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  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(81) by Anne Bishop
  • Surreal shook her head. "He wasn’t from Ebon Rih, but there were plenty of Eyriens who came in during the service fairs and accepted service in other parts of Askavi—or other Territories altogether."

    "Whoever devised this place killed two Black Widows and an Eyrien warrior."

    "An Eyrien isn’t any harder to kill than any other man if you can slip a knife between the ribs when he’s not expecting it."

    "I doubt we’ll get that close," Rainier said. "If he comes at us, it will be a straight fight."

    And without Craft, neither of them had the training or skill needed to face an Eyrien who’d had centuries to hone his fighting skills.

    Right now, there was nothing they could do about the Eyrien—or the other dead.

    “Let’s check out the sitting room,” she said.

    Rainier rounded up the children, and they all entered the sitting room in a tight little pack. Then Rainier swore softly.

    “Thisis different,” he said.

    It should have been the same room, and it wasn’t. Obvious differences, with no attempt to hide them.

    “We should be in the sitting room where we started,” Rainier said. “Since we’re not, where in the name of Hell are we?”

    She shook her head. “Don’t know. But let’s see what we’ve got in here.”

    They poked at sofa and chair cushions, swept the pokers under furniture to roust anything that might be hidden. There was a bowl of grapes on the table behind the sofa. Nothing noticeably wrong with them, but she said, “Hands off” when the children looked at them—and wondered if they’d actually obey her this time or if someone else would get killed.

    The painting over the fireplace wasn’t a portrait as such. It was a man and a woman. He stood behind his lover, his arms around her, his mouth pressed to her bare neck. But as Surreal watched, his arms tightened to restrain. The woman’s eyes opened, and they were filled with fear and resignation. The man’s kiss changed into a bite. No pretense of lover now, just a predator. Blood dribbled down the woman’s pale skin and stained her white dress.

    Surreal moved closer, raised her candle, and read the brass plaque attached to the painting’s wood frame. Then she snorted.

    “What?” Rainier asked, hurrying to join her.

    “The painting is calledRut. ”

    Rainier studied the painting for a moment, then turned away.

    “On behalf of my caste, I’m not sure if I should be insulted or relieved.”


    He gave her a look. Then he said, “Whoever painted that has never seen a Warlord Prince in rut.”

    Why?Why? He’d had that painting created based on solid information, and had paid extra for that particular illusion spell. Why was this male so dismissive of what he was seeing?

    Warlord Princes were known to be extremely violent when they were caught in the sexual madness known as the rut. The women they used were brutalized fordays . While the Blood didn’t talk about it much, it wasn’t one of their damnsecrets.

    Why had the whore dismissed the violent message of the woman’s fate? Shehad to know the fate of such women. They were pampered and imprisoned—and used for the rut until their minds and bodies were too broken for even a sex-maddened beast to ride. That’s what he’d been told.

    On the other hand, he hadn’t realized her companion was a Warlord Prince. Too bad there were still some children with them. Otherwise, he might have gotten some sizzling, firsthand information about Blood lust.

    Then again, seeing as they were a Warlord Prince and a whore, maybe they wouldn’t be inhibited by an audience—even the audience they could see.

    They checked the room, then checked it again. Either there was nothing dangerous in the sitting room or they hadn’t done the combination of things that would trigger it. There was wood for a fire, but they both felt uneasy about opening the flue. She didn’t know if she and Rainier were sensing a real potential danger or if they’d just reached the point where they were spooked byeverything in the house. But the uneasy feeling was strong enough that they decided to make do with the dusty, musty throws they’d found in a chest in one corner of the room.

    "Do we shield the room?" Rainier asked.

    She nodded. "A Gray shield around the room."

    They’d already seen that Rainier’s power wouldn’t be strong enough to protect them, so that would be her task. She would be the one closing off another potential way out of this damn place. But it needed to be done, and it was the smart thing to do.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire