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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(97) by Anne Bishop
  • The poor fools would never survive it.

    Chapter eight

    1 / Kaeleer

    It started going wrong the moment the two members of the Dark Council walked through the front door, looked around, and shivered.

    SaDiablo Hall was a dark-gray structure that rose above the land and cast a long shadow. He'd built it to be imposing, but hadn't planned on having a stony-faced, Red-Jeweled butler frightening his guests before they even crossed the threshold. As for the chill in the air ... Helene had let him know, with stiff courtesy, what she thought of the Council coming to poke and pry into her domain, and all of the servants had spent the day scurrying away from the kitchen and Mrs. Beale.

    Dark-Jeweled houses always had Blood servants, but whenall the witches in a household decided to express their displeasure, the phrase "cold comfort" took on a whole new meaning.

    "Good afternoon," Saetan said, coming forward to greet the two men.

    The elder of the two bowed. "We appreciate your taking the time to see us, High Lord. I'm Lord Magstrom. This is Lord Friall."

    Saetan liked Lord Magstrom. A man in his twilight years, he had a kind face framed by a cloud of white hair and blue eyes that probably twinkled most of the time. Those eyes were serious now but not condemning. Lord Mags-

    trom, at least, would make his decision based on his own integrity and honor.

    Lord Friall, on the other hand, had already decided. Weedy-looking for all the hair cream and finery, he kept glancing around with distaste and dabbing his lips with a scented, lace-edged handkerchief.

    Saetan led them to the formal drawing room to the right of the great hall. It was a large room, but the furniture was arranged so that tall, painted screens could be placed across its width to divide it. The screens were in place, making this section appear cozy. The plastered walls were painted ivory. All the pictures were serene watercolors. The furniture was dark but not heavy and comfortably arranged over subtly patterned Dharo carpets. There was a bouquet of fresh flowers on a table near the windows. Saetan watched Lord Magstrom tactfully look over the room and knew the man was as pleased with the tasteful decorations as he was.

    "It's a delightful room, High Lord," Lord Magstrom said as he accepted a seat. "Do you use it often?"

    Saetan shoved his hands into his sweater pockets. "No," he said after a slight but noticeable hesitation. "We don't have many formal guests." He turned toward a movement in the doorway. "Ah, Beale."

    The butler stood in the doorway, empty-handed.

    Saetan raised an eyebrow. "Refreshments for our guests?"

    "They'll be ready momentarily, High Lord." Beale bowed and retreated, leaving the door open.

    Saetan was tempted to close the door but decided against it. No point forcing Beale to demean himself by listening at the keyhole.

    "Have we come at an awkward time?" Lord Friall asked, looking pointedly at Saetan's casual attire while he continued to pat his lips with the scented handkerchief.

    Perfume won't help what's troubling you, Lord Friall,Saetan thought coldly.My psychic scent permeates the very stones of the Hall. Saetan glanced down at the white cotton shirt unbuttoned low enough so that the Black Jewel around his neck wasn't completely hidden, the black cotton trousers that were already rumpled, and the sweater. "I

    gather you were expecting a more formal meeting. However, since I had understood that the Council wanted some indication of our usual living arrangements, those two expectations are incompatible."

    "Surely—" Friall began, but he was cut off by Beale bringing in the refreshment tray.

    Saetan studied the tray. It was sparse by Mrs. Beale's usual standards. There were plenty of sandwiches but none of the nut cakes or spiced tarts. "I don't suppose Mrs. Beale would—"

    Beale set the tray on a table with an almost-inaudible thump.

    "No," Saetan said dryly, "I don't suppose she would." He poured the coffee and offered the sandwiches while he tried to ignore the twinkle in Lord Magstrom's eyes. Settling into a corner of the couch where he could keep an eye on the door, he smiled at Lord Friall and wondered if his clenched teeth would survive the .afternoon. "You were saying?"

    "Surely—"

    The front door slammed.

    Catching the psychic scent and the emotional undercurrents, Saetan whistled a sharp command and resigned himself to disaster.

    A moment later, Karla stuck her head around the corner. "Kiss kiss," she said, doing her best to look innocent.

    Having already dealt with several of the coven's spells that had gone awry, Karla trying to look innocent scared him silly. But, if he was lucky, he might never have to know what she'd been up to.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire