Sold by his parents to the Queen of the s’Hisbe as a child, Trez escaped the Territory and has been a pimp and an enforcer for years. On the run from a destiny of sexual servitude, he’s never been able to rely on anyone...except for his brother, iAm.
iAm’s sole goal has always been to keep his brother from self-destructing—and he knows he’s failed. It’s not until the Chosen Selena enters Trez’s life that the male begins to turn things around...but by then, it’s too late. The pledge to mate the Queen’s daughter comes due, and there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no negotiating.
Now Trez must decide whether to endanger himself and others—or abandon the female he loves. When tragedy strikes and changes everything, iAm, in the name of brotherly love, is faced with making the ultimate sacrifice...
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TERRITORY OF THE S’HISBE, GRAND PALACE
The footprints he left on the white marble were red. Red as a Burmese ruby. Red as the core of a fire. Red as the anger in his marrow.
The blood was TrezLath’s own, but he felt no pain.
The murder weapon he’d just used, a sterling silver paring knife about as long as his hand and as narrow as his forefinger, was still in his palm. It was dripping, but that was not the source of the stain he was leaving behind. He had been injured in the fight. His hip. His thigh. Maybe his shoulder, he wasn’t sure.
The corridor was a mile long and sky-high, and he did not know what awaited him at its termination. A door, he prayed. There had to be a door of some kind—this was the way out of the palace, so there had to be . . . an exit. And when he came unto it? He had no idea how he was going to break out. But he’d also had no clue how to kill another living male, and he’d done that minutes ago.
Further, he had no plan for what was on the far side of the palace enclosure or how he was going to get over the Territory’s retaining walls. No clue where to go, what to do. All he knew was that he couldn’t be in that cell anymore. It was luxurious enough, with silken sheets on a feather bed, and a bath that had its own pool, and a private chef to feed him. He had books written by the Shadow Masters at his disposal, and a full team of care specialists, from healers, to bathers, to exercise commandants. As for his clothes? His now-torn vestments were studded with gems from the treasury, diamonds and emeralds and sapphires cascading down his robes.
And yet his body was regarded as far more valuable than the largesse it bore.
Trez was the sacred fatted calf, the prized breeding stallion, the male whose birth chart had proclaimed he was to sire the next generation of queens.
He had not yet been called into sexual service. That would come in time, when the Princess he was to mate had reached her astrological maturity.
Trez looked over his shoulder. No one was coming after him, but that would change as soon as the crumpled body of that guard he’d overpowered was found—and that wasn’t going to be long. There was always someone watching.
If only he could—
Up in front of him, a door that was flush with the wall slid back, and a massive figure draped in black stepped directly into his path.
s’Ex, the Queen’s executioner, had his chain-mail hooding in place, his features covered by the metal weave. But the sight of his face was unnecessary.
His voice, deep and evil, was pure menace. “You killed one of my males.”
Trez shuffled to a halt, his dragging robes stilling on the floor. Glancing down at the knife in his hand, he knew that the flimsy “weapon” was going to get him nowhere against the Shadow he now faced. The silver blade had been designed to cut pears and apples, not even tenderloin meats.
And the executioner was not like that guard.
“You are trying to leave.” s’Ex didn’t take a step forward, but seemed closer anyway. “Which is not only unacceptable from my point of view, but against the law.”
“Then kill me in punishment,” Trez said in a tired voice. “Rip my body asunder and bury me in pieces outside of the Territory like the traitor I am.”
“I would do just that. In retribution for your taking the life of my guard.” s’Ex crossed his heavy arms over his thick chest. “But the very beating of your heart and breath within your lungs is divine. So that avenue is not open to me—or you.”
Trez closed his eyes briefly. His parents had been thrilled with the news that one of their two fraternal sons had been born upon the perfect moment in time, a preordained, stars-aligned split second that would transform the family—a blessing for them, with attendant riches and social position; a curse for him that had robbed him of his life whilst ever still he lived.
“Do not even think about it,” the executioner said.
As Trez lifted his lids, he found that he had put the knife to his own throat. His hand was trembling badly, but he was pushing the blade in enough to nick the skin over his artery.
His blood, warm and smooth, caressed over his clenched fist.
Trez’s laughter sounded crazy to his own ears. “I’ve nothing to lose except a life sentence for the crime of being born.”
“Oh, I think you do. No, don’t look away—you’re going to want to see this.”
The executioner nodded at the open doorway and something was pushed out. . . .
“No!” Trez yelled, his voice echoing up and down the corridor. “No!”
“So you recognize him.” s’Ex uncoiled his arms and pulled up his sleeves, deliberately flashing bloody knuckles. “In spite of my work. Then again, the pair of you have been together for how long?”
Trez’s vision went in and out of focus as he sought his brother’s eyes. There was no gaze to hold. iAm was not conscious, his head lolling to one side, his face beaten until it was so swollen the features were distorted. His body was bound in a worn leather sleeve that ran from below his knees all the way up to his shoulders and was secured by a brass buckle system. Stains, new and old, darkened the brown of the straps and dulled the glow of the metal pieces.
“Give him to me,” s’Ex commanded.
As the executioner grabbed onto the back of the hold, he lifted iAm’s limp body from the floor with no more effort than he might put into raising a flask of wine.
“Please . . .” Trez begged. “He is not of this . . . let him go. . . .”
For some reason, his brother’s dangling lower legs registered with nauseating clarity. Only one of iAm’s shoes was on still, the other having been lost in whatever abduction and torture had occurred. And both feet were pointing inward, the big toes touching, one tilted in unnaturally from a broken ankle.
“Now, Trez,” s’Ex said, “did you think your decision wasn’t going to affect him? I’m telling you to put the knife down. If you do not, I’m going to take this”—the executioner jogged iAm’s limp body up and down—“and I’m going to wake it up. Do you know how I’m going to do that? I’m going to take this”—in his free hand he flashed a serrated knife—“and put it into its shoulder. Then I’m going to twist until it starts to scream.”
Trez began to blink away tears. “Let him go. This has nothing to do with him.”
“Put the knife down.”
“Shall I demonstrate?”
“No! Let him—”
s’Ex stabbed iAm’s shoulder so hard, the blade cut through the leather and went into the flesh.
“Twist?” s’Ex barked over the scream. “Yes? Or are you dropping that butter knife?”
The clatter of the silver hitting the marble floor was overpowered by iAm’s harsh, dragging breaths.
“That’s what I thought.” s’Ex jerked the knife out and iAm started to moan and cough, blood speckling the floor. “We’re going back to your quarters.”
“Let him go first.”
“You are not in a position to make demands.”
Guards came out of that hidden door in a swarm, all black-robed figures with chain-mail masks. They didn’t touch him. They weren’t allowed to. They surrounded him and began to walk, pushing him along with their bodies. Forcing him back to the place he had escaped.
Trez fought the tide, rising up on the balls of his feet, trying to see his brother.
“Don’t kill him!” he shouted. “I’ll go! I’ll go—just don’t hurt him!”
s’Ex stood where he was, that notched, bloodied blade catching the light as he held it aloft. As if he were considering major organs for the next stab.
“It’s up to you, Trez. It’s all up to—”
Later, when the white light had faded from Trez’s vision and the cresting wave receded, when the roar was silenced and a strange pain in his hands began to ride up his forearms, when he was no longer standing but on his knees, he would realize that the first guard he had killed that night was far from his last.
He would realize that he somehow murdered with his bare hands all who had surrounded him . . .
...and s’Ex was still standing there with his brother.
More than the deaths he caused, and the horror at iAm’s imprisonment with him, more than the copper-scented blood that was so red and now not just marking his footprints, he would remember the soft laugh that percolated through the mesh links covering the executioner’s face.
A soft laugh.
As if the executioner approved of the carnage.
Trez did not laugh. He began to sob, lifting bloody, torn hands to his face.
“The astrological charts did not lie,” s’Ex said. “You are a force in this world, well suited for procreation.”
Trez slumped to the side, landing in the blood, the jewels embedded in his robes digging into his flesh. “Please . . . let him go. . . .”
“Return to your quarters. Voluntarily and without hurting anyone else.”
“And you’ll let him go?”
“You’re not the only one who can kill. And unlike yourself, I have been trained in the art of making living things suffer. Go back to your quarters and I will not make your brother wish, as you do, that he had never been born.”
Trez looked at his hands. “I didn’t ask for this.”
“No one asks for life.” The executioner hiked iAm’s body up higher. “And sometimes they do not ask for death. You, however, are in the position to control the latter when it comes to this male. So what are you going to do. Fight against a destiny you can’t change and sentence this innocent to a wretched, prolonged suffering? Or fulfill a sacred duty many before you have found great honor in providing our people?”
“Let us go. Let us both go.”
“It is not up to me. Your chart is what your chart is. Your lot was determined by the contractions of your mother. You can no more fight this than you could fight them.”
When Trez finally tried to stand up, he found the floor slippery. The blood. The blood he had spilled. And when he was on his feet, he had to scramble through the gruesome tangle of bodies, stepping over lives that he knew had not been his to take.
The footsteps he left on the marble were red. Red as a Burmese ruby. Red as the core of a fire.
And the ones he left now were parallel to his first set of tracks, heading away from the escape he had so desperately sought.
It would have heartened him to know that in some twenty years, three months, one week, and six days from this moment, he would get free and make it stick for quite some time.
And it would have shocked him to the numb core of his soul that he would, sometime after that, voluntarily return to the palace.
The executioner spoke the truth that night.
Destiny was as uncaring and influential as the wind to a flag, carrying the fabric of an individual’s existence this way and that, subjecting that which it rocked to its whims without an inquiry as to what the banner may have desired.
Or may have prayed for.
SHADOWS NIGHTCLUB, CALDWELL, NEW YORK
There was no knock. The door to the office just flew open like someone had hit it with C4. Or a Chevy. Or a—
Trez “Latimer” looked from the paperwork on his desk. “Big Rob?”
As his security second in command stuttered and went into all kinds of hand flapping, Trez glanced over his shoulder at the twenty-by-ten-foot one-way mirror behind all his Captain Kirk, command central. Down below, his new club was poppin’, humans milling around the converted warehouse’s open floor space, each one of the poor sick bastards representing a couple hundred dollars of profit, depending on what their vice was and how much of it they needed to juice up.
It was opening night at shAdoWs, and he’d expected trouble.
Just not the kind that would make a veteran bouncer go twelve-year-old girl on him.
“What the fuck is going on?” he demanded as he got up and came around.
“I—you—I . . . the guy . . . he . . .”
Find your vocab fast, Trez thought. Or I’ma have to bitch-slap some words into you, my man.
Finally, the bouncer choked out, “Need to see this for yourself.”
Trez followed Big Rob out and jogged down the stairs. His office was self-locking, not that he had any secrets shut in there. He did, however, have a couple of nice leather sofas, and some video-monitoring equip that could go the eBay route—plus he didn’t like people in his spaces on principle.
“Silent Tom is containing the issue,” Big Rob called out over the noise as they hit the ground floor.
“Like it’s a chemical spill?”
“I don’t know what it is.”
T.I.’s “About the Money” was so pumped it formed a physical presence in the air, becoming something that Trez had to fight through as they made their way past the security guy guarding the entrance to the private lounges hallway.
As with his other club, The Iron Mask, there had to be little slices of Nobody Can See for his customers. It was tricky enough running a prostitution ring in Caldwell, New York, without having people flash their slappin’ body parts out in the open.
“Back here,” Big Rob said.
Silent Tom was a wall of human in front of the closed door of the third private room down. But Trez didn’t need to have any reveal for him to put two and two together: His nose added that math up just fine.
The sickly sweet stench of a lesser permeated the hall, prevailing over the sweat and sex of the humans that were all around.
“Lemme have a look,” he said grimly.
Silent Tom stepped aside. “Still moving. Whatever the hell it is.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for J.R. Ward’s #1 New York Times bestselling novels of the Black Dagger Brotherhood:
“J. R. Ward’s unique band of brothers is to die for. I love this series!” —Suzanne Brockmann, New York Times Bestselling Author of Do or Die
“Utterly absorbing and deliciously erotic.…The Brotherhood is the hottest collection of studs in romance. I can’t wait for the next one!” —Angela Knight, New York Times Bestselling Author of Love Bites
“J. R. Ward’s urban fantasy romance series is so popular, I don’t think there’s a reader today who hasn’t at least heard of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.”—USA Today
“Tautly written, wickedly sexy, and just plain fun.”—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Fear Nothing
“A raw, gritty tour de force.”—Booklist (starred review)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book has taken me on an emotional roller coaster. The love and sadness and overall care expressed in this book brought me to tears. Even though there wasnt much of the fighting there was in some of the other book the depth she gave to each character and how real the author made each experience seem thoroughly made this book amazing. I do warn you though this book will make you cry. Its so easy to become emotionally attached especially if you have ever experienced loss. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who read the black dagger book. 5 stars to you J.R. Ward.?
This book took me back to the beggining of the series. The love story was just beautiful and the other story lines were for support not just going on and on about people that I did not care what was happening to them. Cannot wait to see what happens with the new recruits !
I've been a fan of the WarDen and the Black Dagger Brotherhood for quite some time. This has to be her BEST! There is no other author who brings such depth to her characters. Although you need a tissue box for this one it in my humble opinion is one of her best stories. Her characters might be paranormal but their lives are so incredibly human. I recommend this book highly.
When are we going to see the Blackdagger Brotherhood on the big screen?! Would love to see Vishous on the big screen!!!!
While reading this latest release of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series I was very excited to finally get the story of the Shadow brothers Trez and iAm because in the previous books we have read about them though it was only a tease. I wanted to finally understand the Shadow brothers who captivated me from the first time I read about them. I also wanted to find out how it would turn out between the Chosen Serena and Trez who since they first laid eyes on each other have been slowly trying not to fall in love with one another. Trez is such a complex character since he’s a Shadow surrounded by vampires that he has grown to care about and also who have come to accept him and his twin brother iAm without completely knowing all about their background. Reading this novel was a bit frustrating because the novel followed so many different characters but reading about Trez and Serena was heart breaking since we find out that she has a human disease that is fatal. It was fun to reading about Rhage and Mary again since we haven’t read too much about what was going on with them since their story in Lover Eternal. Rhage is going thru something in this novel that had me a bit confused on what is going on with him since he seemed to be getting some sort of panic attacks whenever something bad would happen to someone in the Brotherhood. I’m wondering if maybe in the next novel or so we will finally know what is going on with him like when Ward decided to go back to Wrath and his life with half vampire Queen Beth in the novel The King. I was not happy with the way this story ended which is the second time it’s happened while reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The first time I very upset with the end of one of the books was when I finished reading Lover Unbound the story about Vishous and the human surgeon Dr. Jane Whitcomb. Jane was murdered though they were able to be together since she became a sort of ghost, which Vishous would be able to interact and touch. It was not the happily ever after that I would have liked for both of them but I figured at least they would be together and live their lives as best they could. Now when I found out that things would not end with a HEA for Trez I almost stopped reading the novel but I knew that I would have to find out what would happen with Trez after he loses Serena and also to find out how things would end for his brother iAm. The novel does go on for a long time about the tragic love between Trez and Serena that could have been shorter since in the end they didn’t get to have their HEA. After finishing the novel I just wished that instead of dragging Trez and Serena’s story Ward could have written more about iAm and the Shadow Princess, which I’m sorry to say, I can’t even remember her name. They end up falling in love and getting the HEA that Trez and Serena didn’t get to enjoy since Ward cut their lives together very short. In the end I enjoyed this latest novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood though it could have ended better in my opinion and so I’m giving this book a rating of 4 stars.
Another great book for this series! Can't get enough. A must read!
The Shadows, Trez and iAM Latimer have been out of the S'Hisbe Territory for years. Trez's parent sold him at birth to the Queen of the S'Hisbe to be a sexual slave. He and iAm have been living with different names and identities, as owners of a club and a restaurant in Caldwell NY. The Black Dagger Brotherhood know them, The Rheverend had them working for him for years. But the Queen isn't about to forget her purchase and Trez's time is almost up, the Enforcer is hunting them and will take Trez back to the life he dreads. This isn't the normal Black Dagger Brotherhood book. It doesn't center on the Brothers or their sheelans, although you do see them as part of the larger story. It's primarily Trez and iAm's story and J.R. Ward does not disappoint. The fans (including me) have anticipated the revelations as to who these two dark shadows in the fabric of the Vammpires of Caldwell are. Trez is falling in love with one of the Chosen, iAm is trying to make sure his brother can be happy, including volunteering to take his place in the Territory. And the whole train wreck keeps hurtling through the Shadows to the very tense ending. Of course, Ward couldn't leave the Brotherhood totally out, Qhuinn's brother is determined to end his life, he doesn't want to live after the Lessers attacked, led by Lash. Xor and Layla are trying to figure out how they will go on, with each other or Layla with Qhuinn. And Rhage and Mary are working on getting more time with each other. And the Brothers are going to start up the warriors training again and we get to meet characters who will figure in the next few books. It was non-stop, every scene written to elicit an emotional response, love, hate, dread, and yes, sorrow. This book does not have the ending that I'm sure many readers would want, but I look at it this way, life isn't always guaranteed and sometimes stuff happens that we sit and ponder, and sometimes we cry. Yes, this is a 15-tissue book, I cried a lot. But I would not change a word of it. J.R. Ward is one brave author, to take some of the risks she does in this book. If you've never read the Black Dagger Brotherhood, do not start with this one, go back to Dark Lover and read them in order, there are a few threads that carry on throughout the books that you won't want to miss. If you have read them, give this book a chance, it's not quite like the others but it shows a maturity of the characters and also of Ms. Ward as an author. But read it, it is a great addition to the series.
This story is emotional, be prepared. I loved it. It hooked me right away. It flowed much better than her last book, the King. A lot was answered from past story. And she did a good job of introducing the new characters for the new related series.i want xcor & Layla to have their own story. As to some of the negative reviews found on B&N: the term rats was only used twice as a negative for humans. The third it was used to describe someone narcing to the cops. I had no issue with it & it was not through out the entire book. As to xcor changing his stance and another reader wanted to know why it was a 180 from past books SPOILER he fell in love. And JR Ward explains it pretty well in this book. I am looking forward to her next book in this series & the new series about the trainees. My only question is: how is she going to tie the Fallen Angel ending with the BDB.
Still sniffiling over the ending as I write this. The King was such a letdown that I was hesitant when I started reading this one. Wow, such an amazing improvement in writing, story, and characters! I thought nothing would top Lover at Last until this one came along. Whereas the multiple story lines and characters in every chapter took away from the previous book, it was well done and kept you captive in this one. Well done, J.R. Ward. I almost gave up on you, but you have won me back full force. Still can not wait for the Xcor/Layla book!
I likes this book. I loved learning more about the s'hisbe and there traditions. Geez and Selena's story was good but as others have noted there's no HEA. ONE thing that bothered me was the Rhage situation. Throughout the whole book he's suffering with understanding why he got his HEA but others (tohr , trez) don't . I kept getting this feeling like he was somehow going to intervene and help. So when he didn't it kinda felt pointless to put him in so much of the book. Another issue was they left Luchas up in the air? He was dying then he wasn't. Selena talks to him the he is never mentioned again... My other problem was the ending just didn't flow. It was weird like she (ward) just through it together? I don't know. At the end of the books there's always a sense of closure this one didn't feel that way
Please, just change the category of the BDB already. This is no Paranormal Romance. HEA or HFN, at least, is a romance convention, the most basic one, the one romance readers choose to read a romance for and not anything else. J.R.Ward broke that convention. Some might think that's awesome and original; it's not my case. Personally I would like to know what I'm spending my money on and if I have to prepare myself for emotional torture. (not that the Brothers are spared the torture treatment in any of the books, you know what I'm hinting at) Don't get me wrong, I'm all for emotional torture, but not in my romance books. So again, if this storyline had to be told this particular way, I respect that, but...the author should have given a warning BEFORE the book was released and my money already spent. I'm not asking for spoilers, but for a fair warning, a "this is not the romance story you all are expecting." the way Karen Marie Moning did when she left her Highlanders behind and jumped into the FEVER series. I would have liked that kind of courtesy in this case. Don't get me wrong. I found the book very good, but it was NOT a Paranormal Romance. And as such, as much as I could have enjoyed it as an Urban Fantasy read, I totally despise it as it is. Marketing and categorize choices should be made to avoid future dissapointments for the readers and headaches and backlash for the author.
I loved it. I have eagerly awaited the story of the Shadows, and I was not disappointed. Sad, and tragic, the love story between Trez, and Selena literally made me cry. I know must want the HEA for the main characters but sometimes you have to keep it real. I look forward to seeing where the series goes next, and my respect for J.R. Ward abounds.
This book about Tres and a IAm was touching . Made me glad and sad. Love how it handled life and death. Be ready for tissues! Can't wait for next book to find out about Xcor and his bastard' s and Assault . Highly recomend this book.
I love this whole series and this book was an amazing addition. I am so sad that I am done reading it. I loved this story. All of it. I loved JR WARD. She is an amazing writer.
I love all the Brotherhood books but this one really was amazing. J.R. Ward really conveyed the close bond of the Shadow brothers. I laughed and cried....just WOW!
Thank you for a beautiful story of love. ???
Love the series!
I have read all of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, and this one by far was the best. From tears, to laughs, to OMG's. This book outshines the others. A very beautiful beautiful read.
Always a great read. J. R. Ward a very good story teller.
Cried thru the whole book.