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  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(10) by Anne Bishop
  • “What are you doing today?” Jaenelle asked.

    Had Marian told Lucivar about this spooky house? Surely the lovely Eyrien hearth witch hadn’t kept it a secret from her own husband! Which was a thought he wasn’t going to follow to its logical conclusion because then he would start to wonder why his own lovely wife hadn’t informedhim until now.

    But if Lucivarhad known, why hadn’t the prick sent a warning? A man didnot need to be blindsided by something like this at the breakfast table. Or any other time, for that matter.

    “Daemon?”

    “Uh?”Pay attention, fool. “Oh, I have some paperwork to finish up for my meetings with the Province Queens.” He focused on his coffee cup and added, oh so casually, “And I thought I would drop in at the Keep and see how Father is doing.”

    “Uh-huh.” Jaenelle sliced her omelet in half, put a half between two pieces of toast, and wrapped her breakfast in her napkin. “I have to run if I’m going to be on time to meet up with Marian. She’s a little nervous about doing this.”

    I wonder why.“Are you taking one of the Coaches?”

    “No, I’ll just ride the Winds.” She drained her coffee cup and stood up.

    Something not quite right here. “It shouldn’t take that long to reach the landen village, should it?”

    She came around the table and gave him a sweet kiss. “No, it won’t take that long.” Then she gave him a wicked grin. “But first I have to yell at the cat for waking me up.”

    THREE

    How did I get talked into this?Marian wondered as she followed Jaenelle into the next gloomy room of the old landen house that had sat empty and neglected for the past decade or more. Of course, based on what she’d seen so far, the house hadn’t been cared for even when people had lived in it.

    She waited until Jaenelle nudged open one of the slatted shutters to let in dingy light through the grimy window. Then she looked around and decided this was the worst room yet. Judging by the furniture, this must have been the dining room. Judging by the wallpaper, the people who had lived here must have wanted to discourage everyone from lingering over a meal.

    “Cobwebs,” Jaenelle said, looking at the corners of the room.

    Marian winced as she forced herself to take a closer look around. She was here because her hearth witch practicality provided balance for Jaenelle’s more whimsical ideas. Besides, they were family. Jaenelle had been adopted by Lucivar’s father when she was twelve, so even though there was no bloodline connecting them, Jaenelle was Lucivar’s sister—and Lucivar’s Queen. Since Marian was Lucivar’s wife, that meant Jaenelle was alsoher sister now.

    And there was another connection between them. If Jaenelle hadn’t saved her and brought her to Kaeleer, she wouldn’t have survived the attack by five Eyrien Warlords, and if she hadn’t survived, she wouldn’t have fallen in love with a strong, wonderful man, and she wouldn’t have a son.

    So she owed Jaenelle. But debt or not, family or not, there was only so muchick a hearth witch could handle.

    “Yes,” she said. “Those cobwebs definitely will have to be cleaned out.”

    “No. Well, yes,those will have to be cleaned out, but we’ll put new cobwebs in the corners. Black, sooty strands. Clots and layers. Maybe add an illusion spell in a couple of them so it looks like there’s something moving.”

    Marian shuddered. Her membranous wings, shades darker than her brown skin, were pulled in tight to her body, an instinctive response to make herself look smaller. “They think our homes have cobwebs?” She wasn’t sure if she was insulted or appalled.

    “And rats,” Jaenelle said cheerfully as she called in a list and handed it to Marian. “I took notes when I was talking to the boys.”

    Those weren’t boys,Marian thought darkly as she studied the list.Those were maggot-brained little beasts. “We can’t have rats.”

    “Not real rats,” Jaenelle conceded. “But we can create a skittering noise so it sounds like there are rats in the walls.” She looked around, considering, then frowned as they both heard askitter skitter .

    Marian closed her eyes for a moment. They’d bring some of the kindred wolves with them the next time to deal with the rats already in residence.

    “So these”—maggot-brained beasts—“boys think the Blood live in moldy rooms with creaking doors and squeaking floors and furniture that hasn’t been dusted in a decade, and we eat in rooms that have cobwebs in the corners and rats in the walls.”

    Jaenelle smiled brightly. “Yes. Exactly.”

    Marian walked around the table that clogged the center of the room. What would it take to clean that thing? Maybe a chisel. Or a sledgehammer. She stopped at the serving board and stared at the silver serving tray set just off center enough to make her grit her teeth.

    At least, she thought it was silver under all that tarnish.

    Seeing it made something in her brain fizzle. She turned and marched to the closest door, baring her teeth in a silent snarl as she turned the grimy doorknob. It took some muscle to open the stuck door, but when she finally succeeded, she discovered it wasn’t a way out of the room. It was a storage cupboard with shelves that had more blackened silver and bug-infested linen. And she couldn’t take any more.

    “Why not a rotting corpse?” Marian said in a voice so snippy she didn’t recognize it as her own. “Wouldn’t we lock our enemies in a cupboard and let them starve to death while they watch us dine?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire