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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(121) by Anne Bishop
  • A few steps away from the door, he leaned against the wall while he waited to get some strength back in his quivering legs.

    Now he understood why Queens and favored witches from aristo families paid Dorothea such exorbitant fees for the loan of Daemon Sadi. Now he understood why they were willing to endure his cruelty, why they were willing to risk his temper. To have that exquisite pleasure brought to completion . . .

    Krelis pushed away from the wall, desperate to get away from this place. Maybe, with distance, he could deny the terrible feeling that, no matter how skilled the whore or how much relief he took between her thighs, he would never again experience the kind of pleasure he’d felt with the Sadist.

    Chapter Twenty-one

    Lia stopped abruptly at the edge of the official landing place outside Ranon’s Wood.

    Jared grabbed her, drawing her back against him while he absorbed the significance of what he was seeing—of what hewasn’t seeing.

    The section of the Coach station roof that had been torn away.

    The broken windows.

    The empty corral where the horses for hire would have been kept during the day.

    The pieces of the stable door that were scattered around the yard.

    The absence of people.

    And the deeper feeling of emptiness.

    “The land’s been wounded,” Lia said in a hushed, aching voice. “Oh, Jared, the land’s been deeply wounded.”

    Hay fields that should have been thick with stubble from the harvest had small islands of yellow grass growing out of a sea of barren ground. Trees that had been landmarks for generations scarred the morning sky with their dead branches.

    “The Blood fought here,” Lia whispered. Her hand shook as she wiped a tear from her cheek.

    Hearing her unspoken question, Jared chained his grief, leashed his growing fear. “This didn’t happen because of our coming here. Look at the land, Lia. This happened during the growing season, not the harvest. When we got the supplies at the landen village, the old woman warned me that there was trouble in Shalador.” He took her hand.

    “Come on. Ranon’s Wood is about a half a mile from here.”

    It would have been easy to probe the village, would have been easy to reach for the familiar minds of his family. He didn’t do either.

    The second time Lia stumbled because he’d increased the pace beyond her ability to keep up, she planted her feet and refused to move.

    “You go on, Jared. Find out what’s happened to your people.”

    “I’m not leaving you.”

    “I’ll be fine. There’s nothing here that will harm me.”

    “I’m not leaving you.”

    As they stared at each other, the words seemed to echo.

    Jared swallowed. Tasted bitterness. Silently acknowledged the lie beneath the sincere words. As much as he didn’t want to, hewould leave her—as soon as he saw her safely home.

    “Jared!”

    Jared whirled, putting Lia behind him. Hell’s fire, where were his wits? No one should have gotten this close to them without his sensing it, especially someone cantering toward them on horseback.

    “It’s Blaed!” Lia said, stepping around Jared and waving.

    Reining in a few yards away from them, Blaed slid off the roan mare’s bare back and dropped the reins to ground-tie her. He spared one quick glance for Jared before focusing on Lia with a hunger that made Jared tense.

    Not a sexual hunger, Jared realized as Blaed’s eyes traveled over the body that was covered from neck to mid-thigh by the bulky sweater, but the hunger a strong Blood male feels when he’s bonded to a Queen.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire