The sound was what a question mark would make if keyboards could talk: a soft inquiry, part whimper with a little demand kicked in.
Zsadist opened his eyes, instantly hyper-aware. The bedroom was pitch black- which was what you wanted when sunlight could put you in your grave and it was three in the afternoon. And in the past, he would have gone for his weapon first- wait, his palm was already under his pillow and gripping his Glock.
Chillax, freak, he told himself. Taking a deep breath, he fired up the logical part of his brain and overrode his adrenal gland with all kinds of “you’re home and safe” and “there are no alarms going off” and “take another breath, asshat.”
Beside him, his shellan, Bella stirred, and yup, she went to get out of bed with a shamble, the classic Mom response that had a female up and moving to their young before she was even conscious.
“I’ve got her,” he said, catching her hand and tugging her back down. “You got up last time.”
Bella yawned hard, her jaw cracking. “That was like six months ago. When she had stomach trouble.”
“It could have been ten years before. I don’t want you to do this alone.”
The laugh that came over at him was love in the air. “You are amazing.”
“I’ll call for back-up if I need it.”
Popping off the mattress, he stalked across the thick carpet. Even though Nalla was in the room next door, ever since she’d transitioned out of her crib, he’d taken to wearing boxers to bed. It had required some getting used to, but he just didn’t feel comfortable with his junk all over the place if the door was unlocked between the suites.
The knob was warm and the hinges let out no sound as he opened things up. The scent in the room made him smile. Sweet things, girlie things, like strawberry shampoo and dolls that smelled like flowers and lavender dryer sheets for the laundry. The light was pink, too, glowing over there by the bookcases that were full of thin-spined tomes that had more pictures than words.
Nalla was sitting up and blinking like she wasn’t seeing anything, her huge yellow eyes unfocused, her multi-colored hair all over the place, reminding him of a tossed salad.
The instant his presence registered, she turned and held her arms out. “Daddy?”
He came over and sat down and pulled her in tight. “What’s going on, my nalla?”
His body was so enormous that he felt as though he took up the whole damn bed, but as she came up against his chest, he felt good about his heft. He wanted to be big as a f**king mountain for her. He wanted to be Mt. Everest with a mouth full of serrated blades, sporting fists the size of cars and carrying an arsenal of military-grade weapons off his shoulders, hips and thighs.
“Another bad dream?” he whispered as he smoothed her hair. “More of the shadow man?”
“Why?” she whimpered as she nodded.
He didn’t know, but if he could get into her dreams and hunt the motherf**ker down? No more nightmares, ever.
“I’m here. You’re safe now.”
God, she was small. It terrified him. And as he looked around at the room, he wished that they were in a bunker a mile underground. There had been times when he’d felt vulnerable before, but after Bella had given birth and the two of them had survived? He would walk through Hell to protect them.
Next thing he knew, he was singing, but he couldn’t have told anyone what it was. His body was swaying slightly, however, and Nalla was nestling in closer.
He wasn’t sure who he was soothing. Himself or his daughter.
Bella couldn’t stand it any longer. There were no more worrying sounds, no distress flares from her hellren, nothing but quiet from the monitor and the rest of the house. And the last thing she wanted was for Zsadist to feel like she didn’t think he could handle things. Because he could.
It was just... well, it was Mom-itis. She needed to know all was well.
Slipping from between the warm sheets, she crossed the carpet. She was wearing one of Z’s huge t-shirts, and the thing tickled the tips of her knees and bagged at her elbows even though it was a short sleeve and easily tuckable on him.
Nalla had been moved next door so that they could get some privacy about six months prior, and the little girl was a champ. But every once in a while...
Bella opened things and stopped in the doorway. And with a rush of warmth, she knew, like so many other moments, that what she saw across the little girl’s room was something she would remember to her dying day.
The pink canopied, feast of frills that was Nalla’s bed was so over the top, it had taken both she and Z some getting used to. But when you mentioned at Last Meal one night that you were thinking about moving your daughter into a big girl bed? And the Brotherhood was in ear shot? That bunch of leather pants-clad, sh*tkicker wearing, gun toting, testosterone over-loaded besotted uncles turned into Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath and Beyond whores. Within twenty-four hours, Fritz was pulling more boxes in from the van than most UPS planes carried across country.
And yup, it was like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol had exploded, but Nalla’s face had lit up the second she’d come in, and the squadron of Loving Uncles, Damnit, which was what they called themselves, had melted into puddles of Brothers.
On the bed, Z sat with Nalla in his lap, his bulging muscles forming a cage around her tiny little body, his skull-trimmed head lowered, his eyes closed, his scarred face composed in lines of deep love.
“...make me happpppy.... when skies are gray...”
His dagger hand, calloused from war, gentle from love, stroked those multi-colored curls that were coming in in droves.
“...you’ll never knoooooooow, dear...”
And his voice. That voice, God, that voice. As clear as a crystal, with lows deeper than an ocean and highs taller than the heavens, was the kind of thing that turned your body into a tuning fork even if you were not musically inclined.
“...how much I looooooove you...”
We made that, she thought as she stared at him. That precious, amazing creature against you? We made that together.
“...so please don’t taaaake my sunnnnnshine awaaaaaay...”
He glanced up at that point and jerked in surprise a little. Then there was a shy expression on his face- which was so him. Even with her, he didn’t like to be caught unawares. But she didn’t take any offense in that. His defenses had been hard-earned in the most demeaning and brutal of ways, and she always gave them space to breathe and relax. And around her and Nalla, they always did.
Bella blew him a kiss and mouthed the words that were not just in her brain, but in her heart and her soul.
And then she backed out, leaving sire and daughter be. Returning to her mated bed, she stretched out on his side and put her face into the pillow that smelled like his aftershave. Closing her eyes, she felt richer than a hundred thousand kings.
Then again, when you had your family close by? That was more priceless than any diamond mine, more resonant than any symphony, more beautiful than all the sunrises that would ever be.
Copyright c J. R. Ward, 2016
Ich bin fantastisch....Aszendent "leck mich"....und bevor du fragst...ich wurde geschaffen...nicht geboren....