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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(153) by Anne Bishop
  • “Is the little pleasure slave afraid to act like a man just once before he dies?” Krelis’s voice taunted.

    Thera twitched a shoulder. “The web’s ready. It’s keyed to Jared. If anything happens to him, there’s no time to make another.”

    “I’m going,” Jared said firmly.

    Thera turned on him. “If you’re going to let a little cock-waving ruin everything we’ve planned—”

    Jared cut her off. “He wants to show me something. I want him to keep his distance until this last game is ready to be played. If I don’t go out, he’ll come in.”

    “Jared won’t be going alone,” Talon said.

    Before Jared could object, Talon leaned closer and quietly added, “I know a few moves that would have you walking bowlegged for a month. So why don’t you make the Ladies happy and graciously accept the escort?”

    Jared bared his teeth in a feral smile. “To please the Ladies.”

    Talon returned the smile. “We live to serve, Warlord.” The unhappiness under the words kept Jared from arguing. If whatever Lia had asked of Talon went wrong, the man would welcome whatever the Hayllians did to him.

    Knowing that, Jared rested a hand on Talon’s shoulder, and said softly, “We live to serve.”

    “You didn’t have to threaten me,” Jared growled a few minutes later as he, Talon, Blaed, Randolf, and three of Talon’s men walked to the curve in the road. “And I’m not a child who needs his hand held.”

    “No, you’re not a child,” Talon agreed. “You’re just the only one of us who’s essential to the Ladies’ plan.”

    Unable to argue with that, Jared clenched his teeth.

    “You’re damned thin-skinned whenever anyone mentions pleasure slaves,” Talon continued. He grinned. “A winter up in the mountains will give you a tougher hide. It’s colder than Hell up there. Nothing like a cold night to knock some sense into a man.”

    “I haven’t said I was going with you.”

    “You haven’t said you weren’t.”

    Jared grunted.

    They came around the curve in the road.

    Jared took one more step before his legs froze.

    Six Hayllians waited about two hundred yards down the road. One of them was a Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord.

    Jared managed one glance at them before his eyes focused on the mutilated thing that was walking unsteadily toward him.

    Talon sucked air through his teeth and let it out in a slow hiss.

    Blaed shuddered.

    Randolf whispered, “Mother Night.”

    How could a man live when that much of him had been cut away? Jared wondered as his stomach twisted.

    Halfway between the two groups of men, Brock raised his arms, his fingerless hands reaching, reaching.

    “Warlord!” Krelis shouted. “Take a good look, Warlord! If you don’t bring the little Queen to the landing place in one hour, that’s what every male in the village will look like before we’re done. Do you understand me?”

    Thank the Darkness his uncle Yarek hadn’t come with him, Jared thought. The next hour would be hard enough for the villagers without their knowing what would come at the end of it.

    “Do you like the feather, Warlord?” Krelis taunted. “Even a nonman should have something between his legs, don’t you think?”

    “Let’s go,” Talon said. “We’re wasting time here.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire