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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(119) by Anne Bishop
  • She held out a brightly though clumsily wrapped package with a slightly mangled bow. "Happy Winsol, Saetan."

    His hand shook a little as he took the package and laid it gently on the desk. "Witch-child, I—"

    Jaenelle threw her arms around his neck and squeezed. "Draca said it was all right to open your gift before Winsol because I should only wear it at the Keep. Oh, thank you, Saetan. Thank you. It's the most wonderful dress. And it'sblack. "She studied his face. "Wasn't I supposed to tell you I already opened it?"

    Saetan hugged her fiercely.You, too, Draca. You, too, are not as cold as you pretend to be. "I'm glad it pleases you, witch-child. Now." He turned to her package.

    "No," Jaenelle said nervously. "You should wait for Winsol."

    "You didn't," he gently teased. "Besides, you won't be here for Winsol, so . . ."

    "No, Saetan. Please?"

    It piqued his curiosity that she would give him something and not want to be there when he opened it. However, tomorrow was Winsol, and he didn't want her leaving him feeling heartsore. Adeptly turning the conversation to the mounds of food being prepared at the Kaeleer Hall and broadly hinting that Helene and Mrs. Beale just might be willing to parcel some out before the next day, he sent her on her way and leaned back in his chair with a sigh.

    The package beckoned.

    Saetan Black-locked the study door before carefully unwrapping the package. His heart did a queer little jig as he stared at the back of one of the swivel frames he had purchased for her. Taking a deep breath, he opened the frame.

    In the left side was a copy of an old picture of a young man with a hint of a brash smile and a ready-for-trouble gleam in his eyes. The face would have changed by now, hardened, matured. Even so.

    "Lucivar," he whispered, blinking away tears and shaking his head. "You had that look in your eyes when you were five years old. It would seem there are some things the years can't change. Where are you now, my Eyrien Prince."

    He turned to the picture on the right, immediately set the frame on the desk, leaned back in his chair and covered his eyes. "No wonder," he whispered. "By all the Jewels and the Darkness, no wonder." If Lucivar was a summer afternoon. Daemon was winter's coldest night. Sliding his hands from his face, Saetan forced himself to study the picture of his namesake, his true heir.

    It was a formal picture taken in front of a red-velvet background. On the surface, this son of his was not a mirror—he far exceeded his father's chiseled, handsome features—but beneath the surface was the recognizable, chilling darkness, and a ruthlessness Saetan instinctively knew had been honed by years of cruelty.

    "Dorothea, you have recreated me at my worst."

    And yet . . .

    Saetan leaned forward and studied the golden eyes so like his own, eyes that seemed to look straight at him. He smiled in thanks and relief. Nothing would ever undo what Dorothea had done to Daemon, what she had turned him into, but in those golden eyes was a swirling expression of resignation, amusement, irritation, and delight—a cacophony of emotions he was all too familiar with. It could only mean one thing: Jaenelle had maneuvered Daemon into this and had gone with him to make sure it was done to her satisfaction.

    "Well, namesake," Saetan said quietly as he positioned the frame on the corner of his desk, "if you've accepted the leash she's holding, there's hope for you yet."

    8—Terreille

    For Daemon, Winsol was the bitterest day of the year, a cruel reminder of what it had been like to grow up in Dorothea's court, of what had been required of him after the dancing had fired Dorothea's and Hepsabah's blood.

    His stomach tightened. The stone he sharpened his already honed temper on was the knowledge that the one witch he wanted to dance with, the only one he would gladly surrender to and indulge was too young for him—for any man.

    He celebrated Winsol because it was expected of him. Each year he sent a basket of delicacies to Surreal. Each year he sent gifts to Manny and Jo—and to Tersa whenever he could find her. Each year there were the expected, expensive gifts for the witches he served. Each year he got nothing in return, not even the words "thank you."

    But this year was different. This year he'd been caught up in a whirlwind called Jaenelle Angelline—as impossible to deflect as she was to stop—and he had become an accomplice in all sorts of schemes that, even in their innocence, had been thrilling. When he had dug in his heels and balked at one of her adventures, he'd been dragged along like a toy so well loved it didn't have much of its stuffing left. With his defenses breached, with his temper dulled and battered by love and his coldness trampled by mischief, he had briefly thought to appeal to the Priest for help until, with amused dismay, he realized the High Lord of Hell was probably faring no better than he.

    Now, however, as he thought of the kinds of adventures Alexandra and Leland and their friends would require of him, the cold once more whispered through his veins and his temper cut with every breath.

    After a light meal that would hold off hunger until the night's huge feast, they gathered in the drawing room to unwrap the Winsol gifts. Flushed from her dizzying work in the kitchen, Cook carried in the tray with the silver bowl filled with the traditional hot blooded rum. The small silver cups were filled to be shared.

    Robert shared his cup with Leland, who tried not to look at Philip. Philip shared his with Wilhelmina. Graff sneeringly shared hers with Cook. And he, because he had no choice, shared his with Alexandra.

    Jaenelle stood alone, with no one to share her cup.

    Daemon's heart twisted. He remembered too many Winsol when he had been the one standing alone, the outcast, the unwanted. He would have damned the tradition that said only one cup was shared, but he saw that strange, unnerving light flicker in her eyes for just a moment before she lifted her cup in a salute and drank.

    There was a moment of nervous silence before Wilhelmina jumped in with a brittle smile and asked, "Can we open the gifts now?"

    As the cups were put back on the tray, Daemon maneuvered to Jaenelle's side. "Lady—"

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire