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  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(84) by Anne Bishop
  • Daemon’s frown deepened as he walked up to the Coach. Where in the name of Hell were the shields? Jaenellewouldn’t have been that careless. There was no reason to think the landens would challenge her presence in their village or even venture close enough to be a threat to the Coach and its inhabitants, but there was no reason to believe the person who had created that “entertainment” had kept the danger inside the fence.

    Then he reached for the Coach’s door—and felt power spiral up around his ankles, his calves, his knees.

    No warning. He stood perfectly still while Jaenelle’s death spells rubbed against him like a contented cat, sang over his skin like silk.

    Recognition of his psychic scent, the Jewels he wore, him as a man.

    The death spells released him, fading away with one final, playful, fingertip caress down his cock.

    She was smiling when he stepped into the Coach, but he asked anyway. “Was that last bit especially for me?”

    “Of course.”

    She was sitting at the small table in the Coach’s sitting area. She’d opened a bottle of wine, and there was a glass, almost empty, near her hand. The table was covered with papers. He couldn’t tell if they were notes to friends that she was writing to occupy the time or something else that fit the chill he detected in her psychic scent.

    He braced one hand on the table, leaned over, and gave her a long, soft kiss. Then he looked over at the boy, Yuli, who was sound asleep on the short bench opposite the table.

    “He has scars on his back—and a different kind of scar on his heart,” Jaenelle said too softly.

    “What do you want me to do about it?” he asked just as softly. A sincere question. If she wanted to unleash him as a weapon against whoever had harmed the boy, he would be her weapon.

    “I think the District Queens should be encouraged to look more closely at the orphans’ homes in landen villages. Especially the places that raise half-Blood children as an accommodation.”

    “Was anyone aware of this accommodation?” Meaning, had Saetan been aware of it when he ruled Dhemlan?

    “Yes. The Blood parent is held responsible for the child, and there is a minimum allowance that must be paid for the child’s support. If the parent can’t pay the full amount, the Queen must make up the difference from the tithes that support her and her court. The penalty for not meeting that minimum allowance for each child is…severe.”

    He’d been ruling this Territory only a few months, and it looked like he was going to shake up—and scare the shit out of—the Dhemlan Queens once again.

    Jaenelle rested a hand over his. “I don’t think this is common. I know for a fact that Sylvia regularly inspects the orphans’ home in the landen village under her rule, and she doesn’t announce her presence until she’s walking in the door.”

    “I see.” He understood the message. He ruled the Territory, but the District Queens—and the Province Queens above them—had to be allowed to rule their pieces of Dhemlan according to their own nature. He drew the lines of what he would and wouldn’t tolerate in his Territory—and he would deal with anyone foolish enough to cross one of those lines, especially if it was someone who held power over others. But every Queen’s court had a different tone, a different flavor. The Blood needed the flexibility of those differences just as they needed the implacable line.

    And he’d needed the reminder that, while this particular District Queen might not be as diligent as she would need to be hereafter, most of the other Queens had not been so careless.

    “Sylvia brought Saetan with her once,” Jaenelle said, a mischievous sparkle in her sapphire eyes.

    Picturing that amused him, as she’d known it would. “That must have been an exciting day for the administrators of the orphans’ home.”

    “So I gathered.”

    He moved the other chair so he could sit close to her. “Did our young friend say anything else of interest?”

    She filled the wineglass and offered it to him. He took a sip, then handed it back.

    “Jarvis Jenkell, who is a famous landen writer—so famous even the Blood might have heard of him—used to be a frequent visitor at the school. Reading between the lines of what Yuli said, Jenkell was supporting one or more of the children who lived at the house, although it wasn’t clearwho he was supporting. I gathered he never claimed to be the father of any particular child, just claimed a fellowship with children who grew up in such places.”

    “I found out this evening that Jarvis Jenkell is Blood.”

    Ice and shadows came and went in the depths of her eyes. Despite no change in her appearance, he knew the difference—and knew who now spoke to him.

    “I see,” Witch said.

    As a landen, Jenkell, if he was in fact the person behind this spooky house, would have been judged in keeping with the laws that governed landens, and the man would have been punished accordingly. As Blood…Well, the rules were different for the Blood.

    “A girl named Anax claimed Jenkell was her father,” Witch said. “But she has claimed a variety of men as her father, so it was difficult to judge her sincerity. However, based on the description I was given, she is like Yuli in that most of her heritage does not have its roots in the Dhemlan race.”

    “Jenkell was originally from Little Terreille.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire