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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(59) by Anne Bishop
  • No,Surreal thought as Marian gave her a speculative look. If Lucivar had never suggested an alternative to intercourse,she certainly wasn't going to supply the information.

    After a moment, Marian shrugged. "Usually when Jaenelle is his sparring partner, they just keep working through the moves until he's sweated out the tension. But this morning... Jaenelle's relatives showing up like this has put her on edge, too."

    "Yeah, seeing her family again isn't a reason to cheer."

    Marian stiffened. "Herfamily lives here."

    "Yes," Surreal said after a minute, "I guess they do."

    2 / Kaeleer

    Wilhelmina walked silently beside Lucivar as he escorted her to her room. She wished he would put his arm around her. Maybe then she would stop shivering. Maybe then she wouldn't feel so afraid.

    That was funny. A few hours ago, she'd been terrified of him, especially after she'd seen him and Jaenelle attacking each other with the sticks.

    Afterward, she'd tried to slip back to the Hall before anyone noticed because she'd been sure her heart would just burst if any of those Eyrien warriors snarled at her when she couldn't do the exercises properly. But Lucivar had noticed her slinking away. He'd grabbed the back of her tunic and hauled her into the practice circle.

    And he'd been kind. While other Eyriens instructed the other women, and Marian and some of the coven had demonstrated the moves, he had worked with her and the girl, Jillian. Never in a hurry, never impatient, his hands firm but gentle when he repositioned her body, his voice always calm and encouraging.

    She hadn't expected that from him. And she hadn't expected him to stay with her when she went to meet Alexandra, Leland, and Philip.

    She should have said "no" when the High Lord told her they were here and wanted to talk to her. But she'd felt an obligation to see them, since they'd come all this way.

    They'd been angry when Lucivar refused to let the Province Queens and the escorts into the room and refused to leave himself. Oh, he'd gone out onto the balcony, but no one was going to forget his presence.

    She could tell they had been as insulted as she had been relieved, but theyhad been glad to see her. They'd all hugged her and complimented her on how pretty she'd become and how worried they had been about her and how much they'd missed her...

    And then Alexandra told her not to worry. They would find a way to break the contract and get her out of this place and away from these people. She'd tried to explain that she intended to honor the contract, that the High Lord and Prince Yaslana weren't the monsters Alexandra was trying to make them out to be.

    They didn't listen, just as they hadn't listened years ago when her father, Robert Benedict, had tried to force himself on her after Jaenelle disappeared—a few months after he had come down with the illness that had finally killed him. She had run away because she'd been afraid that, one day, no one would hear her screams or, if they did, would ignore them because she was turning into a "difficult" child, just like Jaenelle.

    They didn't listen. Because they were so sure they were right, so sure that they knew what was best. Even Philip. He kept telling her that it would be all right now, that Robert was dead so it would be all right. But it wouldn't be,couldn't be, all right because they thought of her as being "damaged" somehow—she could see that in their eyes—and anything she thought or felt or wanted would be colored by that conviction. And because she cared for Philip and knew he would be hurt by it, she couldn't tell them why shereally wanted to stay there.

    Her fear that they might actually be able to take her away after she'd struggled so hard to get to Kaeleer had escalated to the point where she had leaped up from the couch, and yelled, "No! I don't want to!"

    Lucivar was in the room and hurrying her away from them before anyone else could move.

    But she couldn't stop shaking, and the fear was eating her alive.

    Lucivar's hand came down on her shoulder, stopping her. A moment later, he called in a flask. He vanished the cap, gripped the back of her head with one hand, and held the flask up to her lips.

    "If you keep shaking like that, you're going to rip something," he said, sounding annoyed. "Take a sip of this. It'll settle your nerves."

    "I don't want a sedative," Wilhelmina said, trying to pull away as desperation swelled inside her. "There's nothing wrong with me."

    "Nothing except you've gone way past scared, and that's not good for you." Lucivar paused, studying her. "It's not a sedative, Wilhelmina," he said quietly. "It's Khary's home brew. It's got a kick to it that will mellow you out—and it'll also keep you from breaking apart. Now, hold your nose and swallow."

    She didn't hold her nose. Shedid swallow the sip he gave her.

    Golden.

    It flowed over her tongue like ripe plums and summer heat, pooled in her stomach for a moment, and then flowed into her limbs.

    When he offered her another swallow, she took it. That glorious heat melted her fear and produced a sensuous warmth inside her. If she had another sip, she might even feel brave—fiercely, wonderfully brave.

    But Lucivar wasn't offering another sip. She wasn't aware that he'd released her, but he had the cap in one hand now and the flask in the other, and he was going to take away that delicious heat.

    She snatched the flask and ran down the corridor, whipped around a corner, and guzzled as much as she could before he caught up to her and took it away.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire