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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(127) by Anne Bishop
  • Surreal understood before Falonar did. Lucivar saw her face tighten—and he saw her eyes fill with cool professional interest.

    "Yaslana," Falonar warned.

    Lucivar sensed the growing tension in the other men and knew it wouldn't be long before one of them disobeyed his order and joined the "fight." He started to move closer.

    Kaelas must have sensed it, too, because the playfulness ended. The Eyrien stranger screamed as the claws ripped his chest open, ripped his thighs to the bone.

    "Kaelas," Lucivar said firmly, "that's—" He felt the crackle of Red-Jeweled power as the paw lashed out again. The object flew at him so fast, he instinctively caught it before it slammed into his chest. For a second or two, Lucivar stared at the head that had been severed at the base of the neck. Then he dropped it.

    "Mother Night," Surreal said softly.

    The Eyrien's right hand, with its Green-Jeweled ring, sailed through the air and plopped on the ground next to the head.

    With a full-throated snarl of rage, Kaelas gutted the man, then defecated in the open belly before moving away from the corpse. Finally, he looked at Lucivar. *That one is still inside ... for the High Lord.*

    Lucivar tried to swallow. Kaelas had deliberately not finished the kill. *Why?*

    *He killed Morton,* Kaelas replied, making the effort to use a communication thread that could be heard by all the humans present. *And he killed the pale humans that belonged to Lady Karla.*

    Fury washed through Lucivar, a cleansing fire. *Where?*

    An image appeared in his mind, oddly focused but clear enough for him to identify the place. *My thanks, Brother,* he said, using a spear thread directed specifically at the cat.

    Kaelas leaped, caught the Winds, and disappeared.

    "I've done a lot of things as an assassin," Surreal said, hooking her hair behind her ears, "but I've never shit on the body. Is that some kind of feline quirk?"

    "It's the way Arcerians show contempt for an enemy," Lucivar said. He looked at Falonar, who seemed to be fighting not to be sick. A quick glance was enough to confirm that most of the men were doing the same, despite their experience on battlefields. "I don't recognize him. Do you?"

    Falonar shook his head.

    "I do," Rothvar said heavily as he approached them. "When he found out I was immigrating to Kaeleer, he offered me a place in his company. Said he wasn't going to have to lick any bitch's boots, that he'd be ruling a fine piece of land before a year was out. I never liked him, so I said no. But..." He glanced at the head, then away. "I heard... thought I heard... Did the cat speak true?"

    "He wouldn't lie." Lucivar took a deep breath. "Falonar, select four men to go with us." Looking around, he realized Surreal was no longer with them.

    Falonar turned, too, and swore. "Damn it, she's probably off someplace puking her guts—"

    Surreal leaped over the low stone wall and trotted toward them,a large, dented metal bucket in one hand. When they just looked at her, she huffed and said tartly to Lucivar, "Were you planning to tuck that thing under your arm to take it to the High Lord?"

    Lucivar smiled reluctantly. "Thanks, Surreal." He hesitated. His hands were already bloody, but he still hesitated.

    She didn't. With another huff, she dumped the head and hand into the bucket, then covered the bucket with a piece of dark cloth.

    The men winced. She snarled at them.

    Seeing the wariness in Falonar's eyes, Lucivar said, "You have your orders, Prince."

    Falonar and Rothvar left with more speed than discretion.

    "Tell me he hasn't done as much on a battlefield," Surreal said with a hint of bitterness. "I suppose everything would have been just fine if I'd clung to his arm and begged for smelling salts."

    "Don't condemn him out of hand," Lucivar said quietly. "He isn't used to a woman like you."

    Surreal turned on him. "And what kind of woman is that?"

    "A Dea al Mon witch."

    Her smile came slowly, but it was genuine. "I suppose I should have been more tactful." She waved a hand at the bucket, then hesitated. "I'd like to go with you."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire