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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(51) by Anne Bishop
  • "It would benice if you could be a little more respectful to your mother." She smoothed her dress, running her hands over her br**sts and belly, looking at him from beneath her eyelashes.

    "I have a great deal of respect for my mother," he replied blandly.

    Looking uneasy, she patted the air near his sleeve and said with brittle cheerfulness, "I've got your room all ready for you. Nice and comfy. Maybe after dinner we can sit and have a nice little coze, hmm?" She turned toward the door, swinging her hips provocatively.

    Daemon's temper snapped. "You mean I should be more amenable to putting my face between your legs." He ignored her shocked gasp. "I won't be more amenable,Mother. Not tonight. Not any night. Not to you or anyone else in this court. If I'm commanded to kneel while I'm here, I promise you that what happened to Cornelia will be nothing compared to what I'll do here. If you think the Ring can stop me, you'd better think again. I'm not a boy anymore, Hepsabah, and I want youdead. "

    Hepsabah backed away from him, her eyes wide with terror. She snatched at the door handle and flung herself into the corridor.

    Daemon opened a bottle of brandy, paused only long enough to probe it to be sure there were no sedatives or other nasty surprises added to the liquor, put the bottle to his mouth, and tipped his head back. It burned his throat and caught fire in his stomach, but he continued to swallow until he needed to breathe. The room swam a little but steadied quickly as his metabolism consumed the liquor as it consumed food. That was a drawback to wearing darker Jewels—it took a massive amount of alcohol to get pleasantly drunk. Daemon didn't want to get pleasantly drunk. He wanted to numb the anger and the memories. He couldn't afford a full confrontation with Dorothea now. He could break the Ring, and Dorothea with it. Over the past few years he'd become sure of that. What he wasn't sure of was how much damage she might do to him before he destroyed her, wasn't sure if he'd be permanently maimed by the time he got the Ring off, wasn't sure what other damage he might do to himself that might prevent him from ever wearing the Black again. And there was a Lady out there, somewhere, that he wanted to be whole for. Once he found her . . .

    Daemon smiled coldly. The Priest owed him a favor, and two Black Jewels, even if one was Ringed, should be quite sufficient to take care of an arrogant Red-Jeweled High Priestess.

    Laughing, Daemon went into his bedroom and dressed for dinner.


    Chewing his lower lip, Kartane walked up to Daemon, who was studying a closed door. They hadn't been seated near each other at dinner last night, and Daemon had retired early—to everyone's relief—so this was the first time since their abrupt meeting yesterday afternoon that they were together without dozens of people to act as a buffer.

    Kartane wasn't a small man, and even with his excesses he remained trim and well toned, but standing next to Daemon made him feel like he was still in a boy's body. It was more the breadth of Daemon's shoulders than the couple of inches in height, the face matured by pain rather than age that made Kartane feel slight next to him. It was also the difference between a long-lived youth and a male in his prime.

    "Do you know what this is about?" Daemon asked quietly.

    Kartane shook his head. "She just said our presence is required for an entertainment."

    Daemon took a deep breath. "Damn." He opened the door, then stood aside for Kartane to enter.

    Kartane took a couple of steps into the room and felt the air behind him chill as the door closed. He glanced at Daemon's face, at the narrowed eyes suddenly turned hard yellow, and wondered, as he surveyed the room, what had provoked Daemon's temper.

    It was an austere room, furnished with several rows of chairs arranged in a semicircle in front of two posts attached to the floor. Beside the posts was a long table with a white cloth pulled over it. Under and around the posts was a thick pile of white sheets.

    Daemon swore viciously under his breath. "At least as the privileged son you can rest easy that you won't be part of the entertainment. You'll only have to endure watching it."

    Kartane stared at the posts. "I don't understand. What is it?"

    Pity flashed in Daemon's eyes before his face became impassive and his voice took on that toneless, bored quality he always used in court. "You've never seen this?"

    "It seems a bit overdone if she's going to have someone whipped," he said, trying to put a sneer into his voice to hide his growing fear.

    "Not whipped," Daemon said bitterly. "Shaved."

    The look in Daemon's eyes turned Kartane's guts to water.

    Daemon didn't speak again until they reached the first row of chairs. "Listen, Kartane, and listen well. What happens to the poor fool Dorothea's going to tie between those posts is going to depend on how much you squirm. If you stay disinterested, she won't do any less than she's already planned but at least it will be done quicker, and you'll have to endure watching for less time. Understand?"

    "Shaved?" Kartane said in a strangled voice.

    "Didn't anyone ever tell you how they make eunuchs?" Daemon slipped his hands in his pockets and turned away.

    "But . . ." Kartane tensed when Dorothea and her coven walked through the door. "Why this?" he whispered. "Why all these chairs?"

    Daemon's eyes had a worried, faraway look in them. "Because they find it amusing, Lord Kartane. Thisis the afternoon's entertainment. And if we're both lucky, we'll only be the guests of honor."

    Kartane looked quickly at Daemon and then at the posts. Dorothea wouldn't. Shecouldn't. Was that why Daemon warned him, because he wasn't sure if . . . No. Not to Daemon. Not toDaemon.

    Kartane kicked a chair before dropping into another with his arms crossed and his legs sprawled forward, looking like a sulky child. "I have better ways to spend my afternoon," he snarled.

    Daemon turned, one eyebrow raised in question. Dorothea walked toward them, her eyes flashing with annoyance at Kartane's behavior.

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