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  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(43) by Anne Bishop
  • Rainier must have taken that as his cue to do something.

    “What about them?” Rainier asked, tipping his head to indicate the children.

    "No," Surreal said. "I don’t want to be responsible for them. I’m not a Sceltie who enjoys herding idiot sheep."

    "Tomorrow they could come here on their own, so by letting them come with us tonight, we’re nothing more than token escorts," Rainier replied. When she hesitated, he added, "Do you want to be done with this family obligation or not?"

    Putthat way…"Yeah. All right. Fine."

    “How about if seven of them come on the tour with us?” Rainier asked the caretaker. “That would make nine in the house and enough places left open so the others can join us when they arrive.”

    The caretaker shrugged.

    "I guess ghosts are as good with providing information as you are with adding," Surreal told Rainier. "When Sadi and Yaslana arrive, that will make eleven, not twelve."

    "I was assuming the High Lord was also invited."

    "Mother Night, I hope not."

    A flash of amusement along the psychic thread, but Rainier kept a straight face as he turned toward the children. “All right, then. The seven oldest of you may come with us.”

    The next few minutes were filled with arguing, bartering, and negotiating.

    Rainier said, "I thought this would be the simplest way, since the younger ones will be able to come on another night."

    Surreal studied the group of children as if she were at an aristo party. "Nothing is going to be simple. You’ve got a dominant c**k and a bitch who’s the dominant female among this group. But not all the children here follow those two, so c**k and bitch are trying to ignore your age requirement in favor of having their followers tour the house with them."

    Rainier didn’t respond to her assessment directly, but his sharp whistle got the children’s attention. Within moments, Rainier had eliminated the younger children, selected the six oldest—three boys and three girls—and was about to toss a coin to decide between the two remaining children when Surreal gave him a psychic tap on the shoulder.

    "One more," she said, looking at the boy lingering on the other side of the fence. Not like the others. This one was an outsider who might be included when another body was needed for a game, but he wasn’t someone any of the others would include for any kind of treat.

    “What about it, boy?” Rainier said, holding up a copper. “We could do a second coin toss for the last spot.”

    A hesitation. Then the boy looked at the other children and backed away, shaking his head.

    The crest side of the copper won the toss, and the fourth boy joined the others.

    “This way now,” the caretaker said, opening the door but carefully staying outside.

    An odd sensation as she passed through the doorway, as if the threshold required more than one step. Maybe it was all the illusion spells that had to be woven throughout this place. Would Blood who wore lighter Jewels be more or less affected? She’d have to ask Marian, since the hearth witch was the only one in the family who wore lighter Jewels.

    “Sitting room is that doorway to the right,” the caretaker said.

    Since the children were crowding in behind her, she moved farther into the hall—and caught a whiff of something unpleasant.

    “Just wait in the sitting room,” the caretaker said, still standing outside.

    The last one of their group to enter the house, Rainier was now the first to enter the sitting room.

    As she waited for the children to follow Rainier, she caught another whiff of…something…and looked around. Seemed to be coming from the area around the stairs, but it was there and gone before she could pinpoint the source, and there was nothing else in that part of the hall except a mirror on the wall opposite the stairs. The only other thing in the hall was a coat-tree, and the smell wasn’t coming from that.

    Sighing, she went into the sitting room. An hour from now she would have completed her duty to family, Rainier would have completed his duty to Queen, and they could go back to a clean dining house in Amdarh and have a late meal while they figured out how to avoid saying anything about this damn place.

    They weren’t coming.The bastards weren’t coming! How could either of them have ignored that summons? He’d been so careful with the wording to make sure they couldn’t wiggle out of attending the evening’s activities.

    There had been some risk in sending the invitations so late, but he’d had to balance the delay against the risk of them talking to each other or, worse, talking to theLadies. Still, he’d given them enough time—ifthey were as devoted to their wives as they professed.

    Bastards. He recognized the male who had come withLady Surreal as the man who had been with her in the bookshop that day in Amdarh, but he didn’t know who he was. Probably no one important. Probably just the stud Surreal was currently riding. He’d been in the wrong position to see the Jewel in the male’s ring, so there was no way for him to tell what kind of power had just walked into the house.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire