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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(43) by Anne Bishop
  • "But I have to help Tersa weed the garden," Mikal protested.

    "The weeds will still be there," Tersa said serenely. She looked at the two "boys," frowned at the glasses of milk she held, then put both of them in front of Mikal. She patted Daemon's shoulder. "He is old enough for wine."

    "Thank the Darkness," Daemon said under his breath.

    The meal was eaten with little conversation. Saetan inquired about Mikal's schoolwork and got the expected evasive answers. Tersa tried to make mundane comments about the cottage and garden, but each time the remarks became more disjointed.

    Daemon clenched his teeth. He wanted to tell her to stop trying. It hurt to watch her struggling so hard to walk the borderland of sanity for his sake, and seeing the concern and resentment in Mikal's eyes as her control continued to crumble stabbed at him.

    Saetan set his wineglass on the table and rose. "Come on, puppy," he said to Mikal. "I'll take you home now."

    Mikal quickly grabbed a nutcake. "I haven't finished eating."

    "Take it with you."

    When they left, with Mikal still loudly protesting, Daemon looked at Tersa. "It's good to see you again," he said softly.

    Sorrow filled her eyes. "I don't know how to be your mother."

    He reached for her hand. "Then just be Tersa. That was always more than enough." He felt her absorb the acceptance, felt the tension drain from her body.

    Finally, she smiled. "You are well?"

    He returned the smile and lied. "Yes, I'm well."

    Her hand tightened on his. Her eyes lost focus, became distant and farseeing. "No," she said quietly, "you're not. But you will be." Then she stood up. "Come. I'll show you my garden."

    7 / Kaeleer

    Saetan shifted to a sitting position on the couch in his study. He didn't need to use a psychic probe to know who was on the other side of the door. The scent of her fear was sufficient. "Come."

    Wilhelmina Benedict entered the room, each step a hesitation.

    Watching her, Saetan tightened the reins on his temper. It wasn't her fault. She had been barely more than a child herself thirteen years ago. There was nothing she could have done.

    But if Jaenelle hadn't stayed in Chaillot in order to protect Wilhelmina, that last, terrible night at Briarwood wouldn't have happened. She would have left the family that hadn't understood or cherished what she was. She would have come to Kaeleer, would have come tohim— and would have escaped the violent rape that had left her with so many deep emotional scars.

    It wasn't fair to hold Wilhelmina in any way responsible for what had happened to Jaenelle, but he still resented her presence in his home and her reappearance in her sister's life.

    "What can I do for you, Lady Benedict?" He tried, but he couldn't keep the edge out of his voice.

    "I don't know what to do." Her voice was barely audible.

    "About what?"

    "All the other people who signed the contract have something to do, even if it's just making a list of their skills. But I—"

    She wrung her hands so hard Saetan winced in sympathy for the delicate bones.

    "He hates me," Wilhelmina said, her voice rising in desperation. "Everyone here hates me, and I don't know why."

    Saetan pointed at the other end of the couch. "Sit down." As he waited for her to obey, he wondered how such a frightened, emotionally brittle woman had managed to make the journey through one of the Gates between the Realms and then tried to acquire a contract at the service fair. When she was seated, he said, "Hate is too strong a word. No one here hates you."

    "Yaslana does." She pressed her fists into her lap. "So do you."

    "I don't hate you, Wilhelmina," he said quietly. "But I do resent your presence."


  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire