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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 51)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(51) by Anne Bishop
  • Menzar's relief at coming inside was short-lived. As shadow-filled as the outer steps, the great hall held a silence that was pregnant with interrupted rustling. He followed the butler to the end of the hall, disturbed by the lack of people. Where were the servants? In another wing, perhaps, or taking their supper? A place this size . . . half the village could be here and their presence would be swallowed up.

    The butler opened the last right-hand door and announced him.

    It was an interior room with no windows and no other visible door. Shaped like a reversed L, the long side had large chairs, a low blackwood table, a black leather couch, a Dharo carpet, candle-lights held in variously shaped wrought-iron holders, and powerful, somewhat disturbing paintings. The short leg . . .

    Menzar gasped when he finally noticed the golden eyes shining out of the dark. A candle-light in the far corner began to glow softly. The short leg held a large blackwood desk. Behind it were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The walls on either side were covered with dark-red velvet. It felt different from the rest of the room. It felt dangerous.

    The candlelights brightened, chasing the shadows into the corners.

    "Come where I can see you," said a querulous voice.

    Menzar slowly approached the desk and almost laughed with relief. This was the High Lord? This shrunken, shaking, grizzled old man? This was the man whose name everyone feared to whisper?

    Menzar bowed. "High Lord. It was kind of you to invite me to—"

    "Kind? Bah! Didn't see any reason why I should torture my old bones when there's nothing wrong with your legs." Saetan waved a shaking hand toward the chair in front of the desk. "Sit down. Sit down. Tires me just to watch you stand there." While Menzar made himself comfortable, Saetan muttered and gestured to no one. Finally focusing on his guest, he snapped, "Well? What's she done now?"

    Tamping down his jubilation, Menzar pretended to consider the question. "She hasn't been in school this week," he said politely. "I understand she'll be tutored from now on. I must point out that socializing with children her own age—"

    "Tutors?" Saetan sputtered, thumping his cane on the floor. "Tutors?" Thump. Thump. "Why should I waste my coin on tutors? She's got all the teaching she needs to perform her duties."

    "Duties?"

    Saetan's mouth curved in a leering smile. "Her mind's a bit queered up and she's not much to look at, but in the dark she's sweet enough."

    Menzar tried not to stare. The Dark Priestess's friend had hinted, but. . . . He'd seen no bite marks on the girl's neck. Well, there were other veins. What else might Saetan be doing—or what might she be required to do for him while he supped from a vein? Menzar could imagine several things. They all disgusted him. They all excited him.

    Menzar clamped one hand over the other to keep them still. "What about the tutors?"

    Saetan waved his hand, dismissing the words. "Had to say something when that bitch Sylvia came sniffing around asking about the girl." He narrowed his eyes. "You strike

    me as a very discerning man, Lord Menzar. Would you like to see my special room?"

    Menzar's heart smashed against his chest.Ifhe invites you to his private study, make an excuse, any excuse to leave. "Special room?"

    "My special, special room. Where the girl and I ... play."

    Menzar was about to refuse, but the doubts and the warnings melted away. The High Lord was just a lecherous old man. But no doubt a connoisseur of things Menzar had only read about. "I'd like that."

    The walk through the corridors was painfully slow. Saetan went down flights of stairs crab wise, muttering and cursing. Every time Menzar became uneasy about their descent, a leering grin and a highly erotic tidbit vanished the doubts again.

    They finally arrived at a thick wooden door with a lock as big as a man's fist. Menzar waited restlessly while Saetan's shaking hand fit the key into the lock, and then he had to help the High Lord push the heavy door open. Who helped the High Lord at other times? That butler? Did the girl follow him into the room like a well-trained pet or was she restrained? Did Saetan require assistance? Did that butler watch while he ... Menzar licked his lips. The bed must be like ... he couldn't even begin to imagine what the bed in this playroom would be like.

    "Come in, come in," Saetan said querulously.

    The torchlight from the corridor didn't penetrate the room. Standing at the doorway, once more uncertain, Menzar strained his eyes to see the furnishings, but the room was filled with a thick, full darkness, a waiting darkness, something more than the absence of light.

    Menzar couldn't decide whether to step back or step forward. Then he felt a phantomsomething whisper past him, leaving a mist so fine it almost wasn't there. But that mist was full of many things, and in his mind he saw a bouquet. of young faces, the faces of all the witches whose spirits he had so carefully pruned. He'd always considered himself a subtle gardener, but this room offered more. Much, much more.

    He stepped inside, drawn toward the center of the room by small phantom hands. Some playfully tugged, some caressed. The last one pressed firmly against his chest, stopping him from taking another step, before sliding down his belly and disappearing just before it reached his expectation.

    His disappointment was as sharp as the sound of the lock snapping into place.

    Cold. Dark. Silent.

    "H-High Lord?"

    "Yes, Lord Menzar," said a deep voice that rolled through the room like soft thunder. A seductive voice, caressing in the dark.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire