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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 131)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(131) by Anne Bishop
  • Not whole. Not fully formed. Not who he could have been.

    The fire dance celebrated the Shalador males’ sexual and emotional maturity—and acknowledged their willingness to accept adult responsibilities as well as adult pleasures. Would this dance really make a difference in the way Cassie saw him?

    Would it make a difference in the way he saw himself?

    When the time comes, accept the fire that lives within you.

    Brushing a finger over the globe again, he thought,It’s time. Win or lose, it’s time.

    He’d been twenty-two when he’d made the Offering to the Darkness. Something inside him had swelled and pushed at him, demanding release, demanding that he open himself to his mature potential. But he’d been too emotionally damaged to endure that grueling test of Self, and instead of embracing the dark glory that could have been his, he’d fled from it—and had ended up with a Purple Dusk Jewel that was a little darker than his Birthright Purple Dusk.

    The Offering could be made only once, and what he might have been had been severed by his own fear and refusal to accept it.

    He couldn’t reclaim the power that was lost forever, but maybe, with the fire dance, he could finally meet and embrace the man he should be.

    Gray opened the door to his room and found Ranon leaning against the hallway wall, waiting for him.

    “You ready?” Ranon asked.

    He looked at the other Warlord Prince, a man who had become a closer, stronger friend than any he’d ever had. Tonight there was heat in Ranon’s dark eyes. Heat and a glitter that wasn’t temper but wasn’t far removed.

    “I’m ready.” May the Darkness have mercy on him if he wasn’t ready. If he failed this time, too many of his dreams would fail with him.

    They walked out of the Queen’s Residence together, then stopped when they reached the street. Currents of feminine power drifted through the village, along the streets, stropping against Gray’s inner barriers.

    Ranon closed his eyes and breathed deep. Gray had the sense that his friend was breathing in more than air.

    “Do you hear it?” Ranon whispered.

    He didn’t hear anything, but he felt it in his blood.

    The drums were calling the men to the dance.

    Ranon took in another breath, then let it out in a sigh as he opened his eyes. “Come on, Gray. It’s time to dance.”

    Cassie was there tonight among the drummers, was there among the women who had come to watch the fire contained in a vessel of male flesh.

    Cassie.

    “Yes,” Gray said as he began walking toward the sound of the drums. “It’s time.”

    Cassidy looked around as she set up her drum and stool between Shira’s and Reyhana’s. This park, named The Dance, had been a tangle of weeds and overgrown bushes with a pile of stones in the center of the almost impenetrable mess. Gray had been frustrated that the elders wouldn’t let him clean up this park when they let him work on the others in Eyota. He’d grumbled and fussed about it so much the elders finally told him politely but firmly to keep his hands off the place.

    Now there was a large circle of fine sand that had been carefully raked. The tumble of stones in the center was a large fire pit piled with wood that was ready for a flame’s kiss. Freshly mown grass filled the rest of the space, and bushes defined the boundaries and provided some privacy. Eight archways created entranceways to The Dance.

    “This wasn’t cleaned up in the past couple of days,” Cassidy said quietly. Or as quietly as she could over the sound of the two women who had begun drumming.

    Shira smiled and looked a little embarrassed. “We’ve had to be careful for so long . . .” She shrugged. “Illusion spells. Lots of them, woven in and around one another. The Dance is always tended, even though most years it wasn’t safe to use such a place.”

    “So you didn’t do these special dances?” Cassidy asked.

    “We did. But not like this.” Shira smiled fiercely, but her eyes were tear bright. “It was too risky to do the whole celebration together, so it would be spread out over the weeks between the Autumn Moon and the next full moon. This is the first time in a very long time my people will come together on one night for these dances.”

    It hurt that they hadn’t trusted her enough to release the illusion spells and reveal The Dance for what it was, but it also told her how deep the fear ran in the Shalador people. She didn’t ask Shira what the penalty had been for those who had been caught doing these dances. She didn’t want to know.

    And yet, despite that fear, they had invited her to participate in this celebration, to be “part of its heart.”

    “Drummers and the other musicians will be going in and out as the dances change, so if you lose the rhythm, just drop out until you can pick it up again,” Shira said.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire