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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 5)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(5) by Anne Bishop
  • Daemon smiled, a cold, brutal smile.

    The guards exchanged nervous glances and shifted their feet.

    *It seems my Lady requires some entertainment,* Daemon said. There was something beneath the bland tone that made Jared wonder if the Lady wasn’t going to be very sorry she’d made that threat.

    *May the Darkness embrace you, Lord Jared,* Daemon said as he offered his arm to the Lady and started to walk away.

    *And you, Prince Sadi.* Jared replied.

    They were out of sight when Daemon’s last words reached him. *That guard’s going to come down with a mysterious fever. He’ll recover, but he’ll never regain enough strength in his limbs to resume his duties. What use do you think a man like that will have in a place like Raej?*

    Jared shuddered, grateful Sadi had already broken the link between them. He owed Daemon a great deal, but there were things about the Sadist he preferred not to know.

    Another fly landed on his cheek.

    Jared closed his eyes, and tried not to think. Tried not to remember. And failed.

    * * *

    When he opened his eyes again, the day had waned to dusk. At any moment, the bell that signaled the end of that day’s auctioning would ring. The Blood Lords and Ladies who came to buy preferred to do so in harsh sunlight that didn’t hide flaws that wouldn’t be as apparent when a naked slave was displayed in muted candle-light or, better yet, flickering torchlight.

    He saw the guard standing outside the pen, watching him. Not one of the usual brutes. The badge on the clean uniform jacket indicated that this was one of the guards who hired out as an escort. It was a fixed rule at the auction; Ladies were required to hire two of Raej’s guard escorts to help with any slaves they might purchase. Since the man was alone, his partner was probably guarding the slaves that had already been purchased.

    Which still didn’t explain why the man was wandering around near the pens that held the most-condemned males. It still didn’t explain why the bastard was staring at ...

    Something crept through the air. Something tantalizing. Something intriguing. A psychic scent that made his heart speed up and his muscles quiver. A scent that made the wild stranger inside him strain toward it, wary and eager— and hungry.

    A Queen’s scent.

    Jared looked at the empty space beside the guard escort. Except it wasn’t empty.

    Despite feeling certain of what he would see, he looked straight at her and still almost didn’t see her. She was gray, and stood so still she blended into the dust and the waning light and the taste of despair.

    No.No ! Notthat one .

    He began hoping, desperately, that the auction bell would ring. Then, maybe, if the Darkness was kind, she wouldn’t return in the morning, wouldn’t come back to stare at him with those hard gray eyes.

    There were a few courts where being a slave was almost tolerable. There were others where every command abraded a man’s soul.

    In the slave quarters, stories and rumors were fearfully whispered in the dark. Warnings and advice were passed along. Because of that, the slaves had a saying: the bite of a lash was better than being owned by Dorothea SaDiablo; being owned by Dorothea was better than dying in the salt mines of Pruul; but dying in the salt mines was better, far better, than being touched by Grizelle, the Gray Lady.

    No slave who went into her Territory ever came out again. No slave survived being owned by the Gray-Jeweled Queen who was standing outside the pen, so silent and so still, looking at him.

    Fear swelled inside him until it overwhelmed all the rest of the day’s torments. Tied to the iron posts, he couldn’t turn away, couldn’t even look down since the wide, tight leather collar kept him from moving his head. Isolated, he couldn’t blend in with the other slaves who clustered on the other side of the pen. He was pinned, alone, physically and emotionally naked beneath that gray stare.

    She terrified him. The only advantage he’d ever had was that theQueenswho had owned him hadn’t worn Jewels that could threaten his inner web. But the Gray Jewels were darker than the Red, and a Queen who could tear apart his inner barriers and shatter his inner web as easily as she could tear apart his body wasn’t a woman he wanted to get close to. In any way.

    But the wild stranger, that beast that had been so angry and so eager to kill, now wanted to crawl to her and expose its belly in an act of complete submission.

    That terrified him even more.

    “Lady, there’s nothing here of interest. These males are unmanageable, unfit for anything but hard labor.”

    Hearing the undercurrent of worry in the man’s voice, Jared focused on the guard escort standing next to Grizelle. The man had reason to worry. A hired escort who failed to protect the Lady in his charge would probably find himself on the auction block the next morning.

    Ignoring the escort, Grizelle withdrew one hand from her robe’s wide sleeves and pointed at Jared. “That one.”

    Jared’s chest clenched so hard he couldn’t draw a breath. Hell’s fire! Even hervoice was gray!

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire