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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 43)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(43) by Anne Bishop
  • "Do you think it's inappropriate?" Jaenelle asked, her voice drifting out of the shadows.

    Saetan dipped his hand into the pool and raised the cupped palm, watching the water trickle through his fingers. "No, I was wishing I'd thought of it myself." He flicked drops of water from his fingers and finally looked at her.

    The dark-colored dress she was wearing faded into the surrounding shadows, giving him the impression that her face, one bare shoulder, and the golden hair were rising up out of the night itself.

    He looked away, focusing on a water lily but intensely aware of her.

    "I like the sound of water singing over stone," Jaenelle said, coming a little closer. "It's restful."

    But not restful enough. How many things haunt you, witch-child?

    Saetan listened to the water. He pitched his voice to blend with it. "Have you planted witch blood before?"

    She was silent so long he didn't think she would answer, but when she did, her voice had that midnight, sepulchral quality that always produced a shiver up his spine. "I've planted it before."

    Sensing her brittleness, he knew he was getting too close to a soul-wound—and secrets. "Will it bloom in Marasten Gardens?" he asked quietly, once more moving his fingers slowly through the water.

    Another long silence. "It will bloom."

    Which meant a witch who had died violently was buried there.

    Tread softly, he cautioned himself. This was dangerous ground. He looked at her, needing to see what those ancient, haunted eyes would tell him. "Will we have to plant it in Halaway?"

    Jaenelle turned away. Her profile was all angles and shadows, an exotic face carved out of marble. "I don't know." She stood very still. "Do you trust your instincts, Saetan?"

    "Yes. But I trust yours more."

    She had the strangest expression, but it was gone so swiftly he didn't know what it meant. "Perhaps you shouldn't." She laced her fingers together, pressing and pressing until dark beads of blood dotted her hands where her nails pierced her skin. "When I lived in Beldon Mor, I was often ... ill. Hospitalised for weeks, sometimes months at a time." Then she added, "I wasn't physically ill, High Lord."

    Breathe, damn you, breathe. Don't freeze up now."Why didn't you ever mention this?"

    Jaenelle laughed softly. The bitterness in it tore him apart. "I was afraid to tell you, afraid you wouldn't be my friend anymore, afraid you wouldn't teach me Craft if you knew." Her voice was low and pained. "And I was afraid you were just another manifestation of the illness, like the unicorns and the dragons and . . . the others."

    Saetan swallowed his pain, his fear, his rage. There was no outlet for those feelings on a soft night like this. "I'm not part of a dreamscape, witch-child. If you take my hand, flesh will touch flesh. The Shadow Realm, and all who reside in it, are real." He saw her eyes fill with tears, but he couldn't tell if they were tears of pain or relief. While she had lived in Beldon Mor, her instincts had been brutalized until she no longer trusted them. She had recognized the danger in Halaway before Sylvia had, but she had doubted herself so much she hadn't been willing to admit it—just in case someone told her it wasn't real.

    "Jaenelle," he said softly, "I won't act until I've verified what you tell me, but please, for the sake of those who are too young to protect themselves, tell me what you can."

    Jaenelle walked away, her head down, her golden hair a veil around her face. Saetan turned around, giving her privacy without actually leaving. The stones he sat on felt cold and hard now. He gritted his teeth against the physical discomfort, knowing instinctively that if he moved she wouldn't be able to find the words he needed.

    "Do you know a witch called the Dark Priestess?" Jaenelle whispered from the nearby shadows.

    Saetan bared his teeth but kept his voice low and calm. "Yes."

    "So does Lord Menzar."

    Saetan stared at nothing, pressing his hands against the stones, relishing the pain of skin against rough edges. He didn't move, did nothing more than breathe until he heard Jaenelle climb the stairs that led to the balcony outside her rooms, heard the quiet click when she closed the glass door.

    He still didn't move except to raise his golden eyes and watch the candle-lights dim one by one.

    The last light in Jaenelle's room went out.

    He sat beneath the night sky and listened to water sing over stone. "Games and lies," he whispered. "Well, I, too, know how to play games. You shouldn't have forgotten that, Hekatah. I don't like them, but you've just made the stakes high enough." He smiled, but it was too soft, too gentle. "And I know how to be patient. But someday I'm going to have a talk with Jaenelle's foolish Chaillot relatives, and then it will be blood and not water that will be singing over stone in a very . . . private . . . garden."

    "Lock it."

    Mephis SaDiablo reluctantly turned the key in the door of Saetan's private study deep beneath the Hall, the High Lord's chosen place for very private conversations. He took a moment to remind himself that he had done nothing wrong, that the man who had summoned him was his father as well as the Warlord Prince he served.

    "Prince SaDiablo."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire