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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(62) by Anne Bishop
  • The clothes were a child's clothes, the shoes were meant for small feet. It had been a while since they'd been worn, and the scent was faint in them, too. The wardrobe itself, however . . .

    Daemon went through it piece by piece, touching everything, growing more hopeful and more frantic with each discarded item. When there was nothing left to check, his trembling fingers slid along the inside walls, his tactile sense becoming a conductor for the inner senses.

    Kneeling on the floor, exhausted by disappointment, he leaned forward until his hand touched the far back corner of the wardrobe.

    Lightning pulsed through him until he thought his blood would boil.

    Puzzled, he cupped his hands and created a small ball of witch light. He studied the corner, vanished the witch light, and leaned back on his heels, even more puzzled.

    There was nothing there . . . and yet there was. Nothing his physical senses could engage, but his inner senses insisted something was there.

    Daemon reached forward again and shivered.

    The room was suddenly, intensely cold.

    His thinking was slowed by fatigue, and it took him a full minute to understand what the cold meant.

    "Forgive me," he whispered as he carefully withdrew his hand. "I didn't mean to invade your private place. I swear by the Jewels it won't happen again."

    With trembling hands, Daemon replaced the clothes and shoes exactly the way he'd found them, extinguished the candlelight, and silently glided back to his room. Once there, he dug out the bottle of brandy hidden in his own wardrobe and took a long swallow.

    It didn't make sense. He could understand finding her psychic scent in the library. But in the child's room? Not on the toys, but on the clothes, on the bed-things an adult might handle daily if she took care of the child. When he had made an innocuous comment about there being another daughter, he'd been told, snappishly, that she wasn't at home, that she was ill.

    Was his Lady assuming a Healer's duties? Had she slept in a cot in the girl's room in order to be nearby? Where was she now?

    Daemon put the brandy away, undressed, and slid into bed. Tersa's warning about the chalice cracking frayed his nerves, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn't hunt for her as he had in other courts. She was nearby, and he couldn't risk being sent away.

    Daemon punched his pillow and sighed. When the child returned, his Lady would return.

    And he would be waiting.

    4—Terreille

    Surreal tilted her head back, smiling at the sun's warmth on her face and the smell of clean sea air. Her moon time had passed; tonight she would begin working for her keep to pay Deje back for her kindness. But the day was hers, and as she meandered up the path that led to Cassandra's Altar, she enjoyed the rough landscape, the sun on her back, the crisp autumn wind teasing her long black hair.

    When she rounded a bend and saw the Sanctuary, Surreal wrinkled her nose and sighed. She'd trekked all this way to see a ruin. Even though she was just beginning what might be a long, long life, she had already lived enough years to see that places where she had stayed sometimes had become crumbled piles of stone by the time she next returned. What was ancient history for so many was actual memory for her. She found the thought depressing.

    Pushing her hair off her face, she stepped through an open doorway and looked around, noting the gaps in the stonewalls and the holes in the roof. Sitting in the autumn sun was more appealing than wandering through chilly, barren rooms, so she turned to leave, but when she reached the doorway, she heard footsteps behind her.

    The woman who stepped out from the inner chambers wore a tunic and trousers made of a shimmery, dusty black material. Her red hair, which flowed over her shoulders, was held in place by a silver circlet that fit snugly around her head. A Red Jewel hung just above her br**sts. Her smile of greeting was warm but not effusive.

    "How may I serve you, Sister?" she asked quietly.

    The hair, faded of its vibrant color by time, and the lines on the woman's face spoke of long years, but the emerald eyes and the proud carriage said this was not a witch to trifle with.

    "My apologies, Lady." Surreal met the other's steady gaze. "I came to see the Altar. I didn't know someone lived here."

    "To see or to ask?"

    Surreal shook her head, puzzled.

    "When one seeks a Dark Altar, it's usually for help that can't be given elsewhere, or for answers to questions of the heart."

    Surreal shrugged. She hadn't felt this awkward since her first client at her first Red Moon house, when she realized how little she had learned in all those dirty little back rooms. "I came to . . ." The woman's words finally penetrated. Questions of the heart. "I'd like to know who my mother's people were."

    Surreal suddenly felt a whisper of something that had been there all along, a darkness, a strength she hadn't been attuned to. As she looked at the Sanctuary again, she realized that the things built around this place were insignificant. The place itself held the power.

    The woman's gaze never wavered. "Everything has a price," she said quietly. "Are you willing to pay for what you ask?"

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