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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(12) by Anne Bishop
  • Daemon glanced at the four sheets of paper spread out on the desk in front of him. In the past two days, he and Jorval had sat in this room six times. Those sheets of paper, listing the four Queens who were interested in obtaining his services, had been offered to him at the first meeting. They had been the only ones offered.

    Jorval folded his hands and sighed. "You must understand. A Warlord Prince is considered a dangerous asset, even when he wears a lighter Jewel and is serving among his own people. A man with your strength and reputation" He shrugged. "I realize your expectations might be different. The Darkness knows, there are so many who have an unrealistic idea of life in Kaeleer. But I can assure you, Prince, that having four Queens who are willing to accept the challenge of having you serve in their courts for the next five years is unusual—and not an opportunity that should be brushed aside."

    Daemon didn't give any indication that the warning had been felt as much as a physical jab would have been. No, he couldn't brush aside the narrow choices if he wanted to stay in Kaeleer. But he wasn't sure he could stomach any of those women long enough to do what he had originally come here to do. And he couldn't help wondering how large a gift Jorval would receive from whichever Queen he chose.

    Suddenly it was too much: the lack of sleep, the pressure to make an unpalatable choice, the nerves that were strained because of what he had planned to do—and the questions that had arisen from the gossip he had sifted through as he walked around the service fair.

    "I'll consider them and let you know," Daemon said, moving toward the door with the graceful speed that tended to make people think of a feline predator.

    "Prince Sadi," Jorval called sharply.

    Daemon stopped at the door and turned.

    "The last bell will ring in less than an hour. If you haven't made a choice by then, you will no longer have a choice. You will have to accept whatever offer is made or leave Kaeleer."

    "I'm aware of that, Lord Jorval," Daemon said too softly.

    He left the building, slipped his hands into his trouser pockets, and began walking aimlessly.

    He despised Lord Jorval. There was something about the man's psychic scent, something tainted. And there were too many things hidden behind the dark, flat eyes. From the moment he'd met Jorval, he'd had to fight against the instinctive desire to rise to the killing edge and tuck the thin Warlord into a deep, secret grave.

    Why had Lord Magstrom handed him over to Jorval?

    He had talked to the elderly man briefly when he arrived in Goth late on the third day of the fair and had been cautiously willing to trust the man's judgment. When he had expressed his desire to serve in a court outside of Little Terreille, Magstrom's blue eyes had twinkled with amusement.

    The Queens outside of Little Terreille are very selective in their choices,Magstrom had said.But they do have an advantage for a man like you —they know how to handle dark-Jeweled males.

    Magstrom had promised to make some inquiries, and they had arranged to meet early the following morning. But when Daemon arrived for the meeting, it was Lord Jorval who was waiting for him with the names of four Queens who wanted to control his life for the next five years.

    Questionable food smells that he caught in passing sharpened an already keen temper by reminding him that he'd eaten almost nothing in the past two days. The clash of strong perfumes mingled with equally strong body odors helped him remember why he hadn't eaten.

    More than that, the inability to sleep and the lack of appetite were due to the questions that had no answers. At least, not here.

    It had taken him five years after walking out of the Twisted Kingdom to come to Kaeleer. There had been no hurry. Jaenelle had not been waiting for him as she had promised when she had marked the trail to lead him out of madness. Hestill didn't know what had really happened when he had tried to bring Jaenelle out of the abyss in order to save her body. His memories of that night, thirteen years ago, were still jumbled, still had pieces missing. He had a vague memory of someone telling him that Jaenelle had died—that the High Lord had tricked another male into being the instrument that had destroyed an extraordinary child.

    So when Jaenellehadn't been on the island where Surreal and Manny had kept him safe and hidden, and when Surreal had told him about the shadow Jaenelle had created in order to bring him out of the Twisted Kingdom

    He had spent the past five years believing that he had killed the child who was his Queen; had spent the past five years believing that she had used the last of her strength to bring him out of madness so that he would call in the debt owed to her; had spent the past five years honing his Craft skills and allowing his mind to heal as much as it could for only one reason: to come to Kaeleer and destroy the man who had used him as the instrument—his father, the High Lord of Hell.

    But now that he was here

    Gossip and speculation about the witches in the Shadow Realm flowed through this place, currents of thoughts easily plucked from the air. The currents that had unnerved him as he'd walked around the fair yesterday were the speculations about a strange, terrifying witch that could see a man's soul in a glance. According to the gossip, anyone who signed a contract outside of Little Terreille was brought before this witch, and anyone found wanting didn't live to see another sunrise.

    He might have dismissed that gossip except that it finally occurred to him that, perhaps, Jaenellehad been waiting for him, but not in Terreille. He'd let grief cloud his thinking, locking away all but the best memories of the few months he had known her. So he'd forgotten about the ties she already had to Kaeleer.

    If she reallywas in the Shadow Realm, he'd already lost five years he could have spent with her. He wasn't going to spend the next five in some other court, yearning from a distance.

    If, that is, she reallywas alive.

    A change in the psychic scents around him pulled him from his thoughts. He looked around and swore under his breath.

    He was at the far end of the fairgrounds. Judging by the sky, he'd have to run in order to get back to the administrators' building and make a choice before the bell ending the last day of the fair rang. Even then, he might not have a choice if Jorval wasn't waiting for him.

    As he turned to go back, he noticed one of the red banners that indicated a station where court contracts were filled out. There were a few Eyriens standing to one side, and a line of them waiting their turn. But it was the Eyrien warrior watching the proceedings that froze Daemon where he stood.

    The man wore a leather vest and the black, skintight trousers favored by Eyrien warriors. His black hair fell to his shoulders, which was unusual for an Eyrien male. But it was the way he stood, the way he moved that felt so painfully familiar.

    A wild joy filled Daemon, even as his heart clogged his throat and tears stung his gold eyes.Lucivar.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire