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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(154) by Anne Bishop
  • Blaed’s throat worked convulsively. “What about Brock?”

    Snarling, Randolf raised his right hand. A bolt of power from his Purple Dusk ring struck Brock in the heart.

    Brock jerked once, and then collapsed.

    Randolf wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. “Not even a bastard like Brock deserves to have that done to him.”

    Jared didn’t protest when Talon’s men hurried him back to the village. He didn’t argue about Talon, Blaed, and Randolf following after them, guarding their backs.

    But he promised himself that, if Lia’s plan failed, his people wouldn’t suffer at the hands of that Hayllian bastard.

    Even if he had to kill them himself.

    Chapter Thirty-four

    Krelis watched the retreating men and smiled. At first, he’d felt disappointed that the Shalador Warlord hadn’t had the balls to come alone. Now he was pleased that there had been other witnesses. Alone, the bastard could have denied what he’d seen. But those other males . . .

    It wouldn’t take long for it to be whispered through the village. Once the males heard what was planned for them, they’d hand over the Queen. Only a fool wouldn’t try to buy a little mercy.

    Maybe he’d bring the Shalador bastard back with him. It would cost a few men to drain the Warlord’s power enough to smash through the inner barriers and contain him, but it would be worth the cost.

    He’d like to hand Lord Jared over to Dorothea. She would know just what to do with a male who’d caused her so much inconvenience.

    Maybe she’d even let him watch.

    Chapter Thirty-five

    Keeping his own fears and uncertainties locked away, Jared worked to send out a feeling of confidence to the villagers patiently waiting for Thera to add them to the psychic web she’d created within a tangled web.

    No one spoke. No one even whispered to the person behind them. No one dared be the one to break Thera’s fierce concentration.

    She pricked each villager’s finger, placed one drop of blood on a specific thread of the web she’d built, and then, using Craft, froze the blood in position so that the web began to look like a delicate silver necklace dotted with red beads.

    Over and over again, moving swiftly as the minutes slipped away.

    And each time she placed a drop of blood in its chosen place, Jared felt another mind added to the web. If he let his eyes unfocus, he could see it in his mind. But the web he saw with his inner vision didn’t have drops of blood, it had little Jewel stars—or clear beads for the Blood who weren’t strong enough to wear the Jewels. Some he could still recognize by their Jewels—Eryk and Corry, his uncle Yarek, Thayne—but as more and more people were added, their psychic scents began to blur and blend together.

    The Hayllians would sense something odd, but they wouldn’t be able to find the source becauseeveryone would become the source.

    Which was basically the same trick Dorothea had used to hide Brock from Lia.

    As he took a moment to admire Thera’s cunning, he also realized most of the Shalador witches were wearing tunics and trousers and had loosely braided their dark hair.

    His pride in his people swelled at their courage.

    Without being able to separate one psychic scent from another, there was no easy way to tell what Jewel each witch wore, and if the Hayllians didn’t get a good enough look to notice the golden skin, the witches could play “hide the Queen” for hours—or at least long enough to prevent the Hayllians from unleashing a full attack before everything was ready.

    He estimated they had a quarter of an hour left when Blaed and Talon stepped up to the web, the last two to be added. Everyone else had dispersed to various points in the village.

    “There,” Thera said, rolling her shoulders as she stepped back from the web. She took a couple of deep breaths. Then she detached the two bottom tether threads from the wooden frame. Holding the web by the top tether threads, she lifted it from the frame and looked at Jared. “Take off your shirt.”

    Exchanging a puzzled look with Talon and Blaed, Jared stripped to the waist.

    “Take a breath and hold still,” Thera said. “This is the safest way to protect it.”

    Still puzzled, Jared watched as she laid the web over his chest and belly. Then he felt the spidersilk threads and beads of blood melt into his skin. He gasped.

    Thera studied his chest for a moment before nodding. “Don’t worry,” she said with a knowing smile. “You’re not stuck with everyone permanently. Once the power in the web is gone, the spidersilk and blood will pass back through your skin and fall off.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire