The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17) - J.R. Ward

Eliahu Rathboone House

Sharing Cross, South Carolina

I’m going to kill it, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Rick Springfield—no, not the singer, and could his parents have done a little better on that one?—got up on the queen-size bed and rolled this month’s Vanity Fair into a weapon. Good thing the Internet was sucking up ads and magazines were shrinking in size because he got a tight roll on the anemic pages.

“Can’t we just let the bat out a window?”

The helpful suggestion was posited by the “Jessie’s Girl” he wanted to impress—her name was Amy Hongkao—and so far the weekend away had been good. They’d left Philly Friday at noon, both of them cutting the work day in half, and traffic hadn’t been bad. They’d arrived at the Eliahu Rathboone B&B around eight, collapsed into this bed he was currently trying to balance on, and had sex three times the following morning.

Now it was Sunday night and they were leaving tomorrow early afternoon, barring any snowstorms up the coast—

The bat came gunning for his head, and it flew in the manner of a moth, all discombobulated flapping with the flight path of a drunk. Pulling up memories from Pee Wee baseball, Rick got his stance set, hauled back on the Vanity Fair slugger, and gave a good swing.

The goddamn bat bobbed out of the way, but his arms kept going, all aim, no target, throwing him into a lurch that was right out of the Concussion Handbook.


Amy caught him by bracing against his outer thigh and pushing, and he threw out a hand for the first steady thing in his vicinity—her head. As her hair twisted up under his sweaty palm, there was cursing. From him and her.

The bat came back and dive-bombed them, all how-you-like-me-now-douchebag. And in a fit of manliness, Rick shrieked, recoiled, knocked a lamp over. When it crashed, they lost nearly all the light in the room, only a glow at the base of the door offering any frame of retina reference.

Talk about going to ground fast. He hit that bed like a duvet, falling flat and dragging Amy with him. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they panted hard, even though there was nothing romantic about the contact.

Nope. This was an aerobic workout to that old school “I Will Survive” song.

“It must have come down the chimney and out of the fireplace,” he said. “Don’t they carry rabies?”

Overhead, the scourge of room 214 did the rounds at what Rick hoped was, and stayed at, the ten-thousand-feet molding level. And all the flapping and squeaking was surprisingly ominous, considering the damn thing probably didn’t weigh more than a slice of bread. The darkness, however, added a threat of death that was primordial: Even though the manly side of him wanted to solve the problem and be a hero—so he looked better than he actually was to a woman he’d just started dating—his fear demanded that he outsource this catastrophe.

Before their first weekend away together became a viral story about how you needed to watch out for bats or you ended up with a fourteen-day course of shots.

“This is ridiculous.” Amy’s breath was Colgate-minty and close to his face, and her body felt good against his own even though they were in dire bat-stakes. “Let’s just make a run for the door and go downstairs to the front desk. This can’t be the first time this has happened, and it’s not like that’s Dracula—”

Their door swung open.

No knock. No sound at all from the hinges. No clear indication how it had become unlatched because there was no one on the other side.

The light from the hall plunged in like a hand of safety to the drowning, but relief was short lived. A shape materialized from out of thin air to block the illumination. One moment there was nothing between the jambs, the next, an enormous silhouette of a long-haired male figure appeared, the shoulders powerful as a heavyweight boxer’s, the arms long and muscled, the legs planted like steel beams. With the light coming from behind, there was no seeing the face, and Rick was glad for that.

Because everything about the arrival and the size and that scent in the air—cologne, but not fake, not out of a bottle—suggested this was a dream.

Or a nightmare.

The figure brought up a hand to his mouth—or seemed to. Maybe he was taking a dagger out of a chest holster?

There was a pause. Then he held his forefinger forward.

Against all odds and logic, the bat