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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Dreams Made Flesh (Chapter 88)      Page
  • Dreams Made Flesh(Black Jewels,Book 5)(88) by Anne Bishop
  • While Peyton was working out why Mephis was snickering, Commander Saetan led captains Mephis and Peyton to the Phantom Sea, where they tested their ships against Murky Mists, Wailing Whirlpools… and sea dragons.

    2

    Hekatah stood at the window of her mother's private receiving room, rubbing her belly to soothe the whelp inside her while she stared at the back garden.

    How much did Saetan know? Was the comment about not having to maintain a household simply a comment, or did he know about the little house she kept in Draega for the pretty toy-boys? It wasn't that she didn't enjoy sex with Saetan. He was an exquisite lover. How could a man who had been Witch's Consort for years not be exquisite in bed? But he wasn't as muchfun. She couldn't play with him the way she could the toy-boys. So why shouldn't she enjoy a romp with a male she could dominate? Besides, it wasn't like she was doing anything wrong. Fidelity and sexual exclusivity were required of the male in a marriage, not the female. Malesserved, after all.

    But Warlord Princes were a law unto themselves, and a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince might not think the status of a wedding ring was sufficient reason to overlook his wife's lovers.

    Her mother, Martella, entered the room, unhappiness and embarrassment rolling off her in waves.

    "We had to go to a different butcher, so the Darkness only knows what the cook will set before us for the evening meal. And the bastard demanded payment before he'd hand over the meat!" Martella s mouth thinned to a petulant line. "I had to return the pearl brooch I'd bought last week in order to pay for the meat." She sighed as she joined Hekatah at the window. "Your…husband … is being difficult about assisting the family, isn't he?"

    "He says he won't make another loan because the extra million gold marks he gave Father wasn't used for the estates as they'd agreed."

    "How could it be?" Martella cried. "Your brothers wanted that new carriage and team of horses, and then there was that payment that the Queen demanded we make because that witch was broken when Caetor got a little too enthusiastic about enjoying himself."

    "Didn't she tell him she was virgin?" Hekatah asked.

    "Well, of course she did. But she wasn't anyoneimportant. Nothing would have come of it if her family hadn't gone to the Queen and made a formal accusation. And they said it wasrape, insisting the girl hadn't agreed to have sex. The Queen gave your father and Caetor a choice: They could pay all the Healer's expenses and make a settlement as compensation for breaking the girl and stripping her of her Jeweled power, or Caetor could stand before a tribunal of Queens to determine if the accusation of rape was justified. The only reason she offered a choice was because the girl is a nobody and Caetor is from one of Hayll's Hundred Families." Bitterness filled Martella's voice. "The question wouldn't have come up at all if we still had the wealth we deserve. But I suppose we can't expect your husband to understand aristo concerns."

    Hekatah felt the verbal slice. Her family's opinion of her marriage was divided. "Saetan" was a common name among the lower social classes. Hell's fire! Even one of the footmen who worked at the family's house here in Draega was named Saetan. And "SaDiablo" wasn't even a twig on a branch of any of the Hundred Families. She'd searched when she'd considered him as a mate. Her mother and aunts had searched. He seemed to have come out of nowhere when he built SaDiablo Hall in Dhemlan and made the bargain with the Dhemlan Queens in both Terreille and Kaeleer to protect their people and lands in exchange for being the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan…theruler of both Dhemlan Territories. Socially unacceptable, he was still a Black-Jeweled Hayllian Warlord Prince who had wealth and power…two things she coveted. So she'd studied him until she was certain how to approach her quarry. She'd worked hard to dazzle him, to intrigue him, to convince him that the Jewels he wore and the power he wielded were insignificant compared to her feelings for the man.

    But the wedding ring hadn't brought her what she'd thought to get from the bargain. Despite what she'd said, she'd wanted to bend the strength of those Black Jewels to her will, had wanted him to wield all that dark power on her behalf. Instead, she'd gotten the man. A man who followed the Blood's code of honor, even though he was powerful enough to do anything he wanted and no one could oppose him. Of course, no one really knew what he could do with the Black Jewels. Telling people he was the High Lord of Hell was a nice fillip for a reputation of temper that had never actually been seen. Not that she believed it for a moment. After all, sheknew the man.

    No, Saetan wasn't aristo. Would never be aristo. Would never appreciate the wants and needs of any of the Hundred Families.

    "There's still Zuulaman," Martella said. "The commission we'll receive from the new trade agreements with Dhemlan will help restore our status among the Hundred Families."

    Hekatah rubbed her belly. She hadn't told her mother and aunts yet that Saetan was being stubborn about the new trade agreements. But Hayll was entitled to whatever Dhemlan could offer. After all, if Saetan hadn't made the bargain with the Dhemlan Queens, that Territory would have become the property of the Hundred Families.

    Since hehad interfered, they would have to get what was owed them another way.

    She smiled at her mother. "I think it's time to give my husband more incentive to take the trade agreements with Zuulaman seriously."

    3

    Saetan dropped the papers on his desk and stared at the Ambassador. "Is this your Queen's idea of a joke?"

    "It is the trade agreement between Zuulaman and Dhemlan," the Ambassador replied calmly.

    "This isshit, and you know it," Saetan snarled. "Zuulaman expects the Dhemlan Queens to hand over the surplus from all the harvests as well as a percentage of the livestock, pay a tithe on every product made by the Dhemlan people,and add a 'market' fee for anything that comes from other Territories that is not bought through a Zuulaman merchant. Have you all lost your minds? The Dhemlan Queens will never agree to this."

    "They will if you insist upon it. You rule here. You are the law here. If you sign the agreement, they have to comply or suffer the consequences."

    He felt himself sliding down into the abyss, sliding down to where his inner web rested at the depth of power signified by the Black Jewels… the cold, glorious Black. At the same time, he knew he was rising to the killing edge, that state of mind that revealed a Warlord Prince for what he truly was…a born killer, a natural predator. The effort to keep his temper leashed made his body quiver.

    "I made an agreement with the Queens of this Territory to protect their people and their land with everything that I am. Now you expect me to use that power as the whip that will force them to turn their people into chattel for Zuulaman's pleasure." Saetan shook his head. "There is nothing Zuulaman can offer that is worth this. You may tell your Queen, and the Queens who answer to her, that there will be no trade agreement with Dhemlan."

    The Ambassador bowed his head. "I will leave you to consider the matter."

    "There's nothing more to consider."

    The Ambassador turned and walked to the study door. Then he paused. "I should mention that your wife is now a guest of the Zuulaman Queens…and will remain so until an agreement has been reached. The message I received also indicated that there was a miscalculation by the Dhemlan Healer as to Lady Hekatah's time. She may give birth any day now, if the birthing hasn't already begun."

    "Do you know who I am?" Saetan asked too softly.

    The Ambassador smiled. "You are an honorable man."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire