now. Dark fantasy lovers, you just got served."

  —Lynn Viehl, author of If Angels Burn

  "J. R. Ward has created a wonderful cast of characters, with a sexy, tormented, to-die-for hero and the spirited woman who proves his soul mate. What a fabulous treat for romance readers!"

  —Nicole Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Fantasy

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  SIGNET ECLIPSE

  Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,New Delhi 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First Printing, September 2005

  Copyright © Jessica Bird, 2005 All rights reserved

  SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. //br//

  Printed in the United States of America

  PUBLISHER'S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

  * * *

  Dedicated to:

  You, with awe and love.

  Thank you for coming and finding me.

  And for showing me the way.

  It was the ride of a lifetime, the best I've ever had.

  * * *

  Acknowledgments

  Thank you so very much: Karen Solem, Kara Cesare, Claire Zion, Kara Welsh, Rose Hilliard.

  To my Executive Committee: Sue Grafton, Dr. Jessica Andersen, Betsey Vaughan. Burning up the Internet, the phone lines, and the Hutchins and Seneca Park ring-arounds with you has kept me focused, sane, and smiling.

  With love to my family.

  * * *

  Glossary of Terms and Proper Nouns

  Black Dagger Brotherhood (pr. n.) Highly trained vampire warriors who protect their species against the Lessening Society. As a result of selective breeding within the race, brothers possess immense physical and mental strength as well as rapid healing capabilities. They are not siblings for the most part, and are inducted into the brotherhood upon nomination by the brothers. Aggressive, self-reliant, and secretive by nature, they exist apart from civilians, having little contact with members of the other classes except when they need to feed. They are the subjects of legend and the objects of reverence within the vampire world. They may be killed only by the most serious of wounds, e.g., a gunshot or stab to the heart, etc.

  blood slave (n.) Male or female vampire who has been subjugated to serve the blood needs of another. The practice of keeping blood slaves has largely been discontinued, though it has not been outlawed.

  the Chosen (n.) Female vampires who have been bred to serve the Scribe Virgin. They are considered members of the aristocracy, though they are spiritually rather than temporally focused. They have little or no interaction with males, but can be mated to warriors at the Scribe Virgin's direction to propagate their class. They have the ability to prognosticate. In the past, they were us
ed to meet the blood needs of unmated members of the brotherhood, but that practice has been abandoned by the brothers.

  doggen (n.) Member of the servant class within the vampire world. Doggens have old, conservative traditions about service to their superiors, following a formal code of dress and behavior. They are able to go out during the day, but they age relatively quickly. Life expectancy is approximately five hundred years.

  the Fade (pr. n.) Nontemporal realm where the dead reunite with their loved ones and pass eternity.

  First Family (pr. n.) The king and queen of the vampires, and any children they may have.

  hellren (n.) Male vampire who has been mated to a female. Males may take more than one female as mate.

  leelan (n.) A term of endearment loosely translated as "dearest one."

  Lessening Society (pr. n.) Order of slayers convened by the Omega for the purpose of eradicating the vampire species.

  lesser (n.) De-souled human who targets vampires for extermination as a member of the Lessening Society. Lessers must be stabbed through the chest in order to be killed; otherwise they are ageless. They do not eat or drink and are impotent. Over time, their hair, skin, and irises lose pigmentation until they are blond, blushless, and pale-eyed. They smell like baby powder. Inducted into the society by the Omega, they retain a ceramic jar thereafter into which their heart was placed after it was removed.

  needing period (n.) Female vampire's time of fertility, generally lasting for two days and accompanied by intense sexual cravings. Occurs approximately five years after a female's transition and then once a decade thereafter. All males respond to some degree if they are around a female in her need. It can be a dangerous time, with conflicts and fights breaking out between competing males, particularly if the female is not mated.

  the Omega (pr. n.) Malevolent, mystical figure who has targeted the vampires for extinction out of resentment directed toward the Scribe Virgin. Exists in a nontemporal realm and has extensive powers, though not the power of creation.

  princeps (n.) Highest level of the vampire aristocracy, second only to members of the First Family or the Scribe Virgin's Chosen. Must be born to the title; it may not be conferred.

  pyrocant (n.) Refers to a critical weakness in an individual. The weakness can be internal, such as an addiction, or external, such as a lover.

  rythe (n.) Ritual manner of assuaging honor granted by one who has offended another. If accepted, the offended chooses a weapon and strikes the offender who presents him or herself without defenses.

  the Scribe Virgin (pr. n.) Mystical force who is counselor to the king as well as the keeper of vampire archives and the dispenser of privileges. Exists in a nontemporal realm and has extensive powers. Capable of a single act of creation, which she expended to bring the vampires into existence.

  shellan (n.) Female vampire who has been mated to a male. Females generally do not take more than one mate due to the highly territorial nature of bonded males.

  the Tomb (pr. n.) Sacred vault of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Used as a ceremonial site as well as a storage facility for the jars of lessers. Ceremonies performed there include inductions, funerals, and disciplinary actions against brothers. No one may enter except for members of the brotherhood, the Scribe Virgin, or candidates for induction.

  transition (n.) Critical moment in a vampire's life when he or she transforms into an adult. Thereafter, they must drink the blood of the opposite sex to survive and are unable to withstand sunlight. Occurs generally in the mid-twenties. Some vampires do not survive their transitions, males in particular. Prior to their transitions, vampires are physically weak, sexually unaware and unresponsive, and unable to de-materialize.

  vampire (n.) Member of a species separate from that of Homo sapiens. Vampires must drink the blood of the opposite sex to survive. Human blood will keep them alive, though the strength does not last long. Following their transitions, which occur in their mid-twenties, they are unable to go out into sunlight and must feed from the vein regularly. Vampires may not "convert" humans through a bite or transfer of blood, though they are in rare cases able to breed with the other species. Vampires can dematerialize at will, though they must be able to calm themselves and concentrate to do so and may not carry anything heavy with them. They are able to strip the memories of humans, provided such memories are short-term. Some vampires are able to read minds. Life expectancy is upwards of a thousand years, or in some cases, even longer.

  * * *

  Chapter One

  Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. Screamer's was packed tonight, full of women wearing leather and men who looked like they had advanced degrees in violent crime.

  Darius and his companion fit right in.

  Except they actually were killers.

  "So you're really going to do this?" Tohrment asked him.

  Darius glanced across the shallow table. The other vampire's eyes met his own. "Yeah. I am."

  Tohrment nursed his Scotch and smiled grimly. Only the very tips of his fangs showed. "You're crazy, D."

  "You should know."

  Tohrment tilted his glass in deference. "But you're raising the bar. You want to take an innocent girl, who has no idea what the hell she's getting into, and put her transition in the hands of someone like Wrath. That's whacked."

  "He isn't evil. In spite of the way he looks." Darius finished his beer. "And show a little respect."

  "I respect the hell out of him. But it's a bad idea."

  "I need him."

  "You sure about that?"

  A woman wearing a micromini, thigh-high boots, and a bustier made of chains trolled by their table. Her eyes glittered from behind two pounds of mascara, and she worked her walk as if her hips were double-jointed.

  Darius gave her a pass. Sex was not on his mind tonight.

  "She's my daughter, Tohr."

  "She's a half-breed, D. And you know how he feels about humans." Tohrment shook his head. "My great-great-grandmother was one, and you don't see me yakking that up around him."

  Darius lifted his hand to catch their waitress's eye and pointed at his empty bottle and Tohrment's nearly dry glass. "I'm not going to let another one of my children die. Not if there's a possibility I can save her. And anyway, there's no telling whether she'll even go through the change. She could end up living a happy life, never knowing about my side. It's happened before."

  And he hoped his daughter would be spared. Because if she went through her transition, if she came out alive on the other side as a vampire, she was going to be hunted as they all were.

  "Darius, if he does it at all, he'll do it because he owes you. Not because he wants to."

  "I'll take him any way I can get him."

  "But what are you giving her? He's about as nurturing as a sawed-off, and that first time can be rough, even if you've been prepared. Which she hasn't."

  "I'm going to talk to her."

  "And how's that going to go? You're just going to walk up to her and say, 'Hey, I know you've never seen me before, but I'm your dad. Oh, and guess what? You've won the evolutionary lottery: You're a vampire. Let's go to Disneyland!' "

  "I hate you right now."

  Tohrment leaned forward, his thick shoulders shifting under black leather. "You know I got your back. I'm just thinking you should reconsider." There was a heavy pause. "Maybe I could do it."

  Darius shot him a dry look. "You want to try and get back into your house after the fact? Wellsie will stake you through the heart and leave you for the sun, my friend."

  Tohrment winced. "Good point."

  "And then she'll come looking for me."

  Both males shuddered.

  "Besides…" Darius leaned back as the waitress put their drinks down. He waited until she left, even though hard-core rap was pumping all around them. "Besides, we're living in dangerous times. If something happens to me—"

  "I'll take care of her."

  Darius clap
ped his friend on the shoulder. "I know you will."

  "But Wrath is better." There was no jealousy in the remark. It was a statement of fact.

  "There's no one like him."

  "And thank God for that," Tohrment said with a half smile.

  Their band of brothers, a tight circle of strong-backed warriors who traded information and fought together, were of the same opinion. Wrath was off the chain when it came to the business of vengeance, and he hunted their enemies with a single-minded purpose that bordered on the insane. He was the last of his line, the only purebred vampire left on the planet, and though his race revered him as its king, he despised his status.

  It was almost tragic that he was the best bet Darius's half-breed daughter had of surviving. Wrath's blood, so strong, so untainted, would increase the chances of her getting through the transition if it hit her. But Tohrment wasn't off the mark. It was like turning a virgin over to a thug.

  With a sudden rush, the crowd shifted, people backing into each other. They were making way for someone. Or something.

  "Shit. Here he comes," Tohrment muttered. He tossed back his Scotch, swallowing it whole. "No offense, but I'm outtie. This is not a conversation I need to be a part of."

  Darius watched the sea of humans split as they steered clear of an imposing, dark shadow that towered over them. The flight response was a good survival reflex.

  Wrath was six feet, six inches of pure terror dressed in leather. His hair was long and black, falling straight from a widow's peak. Wraparound sunglasses hid eyes that no one had ever seen revealed. Shoulders were twice the size of most males'. With a face that was both aristocratic and brutal, he looked like the king he was by birthright and the soldier he'd become by destiny.

 
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