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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 45)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(45) by Anne Bishop
  • Luthvian removed her apron and smoothed out the wrinkles in her old dress as best she could. A hearth-witch would have known some little spell to make it look crisply ironed. A witch in personal service would have known some little spell to smooth and rebraid her long black hair in seconds. She was neither, and it was beneath a Healer's dignity to learn such mundane Craft. It was beneath a Black Widow's dignity to care whether a man—any man— expressed approval of how she dressed.

    After locking her workroom and vanishing the key, Luthvian squared her shoulders -and lifted her chin. There was only one way to find out why he was here.

    As she walked down the main hallway that divided the lower floor of her house, Luthvian kept her pace slow and dignified as befitted a Sister of the Hourglass. Her workroom, healing room, dining room, kitchen, and storerooms took up the back part of the lower floor. Student workroom, study room, Craft library, and the parlor took up the front. Baths and bedrooms for her boarders were on the second floor. Her suite of rooms and a smaller suite for special guests filled the third floor.

    She didn't keep live-in servants. Doun was just around the bend in the road, so her hired help went home each night to their own families.

    Luthvian paused, not yet willing to open the parlor door. She was an Eyrien exiled among Rihlanders—an Eyrien who had been born without the wings that would have been an unspoken reminder thatshe came from the warrior race who ruled the mountains. So she snapped and snarled, never allowing the Rihlanders to become overly familiar. But that didn't mean she wanted to leave, that she didn't take some satisfaction in her work. She enjoyed the deference paid to her because she was a good Healer and a Black Widow. She had influence in Doun.

    But her house didn't belong to her, and the land, like all the land in Ebon Rih, belonged to the Keep. Oh, the house had been built for her, to her specifications, but that didn't mean the owner couldn't show her the front door and lock it behind him.

    Was that why he was here, to call in the debt and pay her back?

    Taking a deep breath, Luthvian opened the parlor door, not fully prepared to meet her former lover.

    He was surrounded by her students, the whole giggling, flirting, lash-batting lot of them. He didn't look bored or desperate to be rid of them, nor was he preening as a young buck might when faced with so much undiluted feminine attention. He was as he'd always been, a courteous listener who wouldn't interrupt inane chatter unless it was absolutely necessary, a man who could skilfully phrase a refusal.

    She knew so well how skilfully he could phrase a refusal.

    He saw her then. There was no anger in his gold eyes. There was also no warm smile of greeting. That told her enough. Whatever business he had with her was personal but notpersonal.

    It made her furious, and a Black Widow in a temper wasn't a woman to tamper with. He saw the shift in her mood, acknowledged it with a slight lift of one eyebrow, and finally interrupted the girls' chatter.

    "Ladies," he said in that deep, caressing voice, "I thank you for making my wait so delightful, but I mustn't keep you from your studies any longer." Without raising his voice, he managed to silence their vigorous protests. "Besides, Lady Luthvian's time is valuable."

    Luthvian stepped away from the door just enough for them to scurry past her. Roxie, her oldest student, stopped in the doorway, looked over her shoulder, and fluttered her eyelashes at the High Lord.

    Luthvian slammed the door in her face.

    She waited for him to approach her with the cautious respect a male who serves the Hourglass always displays when approaching a Black Widow. When he didn't move, she blushed at the silent reminder that he didn't serve the Hourglass. He was still the High Priest, a Black Widow who outranked her.

    She moved with studied casualness, as if getting close to him had no importance, but stopped with half the length of the room between them. Close enough. "How could you stand listening to that drivel?"

    "I found it interesting—and highly educational," he added dryly.

    "Ah," Luthvian said. "Did Roxie give you her tasteful or her colorfully detailed version of her Virgin Night? She's the only one old enough to have gone through the ceremony, and she primps and preens and explains to the other girls that she's really too tired for morning lessons these days because her lover's soooo demanding."

    "She's very young," Saetan said quietly, "and—"

    "She's vulgar," Luthvian snapped.

    "—young girls can be foolish."

    Tears pricked Luthvian's eyes. She wouldn't cry in front of him. Not again. "Is that what you thought of me?"

    "No," Saetan said gently. "You were a natural Black Widow, driven by your intense need to express your Craft, and driven even harder by your need to survive. You were far from foolish."

    "I was foolish enough to trust you!"

    There was no expression in his golden eyes. "I told you who, and what, I was before I got into bed with you. I was there as an experienced consort to see a young witch through her Virgin Night so that when she woke in the morning the only thing broken was a membrane—not her mind, not her Jewels, not her spirit. It was a role I'd played many times before when I ruled the Dhemlan Territory in both Realms. I understood and honored the rules of that ceremony."

    Luthvian grabbed a vase from a side table and flung it at his head. "Was impregnating her part of the understood rules?" she screamed.

    Saetan caught the vase easily, then opened his hand and let it smash on the bare wood floor. His eyes blazed, and his voice roughened. "I truly didn't think I was still fertile. I didn't expect the spell's effects to last that long. And if you'll excuse an old man's memory, I distinctly remember asking if you'd been drinking the witch's brew to prevent pregnancy and I distinctly remember you saying that you had."

    "What was I supposed to say?" Luthvian cried. "Every hour put me at risk of ending up destroyed under one of Dorothea's butchers. You were my only chance of survival. I knew I was close to my fertile time, but I had to take that risk!"

    Saetan didn't move, didn't speak for a long time. "You knew there was a risk, you knew you'd done nothing to prevent it, you deliberately lied to me when I asked you, andyou still dare to blame me?"

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