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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(129) by Anne Bishop
  • "And what kind is that?"

    Surreal let out an unladylike snort. "With Briarwood's esteemed here? What kind of party do you think it's going to be?"

    The night was still and cold. Now it was filled with something more still—and colder.

    "What do you know about Briarwood, Surreal?" Daemon crooned.

    Surreal flinched when he stepped toward her. "Nothing more than everyone who works in a Red Moon house knows," she said defensively.

    "And what is that?"

    "Why?" she said sharply, wishing for her knife and not daring to call it in. "Have you become an uncle, Sadi?"

    Daemon's voice was too soft, too sleepy. "And what is an uncle?"

    She'd been looking into his eyes, frozen by what she saw in them, and didn't feel his hand close around her wrist until it was too late. Anger. Anger was the only defense. "An uncle is a man who likes to play with little girls," she said with sweet venom.

    Daemon's expression didn't change. "What does that have to do with Briarwood?"

    "Kartane helped build the place," she snapped. "Does that answer your question?" She jerked her wrist out of his hand, half surprised that he didn't break it instead of letting go. "No respectable Red Moon house would sell a girl that young or allow her to be . . ." She rubbed her wrist. "The Chaillot whores call it the breaking ground. The 'emotionally unstable' girls from good families are eventually sent home, married off. The other ones . . . The lower-class Red Moon houses are filled with girls who got too old to be amusing."

    "It explains so much," Daemon whispered, shaking. "It explains so very much."

    Surreal put a tentative hand on his arm. "Sadi?" He pulled her into his arms. She struggled, frightened to be this close to him with no way to gauge what he might do. His arms tightened around her. "Surreal," he whispered in her ear. "Let me hold you. Please. Just for a moment." Surreal forced herself to relax. Once she did, his hold loosened a little, making it possible to breathe. Resting her head on his shoulder, she tried to think. Why was he so upset about Briarwood? It wasn't the first place Kartane had helped build for that purpose. Did he know someone who was in Briarwood? Or had been in . . .

    "No." Surreal shook her head fiercely, wanting to deny what she'd seen but hadn't understood in those wary sapphire eyes. "No." She pushed far enough away from Daemon to wrap her hands in his jacket's lapels. "Not that one." She continued to shake her head. "Not her."

    "In and out since she was five," Daemon said in a trembling voice.

    "No," Surreal wailed, hiding her face against his chest, grateful for his arms around her. Suddenly she pushed away from him, brushing the tears off her cheeks, her eyes gold-green chips of stone. "You have to get her out of here. You have to keep her away from them."

    "I know," Daemon said, straightening his jacket. "I know. Come on, I'll take you back in."

    "Don't you realize what they'll do to her? What—" Surreal ran her hands through her hair, never noticing the combs that fell and broke on the stone terrace. "They can't have taken her all the way yet. She doesn't act like she's been broken yet." She grabbed Daemon's arms and tried to shake him. It was like trying to shake the building. "You've got to get her away from here. She's special, Sadi. She's—"

    "Shh," Daemon said, brushing his fingers over her lips. His hands ran through her hair, coaxing it back into some semblance of the style she was wearing. "Calm yourself, Surreal."

    "How—"

    "Calm yourself."

    She hadn't known him this long without knowing an order when she heard it. Calm. Yes. Outsiders weren't supposed to know about the extra little party that was going to take place.

    Daemon led her back to the main hall, his hand lightly resting on her shoulder. "Tell your escort you have a headache. Too much heat, too much sparkling wine. Whatever."

    "That won't be hard." From the doorway, Surreal scanned the crowd in the ballroom, searching for the young Warlord. Instead she saw a Hayllian Warlord standing with a group of men, quietly discussing something while they watched some of the girls having their first dance with selected partners. "Who's that?" she asked, tilting her chin in the Hayllian's direction. Daemon's hand tightened on her shoulder.

    "That, my dear Surreal, is Kartane SaDiablo."

    Her knife was in her hand before he'd finished speaking. Kartane! Finally to see Kartane.

    Surreal tried to step forward, intending to slip through the crowd until she was close enough to be sure of the kill, but she couldn't shake off Daemon's vice grip.

    "No, Surreal," Daemon said quietly.

    "He owes me for Titian," she hissed through clenched teeth.

    "Not here. Not in Beldon Mor."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire