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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(35) by Anne Bishop
  • "She was... persuaded ... to sign a contract with the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih—andhe is Lucivar Yaslana."

    Satisfaction warmed Jorval as he watched Philip's face pale. "I see you've heard of him. So you can appreciate the danger your niece is in. And it's not just Yaslana, although he's bad enough." He paused, giving Philip time to swallow the hook as well as the bait.

    "She's trapped with all three of them, isn't she? She's trapped with Yaslana, Sadi, and the High Lord—just like Jaenelle."

    "Yes." Jorval sighed. "To the best of our knowledge, Yaslana took her to SaDiablo Hall in Dhemlan. How long she'll remain there ..." He spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "You may have some chance of slipping her away from the Hall, but once he takes her into the mountains that ring Ebon Jih, it's unlikely you'll ever get her back—at least while there's enough left of her to be worth the risk."

    Philip sagged in the chair.

    Jorval just waited. Finally, he said, "There is nothing the Dark Council can do officially to help you at this time. However,unofficially, we will do everything in our power to restore Jaenelle Angelline and Wilhelmina Benedict to their rightful family."

    Philip got to his feet like a man who had taken a savage beating. "Thank you, Lord Jorval. I will convey this information to my Queen."

    "May the Darkness guide and protect you, Prince Alexander."

    Jorval waited a full minute after Philip left before he leaned back in his chair and sighed, well satisfied by their meeting. Thank the Darkness that Philip was a Prince. He would worry and brood, but, unlike a Warlord Prince, hewould go back to Alexandra Angelline and abide by her decision. And how fortunate that Philip hadn't thought to ask if Yaslana served a Queen—or who she was. Of course, he would have lied if he'd been asked, but how interesting that Philip hadn't considered, even for a moment, that Jaenelle might be a Queen powerful enough to control the males in the SaDiablo family.

    As for Alexandra Angelline... She would be useful in distracting the High Lord and dividing loyalties in the court at Ebon Askavi—as long as she didn't realize thereal importance of getting Jaenelle away from the Dark Court.

    3 / Kaeleer

    Daemon wandered through the Hall's first floor rooms, distractedly noting each room's function, his mind too full of impressions he'd received during breakfast. When he came to a door that led to one of the open courtyards, he went outside and paced, hoping that the fresh air and greenery would help clear his head. He'd expected to find the dining room full of people.

    After all, the Eyriens would want to eat before going on to whatever plans Lucivar had for them. And he'd expected Khardeen and Aaron to be there and knew they would notice, and understand the significance of, the Consort's ring. He'd been prepared for that. But hehadn't been prepared for theother males who made up the First Circle.

    There was Sceron, the Red-Jeweled Warlord Prince of Centauran. The dark-haired centaur had stood near the dining table, eating a vegetable omelet while talking with Morton, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Warlord from Glacia. Then there was the Green-Jeweled Warlord, Jonah, a satyr whose dark pelt covered him from his waist to his cloven hooves but didn't quite cover the parts of him that were blatantly male. There was Elan, a Red-Jeweled Warlord Prince from Tigrelan, who had tawny, dark-striped skin and whose hands ended with sheathed claws. Watching Elan, Daemon would have bet the man had more in common with the dark-striped cat he'd glimpsed from a window than just physical markings.

    And then there was Chaosti, the Gray-Jeweled Warlord Prince of the Dea al Mon, with his long silver-blond hair, delicately pointed ears, and slightly too large forest-blue eyes. Every territorial instinct in Daemon had come roaring to the surface at the sight of Chaosti—perhaps because Chaosti was the kind of man who could be a formidable rival no matter what Jewels he wore or perhaps because Daemon saw a little too much of himself in the other man. Only Saetan's presence had kept a sharp-edged greeting from turning into an open confrontation. That meeting had left him edgy, and far too aware of his own inner fragility.

    Next came the older, Gray-Jeweled Warlord Prince who had introduced himself as Mephis, his older brother. The room had tilted a bit when Daemon realized that, as Saetan's eldest son, Mephis had been demon-dead for more than 50,000 years. He might have recovered his balance if Prince Andulvar Yaslana and Lord Prothvar Yaslana hadn't walked in at that moment, and the collective shock of the Eyrien males who realized who they must be—and then realizedwhat they must be—hadn't hit him like a runaway wagon. After one raking look at the fearful Eyriens and a murmured comment to the High Lord, the demon-dead Warlord Prince and his grandson had left the room.

    By that point, Daemon had sincerely wished for brandy instead of coffee—a wish that must have been apparent. The stuff Khardeen had poured into his coffee from a silver flask hadn't been brandy, but it had successfully furred his nerves enough for him to be able to eat.

    Still too jangled to enjoy the meal, he'd just finished his modest breakfast when Surreal stormed in, muttering something about it taking more time than expected "to get us brushed." She had looked shocked when she saw Chaosti, who was the only person she had seen who came from the same race as her mother, but the moment he'd moved toward her, she had bared her teeth and announced that the next male who approached her before breakfast was going to get brushed with the edge of a knife.

    She, at least, had enjoyed a quiet, and undisturbed, breakfast.

    He was just about to leave the room when a tall, slender witch with spiky, white-blond hair walked in, took one look at him, and said loudly enough to be heard in every corner of the Hall, "Hell's fire,he's a Black Widow!"

    That he was a natural Black Widow—and, besides Saetan, theonly male Black Widow—was something he'd been able to successfully hide for all the centuries since his body had reached sexual maturity, just as he'd been able to hide the snake tooth and venom sack beneath the ring-finger nail of his right hand. Whatever he had done instinctively to suppress other Black Widows' ability to detect him had failed him now, when there was nothing he could do about such a public betrayal.

    The tension in the room had faded when Saetan replied mildly, "Well, Karla, heis my son, and heis the Consort."

    The witch's surprise had changed to sharp speculation. "Oh," she said. "In that case ..." A slow, wicked smile bloomed. "Kiss kiss."

    Brushing past Lucivar, he had escaped from the dining room and had spent the past hour wandering through the Hall, trying to get his churning thoughts and emotions under control.

    "Are you lost?"

    Daemon glanced over to where Lucivar leaned against a doorway. "I'm not lost," he snapped. Then he stopped pacing and sighed. "But I am very confused."

    "Of course you are. You're male." Grinning at Daemon's snarl, Lucivar stepped into the courtyard. "So if one of the darlings in the coven offers to explain things to you, don't take her up on it. She'll sincerely be trying to help, but by the time she's done 'unconfusing' you, you'll be banging your head against a wall and whimpering."

    "Why?"

    "Because for every five rules you'd learned in Terreille about a male's proper behavior in a court, the Kaeleer Blood know only one of them—and they interpret it very differently."

    Daemon shrugged "Obedience is obedience."

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