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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(124) by Anne Bishop
  • "I'm not going to have a court. I don't want to have that kind of power over someone else's life. Besides, you don't want to serve me. You don't know about me, don't understand—"

    He lost patience. "What? That you're Witch?"

    She looked shocked.

    He rubbed her shoulders, and said dryly, "Wearing the Black at your age makes it rather obvious, Cat. Anyway, I've known who, and what, you were since I met you." He tried to smile. "The night we met, I'd asked the Darkness for a strong Queen I'd be proud to serve, and there you were. Of course, you were a bit younger than I'd imagined, but I wasn't going to be picky about it. Cat, please. I've waited a lifetime to serve you. I'll do anything you want. Please don't send me away."

    Jaenelle closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest. "It's not that easy, Lucivar. Even if you can accept what I am—"

    "Ido accept what you are."

    "There are other reasons why you might not be willing to serve me."

    Something inside him settled. He understood the custom of passing tests or challenges in order to earn a privilege. Whether she realized it or not, she was offering him a chance. "How many?"

    She looked at him blankly.

    "How many reasons? Set a number, now. If I can accept them, then I can choose to serve you. That's fair."

    She gave him a strange look. "And will you be honest with yourself as well as with me about whether you can really accept them?"

    "Yes."

    She pulled away from him, sitting just out of reach. After several minutes of tense silence, she said, "Three."

    Three. Not a dozen or so to natter about. Just three. Which meant he had to take them seriously. "All right. When?"

    Jaenelle flowed to her feet. "Now. Pack a bag and plan to stay overnight." She headed for the cabin at a swift pace.

    Lucivar followed her but didn't try to catch up. Three tests would determine the next five years of his life.

    She'd be fair. Whether she liked the end result or not, she'd be fair. And so would he.

    As he approached the cabin, the wolves ran out to greet him, offering furry comfort to the adopted member of their pack.

    Lucivar buried his hands in their fur. If he had to serve someone else, would he ever see them again? He would be honest. He wouldn't abuse her trust in him. But he was going to win.

    3 / Kaeleer

    Lucivar's heart pounded against his chest. He had never been inside the Keep, not even an outside courtyard. A half-breed bastard wasn't worthy of entering this place. If he'd learned nothing else in the Eyrien hunting camps, he'd learned that, no matter what Jewels he wore or how skilled he was with weapons, his birth made him unworthy to lick the boots of the ones who lived in Ebon Askavi, the Black Mountain.

    Now he was here, walking beside Jaenelle through massive rooms with vaulted ceilings, through open courtyards and gardens, through a labyrinth of wide corridors—and the prickle between his shoulder blades told him that something had been watching him since he entered the Keep. Something that flitted inside the stone, hid inside shadows, created shadows where shadows shouldn't exist. Not malevolent—at least, not yet. But the stories about what guarded the Keep were the fireside tales that frightened young boys sleepless.

    Lucivar twitched his shoulders and followed his Lady.

    By the time they reached the upper levels that appeared to be more inhabited, Lucivar began wistfully eyeing the benches and chairs that lined the corridors and promising himself a drink of water from the next indoor fountain or decorative waterfall they came to.

    Jaenelle had said nothing since they'd stepped off the landing web in the outer courtyard. Her silence was supportive but not comforting. He understood that. Ebon Askavi was Witch's home. If he served her, he had to come to terms with the place without leaning on her.

    She reached an intersection of corridors, glanced left, and smiled. "Hello, Draca. This is Lucivar Yaslana. Lucivar, this is Draca, the Keep's Seneschal."

    Draca's psychic scent, filled with great age and old, dark power, unnerved him as much as the reptilian cast of her features. He bowed respectfully, but was too nervous to speak a proper greeting.

    Her unblinking eyes stared at him. He caught a whiff of emotion that unraveled his nerves even more. For some reason, he amused her.

    "Sso, you have finally come," Draca said. When Lucivar didn't answer, she turned to Jaenelle. "He iss sshy?"

    "Hardly that," Jaenelle said dryly, looking amused. "But a bit overwhelmed, I think. I gave him the long tour of the Keep."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire