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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(97) by Anne Bishop
  • "No," Saetan replied quietly after a long pause. "But that has nothing to do with your ability to wear Jewels."

    She choked on the insult, not daring to do anything else. "Do you realize what's going to happen to Chaillot now?"

    "Your people will, in all probability, choose another Queen."

    "Thereisn't another Queen strong enough to be accepted as the Territory Queen. That's why—" —Istill rule.No, she couldn't say that to him.

    She pushed herself into a sitting position, then waited for her head to clear. That odd, muffled feeling would go away eventually, but the sense of lossnever would. The bitch who had masqueraded as her granddaughter had done this to her. "She's monstrous," she muttered.

    "She is the living myth, dreams made flesh," Saetan said coldly.

    "Well, she wasn'tmy dream," Alexandra snapped. "How that repulsive, distorted creature could beanyone's dream—"

    "Don't cross that line again, Alexandra," Saetan warned.

    Hearing the edge in his voice, she hunched to make herself smaller. She could grit her teeth and hold her tongue because she had no choice, but she couldn't stop thinking about that creature. It had lived in her house. She shuddered.Every year at Winsol, we dance for the glory of Witch. Every year, we celebrate that.

    She didn't realize she had spoken out loud until the room turned to ice. "I want to go home," she said in a small voice. "Can you arrange that?"

    "It would be my pleasure," Saetan crooned.

    4 / Kaeleer

    Daemon stared with intense dislike at the blackwood hourglass floating outside Jaenelle's door. When he'd noticed it the first time he'd tried to check on Jaenelle, Ladvarian, the Sceltie Warlord, had explained what it meant. So he had accepted Ladvarian's offer to act as guide and had done a little exploring of the Keep. Returning an hour later, he'd discovered that the hourglass had been turned, the sand trickling into the base to mark another hour of solitude. This was the third time the sand had almost run out, andthis time he was going to be waiting at the door when the last grain of sand dropped.

    "You are impatient?" asked a sibilant voice.

    Daemon turned toward Draca, the Keep's Seneschal. When they had first arrived at the Keep, Lucivar had given him a cryptic warning:Draca is a dragon in human form. The moment he'd seen the Seneschal, he'd understood what Lucivar meant. Her looks, combined with the feel of great age and old, deep power, had fascinated him.

    "I'm worried," he replied, meeting the dark eyes that stared right through him. "She shouldn't be alone right now."

    "Yet you sstand outsside the door."

    Daemon gave the floating hourglass a killing look.

    Draca made a sound that might have been muted laughter. "Are you alwayss sso obedient?"

    "Almost never," Daemon muttered—and then remembered who he was talking to.

    But Draca nodded, as if pleased to have something confirmed. "It iss wisse for maless to know when to yield and obey. But the Conssort iss permitted to bend many ruless."

    Daemon considered the words carefully. It was hard to catch inflections in that sibilant voice, but he thought he understood her. "You know more of the finer points of Protocol than I do," he said, watching her closely. "I appreciate the instruction."

    Her face didn't alter, but he would have sworn she smiled at him. As she turned away, she added, "The glasss iss almosst empty."

    His hand was on the doorknob, quietly turning it as the last grains of sand trickled into the hourglass's base. As he opened the door, he saw the hourglass turning to declare another hour of solitude. He slipped quickly into the room and closed the door behind him.

    Jaenelle stood by a window, looking out at the night, still dressed in the black gown. As a man, that gown appealed to him in every way a woman's garment could, and he hoped she didn't just wear it for formal occasions.

    He stepped away from those thoughts. Not only were they useless tonight, they teased his body into wanting to respond to her in a way that wouldn't be acceptable.

    "Are they gone?" Jaenelle asked quietly, still staring out the window.

    Daemon studied her, trying to decide if it was meant as small talk or if she had withdrawn so deep within herself she really didn't know. "They're gone." He moved toward her slowly, cautiously, until he was only a few feet away and at an angle where he could see her profile.

    "It was the appropriate punishment," Jaenelle said as another tear rolled down her face. "It's the appropriate punishment when one Queen violates another's court to do harm."

    "You could have asked one of us to do it," Daemon said quietly.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire