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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 34)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(34) by Anne Bishop
  • “Then talk to your Steward. He’ll tell you how much income you can expect after you settle your obligations to the Province Queen and village treasury, and pay your court.”

    “That’s your answer?”

    “That my answer. You rule Bhak and Woolskin. Your income comes from their tithes.”And may the Darkness have mercy on those people. “I have work to do, and despite what you told Dryden, you are not a welcome guest. You’ve had your say. Now go. I don’t want you in my Territory.”

    Kermilla looked stunned.

    Cassidy strode to the door and reached for the handle.

    “Cassidy . . . wait.”

    She couldn’t wait. Her stomach burned and her bowels were turning to liquid. “Get out of my Territory,” she said harshly. “And take your cocks with you.”

    Cassidy brushed past Theran, who was lingering in the hallway, and snapped at Ranon when he intercepted her on the way to her suite and tried to ask if she was all right.

    She wasn’t all right. Wouldn’t be all right until Kermilla was back in Dharo and she could lock away all the painful memories. Again.

    Kermilla dabbed her eyes with a lace-edged handkerchief.

    Cassidy had been soangry. She hadnever seen Cassidy like that! And so unwilling tolisten.

    It had been a mistake bringing Jhorma with her. She had thought bringing her Master of the Guard might appear too much like a threat, and her Steward had to stay in Bhak to take care of all theboring details. That left Jhorma to represent the Queen’s Triangle—the males who were dominant in a court because they dealt with the Queen directly.

    When she’d decided to come to Dena Nehele, she’d thought that reminding Cassidy thatshe was the Queen Jhorma had chosen to serve and pleasure would intimidate Cassidy a little. At least enough that Cassidy wouldn’t keep ignoring the Queen’s gift whichshould have been left as the seed money for Kermilla’s personal expenses.

    But Cassidy had seen Jhorma and gotten soangry . And that dark-eyed Warlord Prince was soscary ! He looked like he wanted to rip out her throat with histeeth !

    It wasn’t fun being a ruling Queen. It should have been, but it wasn’t. Being in Cassidy’s court for her training had been great fun. She had danced and flirted and talked and attended the luncheons with the—well, they weren’t aristos, but they were the most influential people you could find in a place like Bhak. Sure, she had to follow Cassidy around to “learn” how to be a Queen, as if she didn’tknow how to be a Queen, and she had made careful notes about what duties she would keep and what duties—theboring duties—she would require the Ladies in her First Circle to shoulder.

    Then she found out she’d have to pay anyone who was officially in her First Circle, so she’d limited that Circle to the necessary twelve males. Which meantshe had to take care of the boring duties, and since theywere boring, she hadn’t bothered with them half the time. And lately it seemed like her Steward was handing her a list of complaints every day. And her Master of the Guard . . . Well, he’d seemed so charming when he’d first begun to serve her, and he’d been adarling when she’d been training with Cassidy. Now she dreaded talking to him because he looked grim grim grim when he reminded her that she was the village’s moral center and shecould not allow rowdy young Blood males to use the landens for sport. There was already trouble because of alittle mischief, but he’d wanted to publicly strap those boys because a landen had gotten hurt—and he hadn’t looked at her with any kind of warmth after she forbade him to punish the boys. And that merchant! Whining over a broken window and wanting the Warlord’s family to pay for the damages. Well, she couldn’t order that, could she? The Warlord’s sister was one of her closest friends. And then the merchant wanted to deduct the cost of the damages from the tithes andher Steward let him. Without asking her. Saying it was the only thing to do if she wasn’t going to hold the Warlord responsible.

    She didn’t have a big enough court. That was the problem. There should be people taking care of these things so that she could be aQueen .

    She’d spent some of the village treasury, which she shouldn’t have done and wouldn’t have needed to do if Cassidy hadn’t been selfish. So now she had to have the Queen’s gift in case the Province Queen’s Steward asked her Steward for a financial report. She had to replace what she’d taken, orshe would end up having to justify her expenses to Lady Darlena.

    Even worse, because she was only twenty-one and this was her first court, Lady Sabrina, the Queen of Dharo, had given her Bhak to rule for one year. A proving ground, Sabrina had called it. If the villages, Bhak and landen Woolskin, prospered under her rule, she could keep them. If not, Sabrina would declare her court broken and arbitrarily reassign her males to other courts, and she would have to form a new court and find another village to rule since Bhak and Woolskin would be given to another Queen.

    It was allvery distressing.

    “Are you all right?”

    She gasped at the sound of a strange male voice, then turned to face him, dabbing at her eyes so she looked as woeful as she felt.

    Mine.

    The shock of it rocked her, that pull, thatdemand that she be the one to hold the emotional leash that would keep him balanced. She’d never felt anything like this. Was shesupposed to feel anything like this?

    “Yes, thank you, I’m fine,” she said. “A little distressed is all. I seem to have come at a bad time and upset Cassidy.”

    He was so handsome with that dark hair and those dreamy green eyes and that golden brown skin. There was a hardness to him that saidwarrior . More than being a Warlord Prince who was ready to fight, this man hadfought, had been on killing fields thatmattered.

    She was already a little in love with him, and she didn’t even know his name.

    “Who . . . ?”

    “Theran Grayhaven.”

    “I am Kermilla.” She offered her hand.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire