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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Daughter of the Blood (Chapter 75)      Page
  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(75) by Anne Bishop
  • Saetan glanced up. Helene would enter the great hall at any moment—and die. He summoned the power in his Jewels, summoned all his strength. Everything was going to ride on one word.

    He thrust out his right hand, the Black Jewel ablaze, stopping Jaenelle's movement. "Lady," he said in a commanding voice.

    Jaenelle looked at him. He shivered but kept his hand steady. "When Protocol is being observed and a Warlord Prince makes a request of his Queen, she graciously yields to his request unless she's no longer willing to have him serve. I ask that you trust my judgment in choosing who serves us at the Hall. I ask permission to introduce you to the housekeeper, who will do her utmost to serve you well. I ask that you accompany me to the dining room for something to eat."

    He had never taught her about Protocol, about the subtle checks and balances of power among the Blood. He had assumed she'd picked up the basics through day-to-day living and observation. He'd thought he would have time to teach her the fine points of interaction between Queens and dark-Jeweled males. Now it was the only leash he had. If she failed to answer . . . "Please, witch-child," he whispered just as Helene entered the great hall and stopped.

    The Darkness swirled around him. Mother Night! He'd never felt anything like this!

    Jaenelle studied his right hand for a long time before slowly placing her hand over it. He shuddered, unable to control it, seeing the truth for just a moment before she kindly shut him out.

    "This is my housekeeper, Helene," Saetan said, never taking his eyes off Jaenelle. "Helene, this is Lady—" He hesitated, at a loss. To say "Lady Jaenelle" was too familiar.

    Jaenelle turned her maelstrom eyes on Helene, who cringed but, with the instinct of a small hunted creature, didn't move. "Angelline." The word rolled out of her in a midnight whisper.

    "Angelline." Saetan looked at Helene, willing her to remain calm. "My dear, would you see what Mrs. Beale might have for us today?"

    Helene remembered her station and curtsied. "Of course, High Lord," she replied with dignity. Turning around, she left the great hall with a steady, measured step that Saetan silently applauded.

    Jaenelle moved away from him, her head down, her shoulders slumped.

    "Witch-child?" Saetan asked gently.

    The eyes that met his were pained and haunted, full of a grieving that twisted his heart because he didn't know what caused it—or, perhaps, because he did.

    He hadn't shuddered because, with her touch, he had found himself looking at power as far beneath him as he was to the White. He hadn't turned away fromher. It was what he had seen there that horrified him—during those months when she'd been gone, she'd learned the one lesson he had never wanted her to learn.

    She had learned to hate.

    Now he had to find a way to convince her that he hadn't turned away from her because of what she was, had to bridge the distance between them, had to find a way to bring her back. He had to understand.

    "Witch-child," he said in a carefully neutral voice, "why were you going to strike Helene?"

    "She's a stranger."

    Rocked by her cold response, Saetan's weak leg buckled. Her arms immediately wrapped around his waist, and he didn't feel the floor at all. Somewhat bemused, he looked down and tapped the floor with his shoe. He stood on air, a quarter inch above the floor. If he walked normally, it would take a keen eye to realize he wasn't walking on the floor itself. That and the lack of sound.

    "It will help you," Jaenelle explained, her voice so full of apology and concern that the arm he'd been sliding around her shoulders pulled her to him in a fierce hug.

    As they walked toward the dining room, Saetan used the excuse of his weak leg to move slowly, to give himself time to think. He had to understand what had brought out that ferocity in her.

    Helene was a stranger, true. But he had a score of names on a sheet of paper locked in his desk drawer, and all of them had been strangers once. Because Helene was an adult? No. Cassandra was an adult. So was Titian, so was Prothvar, Andulvar, and Mephis. So was he. Because Helene was living? No, that wasn't the answer either.

    In frustration, he replayed the last few minutes, forcing himself to view it from a distance. The sound of footsteps, the sudden change in Jaenelle, her predatory glide . . . in front of him.

    He stopped suddenly, shocked, but got tugged along for a few more steps before Jaenelle realized he wasn't trying to walk.

    He'd wondered what her reaction would be to being with him in Kaeleer, being with him outside the Realm he ruled, and now he knew. She cared for him. She was ready to protect him because, to her anyway, a weak leg might make him vulnerable against an adversary.

    Saetan smiled, squeezed her shoulder, and began walking again.

    Geoffrey had been right. He had a more potent leash than Protocol to keep her in check. Unfortunately, that leash worked two ways, so from now on, he was going to have to be very, very careful.

    Saetan looked with growing dismay at the amount of food on the table. Along with a bowl of stew and sticks of cornbread, there were fruit, cheese, nut cakes, cold ham, cold beef, a whole roasted chicken, a platter of vegetables, fresh bread, honey butter, and a pitcher of milk. It ended there only because he'd refused to allow the footman to bring in the last heavily laden tray. The volume would have daunted a hungry full-grown male, let alone a young girl.

    Jaenelle stared at the dishes arranged in a half-circle around her place at the table.

    "Eat your stew while it's hot," Saetan suggested mildly, sipping a glass of yarbarah.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire