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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 109)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(109) by Anne Bishop
  • “She hasn’t made the Offering to the Darkness yet.”

    “You can’t—” Jared raked his fingers through his hair. “You can’t be sure of that.”

    “Jared,” Daemon said patiently, “you wear the Opal and the Red. I can sense both levels of strength in you. I only sense one level in her—the Green—and the . . . potential . . . for a much darker strength. If nothing interferes when she makes the Offering, my guess is she’ll wear the Gray.”

    “No one can tell beforehand what Jewels a person will wear after the Offering,” Jared protested.

    Daemon mopped up the last of his stew with a piece of bread. “She carried off the masquerade of being Grizelle so successfully, no one had doubted they were seeing a Gray-Jeweled Queen.” Mild irritation flickered across his face and was gone.

    “She had good illusion spells,” Jared argued.

    “An illusion spell wouldn’t have hidden the truth from someone who wears a Jewel darker than the Gray.”

    There was something in Daemon’s voice that told Jared that was as far as he would go toward acknowledging the rumors that he wore the. rare Black Jewel.

    “Which means,” Daemon continued, “that there must be something inher that resonates with the Gray in order to complete that illusion. That’s why I think Lady Arabella Ardelia is a Gray-Jeweled Queen who hasn’t taken the final step necessary to actually wear the Gray Jewels.” He paused, gave Jared a considering look. “But you had sensed the illusion before she revealed the truth. How?”

    Frowning, Jared ate a spoonful of stew. It was a guess that hit the target. Since he didn’t want to admit it was his body not his brain that had picked up the signals, which he then dismissed as being wrong, he mumbled, “Maybe it’s because of the Invisible Ring.”

    “Yes, I imagine it is,” Daemon replied dryly. Before Jared could say anything, he added, “Why don’t you tell me how you ended up here.”

    So Jared told Daemon everything that had happened since he left Raej. Well, almost everything. He couldn’t bring himself to mention the Fire Dance and the rut. But he told Daemon what he knew about the others. He told him about Thera’s tangled webs. He told him about Blaed’s romantic interest in the young Black Widow. He told him about the brass buttons and Garth . . . and about the fight that had ended with a half-Blood boy dead and Lia desperately ill.

    Using Craft and his thumbnail, Daemon delicately pealed an apple. “Why didn’t she buy passage on another Coach and head for the Tamanara Mountains as fast as possible?”

    A bite of cheese stuck in Jared’s throat. He took a large swallow of wine to force it down. “After she sensed the wrongness, she didn’t know whom she could trust, and she wasn’t willing to bring an unknown enemy into Dena Nehele. Traveling cross-country was the only way she could bring everyone with her and give herself the time to find Dorothea’s pet.” He struggled to take a deep breath. “And she didn’t have enough marks to buy a second passage for all of us because she bought me.”

    Daemon stared at Jared. Then he swore softly, viciously.

    Jared’s eyes widened. “Youput the compulsion spell on her.”

    “Nothing so crude,” Daemon snapped. He drained his wineglass, filled it, and drained it again. “I didn’t force her to buy you, Jared. I nudged her toward that part of the auction grounds, and that’s all I did. I knew if she was the Queen she seemed to be, she wouldn’t let a Red-Jeweled Warlord like you be destroyed in the salt mines of Pruul. Not if there was a chance of winning your loyalty.” He swore again. “It never occurred to me that she might not have brought enough marks with her.”

    Jared cut two more slabs out of the half wheel of cheese and offered one to Daemon. “Apparently, everything was more expensive than the Gray Lady’s court had anticipated, from the guard escorts to the slaves. There’s no way you could have known that. There’s no way you could have known she’d spend more than she could afford in order to get one more person out of Raej.”

    “Perhaps not,” Daemon agreed. “But, Hell’s fire, if I’d suspected she was cutting it that tight, I’d have slipped her enough marks to cover the extra expenses when I had that note delivered.”

    “You—” Jared’s voice cracked. He hastily swallowed some wine. “Yousent that note? But you were in Raej. How could you know?”

    Daemon smiled indulgently. “Let’s just say that, after the attack on the Gray Lady last spring, I wondered what might be waiting for her at the Coach stations she’d be most likely to head for and made arrangements to be informed. Unfortunately, my source arrived too late to help the men who walked into that trap. But she sent the warning—and I’d guess there were fewer males who saw the sun rise than saw it set.” He paused. “Would you like some coffee?”

    Jared pushed his plate to one side and nodded. He toyed with the silverware and watched Daemon smoke another cigarette while they waited. “You said ‘she.’ ” Jared’s hand curled into a fist. “Knowing it might be dangerous, you still sent a witch to check out a trap?”

    “Yes.”

    “She could have been hurt. How could you be so careless, so—”

    “Cruel?” Daemon said too softly. His face changed subtly when Jared didn’t answer.

    Jared recognized that cold mask. He winced when Daemon’s deep voice lost every hint of color. That bored tone could cut someone as mercilessly as a sharp knife.

    “Have you ever heard of Surreal?” Daemon asked, lighting another black cigarette.

    Jared swallowed. Oh, yes, he’d heard about the most expensive whore in the entire Realm of Terreille. When he was seventeen and trying to gather up enough nerve to ask Reyna’s permission to visit a Red Moon house, he’d spent several sweaty nights fantasizing that Surreal would come to Ranon’s Wood for some reason and find him interesting enough to waive her usual fee.

    “She’s a whore,” Jared said tightly. Had Daemon ever . . . ? “What was she supposed to do? Distract an entire troop of guards?”

    “I’m sure she could have if she wanted to,” Daemon said with such dismissive casualness it made Jared clench his teeth.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire