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  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(123) by Anne Bishop
  • “Bwaa ha ha!”

    Surreal bit her lip as the ghost boy reached for the door he’d been told not to open. She wanted to scream at him, rage at him. But there was no one to scream at, nothing to rage at, so she turned and stared at sooty layers of cobwebs that were clotting one corner of the dining room ceiling.

    She felt Rainier come up beside her, positioning himself so that he blocked even her peripheral view of what was happening.

    “I know it’s just entertainment,” she said. “I know it isn’t real, and I know Jaenelle and Marian created it before we walked into that trap, but…”

    “I can’t watch it either,” Rainier said. He tipped his chin toward the cobwebs. “What do you think those are supposed to do?”

    As if in answer, two spots began to glow and became eyes within a cobweb face shaped by a breath of air. Pieces of cobweb extended out, becoming an arm—and a hand with its fingers curled. The arm turned. The hand opened. And…

    Surreal blinked.

    “Bats?” Rainier asked. “Are those tiny bats?”

    “Sparkly, Jewel-colored bats,” she said. “Must be one of Tersa’s spells.”

    By the time the last sparkly bat winked out and the cobwebs once again looked like sooty, clotted cobwebs, Surreal was ready to follow the rest of the guests who were leaving the dining room.

    She found her balance as she wandered through the spooky house with Rainier at her side. Despite Jaenelle’s skills as a Healer, he was still walking with a noticeable limp and needed the cane that had been a gift from Daemon.

    He was lucky he was walking at all. Jaenelle had told her the Eyrien Warlord’s war blade had cut halfway through the bone as well as severing the muscles in Rainier’s leg. But he was healing, and she was glad he’d felt well enough to come with her to seethis spooky house.

    Jaenelle and Marian had created a house that was humor with a bite, scary with a wink. And some things were hauntingly lovely, like that voice in the upstairs hallway.

    She saw the other illusions Tersa had added—and after watching eyes open up in the grapes, she was very glad she’d avoided those in the other spooky house.

    In a way, this house poked fun at landens and Blood alike. And while some of it gave her a jolt—like that damn voice on the staircase—it really wasn’t…

    Sylvia rushed up to them, looking wild-eyed and horrified.

    “They think we live like this?” she said. “Landens really thinkwe live like this ?”

    All right. Maybe itwas scary for some people. Just not for the expected reasons.

    Rainier turned his back to deal with a sudden fit of coughing.

    Sylvia turned in a circle, and in the course of that turn changed from wild-eyed woman to flame-eyed mother. “Where is Mikal? Hell’s fire, if that boy has tried to make off with one of those giggling spiders, I will kill him flatter than dead.”

    Surreal watched the Queen of Halaway plow through a knot of stunned landens.

    "They don’t know if she’s part of the entertainment or a real mother," Rainier said.

    "Kill him flatter than dead?" Surreal said. "What does that mean?"

    "No idea. But said in that tone of voice, it sure sounds impressive. And I think the landen mothers are committing that phrase to memory."

    Surreal snorted.

    They had seen most of the spooky house. Since they were family, they hadn’t been required to follow a ghostly guide—and hadn’t been herded back into a group by the shadow Scelties. It had been amusing to watch the other guests view the surprises, and she’d been entertained by watching rowdy landen boys come face-to-face with Lucivar. Even more amusing was watching the adolescent girls watch Daemon as he glided through the house. Unlike Lucivar, who had dealt with the boys by threatening to rip off all their poking little fingers and shove those fingers down their throats, Daemon had put a fading spell over a sight shield, so he simply faded away as he walked down a hallway, leaving all those girls wondering if he was real or illusion.

    “So,” Rainier said. “We’ve seen the woman in the cobwebs and the giggling spiders. We’ve heard the snarl in the cellar and—”

    “The damn laughing staircase.” She’d almost wet herself when she stepped on a stair and that voice rolled up from beneath her feet.

    Rainier grinned but wisely said nothing. “And the eyes in the attic.”

    They had skipped the bathroom with the popping beetles. Thank the Darkness.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire