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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(44) by Anne Bishop
  • When he opened his eyes, his black coat was covered with gray-green ashes. Frowning, Daemon looked up. A denial caught in his throat, strangling him. He stepped back from the tree and sat down on the bench, his face hidden in his hands.

    Several minutes later, he forced himself to look at the tree.

    It was dead, burned from within by his fury. Standing among the green living things, its gray skeletal branches still reached for its partner. Daemon walked over to the tree and pressed his palm against the trunk. He didn't know if there was a way to probe it to see if sap still ran at its core, or if it had all been crystallized by the heat of his rage.

    "I'm sorry," he whispered. Gray-green dust continued to fall from the upper branches. A few minutes ago, that dust had been living green leaves. "I'm sorry."

    Taking a deep breath, Daemon followed the path back the way he'd come, hands in his pockets, head down, shoulders slumped. Just before leaving the park, he turned around and looked back. He couldn't see the tree, but he could feel it. He shook his head slowly, a grim smile on his lips. He'd buried more of the Blood than they would ever guess, and he mourned a tree.

    Daemon brushed the ash from his coat. He'd have to report to Dorothea soon, tomorrow at the latest. There were two more stops he wanted to make before presenting himself at court.

    6—Terreille

    "Honey, what've you been doing to yourself? You're nothing but skin and bones."

    Surreal slumped against the reception desk, grimaced, and sucked in her breath. "Nothing, Deje. I'm just worn out."

    "You been letting those men make a meal out of you?" Deje looked at her shrewdly. "Or is it your other business that's run you down?"

    Surreal's gold-green eyes were dangerously blank. "What business is that, Deje?"

    "I'm not a fool, honey," Deje said slowly. "I've always known you don't really like this business. But you're still the best there is."

    "The best female," Surreal replied, wearily hooking her long black hair behind her pointed ears.

    Deje put her hands on the counter and leaned toward Surreal, worried. "Nobody paid you to dance with . . . Well, you know how fast gossip can fly, and there was talk of some trouble."

    "I wasn't part of it, thank the Darkness."

    Deje sighed. "I'm glad. That one's demon-born for sure."

    "If he isn't, he should be."

    "You know the Sadist?" Deje asked, her eyes sharp.

    "We're acquainted," Surreal said reluctantly.

    Deje hesitated. "Is he as good as they say?"

    Surreal shuddered. "Don't ask."

    Deje looked startled but quickly regained her professional manner. "No matter. None of my business anyway." Coming around the desk, she put an arm around Surreal's shoulders and led her down the hall. "A garden room, I think. You can sit out quietly in the evening, eat your meals in your room if you choose. If anyone notices you're here and makes a request for your company, I'll tell them it's your moon time and you need your rest. Most of them wouldn't know the difference."

    Surreal gave Deje a shaky grin. "Well, it's the truth."

    Deje shook her head and clucked her tongue in annoyance as she opened the door and led Surreal into the room. "Sometimes you've no more sense than a first-year chit, pushing yourself at a time when the Jewels will squeeze you dry if you try to tap into them." She muttered to herself as she pulled down the bedcovers and plumped the pillows. "Get into a nice comfy nightie—not one of those sleek things—and get into bed. We've got a hearty soup tonight. You'll have that. And I've got some new novels in the library, nice fluff reading. I'll bring a few of them; you can take your pick. And—"

    "Deje, you should've been someone's mother," Surreal laughed.

    Deje put her hands on her ample hips and tried to look offended. "A fine thing to say to someone in my business." She made a shooing motion with her hands. "Into bed and not another word from you. Honey? Honey, what's wrong?"

    Surreal sank onto the bed, tears rolling silently down her cheeks. "I can't sleep, Deje. I have dreams that I'm supposed to be somewhere, do something. But I don't know where or what it is."

    Deje sat on the bed and wiped the tears from Surreal's face. "They're only dreams, honey. Yes, they are. You're just worn out."

    "I'm scared, Deje," Surreal whispered. "There's something really wrong with him. I can feel it. Once I started running, hoping I was going in the opposite direction, that whole damn continent wasn't big enough. I need a clean place for a while." Surreal looked at Deje, her large eyes full of ghosts. "I need time."

    Deje stroked Surreal's hair. "Sure, honey, sure. You take all the time you need. Nobody's going to push you in my house. Come on now, get into bed. I'll bring you something to eat and a little something to help you sleep." She gave Surreal a quick kiss on the forehead and hurried out of the room.

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