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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(46) by Anne Bishop
  • Ladvarian's psychic scent became hostile. *They feel wrong.*

    The sudden fierceness was a sharp reminder that the small male trotting beside him was also a Red-Jeweled Warlord, and if Lucivar had overseen some of Ladvarian's training, the Sceltie was a far more effective fighter than anyone might suspect.

    *Nighthawk will take you to the Hall. He runs faster.*

    Before Daemon could wonder about that cryptic remark, he heard the hoofbeats pounding toward him.

    Under other circumstances, once he saw the black horse, he would have declined the offer—not only because riding a stallion bareback wasn't a healthy idea, but because, for just a moment, the wind and the horse's movement had lifted its forelock and he'd seen the Gray Jewel hidden underneath. Despite the difference in their species, he recognized the aggressive psychic scent of another Warlord Prince. But when he didn't move after the horse pulled up, Ladvarian nipped his calf. *Go, Daemon.Now.*

    He barely had time to mount and grab a fistful of the long mane before Nighthawk took off at a flat-out gallop cross-country. Wondering how Ladvarian was going to keep up with them at that pace, he glanced back and saw the dog balanced on the horse's rump.

    When the horse angled toward the last, long, straight section of the drive, Daemon tugged on the mane, and shouted, "Ease up," worried that Nighthawk would slip on the gravel at that speed.

    He felt a slight lift, and then heard... nothing. No pounding hooves, no scattering gravel. Looking over Nighthawk's left shoulder, he saw those driving legs racing on air straight for the front door.

    They were close enough to see the details of the dragon's head doorknocker before Nighthawk sat back on his haunches and finally came to a stop a hand span away from the steps.

    Daemon dismounted and walked up the steps, not sure if his legs were trembling from muscle tension or frayed nerves. When he reached the door and looked back, there was no sign of Nighthawk, but he could sense the stallion's presence nearby.

    "Hell's fire," he muttered as a footman opened the door.

    Ladvarian rushed in ahead of him and disappeared.

    Daemon entered more slowly, feeling the press of male hostility. Besides the footman, the only visible person in the great hall was Beale, the butler, but he doubted they were the only ones present.

    "It seems we're about to have company," Daemon said as he smoothed back his hair and straightened his black jacket.

    "So it would seem," Beale replied blandly. "If you would remain here, Prince Yaslana and the High Lord will be arriving shortly."

    Daemon looked around, then stepped into the formal receiving room just far enough not to be seen by whoever walked through the door.

    Observing the move, Beale shifted position, putting himself directly in Daemon's line of sight.

    *Lucivar,* Daemon said, using an Ebon-gray spear thread.

    *I'm coming in through the servants' door at the back of the hall.*

    *If any of them manage to slip past us, is there any way for them to reach the living quarters?*

    *The only way to the upper floors from that part of the Hall is by using the staircase in the informal receiving room. Don't worry about it. Kaelas is there. Nothing's going to get up those stairs. And the High Lord is coming down from that direction.*

    Daemon heard the carriages pull up in front of the Hall, saw Beale nod to the footman when someone banged on the door.

    Footsteps. Rustling clothes. Then a woman's voice.

    "I demand to see Wilhelmina Benedict."

    Cold rage slipped through him so fast he was riding the killing edge before he realized he'd taken the first step toward it. He hadn't heard her voice in thirteen years, but he recognized it.

    "Lady Benedict is not available," Beale said in a bland voice.

    "Don't tell me that. I'm the Queen of Chaillot and I—"

    Daemon stepped out of the receiving room. "Good afternoon, Alexandra," he said too calmly. "Such a pleasure to see you again."

    "You." Alexandra stared at him, her eyes wide and fearful. Then the anger came. "You arranged for that 'tour' of Briarwood, didn't you?"

    "All things considered, it was the least I could do." He took a step toward her. "I told you I would wash the streets of Beldon Mor with blood if you betrayed me."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire