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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(4) by Anne Bishop
  • He had worked too long and too hard to let some Gray-Jeweled bitch who would die in a few decades anyway spoil his plans.

    Chapter Three

    He had almost made it, had almost gotten close enough to catch one of the Winds. If he’d had a few more seconds before the auction steward had used the Ring of Obedience to pull him down and make him easy prey for the guards and their whips, he would have been home by now.

    He would have had those seconds if he had killed the guard keeping watch on the slave pen. But at the last moment, when that wild stranger inside him had surged forward intent on the kill, he had seen the same fear and knowledge in the guard’s eyes that had been in the eyes of the Queen just before her blood had covered his hands . . . and he had yanked that savagery back. His attack had stunned the guard long enough for him to escape from the pen, but the man had recovered too quickly, had been able to sound the alarm too soon.

    There would be no other chance. Not after last night.

    I’m sorry, Mother. I’m sorry.

    “Don’t look so pretty now, do ya, twat-licker?” Pain and the guard’s sneering words brought Jared back to the present. He looked at the man—a vicious brute whose Yellow Jewel was as grimy as the rest of him—and said nothing.

    The guard hawked and spat. “All you pretty boys, prancing around in your fancy clothes, acting like you was better than other men,real men, who know what to do with their spears. Well, no one’s going to want to play with you now, are they, pretty boy? ‘Cept theQueensin Pruul, and everyone knows what kind of gamesthey like to play.” The guard grinned, showing a black hole where a couple of teeth were missing.

    Jared watched the guard warily. He’d been brought back to this slave pen at dawn, forced to his knees, and then tied so securely to the four waist-high iron posts he couldn’t move at all, not even his head. He’d had no food or water since yesterday afternoon’s ration. The auction steward in charge of the controlling ring connected to his Ring of Obedience had been sending low-level pain through the Ring since his capture last night. His genitals were so tender that even a fly walking across his balls made him grit his teeth to keep from screaming.

    The flies were an additional torment, buzzing around the lash wounds on his back and belly that had reopened when the guards had pulled his hands behind his back and yanked his arms up to tie the straps to the back posts.

    One fly landed on Jared’s cheek. He closed his eye before the fly could reach it.

    The guard stared at him for a moment, then cursed savagely. “You son of a whoring bitch, are you winking at me?” Grabbing Jared by the hair, he used Craft to call in a knife, then slowly turned the blade until all Jared could see was the sharp edge. “Well, slut, you don’t need two eyes to dig salt.”

    Jared panted as the blade came closer, closer. Explaining wouldn’t help him. Neither would pleading. If he used Craft to protect himself, all the guards would be down on him and, by the time it was over, he’d end up losing more than an eye.

    Just before the blade came close enough to cut, the guard jerked, stumbled back a step. He shook his head as if to clear it, then rubbed the small of his back with a fist. When he turned around, he froze and let out a soft whimper.

    Jared blinked rapidly, not sure if it was tears or sweat blinding him. Didn’t matter. The guard was between him and whatever had caught the man’s attention.

    During those long seconds when the guard stood frozen, Jared became aware of the silence. All the usual, small noises inside a slave pen had stopped, as if slaves and guards alike were afraid to do anything that might call attention to themselves.

    Finally, the guard vanished the knife and moved away slowly, awkwardly, as if his legs had become unsteady.

    No longer blocked by the guard’s body, Jared looked straight into Daemon Sadi’s cold, golden eyes.

    If pleasure slaves were the aristos in the slave hierarchy, then Daemon Sadi was as far above the rest of them as they were to the slaves used for hard labor. Looking at his broad-shouldered body and beautiful face or listening to his deep, sexy-edged voice was enough to arouse most women—and quite a few men, regardless of their preference. He could seduce anything that breathed.

    They called him the Sadist because he was as cruel as he was beautiful. Owned by Dorothea SaDiablo, he’d been a pleasure slave for centuries and wore the Ring of Obedience. He was also a strong Warlord Prince, and people who annoyed Sadi had an odd way of disappearing.

    Jared sighed in relief when Daemon finally looked away, the bored expression on that beautiful face betraying no thoughts, no feelings. But the voice that reached Jared on a Red psychic spear thread held sympathy and understanding.

    *So. You finally couldn’t stomach it anymore.*

    Jared thought of the last Queen who had owned him, and the kinds of bedroom games she and her Prince brother had wanted to play. He shuddered. *No, I couldn’t stomach it anymore,* he replied. *I couldn’t stomachthem.*

    If Daemon hadn’t taken an interest in him eight years ago when they’d been in the same court, he wouldn’t have survived this long. Pleasure slaves tended to become emotionally unstable after a few years of serving in the bed. Daemon’s lessons had helped him stay detached from what he was ordered to do, or what was being done to him.

    Even that detachment hadn’t been enough that last time.

    *The bitch deserved to die,* Daemon said, as if killing a Queen was so commonplace it wasn’t worth more than a casual remark. Which, for Sadi, was probably close to the truth. Then his tone changed, and he sounded like a teacher who was mildly annoyed with a favorite student. *But you could have been more subtle.*

    The woman next to Daemon tugged on the sleeve of his black, tailored jacket. She seemed confused to find herself so far away from the amusements and the merchant booths. Compared to Daemon’s looks and Hayllian coloring— golden-brown skin, glossy black hair, and gold eyes—she looked bleached and plain. She mumbled something and tugged again.

    Daemon ignored her.

    Jared couldn’t hear the words, but he heard the whine in her voice. His muscles tensed. He held his breath.

    She spoke again, but her whining was cut off by Daemon’s low, vicious snarl. She quickly stepped away from him. Once she was safely out of reach, she raised her voice. “I could use the Ring.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire