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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(108) by Anne Bishop
  • Jared braced his forearms on the bed, too tired to sit up straight.

    They had done all they could, but had they done enough?

    They’d worked for hours, applying herb poultices to draw the venom, draining the pus and fluid that Daemon had explained were the result of the healing Craft Lia had used. They’d gone through the cycle three times. In between those cycles, Daemon stroked Lia’s body, soothing her while she burned with fever. Sure that Reyna had never used her hands quite that way, Jared had clenched his teeth and leashed his emotions while he assisted by doing all the mundane tasks required.

    At the end of it, though, the swelling had gone down and the ugly, malignant look of the bites had faded to the color of pale bruises. Lia was breathing easily and no longer feverish.

    Jared smoothed the already smooth covers and stood up. He swayed from fatigue.

    “Here,” Daemon said, calling in a long dressing robe. “Get cleaned up. I’ll see about getting something to eat.”

    Jared took the robe. Maybe a hot bath would ease his aching muscles enough to convince his body to keep going. “I’m not hungry.”

    “Being tired is no excuse for being an idiot.” Daemon finished putting the empty jars back into the leather carrying cases. He vanished them, along with the mortar and pestle. “If you expect to be of any use to her tomorrow when she needs you, you’ll eat and get some rest tonight.”

    Jared didn’t argue. What was the point of arguing with someone who was right?

    Nodding agreement, he stumbled into the bathroom. It was a bit primitive, but it had running water and indoor plumbing. He fit the plug into the bottom of the bathtub, turned the single faucet, and stifled a yelp when cold water gushed out.

    He sank to his knees and stared at the rising water, wondering how he was going to convince himself to get into that tub of cold water.

    He scrubbed his hands over his face, trying to clear away enough of the fatigue to think. If the innkeeper wasn’t supplying hot water, that meant the guests were expected to make their own.

    Jared lowered his hands. Of course. This wasn’t an aristo inn where servants would be responsible for the warming spells that would keep tanks of water hot for the guests. He’d have to use Craft to heat the water. A small thing, really. Certainly nothing a Red-Jeweled Warlord would have to think twice about.

    It took several tries before he got the water to the temperature he wanted, too mentally and physically drained to get even the simplest spell right the first time.

    Finally, he got in the tub and let the hot water soak away the sweat and grime, the ache in his muscles, and the tension that had ridden him hard since he’d seen the brass button among the boulders.

    By the time he returned to the bedroom, a square wooden table and two straight-backed chairs were positioned in front of the fire. The table held two steaming bowls of beef stew, a small loaf of bread, a dish of butter, cheese, fruit, a bottle of wine, and two glasses.

    Daemon sat comfortably in one of the chairs, smoking one of his black cigarettes. “You’re almost recognizable now,” he said as he flicked the cigarette into the fire. “Come and eat.”

    Jared went to the bed first to check on Lia. He noticed a cup on the bedside table.

    “A healing brew,” Daemon said.

    “She woke?” Jared leashed the emotion that bubbled up before he had a chance to identify it. Before he had to acknowledge it.

    “No. I brought her up out of the healing sleep enough for her to drink, but she wasn’t aware of anything.”

    So she didn’t know he hadn’t been in the room. Didn’t know it had been Daemon who had held her and coaxed her to drink.

    Feeling his body relax, Jared joined Daemon at the table.

    “Eat,” Daemon said, picking up his spoon.

    They concentrated on their food for a few minutes.

    “Will she be all right?” Jared asked, carefully buttering a thick slice of bread.

    “You’ll know by morning.”

    Jared forced a mouthful of bread past the lump in his throat. Right now, he couldn’t bear kindness or understanding from Daemon. “Could you tell anything else?” he asked.

    One of Daemon’s eyebrows rose. “Do you have something specific in mind?” He sounded amused. “Could I tell she’s still a virgin? Considering how many centuries I’ve been playing bedroom games, it’s a little insulting if you think a detail like that would slip past me. Or did you mean, could I tell that she’s recently injured her knee and hasn’t stayed off it enough to let it fully heal? Or that she hasn’t made the Offering to the Darkness yet? Is that what you meant?”

    Jared dropped his spoon. His body went ice cold. “What?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire