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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 36)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(36) by Anne Bishop
  • “Gray, don’t,” Ranon said softly. “Cassidy isn’t feeling well. Too much upset.”

    “Only a fool would expect her to sit down at the same table withthat. ” And he had a sick feeling that Theran was going to expect exactly that—and be pissy about Cassie not coming to the table.

    “She’ll have dinner in her suite tonight with Shira,” Ranon said.

    Gray nodded.

    “Let it go, Gray. Both of us need to let it go. Whatever business Kermilla had with Cassidy is done. Tomorrow she’ll go back to where she came from, and we’ll get on with our lives.”

    Gray nodded again.

    “Are you going to sleep inside tonight?” Ranon asked.

    He hesitated. Drought. Plague. Weeds creeping in and choking the good plants. That’s what he felt when he looked at Kermilla. He didn’t want to get anywhere near her, didn’t want to be locked behind walls where she could reach him. The old fears gnawed at him, but something else, something new pushed at him harder.

    “Do you think Cassie would mind if I slept on the sofa in her suite?” he asked.

    “I think she would understand if you felt uncomfortable being in the family wing.”

    With no one but Theran nearby, and the “guest” too close for comfort.

    “I am afraid to sleep alone tonight, but that’s only part of it,” Gray said.

    “What’s the other part?”

    He looked at Ranon. “If I’m sleeping on the sofa, the only way someone can get to Cassie is by going through me.”

    Talon leaned against a tree, another dark shape in the night, and waited. Which one of the First Circle would come out to find him?

    Hell’s fire. He’d gone to sleep in a Coach full of men feeling hopeful and pleased, and woke to find the Grayhaven mansion inhabited by two armed camps that were barely obeying the command to keep the peace. Ranon and Theran looked ready to tear out each other’s throats, and Gray . . . He wasn’t sure what was going on inside Gray’s head, and that was a worry—especially since Cassidy had retired to her suite before dinner, claiming to feel ill.

    And all of this was because of the visitors from Dharo.

    When he saw the man coming toward him, he was a little surprised that it was Powell instead of one of the Warlord Princes, but when he gave it a moment’s thought, he realized it wouldn’t have been anyone else. The Steward would be the one to approach the Master of the Guard to discuss how to direct the rest of the First Circle to best serve the Queen.

    “Talon,” Powell said.

    A middle-aged man whose left hand had been badly broken by the last Queen he’d served, Powell’s steadier temper was proving to be a good balance for the more volatile members of the court.

    “Out to get some air?” Talon asked.

    “Storm’s coming.”

    “Might blow over.” They weren’t talking about the weather. Talon huffed out a breath. “What in the name of Hell happened? All I’ve heard from both sides is a lot of crap.”

    Powell tensed.

    Dangerous ground,Talon thought.Two Queens in the same house and all the men wary or edgy or just plain ready to kill. “Put caste aside for a moment and tell me what you’d say if this was about social standing.”

    Powell relaxed. “Ah. Well. Plain girl. Comes from a simple family and expects to work for her keep. Earns the friendships she makes by being a friend. At a social gathering, she’s never asked by a handsome man for any of the romantic dances unless he’s an escort in training and is required to dance with the girls who wouldn’t have a partner otherwise. Her heart’s probably bruised because of that, but she’s learned to accept it.

    “Then there’s the pretty girl. Spoiled and pampered. Her father’s darling.”

    “Wait,” Talon interrupted. “Father’s darling would apply to both girls.” Having met Lord Burle, it was clear he was more than proud of Cassidy, and not because she was now the Queen of a whole Territory. That pride was for hisgirl, who just happened to be a Queen.

    “You’re right,” Powell agreed. “However, the pretty girl is used to getting her own way, is used to being preferred over the other girls, always has her dance card filled before she arrives at the dance, and if she snubs one partner in favor of someone more polished or aristo, she expects to be forgiven—and her actions defended—because she is an aristo darling.

    “These two girls have competed in the same social arena.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire