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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(98) by Anne Bishop
  • Jaenelle shook her head. "I'm the Queen. It was mine to do."

    Not if you're going to eat your heart out because of it.

    "There's a traditional way to break one of the Blood, to strip away the power without doing any other harm. It's quick and clean." She hesitated. "I took her deep into the abyss."

    "You took her to the misty place?"

    "No," Jaenelle said too sharply, too quickly. "That's a special place. I didn't want it tainted—" She bit her lip.

    He didn't want to examine the relief he felt at knowing Alexandra hadn't fouled the misty place with her presence.

    As he continued to study her, it struck him with the force of a blow: she hadn't withdrawn so far into herself because she grieved over having to break another witch; she had withdrawn in order to deal with some kind of personal pain.

    "Sweetheart," he said quietly, "what's wrong? Please tell me. Let me help."

    When she turned to look at him, he didn't see a grown woman or a Queen or Witch. He saw a child in agony.

    "Leland... Leland cared, I think, but I never expected much from her. Philip cared, but there was nothing he could really do. Alexandra was the m-mother in the family. She was the one who had the strength. She was the one we all wanted to please. And I could never please her, could never be... I loved all of them—Leland and Alexandra and Philip and Wilhelmina." Jaenelle's breathing hitched on a suppressed sob. "I lovedher —and she s-said I was m-monstrous."

    Daemon just stared at her, the sudden rage that engulfed him making it impossible to speak for a moment. "The bitch saidwhat ?"

    Startled by the venom in his voice, she gave him a clear-eyed look before she crumbled again. "She said I was monstrous."

    He could almost see all the deep childhood scars reopening, bleeding. This was the final rejection, the final pain. The child had defied that rejection, had tried to justify the sparse love given only with conditions placed on it. The child had tried to justify being sent to that horror, Briarwood. But the child was no longer a child, and the agony of having to face a bitter truth was ripping her apart.

    He also realized that, faced with this emotional battering, she was now clinging to the one solid wall of her childhood: Saetan's love and acceptance.

    Well, he could give her another wall to cling to. He opened his arms enough to invite but not enough to demand. "Come here," he said softly. "Come to me."

    It broke his heart the way she crept toward him without looking at him, the way her body was braced for rejection.

    His arms closed around her, comforting and protecting.

    "She was a good Queen, wasn't she?" Jaenelle asked in a pleading voice a few minutes later.

    Daemon felt a stab of pain. At another time, the lie would have been easy enough to say, but not tonight. Knowing he was going to rip away her last justification for Alexandra's behavior, he gave her the truth as gently as he could. "Compared to the other Queens in Terreille, she was a good Queen. Compared to any of the Queens I've met since I've been in Kaeleer... No, sweetheart, she was not a good Queen."

    Pain flowed with the tears as Jaenelle finally gave up the people she had once tried to love.

    He held her, saying nothing. Just held her while he let all of his love surround her.

    The door opened quietly. Ladvarian walked in, followed by Kaelas.

    Daemon watched them, and wondered if they had decided on their own to defy the command for solitude or if they had equated his presence with permission to enter.

    After a minute, the tip of Ladvarian's tail waved once. *We will come back later.*

    They left as quietly as they had come.

    Chapter Eight

    1 / Kaeleer

    Lord Magstrom nervously wandered around the room where the records from the service fair were stored. He'd only been home a couple of days and was still catching up on the official business of his own village. But Lord Jorval had urgently requested him to return to Little Terreille's capital to discuss something of the "utmost importance."

    He'd spent several days with his eldest granddaughter and her husband—days that had been filled with excitement and apprehension instead of the rest he so badly needed. His granddaughter was pregnant with her first child, and, though delighted, she was also quite ill. So he'd spent most of his time reassuring her husband that his granddaughter wouldn't divorce a man she loved just because she couldn't keep her breakfast down for a few weeks.

    He shouldn't have said "a few weeks." The younger man had looked ready to faint when he'd said that.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire