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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 18)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(18) by Anne Bishop
  • Krelis didn’t acknowledge the threat beneath the words.

    Dorothea’s smile sharpened. He couldn’t tell if it indicated approval or displeasure.

    They finally stopped walking when they reached a Red-locked door.

    “Since you have a little time while we’re waiting for your pet to prove useful,” Dorothea purred, “I’d like you to do a favor for me.”

    “Anything, Priestess,” Krelis said quickly.

    A pleased, vicious light filled Dorothea’s gold eyes as she opened the door and gestured for him to enter the room ahead of her.

    The darkened room stank of sweat and fear to the point where it almost overwhelmed the presence of a feminine psychic scent. Sufficient light came through the open door for him to recognize a bedchamber, but the bed was still too shadowed for him to see the occupant.

    Dorothea raised her hand. The candle-lights on the bed tables brightened, softly lighting the room. Staying near the door, she gestured for Krelis to stand at the foot of the bed.

    A young, naked Hayllian witch was tied spread-eagle in the center of the bed. As Krelis stared at her, she struggled against the leather straps around her ankles, trying to close her legs. Since she was also gagged, she could only make muffled sounds of distress.

    It took Krelis a moment to get past the blatant, if involuntary, invitation to mount, and recognize her. He couldn’t remember her name, just that he’d seen her a couple of times several years ago when a maternal second cousin of his had been courting her. That courtship had ended swiftly, and the only thing the cousin had said afterward publicly was that they weren’t as well suited as he had thought.

    But one night, over a couple of bottles of brandy, his cousin had muttered some other things about her. Since she no longer had anything to do with him or his family, Krelis had paid no attention.

    Now he wished he had, just as he wished he could remember what it was about her that had made him keep his distance during his cousin’s brief courtship.

    “You know her?” Dorothea asked, a dangerous edge in her voice.

    Sweat trickled down Krelis’s sides. “I’ve seen her before, Priestess, but we were never formally introduced.” That, thank the Darkness, was true.

    Dorothea nodded as if satisfied. “She’s a minor Queen from one of the Hundred Families. Her tendency to voice questionable opinions has caused great embarrassment and distress for her family. The latest unfortunate incident forced them to conclude that having her Virgin Night is the only thing that will settle her down.”

    Krelis’s hands curled into fists.Now he remembered. A mouthy little bitch who was always criticizing the High Priestess and talking about how a Territory shouldn’t be ruled by a witch who was less than a Queen. Always talking as if she, who only wore a Rose Jewel, could gather enough Jeweled strength among the Hundred Families and the rest of Hayll to oppose Dorothea.

    Not even the Hundred Families were invulnerable if Hayll’s High Priestess decided to punish disloyalty. And since the Families had gained the most from Dorothea’s rule, why would they oppose her anyway?

    “I want you to take care of her Virgin Night,” Dorothea said.

    Panic knotted Krelis’s guts. “Me?” His voice cracked. “But—”

    “Yes, Lord Krelis?” Dorothea said with quiet malevolence.

    Krelis licked his dry lips. “Priestess, I’ve never . . .”

    Her amusement deepened his panic. “You regularly make use of the whores at one of the better Red Moon houses in Draega, so I doubt that you’venever . . .” She let the words hang. He could almost see them becoming a noose around his neck. He should have realized Dorothea would make it her business to know aboutthat , especially where it concerned the males who were the closest to her— and whose loyalty had to be watched the most carefully.

    “Wouldn’t a consort be better?” Krelis stammered. “They’re trained for this kind of thing.”

    “I want you to do this, Krelis. As a favor to me.” She studied him for a moment. “You needn’t be concerned about filling her belly. This isn’t her fertile time, so she’ll still have that asset when her family contracts a marriage for her.” When he didn’t say anything, she turned to leave. “I think an hour should be more than sufficient, don’t you?”

    Krelis found his voice just as she was closing the door. “But . . . Priestess . . . what if I break her?”

    Dorothea gave him a queer look before saying with deadly softness, “Lord Krelis, I think the question you should be asking is what will happen if you don’t?” She closed the door.

    Krelis heard the click of the physical lock. Then the Red lock snapped back into place, trapping him in the room. Using Craft, he could have destroyed the physical lock, could have destroyed the whole damn door for that matter. But his Sapphire Jewel, even though it was only one rank below the Red, wouldn’t get him through a Red lock.

    Not in one piece anyway.

    His bowels loosened. Afraid of soiling himself, Krelis looked around frantically and spotted two doors in the wall opposite the bed. The first one was the dressing room. The second was a small bathroom.

    Fumbling with his clothing and not caring if the bitch in the other room heard his own sounds of distress, he managed to sit on the toilet before the foul-smelling waste poured out of him. Each time he thought he was empty, his belly cramped again. When it finally stopped, he flushed the stink away and just sat there, his elbows on his knees, his head braced in his hands.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire