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  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(153) by Anne Bishop
  • “Why wouldn’t I return? I rule here.”

    For now.

    She heard the unspoken warning. “I’ve been traveling most of the day, and I’m tired. I’d like to go to my room now. Please arrange to have a carriage for me first thing tomorrow morning to take me to the landing web. I want to talk to Sabrina before she becomes so immersed in frivolity that she forgets her duties as a Queen.”

    Gallard sucked in a breath, but in the end he escorted her to the guest room and said nothing.

    She would talk to Sabrina and get this mess straightened out so that she could enjoy some of Winsol. And she would go home for a few days. She needed to be around people who thought she was wonderful, and she could count on her father to give her enough marks to tide her over.

    CHAPTER 33


    Kermilla stood at the parlor window in her parents’ house and watched the snow fall. It was a roomy house, the kind typically owned by a couple who came from secondary branches of aristo families and wanted to maintain the social connections that would be an asset to their children.

    Social connections were of no use to her right now. At least, not until she managed to get her father alone and talked him into giving her some help.

    She should have left early on the first day of Winsol as she’d intended to do. But she’d wrangled with that thrice-damned butler in order to get access to her clothes—which was insulting beyond words—andthen discovered most of the new jewelry and half the new clothes she’d bought before going to Dena Nehele weregone. Not stolen by the servants, as she’d first suspected. No, something even worse. The jewelry that hadn’t been paid for yet had been returned to the jewelers. The dresses and formal gowns that hadn’t been worn had been sent to shops in other Provinces to be sold in order to pay for the clothes shehad worn.

    Thank the Darkness she’d had two trunks of autumn and winter clothes sent to her in Dena Nehele. The damn nosy Stewards hadn’t foundthose clothes and they never would.

    By the time she’d gotten that sorted out and taken a Coach to Sabrina’s residence, the Queen of Dharo was gone and her thrice-damned Steward refused to reveal her location, even when Kermilla emphasized several times that this was an emergency.

    The Steward, of course, offered to hear her out.

    The man had no balls, no sex, and no heart. He listened calmly, with no sign of interest or concern. He didn’t respond to flirting or to pouts or any other tool that usually proved useful when dealing with men.

    He listened. Then he told her what financial arrangements Lady Sabrina had authorized for Kermilla and her court.

    The private side of the Queen’s house in Bhak would be reopened for Kermilla’s use. Sabrina would pay for the general maintenance of that house and its stables until spring. That included the wages for the butler, housekeeper, cook, maid, footman, coachman, and stable lad. No additional staff, not even restoring Kermilla’s personal maid. Food for the Queen and the First Circle who were in residence, as well as for the servants, would also be paid for by the Territory Queen. Kermilla would be responsible for the expense of any entertainment held at the house.

    Income? Had Lady Kermilla discussed the situation in Bhak and Woolskin with her own Steward? Yes? Then the Lady was aware that there was no income available for her use since the winter tithes had gone into paying down the remaining debts.

    Insulting, insufferable man, treating her like a child who had overspent her allowance! Yes, just like that but neverever acknowledging that the allowance hadn’t been adequate to begin with!

    She’d gotten no satisfaction from Sabrina’s Steward beyond him giving her an appointment to meet with Dharo’s Queen the day after Winsol ended.

    It had been too humiliating to go back to the house in Bhak. If she summoned her court to return, what would she do with them? She couldn’t throw any parties or dinners, couldn’t afford tickets to a play or a concert or any other kind of entertainment. And it occurred to her that Sabrina didn’t know yet that her First Circle was short a man, and having the other men scattered would make that fact less obvious.

    So she returned to Bhak long enough to pack up all her clothes, then came here to her parents’ house to “enjoy the holiday as a daughter instead of a Queen.”

    Her father was delighted to see her. Her mother was pleased too, but Kermilla sensed a reservation there. And her brother and sister hadn’t made any accommodation to spend time with her, as they should have since she was a Queen.

    The parlor door opened and her father walked in. Then he saw her, realized they were alone, and started to back out.

    “Father, wait.” Kermilla rushed over to him, grabbed his hand, and pulled him into the room. “I’ve wanted to talk to you.”

    “Maybe we should wait for your mother.”

    “Don’t be silly.” She tugged him over to a chair, then sat on the footstool in front of him. “I wanted to talk toyou. ”

    He sighed, as if he knew what she wanted to talk about. But there was sadness in his eyes and more than a little worry.

    “What’s on your mind, sweets?” he asked.

    “I need some help. Just a little,” she added quickly when he shook his head. “There was a misunderstanding about the court expenses and—”

    “I can’t help, Kermilla. I’m sorry, sweets, but I can’t.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire