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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(60) by Anne Bishop
  • 2—Terreille

    Daemon stared out the window as the carriage rolled along the smooth road leading to the Angelline estate, aware that his escort, Prince Philip Alexander, covertly watched him. He'd been relieved when Philip had stopped defensively pointing out things of interest as they rode through Beldon Mor. He understood the man's defensiveness—Hayllian ambassadors prided themselves on their ability to subtly sneer at the cultural heritage of their host cities—but he was too intrigued by the elusive puzzle that had brushed his mind shortly after arriving in Beldon Mor to give Philip more than terse, civil replies.

    A few decades ago, Beldon Mor had probably been a beautiful city. It was still lovely, but he recognized the taint of Hayll's influence. In a couple more generations, Beldon Mor would be nothing more than a smaller, younger Draega.

    But there was an undercurrent beneath the familiar taint, a subtlesomething that eluded recognition. It had crept up on him during the hours he'd spent at the Hayllian embassy, like a mist one could almost feel but couldn't see. He'd never experienced anything like it and yet it felt familiar somehow.

    "This is all part of the Angelline estate," Philip said, breaking the silence. "The house will be visible around the next bend."

    Pushing the puzzle aside, Daemon forced himself to show some interest in the place where he would be living.

    It was a large, well-proportioned manor house that gracefully fit into its natural surroundings. He hoped the interior decor was as quietly elegant as the exterior. It would be a relief to live in a place that didn't set his teeth on edge.

    "It's lovely," Daemon said when they reached the house.

    Philip smiled warily. "Yes, it is."

    As he climbed out of the carriage and followed Philip up the steps to the door, Daemon's nerves tingled. His inner senses stretched. The moment he crossed the threshold, he slid to a stop, stunned.

    The psychic scent was almost gone, but he recognized it. A dark scent. A powerful, terrifying, wonderful scent.

    He breathed deeply, and the lifetime hunger in him became intense.

    She was here. She washere!

    He wanted to shout in triumph, but the puzzled, wary expression in Philip's gray eyes sharpened Daemon's predatory instincts. By the time he reached Philip's side, he had thought of half a dozen ways a Gray-Jeweled Prince could quietly disappear.

    Daemon smiled, pleased to see Philip's involuntary shiver.

    "This way," Philip said tersely as he turned and walked toward the back of the house. "Lady Angelline is waiting."

    Daemon slipped his hands into his pockets, settled his face into his bored court expression, and fell into step beside Philip with graceful indifference. As impatient as he was to meet the witches in this family and find the one he sought, it wouldn't do to make Philip too uneasy, too defensive.

    They'd almost reached the door when a man came out of the room. He was fat, florid, and generally unattractive, but there were enough similarities between him and Philip to mark them as brothers.

    "So," Robert Benedict said with a hearty sneer. "This is Daemon Sadi. The girls are most excited to have you here. Most excited." His eyes folded up into the fat as he gave Philip a nasty smile before turning back to Daemon. "Leland spent the whole morning dressing for the occasion. Philip's more of a steward now, so he doesn't have the time to see to the girls' comfort the way you will." He rubbed his hands together in malicious glee. "If you'll excuse me, duty calls."

    Stepping aside to let Robert pass, they stood in silence until the front door closed. Philip was white beneath his summer tan, his breath whistled through his clenched teeth, and he shook with the effort of controlling some strong emotion.

    "They're waiting," Daemon said quietly.

    Philip's eyes were full of naked hatred. Daemon calmly returned the look. A Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince had nothing to fear from a Gray-Jeweled Prince. Philip at his worst temper wasn't equal to Daemon at his best, and they both knew it.

    "In here," Philip snapped, leading Daemon into the room.

    Trying not to act too eager, Daemon stepped into the sunny room that overlooked an expanse of green lawn and formal gardens, certain that he would know her the moment he saw her.

    Seconds later, he swallowed a scream of rage.

    There were two women and a girl about fourteen, but the one he sought wasn't there.

    Alexandra Angelline, the matriarch of the Angelline family and the Queen of Chaillot, was a handsome woman with long dark hair just beginning to silver, a fine-boned oval face, and eyes the color of Purple Dusk Jewels. Her clothes were simply cut but expensive. The Blood Opal that hung from her neck was set in a simple gold design. Sitting in a high-backed chair, she held her slender body straight and proud as she studied him.

    Daemon studied her in turn. Not a natural Black Widow, but there was a feel about her that suggested she had spent some time in an Hourglass coven. Though why she would begin an apprenticeship and not continue . . . Unless Dorothea had already begun her purge of Chaillot's Hourglass covens by then. Eliminating potential rivals was one of the first things Dorothea did to soften a Territory, and other Black Widows were far more dangerous rivals than the Queens because they practiced the same kind of Craft. It didn't take that many stories whispered in the dark to change a wariness of Black Widows into an active fear, and once the fear set in, the killing began. Once the killing began, the Black Widows would go into hiding, and the only ones who would be trained in their Craft were the daughters born to the Hourglass.

    Since she was the sole heir to one of the largest fortunes on Chaillot and the strongest Queen the island had, her continued presence in an Hourglass coven would have been a dangerous risk for them all.

    Leland Benedict, Alexandra's only daughter and Robert's wife, was a paler, frivolous version of her mother. The frothy neckline and frothy sleeves of her gown didn't suit her figure, and the hair done too elaborately for the hour of the day made her look more matronly than her mother. Daemon found her air of shy curiosity particularly irritating. The ones who began shyly curious tended to become the crudest and most vindictive once they discovered what kind of pleasure he could provide. Still, he felt sorry for her. He could almost feel the core of her still molten, still wanting something cleaner, richer, more fulfilling than this caged freedom she had. Then she fluttered her eyelashes at him, and he wanted to strike her.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire