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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(155) by Anne Bishop
  • Black Widow. The words bloomed in Surreal's mind until there wasn't room for anything else. Black Widow. Maybe Karlawasn't indifferent to what was happening. Maybe she hadseen something in a tangled web. "Are you sure about Sadi?"

    "No," Karla replied. "But I'm willing to consider the possibility that what he says in public may be very different from what he does in private."

    Surreal raked her fingers through her hair. "Well, Hell's fire, if Daemon and Jaenellewere planning something, they could at least tell the court."

    "I was poisoned by a member of my court," Karla said quietly. "And let's not forget Jaenelle's grandmother, because I'm sure Jaenelle hasn't. So tell me, Surreal, if you were trying to find a way to totally destroy those two bitches, who wouldyou trust?"

    "She could have trusted the High Lord."

    "And where is he right now?" Karla asked.

    Surreal didn't say anything, since they both knew the answer.

    20 / Terreille

    "I think it's time to let Jaenelle know you're here," Hekatah said, circling behind Saetan. "I think we should send a little gift."

    He felt her grab the little finger of his left hand. He felt the knife cut through skin and bone. And he felt rage when she dropped to her knees and clamped her mouth over the wound to drink his blood. A Guardian's blood.

    Gathering his strength, he sent a blast of heat down his arm, psychic fire that cauterized the wound. Hekatah jerked away from him, screaming. While he had the chance, he used a little healing Craft to cleanse the wound and seal up the flesh enough to keep infection at bay.

    Hekatah kept screaming. Dorothea rushed out of her cabin. Guards came running from every direction.

    Finally the screaming stopped. He heard Hekatah scrabble for something on the ground, then slowly get to her feet. As she circled around him, he saw what the blast of power had done. Since her mouth had been clamped on the wound, the psychic fire had kept going after it cauterized the blood vessels. It had melted part of her jaw, grotesquely reshaping her face.

    In one hand, she held his little finger. In the other, she held the knife. "You're going to pay for that," she said in a slurred voice.

    "No," Dorothea said, stepping forward. "You said yourself that we have to keep the damage to a minimum until Jaenelle is contained."

    Hekatah turned toward Dorothea. Saetan felt sure the sick revulsion on Dorothea's face would drive Hekatah past any ability to think rationally.

    "Until Jaenelle is contained," Hekatah said with effort. "But... that doesn't mean ... he can't pay." Turning toward him, she raised her hand.

    For the second time, the agony from the Ring of Obedience ripped through him. That was devastating enough. Hearing Lucivar's pain-filled, but still enraged, war cry as Hekatah also punished the son for the deeds of the father produced an agony in him that cut far deeper.

    21 / Kaeleer

    Daemon wished Surreal hadn't been around when Geoffrey brought the small, ornately carved box that had been delivered to the Keep in Terreille. Hehad suggested that, since the verbal message had said it was a "gift" for Jaenelle, Surreal’s presence wasn't required. She had countered by saying she was family and had just as much right to know what was going on as he or Jaenelle did. Which, unfortunately, was true.

    "Do you want me to open it?" he asked Jaenelle when she had just stood there staring at the box for several minutes.

    "No," she said too calmly. Using Craft, she flipped the lid off the box.

    The three of them stared at the little finger nestled in a bed of silk—a little finger with a long, black-tinted nail.

    "Well, sugar, I'd say that message is to the point," Surreal said as she stared at Jaenelle. "How many more pieces do you need to get backbefore you do something? We're running out of time!"

    "Yes," Jaenelle said. "It's time."

    She's in shock,Daemon thought. Then he looked at her eyes—and couldn't suppress the shudder. They were sapphire ice. But behind the ice was a Queen who had been pushed far beyond even the cold rage males were capable of unleashing. Because he was looking for it, because he could descend far enough into the abyss to feel it, he sensed that Hekatah's little gift had fully awakened the feral side, thedeadly side of Witch. She was no longer a young woman who had received her father's finger as a demand for her surrender; she was a predator studying the bait laid out by an enemy.

    Dorothea and Hekatah had seen the young woman. They had no idea who they werereally dealing with.

    "Come with me," Jaenelle said, lightly touching his arm before she walked out of the room.

    Even through his shirt and jacket, her hand felt so cold it burned.

    Careful to keep his eyes and expression bland, he looked at Surreal—and felt a little dismayed by the fury that looked back at him. That was when he realized that, despite being chilled to the bone, the room was still warm.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire