• Home
  • Directory
  • Popular
  • Authors
  • Series
  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 69)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(69) by Anne Bishop
  • He shook his head again. “When Cassie looks at me, she doesn’t see a man. I don’t know how to explain it. We kiss and we touch, and it’s good. Mother Night, it’s good. But there is something in me that is holding her back from letting me be her lover all the way. So I thought the Fire Dance . . .”

    Ranon’s hand felt warm on his shoulder.

    “I’ll teach you,” Ranon said. “And this autumn, when that full moon rises, you’ll dance with your Brothers.”

    They walked back to the house, left the mugs in the kitchen, and went their separate ways.

    As Gray went to find Shira, it occurred to him that Ranon wouldn’t have asked a man he thought was deficient in any way to stand escort to the woman who held his heart.

    Kermilla looked through her mail again and sighed.

    There were the usual reports from her Steward, saying the same things he said every time about the length of her visit to Dena Nehele—but hinting more strongly this time that it would be in all of their best interests if she returned to Bhak and took care of the villages she ruled. As if she were another Freckledy who reallywanted to rule a sheep-shit village. Why did she need to be there? The men in her First Circle had been working that village for the five years they’d served Cassidy. They knew how to keep the landens in Woolskin leashed and how to discourage any complaints the Blood in Bhak might have about how the village was being ruled. If the person couldn’t be discouraged from complaining, her males should make certain the complaint went no further than her own Steward. After all, their reputations and ambitions were as much at stake as hers, and were, in fact, dependent on hers.

    But this time, along with all the dull reports, there were letters from a couple of aristo friends. Those letters talked about parties and picnics, moonlight rides and concerts—and hinted about a daring new gown being designed for the autumn season.

    What couldshe write about? She was stuck in a town that thought outdoor concerts and having a dozen people for dinner at an aristo’s house was outrageous and daring. And the clothes! Hell’s fire, she was from Dharo,the Territory for weaving and fabric of the finest quality. Even the meanest cloth that was only fit for landens in Dharo was better than the best she could find in this dung-gray town.

    And Theran was alwaysbusy . Doing what? Who could tell! Nothing interesting. Maybe she should summon Jhorma. Playing with her Consort would fill an hour or so. But they would need to be discreet. She’d invited Theran to her bed two nights ago, and now he seemed to think that gave him an exclusive claim. Maybe if he was bedding a merchant’s daughter who wanted to climb the social ladder, but it would take a more lucrative offer than having him as a lover before she would consider giving him anything exclusive. Besides, enthusiasm couldn’t replace skill, and a lover who brought his heart to the bed didn’t provide the same pleasure as a man who had been trained to please a woman’s body.

    Despite the impression he gave of being in charge, Theran really didn’t have much understanding about how courts worked, and the privileges that were hers simply because she was a Queen. But he really did care about her even if he was rather dull most of the time, and she did want to help him rule this land and make it wonderful again. For a few years, anyway.

    But that was the exciting future when she would be the Queen of Dena Nehele, and this was the boring, boring,boring now.

    A sigh made her look up at the only other person in the room.

    “You really study this all the time?” Correne asked, closing the book of Protocol she’d been staring at for the past hour.

    Kermilla nodded. “From the first year of schooling to the last. And anyone who actually serves in a court studies even more because court Protocol is more demanding.”

    “Well, when I set up my court, I’m going to forbid anyone from using all these tedious, stiff phrases.”

    Kermilla sat up, alarmed. “Oh, no, Correne. Youmust use Protocol, andeveryone in your court needs to know it.”

    “Why?” Correne asked, pouting. “It’s sodull. ”

    “Because if you know how to use them correctly, some of those phrases can stop a Warlord Prince from killing someone, or command him to step back from the killing edge before he attacks. Males arecontrolled by Protocol.”

    “What about the things males can demand from females because of Protocol?”

    “Oh. Well. A smart woman can figure out how to get aroundthose. ” Kermilla smiled at the younger Queen. “Come on, let’s go into the town and do some shopping.”

    Correne looked more unhappy. “Can’t. I spent all the marks I was given, and my father won’t send more until next month.”

    “Oh.” Her smile turned sly. “I’ll show you how to purchase a few things without having to pay a single copper for any of it.”

    Gray studied the two-story house and the neighboring one-story building, and said, “This is perfect.” He glanced at Shira, who seemed painfully unhappy as she looked at the place that would be a wonderful residence for a Healer. “Let’s take a look around.”

    She followed him with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, but he led her around to the back. The small barn was big enough for a couple of horses, and its paddock bordered the pasture for the court’s stables. The backyard had plenty of land for a kitchen garden, a Healer’s garden, and the private garden a Black Widow would find useful, and still had enough space for children or dogs to romp. Best of all, this property backed the land belonging to the Queen’s Residence, with only a low stone wall separating the two. And this place, unlike the others he had seen with Shira today, was inside what Ranon and Talon called the “Queen’s square”—the perimeter of streets and houses that would be the most heavily shielded and defended if the village was attacked.

    “Enough of this,” Shira said. “Let’s go back to the Residence.”

    Gray studied her, bewildered by the pain he saw in her dark eyes. “Why don’t you like this place?”

    “Because it’s perfect,” she snapped. “And it’s nothing I can have.”

    “Why not?”

    She turned on him, her hands clenched. He should have feared her. After all, she was a Black Widow, which meant she had that snake tooth under her right ring fingernail. His Jewels outranked hers—Purple Dusk against Summer-sky—so her venom wouldn’t necessarily kill him, but it might cripple him even if he survived.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire