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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(2) by Anne Bishop
  • He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Priestess.”

    Dorothea studied him for just a little too long. Then she smiled. “I knew I’d made the right choice in my new Master of the Guard. I made the same offer to your predecessor, but he didn’t want my help. Since the bitch escaped his trap rather easily, that was reason enough to doubt his loyalty, don’t you think?”

    Remembering what the former Master’s face looked like now, Krelis shivered. “Yes, Priestess.”

    “I’m not going to have to worry aboutyour loyalty, am I?”

    “No, Priestess.”

    Dorothea walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “You know, darling, I’m very generous with a male who pleases me.” She rubbed her br**sts against his chest, kissed him thoroughly, then purred, “That’s to remind you of the rewards that come from serving me well. And this”—she tucked the large white feather into his belt—“will remind you of the penalties of failure.”

    Chapter One

    Nothing that had been done to him over the past nine years had hurt as much as the harsh truth that he had brought this on himself. With one error in judgment, the eighteen-year-old boy he had been, that young strutting buck who had been so sure of himself, had sent him down this pain-filled road. A road that would soon end in the brutality that waited for men in the salt mines of Pruul.

    Over the past few days, while he had waited to be brought to the slave auction, he had tried very hard to forgive that boy for ignoring the uneasiness his friends had felt and the warnings the older Warlords had given him when that witch had walked into the inn. He had tried to forgive him for not looking beneath the surface, for not sensing the rot that existed beneath the beautiful face and lush body, for grabbing that musky bait with such enthusiasm. He had tried to forgive him for believing the whispered words that had promised a forever filled with nighttime romps, for being so caught up in the pleasure between his legs that he’d let her put that gold ring around his c**k because she’d poutingly told him about all the naughty things she wanted to do with him and for him—but not until he wore a Ring of Obedience because she needed alittlecontrol over his passion .

    She’d played with him for a day before he learned just how cruel the Ring of Obedience could be when it was used by someone who enjoyed inflicting pain.

    Having been a pleasure slave for the past nine years, he couldn’t remember why he’d ever wanted to get into bed with a woman.

    And he blamed that boy, bitterly. With the salt mines of Pruul waiting for him, oh, yes, he blamed that boy.

    * * *

    “What’s a Red-Jeweled Warlord doing inthis pen?” one of the slaves whispered. “They don’t usually put the likes ofhim downhere .”

    Another slave spat. “Don’t matter what Jewels a slave wears.”

    “True enough, but ... I remember seeing him before. I thought he was a pleasure slave.”

    “He was,” a third man answered, “until he became a Queen killer.”

    “A Queen killer!”

    Queen killer. Queen killer.

    Jared remained in the corner of the slave pen he had claimed for himself, ignoring the whispers that swirled around him, pretending he didn’t see the way the other men avoided him. Even here, in the vilest slave pen, Blood males who were now considered unmanageable for anything but the meanest labor didn’t want to be contaminated by a man who had a Queen’s blood on his hands.

    He understood that. When the blinding rage had faded enough for him to see the bodies of the Queen and her Prince brother, he had been horrified by what he’d done.

    His breath hitched as emotional pain ripped through him again, threatening to tear him apart.

    One part of himself had been horrified, that was true enough—the part that had learned the Warlord’s code of honor from his father, the part that had been raised to serve the distaff gender. But another part, a savage part that he hadn’t known existed, had howled in triumph.

    The pain eased, again, while that wild stranger inside him prowled the edges of his mind and heart.

    He didn’t trust that stranger, even feared its presence.It wasn’thim . But he would use its savagery one more time for just one reason: He wanted,needed , to get home just long enough to see his mother and take back the words he’d had years to regret saying. After that . . .

    There was no point thinking there would be anything after that. But it would be enough.Had to be enough.

    Which meant he had to escape tonight. Tomorrow, Raej’s autumn slave auction would begin. The witches who came to this island to buy and sell would be on the auction grounds accompanied by hired guards, and the guards watching the pens would be too edgy, too quick to react toanything a slave did.

    So tonight he would find a way to get close enough to the official landing place outside the fairgrounds and catch one of the Winds, those webs of psychic roadways that allowed the Blood to travel through the Darkness. He would catch one and ride it all the way back to Ranon’s Wood.

    The decision made, Jared watched the sun set and the quarter moon rise while he thought about his mother, his father and brothers, his home . . . and the boy he used to be.

    Chapter Two

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire