• Home
  • Directory
  • Popular
  • Authors
  • Series
  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 8)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(8) by Anne Bishop
  • Jared’s heart began to pound. The Invisible Ring?

    The ghost of a memory drifted just out of reach.

    The steward chewed his lip. “I’ve never heard of such a Ring.”

    Jared had. But how? Where?

    “The witches in my family have been using it for generations,” Grizelle said. She gestured toward the Ring of Obedience lying on the table. “It’s ten times more powerful than that little toy.” Then she paused. “Would you like a further demonstration?”

    The men hastily assured her there was no need.

    Jared closed his eyes. Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. Ten times more powerful. Ten times more painful. How was he supposed to survive that?

    He wasn’t.

    No one survived being owned by Grizelle. And now he knew why.

    He let his mind drift again, no longer interested in what was happening in the room. More senseless smears of words. Female anger boiling up like a violent storm on the horizon. Whimpers. Hands untying him, walking him to the final room. He stood where he was placed, passive.

    Ten times more powerful, and he couldn’t even feel it. Maybe he was numbed by too much pain. Maybe it was too subtle to feel after so much agony.

    If only he could remember what he’d heard about how it worked, or why it was different from the Ring of Obedience.

    Then again, maybe he should be grateful that he didn’t remember.

    The door opened behind him and the escort, who had stayed in the room to keep an eye on him, snapped to attention. “Lady?”

    Damn. Something had happened while his mind had drifted. The escort’s voice held cautious fear, a familiar tone that meant a dark-Jeweled witch’s temper was one careless word away from exploding.

    “The clothing you requested will be here any moment,” the escort said. Jared heard the man swallow. “Is there something else, Lady?”

    It took all of Jared’s self-control not to turn around to see what she was doing. It took all of his concentration to identify the quiet sound of a lid being unscrewed from a jar.

    “I want to look at those wounds,” the Gray Lady said. “They need to be properly cleaned and this healing salve applied. I’ve plans for this one. I don’t want him dying before I get any use out of him.”

    Her voice made Jared’s skin crawl. Her psychic scent unnerved him. Even without the wild stranger’s presence, it produced a kind of lust in him that went beyond the body’s desires, the kind of lust a dark-Jeweled male felt in the presence of a dark-Jeweled witch. It made him crave her touch, made him want her hands on him.

    He hated her for that most of all.

    The escort hesitated, then said, “I can take care of it, Lady.”

    Relief flooded Jared when Grizelle left the small room. It would be better to feel another man’s rough hands than have those gentle fingers touch him again.

    When the guards delivered the clothes and the healing supplies a few minutes later, Jared’s world narrowed to a fierce craving for water. He thought of asking the escort if he could drink from the basin—he would have drunk anything at that moment, no matter what had been added to the water to clean the wounds—but the man’s angry growl killed the words before they could form. As he suffered the sting of warm water and cleansing herbs while the escort washed his back and belly, he wondered if Grizelle had known what kind of torment this would be or if she simply didn’t care how long he’d been without water.

    Jared endured the cleaning in silence, but he gasped when the escort smeared the healing salve into the lash wounds on his back. It felt icy after the warm water. It also quickly numbed his skin.

    Released from a little more pain, he started remembering the advice Daemon Sadi had given him the year they had spent together.

    Daemon had called it balls and sass. If a male went into a court cringing, for whatever reason, and regained a little strength or showed a little temper, it would be regarded as defiance by the Queen and the witches in herFirst Circle, and as a challenge by all the other males who feared losing their place in the court’s pecking order. However, if a male went in with balls and sass, forcing the Queen and the other witches to remember that the danger of a dark Jewel couldn’t be dismissed just because a man wore a Ring and was called a slave, he was treated more cautiously, faced fewer challengers among the males, and was thought of as a chained predator instead of as prey. In some courts, it meant the difference between surviving or not.

    “I can do that,” Jared croaked when the escort started smearing salve on the belly wounds. He wasn’t sure about that, wasn’t even sure he could stand up much longer since he was quickly reaching his threshold of physical endurance. Balls and sass were a fragile shield, but, right now, they were all he had. “I can do that,” he said again.

    “Shut up,” the escort snarled as he hurriedly applied the salve.

    Jared studied the grim face, the shadows in the eyes that avoided his. The escort was a Warlord who wore the Purple Dusk Jewel. How did he survive looking at the bruised, naked bodies of his Brothers? How did he survive looking at the ones who had been maimed or broken or shaved? Did he go home to a lover or a wife he felt some affection for? Did he have children he cuddled and played with and loved? Or had he picked up a witch at the auction one year, one already broken and barren, whom he mounted without considering her feelings or well-being? What did he think of the males bought and sold here? Had he ever looked up one day and seen a man he’d called a friend standing on the auction block?

    Ah, the shadows in the eyes. The worry behind having to escort someone like the Gray Lady around the slave fair.Look well , Jared thought as the man finished applying the salve and stepped away.Look at the price you may have to pay for one error in judgment .

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire