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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(44) by Anne Bishop
  • The deep voice pulled him toward the man sitting behind the desk.

    It was a terrible face that watched him cross the room, so still, so expressionless, so contained. The silver in Saetan's thick black hair formed two graceful triangles at the temples, drawing one's gaze to the golden eyes. Those eyes now burned with an emotion so intense words like "hate" and "rage" were inadequate. There was only one way to describe the High Lord of Hell: cold.

    Centuries of training helped Mephis take the last few necessary steps. Centuries and memories. As a boy, he had feared provoking his father's temper, but he'd never feared the man. The man had sung to him, laughed with him, listened seriously to childhood troubles, respected him. It wasn't until he was grown that he understood why the High Lord should be feared—and it wasn't until he was much older that he came to appreciatewhen the High Lord should be feared.

    Like now.

    "Sit." Saetan's voice had that singsong croon that was usually the last thing a man ever heard—except his own screams.

    Mephis tried to find a comfortable position in the chair. The large blackwood desk that separated them offered little comfort. Saetan didn't need to touch a man to destroy him.

    A little flicker of irritation leaped into Saetan's eyes. "Have some yarbarah." The decanter lifted from the desk, neatly pouring the blood wine into two glasses. Two tongues of witch fire popped into existence. The glasses tilted, travelled upward, and began turning slowly above the fires. When the yarbarah was wanned, one glass floated to Mephis while the other cradled itself in Saetan's waiting hand. "Rest easy, Mephis. I require your skills, nothing more."

    Mephis sipped the yarbarah. "My skills, High Lord?"

    Saetan smiled. It made him look vicious. "You are meticulous, you are thorough, and, most of all, I trust you." He paused. "I want you to find out everything you can about Lord Menzar, the administrator of Halaway's school."

    "Am I looking for something in particular?"

    The cold in the room intensified. "Let your instincts guide you." Saetan bared his teeth in a snarl. "But this is just between you and me, Mephis. I want no one asking questions about what you're seeking."

    Mephis almost asked who would dare question the High Lord, but he already knew the answer. Hekatah. This had to do with Hekatah.

    Mephis drained his glass and set it carefully on the blackwood desk. "Then with your permission, I'd like to begin now."

    3 / Kaeleer

    Luthvian hunched her shoulders against the intrusion and vigorously pounded the pestle into the mortar, ignoring the girl hovering in the doorway. If they didn't stop pestering her with their inane questions, she'd never get these tonics made.

    "Finished your Craft lesson so soon?" Luthvian asked without turning around.

    "No, Lady, but—"

    "Then why are you bothering me?" Luthvian snapped, flinging the pestle into the mortar before advancing on the girl.

    The girl cowered in the doorway but looked confused rather than frightened. "There's a man to see you."

    Hell's fire, you'd think the girl had never seen a man before. "Is he bleeding all over the floor?"

    "No, Lady, but—"

    "Then put him in the healing room while I finish this."

    "He's not here for a healing, Lady."

    Luthvian ground her teeth. She was an Eyrien Black Widow and Healer. It grated her pride to have to teach Craft to these Rihlan girls. If she still lived in Terreille, they would have been her servants, not her pupils. Of course, if she still lived in Terreille, she would still be bartering her healing skills for a stringy rabbit or a loaf of stale bread. "If he's not here for—"

    She shuddered. If she hadn't closed her inner barriers so tightly in order to shut out the frustrated bleating of her students, she would have felt him the moment he walked into her house. His dark scent was unmistakable.

    Luthvian fought to keep her voice steady and unconcerned. "Tell the High Lord I'll be with him shortly."

    The girl's eyes widened. She bolted down the hallway, caught a friend by the arm, and began whispering excitedly.

    Luthvian quietly closed the door of her workroom. She let out a whimpering laugh and thrust her shaking hands into her work apron's pockets. That little two-legged sheep was trembling with excitement at the prospect of mouthing practiced courtesies to the High Lord of Hell. She was trembling too, but for a very different reason.

    Oh, Tersa, in your madness perhaps you didn't know or care what spear was slipped into your sheath. I was young and frightened, but I wasn't mad. He made my body sing, and I thought. . . I thought. . .

    Even after so many centuries, the truth still left a bitter taste in her mouth.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire