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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(62) by Anne Bishop
  • When she found it, she wanted to weep.

    Jaenelle was insane. Totally, completely insane. And that monster who ruled here indulged that insanity for his own reasons. He let Jaenelle think she was Healer and a Black Widow and a Queen. He would probably let her give that tonic to a sick little boy, regardless of what the stuff would actually do to a child.

    "Why are you here, Alexandra?"

    Alexandra shivered at the sound of that midnight voice, then gave herself a mental shake. The child had always indulged in theatrics. "I came to take you and Wilhelmina home."

    "Why? For the past thirteen years, you thought I was dead. Since that was far more convenient for you than having me alive, why didn't you just continue to pretend I was dead?"

    "We weren't pretending," Alexandra said hotly. Jaenelle's words hurt, mostly because they were true. Ithad been easier mourning a dead child than dealing with the difficult girl. But she would never admitthat. "We thought youwere dead, that Sadi had killed you."

    "Daemon would never have hurt me."

    But you would—and did.That was the message underneath the cold, flat reply.

    "Leland is your mother. I'm your grandmother. We're yourfamily, Jaenelle."

    Jaenelle shook her head slowly. "This body can trace its bloodline to you. That makes us related. It doesn't make us family." She moved toward the door. When she was just about to pass Alexandra, she stopped. "You apprenticed with an Hourglass coven for a little while, didn't you? Before you had to make the choice between becoming a Black Widow and becoming Chaillot's Queen."

    Alexandra nodded, wondering where this was leading.

    "You learned enough to make the simplest tangled webs, the kind that would absorb a focused intent and draw that object to you. Isn't that true?" When she nodded again, Jaenelle's eyes filled with sadness and understanding. "How many times did you sit before one of those webs dreaming that something would help you keep Chaillot safe from Hayll's encroachment?"

    Alexandra couldn't speak, could barely breathe.

    "Has it ever occurred to you that that may be the answer to the riddle? Saetan was also an intense dreamer. The difference is that when the dream appeared, he recognized it." Jaenelle opened the door. "Go home, Alexandra. There's nothing—and no one—for you here."

    "Wilhelmina," Alexandra whispered.

    "She'll fulfill the eighteen months of her contract. After that, she can do as she pleases." There was something awful and ironic about Jaenelle's smile. "The Queen commands it."

    Alexandra took a deep breath. "I want to see this Queen."

    "No, you don't," Jaenelle replied too softly. "You don't want to stand before the Dark Throne." She paused. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish this tonic. It's simmered long enough."

    Dismissed. As casually as that, she was being dismissed.

    Alexandra left the workroom, relieved to be away from Jaenelle. She found one of the inner gardens and settled on a bench. Maybe the sun would take away the chill that had seeped into her bones. Maybe then she could believe she was shaking from cold and not because Jaenelle had mentioned something she had never told anyone.

    Her paternal grandmother had been a natural Black Widow. That's what had drawn Alexandra to the Hourglass in the first place. But by then, the aristo Blood in Chaillot were already starting to whisper about Black Widows being "unnatural" women, and the other Queens and the Warlord Princes wouldnever have chosen a Queen who was also a witch of the Hourglass covens.

    So she left her apprenticeship and, a few years later when her maternal grandmother stepped down, became the Queen of Chaillot. But during her first few years as Queen, shehad secretly woven those simple tangled webs. Shehad dreamed that something or someone would appear in her life that would help her fight against Hayll's undermining of Chaillot society. At the time, she had thought it would be a Consort—a strong male who would support and help her. But no man like that had ever appeared in her life.

    Then, when her Black Widow grandmother had been dying, Alexandra had been given what she came to think of as the riddle.What you dream for will come, but if you're not careful, you'll be blind until it's too late.

    So she had waited. She had watched. The dream hadn't come. And she would not,could not, believe that a disturbed, eccentric child had been the answer to the riddle.

    4 / Kaeleer

    As he stared out the window, he reached inside his shirt and fingered the slim glass vial that hung from a chain around his neck. The High Priestess of Hayll had assured him that she and the Dark Priestess had woven the strongest spells they knew to keep him undetected. So far, they had worked. No one sensed he was anything more than another escort Alexandra Angelline had brought with her. He was just a bland man, almost invisible. That suited him perfectly.

    It had sounded so easy when he'd been given the assignment. Find the target, drug her so that she would be complacent, and then slip her out of the Hall to the men who would be waiting just beyond the boundaries of the estate. When he'd seen the size of the place, he'd thought it would be even easier.

    But, despite its size, the Hall was crawling with aggressive males, from the lowest male servant right up to the High Lord. And the bitchesnever seemed to be alone. He'd lingered in corridors for hours without so much as a sniff of either one of them.

    He shuddered as he remembered his one glimpse of the golden-haired bitch. He'd been told, repeatedly, that she was his primary target, but he had no intention of getting anywhere nearher because something about her spooked him, and he wasn't sure the spells would hold up under that sapphire stare. So he would snatch the other one, the sister. But he would have to do it soon. He could only dodge just so long around so many bristling, suspicious males.

    Maybe he would escort Wilhelmina Benedict all the way back to Hayll. Once he got her out, what difference did it make if he was found to be missing?

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire