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  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(56) by Anne Bishop
  • “That sounds intriguing.” He looked at the food on the tray. “Why don’t we eat the soup while it’s hot, and you can tell me all about it?”

    CHAPTER 14

    TERREILLE

    “Prince Theran,” Dryden said. “There are some Ladies here to see the Queen.”

    Theran tried to relax his jaw. He’d spent the morning gritting his teeth as he waded through all the crap the Steward should be doing. He was going to have to hire someone to deal with the paperwork—and complaints—until he could get a new court established. Of course, hiring someone meant paying wages, and he still had to figure out how much income he would get from the tithe and what part of that was already committed to paying the guards who protected the town and its citizens. Now that Cassidy was no longer in residence, he also had to figure out if the servants could be paid out of the tithe or if he’d have to pay their wages out of the Grayhaven inheritance.

    “What Ladies?” he growled. “Why are they here to see Kermilla?”

    “They are Queens. They do not wish to offer their names or where they live, and as a courtesy to them, I did not press for that information. They said they received a letter from Lady Cassidy about some Craft the Queens can do to help increase the harvest. She offered to teach them.”

    Hell’s fire. “Well, tell them . . .”

    An opportunity. A chance for the other Queens to meet Kermilla—and a chance for Kermilla to show the Queens and, through them, the Warlord Princes that she had as much, if not more, to offer the people of Dena Nehele as Cassidy.

    “Tell them Lady Kermilla and I will join them shortly.” Theran pushed away from the desk and the nagging paperwork.

    He found Kermilla in the parlor, playing cards with Jhorma and two of the escorts.

    “Oh,la. You must be cheating, Jhorma,” Kermilla said, throwing down her cards.

    “I’m not cheating,” Jhorma replied with tight courtesy.

    “You must be! I haven’t won anything in the last six hands!”

    After playing cards with them a couple of times, Theran realized Jhorma cheated in order to ensure shedid win a few hands. The man must not be in an accommodating mood today.

    “Kermilla, I need your help for an hour or so,” Theran said, glad he could offer an interruption. A display of bad temper was exactly what they didn’t need with other Queens in the mansion.

    “I might as well help you,” Kermilla said, leaving the table. “Jhorma isn’t beingany fun.”

    Good,Theran thought. He wasn’t sure how to approach a Queen to find out if she wanted to have sex, but if her Consort wasn’t entertaining her sufficiently, Kermilla might be receptive to another man’s interest.

    She slipped her arm through his as he led her from the room. “Are we going to a party or one of those quaint outdoor concerts?” Her laugh tinkled through the hallway. “I don’t mean to make fun but,la, the musicians aren’t very good.”

    He tried not to wince. There wasn’t much in the town that could entertain a vivacious young woman who was used to finer amusements. Since Cassidy had been so keen to attend one of the outdoor concerts, he’d figured Kermilla would enjoy going to one.

    That evening only emphasized the differences between the two women. Kermilla might be younger, but she was far more aristo and sophisticated. Which made it difficult when the town, and the remaining aristo families, had so little to offer.

    “No, this is something else,” Theran said. “Some Queens have arrived to learn that Queen’s Craft of using power to enrich the land.”

    Kermilla rolled her eyes. “Oh.That. Every Queen knows how to do that.”

    “No, they don’t. The Queens here have forgotten. They need someone to lead them, to teach them.”

    She gave him a sexy pout that always made him wonder what her mouth would taste like, but there wasn’t time for distractions.

    “Cassidy offered to show them,” Theran said.

    “Then let Cassidy show them,” Kermilla snapped. “She always liked digging in the dirt.”

    Theran hesitated. He couldn’t make promises, couldn’t give her assurances yet, but hecould hint strongly enough that she wouldn’t mistake his meaning. Not after the other hints he’d given her.

    “A Territory Queen needs to be a strong leader, needs to teach the skills that will benefit the people.” He stopped walking and looked at her intently so she would understand this was important. “When Cassidy’s contract ends next spring, the Warlord Princes will need to select another Queen to rule Dena Nehele. They’ll take the opinions and preferences of the Queens who are here today into account.”

    He waited.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire