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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(80) by Anne Bishop
  • There had to be a way to turn that to his advantage. Had to...

    Continuing to shuffle the cards, Daemon studied the game board carefully, studied the stones and the bone discs. Thought about how each piececould interact with the other pieces—and the cards.

    Yes, that would work. That would work quite well.

    "Which variation do you want to play?" Jaenelle asked as she placed the stones and discs in their starting positions.

    Daemon gave her the smile that used to terrify the Queens in Terreille. "Variation twenty-seven."

    Jaenelle just frowned at him. "Daemon, there is no variation twenty-seven."

    He dealt the cards and purred, "There is now."

    11 / Kaeleer

    She was so young,Surreal thought as she studied her mother.I had thought of her as being so big, so strong. But she's smaller than me... and she was so young when she died.

    Titian tucked her feet up on the window seat and wrapped her arms around her knees. "It's good you've come to Kaeleer."

    Surreal stared out the window. But the night-darkened glass didn't show her anything but her own reflection— and that made her think of the questions that had gone unanswered for too long. "Why didn't we come here before?" she asked quietly. "Why didn't you go home after you got away from Kartane?" She hesitated. "Was it because of me?"

    "No,"Titian said sharply. "I chose to keep you, Surreal. I had to fight against my body's instinctive rejection of a child conceived by force, andI chose you." Now Titian hesitated. "There were other reasons not to go home then. If I had, your life would have been easier, but..."

    "But what?" Surreal snapped. "If you had gone home, you wouldn't have had to whore for food and shelter. If you had gotten out of Terreille, you wouldn't have died so damn young. What reason is good enough to balance those things?"

    "I loved my father," Titian said softly. "And I loved my brothers. Rape is punishable by execution, Surreal. If I had gone home as soon as I escaped from Kartane, my father and brothers would have gone to Hayll to kill him."

    Surreal stared at her. "How in the name of Hell did they expect to get past all of Dorothea's guards in order to get to Kartane?"

    "They would have died," Titian said simply. "And I didn't want my father and brothers to die. Can you understand that?"

    "Not really, since I've spent most of my life preparing for the day when I can kill Kartane. Now, if it had been your mother..." Surreal tried to smile and couldn't. "What do you think your father would have said about your choice?"

    Titian's smile was rueful. "Iknow what he said. He was in the Dark Realm for a little while before he returned to the Darkness. But he lived the full span of his years, Surreal, and my brothers raised children who never would have been born." She paused. "And if I had chosen differently, you wouldn't have been in Chaillot thirteen years ago, and we would have lost the greatest Queen the Blood has ever known."

    "And if you hadn't ended up in Terreille, under Kartane, you would have been a Queen and a Black Widow."

    "I stillam a Queen and a Black Widow," Titian snapped. "When Kartane broke me, he severed me from the strength that would have been mine, but he couldn't take away what I am."

    "I'm sorry," Surreal said, not sure how to express regret without giving insult.

    "Don't shoulder regrets, little witch," Titian said gently as she got to her feet. "And don't shoulder the burden of anyone's actions but your own." She held out her hand. "Come on. You'll need your wits about you if you're sparring with Lucivar tomorrow."

    Surreal rose wearily and followed Titian. Between that scene with Vania at midday, the extra workout with Falonar, and coping with the aftermath of Jaenelle's fury, she was more than ready to crawl into bed. She had hugged more distressed males that day than she had in her entire life. Which reminded her of something else. "Howdo I deal with the male relatives I've suddenly acquired?"

    "You set your boundaries," Titian replied as they reached the corridor near Surreal's room. "You decide what you're willing to let them do for you and what you have to do for yourself. Then you tell them—gently. This is Kaeleer, Surreal. You have to handle the males—" Titian froze. Her nostrils flared.

    "Titian?" Surreal asked, startled by the awful expression on her mother's face. "What's wrong?"

    "Where's the High Lord?" Titian snarled. Not waiting for an answer, she ran for the nearest staircase.

    Surreal raced after her, catching up to her when Titian jerked to a halt in front of a door.

    Titian banged the door once with her fist, then flung it open. "High Lord!"

    A muffled sound came from the adjoining room.

    Titian flung that door open and rushed into the room. Surreal rushed in behind her, then stopped abruptly.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire