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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(30) by Anne Bishop
  • Surreal felt a little queasy. She'd heard about the kindred, who supposedly had some kind of small animal magic. But calling him a Warlord... "You mean he's Blood?"

    "Of course."

    "Why is he in the Hall?"

    "Well, offhand, I'd say he was looking for a friend."

    Hell's fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful,Surreal thought. What didthat mean? "I guess he's not really wild then. If he's in the house, he must be tame."

    Aaron gave her a feral smile. "If by 'tame' you mean he doesn't pee on the carpets, then he's tame. But then, by that standard, so am I."

    Surreal clamped her teeth together. Screw small talk. In this place, it turned into verbal quicksand.

    She echoed Wilhelmina's sigh of relief when they reached a stairway. Hopefully the dining room wasn't too far away and she could put some distance between herself and her escort. Escorts. Whatever.

    Shit.

    Maybe Khardeen would be in the dining room. He was a Warlord, which made him an equal caste, and her Gray Jewels outranked his Sapphire, which gave her an advantage. Right now, she wanted an advantage because she had the strong impression that, of her two escorts, the one with the more impressive set of teeth was really the less dangerous one.

    Surreal stared at the closed wooden door and wished she'd done this before eating. The thick beef and vegetable stew had been delicious, as had been the bread, cheese, and slightly tart apples, and she'd consumed them with enthusiasm. Now, her tightened stomach was packing that food into a hard ball.

    Snarling quietly, she raised her fist to knock on the door. Hell's fire, this was just a required meeting with the Steward of the court... who now had the authority to control her life . . who was also the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan... who was also the High Lord of Hell... whose name was Saetan Daemon SaDiablo.

    "Rrrf?"

    Surreal looked over her shoulder. The wolf cocked his head.

    "I think you'd better stay out here," she said, giving the door one hard rap. When a deep voice said, "Come," she slipped inside the room, closing the door before the wolf could follow her.

    The room was a reversed L. The long side contained a comfortable sitting area with tables, chairs, and a black leather couch. The walls held a variety of pictures, ranging from dramatic oil paintings to whimsical charcoal sketches. Intrigued by those choices, she turned toward the alcove.

    Dark-red velvet covered the side walls. The back wall contained floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A blackwood desk filled the center of the space. Two candle-lights lit its surface and the man sitting behind it.

    At first glance, she thought Daemon was playing some kind of trick on her. Then she looked closer.

    His face was similar to Daemon's, but handsome rather than beautiful. He was definitely older, and his thick black hair was heavily silvered at the temples. He wore half-moon glasses, which made him look like a benevolent clerk. But the elegant hands had long, black-tinted nails like Daemon's. On his left hand, he wore a Steward's ring. On his right, a Black-Jeweled ring.

    "Why don't you sit down," he said as he continued making notes on the paper in front of him. "This will take a minute."

    Surreal sidled over to the chair in front of the desk and gingerly sat down. His voice had the same deep timbre as Daemon's, had the same ability to reach a woman's bones and make her itchy. At least the sensual heat that poured out of Daemon even when he kept it tightly leashed was muted in the High Lord. Maybe that was just age.

    Then he tucked the pen in its holder, laid the glasses on the desk, leaned back in his chair, and steepled his fingers, resting them against his chin.

    Her breath clogged in her throat. She'd seen Daemon sit exactly that way whenever a conversation was "formal."

    Hell's fire, whatwas the connection between Sadi and the High Lord?

    "So," he said quietly. "You're Surreal. Titian's daughter."

    A shiver went through her. "You knew my mother?"

    He smiled dryly. "I still do. And since I am kin to her kin, she considers me a tolerable friend, despite my being male."

    The words that had been rankling inside her all through the journey here burst out. "My mother isnot a Harpy."

    Saetan gave her a considering look. "A Harpy is a witch who died violently by a male's hand. I'd say that describes Titian, wouldn't you? Besides," he added, "being the Harpy Queen is hardly an insult."

    "Oh." Surreal hooked her hair behind her ears. He made it sound so matter-of-fact, and there was no mistaking the respect in his voice.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire