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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(24) by Anne Bishop
  • “Did he tell your mother?” Brock asked.

    The mud and the rain—what did they matter compared to this?

    “My mother and several other witches dined with the Queen that evening. Since it was Ladies only, my father stayed home with my brothers and me. For several days after that, every so often my mother would glance at him and giggle while his face turned red.”

    They walked for a minute in companionable silence.

    Then Brock said, “Corry and Cathryn are walking up ahead. Randolf s keeping an eye on them, and keeping Eryk away from them.” He paused. “They’re holding hands.”

    Jared and Brock grinned at each other.

    “Go on,” Brock said, hitching a thumb toward the wagon. “Go warm up for a bit and make yourself useful. You might tell her that story. I think Thera would like it, too.”

    More than willing to get out of the rain and give his legs a rest, Jared waited until the wagon caught up to him. Then he let it pass. He stared at the back of it, turning the thought over and over in his mind, testing it against instincts sharpened by the cruelty he’d seen, and endured, over the past nine years.

    Then he hurried to catch up, suddenly wanting the warmth, wanting something to eat, wanting to see if he could read anything in those hard gray eyes when he told her the story.

    He wasn’t sure he trusted the Gray Lady. Yet he felt certain that in some other village on some other street, she, too, had allowed herself to be needlessly shepherded so that a few young boys could proudly say they had served.

    Chapter Eight

    Krelis stared at the spelled brass button in his hand and then at the uneasy guard. “Are you sure?”

    The guard’s face tightened. “I made no mistake, Lord Krelis.”

    Krelis waved his hand, an oblique apology for insulting the man’s skill. His voice thickened with frustration. “What in the name of Hell is shedoing ?”

    The guard shrugged. “There’s a Coach station less than a mile from that inn—but there’s a better inn right next to the station if she’d intended to buy passage and go on to the Tamanara Mountains.”

    Which is precisely what the bitchshould have done.

    “The innkeeper was sure it was the Gray Lady?”

    “An old Queen dressed in gray with twelve slaves. I found that button in the guest servants’ quarters because the slave quarters weren’t ‘comfortable’ enough for her new toys. Maybe she’s trying to tame the Queen killer with sugar instead of the lash.”

    Krelis felt his blood chill. “What Queen killer?”

    “The Shalador pleasure slave who showed his temper a couple of weeks ago. He would have gone to the salt mines of Pruul, but she fancied him.”

    Krelis let his breath out slowly. Fool! He’d already seen the list of slaves, and the Sadist wasn’t on it. Besides, the High Priestess only sold Daemon Sadi’s services. She’d never sell him outright—and she’d never let a dangerous enemy have any kind of control over a male that deadly.

    The name on the list had meant nothing to him, but he’d heard about that Shalador Warlord’s butchery. Would that work in his favor? A dark-Jeweled male turned vicious wouldn’t be tamed again easily. He might even hate the next witch holding the leash enough to strike a crippling blow with no provocation. Doubtful he’d survive if he tangled with the Gray—no loss if he didn’t—but if he weakened her, it would make it that much easier to finish the kill once they found the Gray Lady.

    “There’s a Coach station in easy reach that would get her out of a Territory that stands in Hayll’s shadow. Instead of going there, she buys an old pedlar’s wagon, a team of horses, two saddle horses, and supplies.” Krelis’s voice rose. “To do what? What’s the bitch’s game?”

    The guard shrugged again. “She set out on the road heading northeast, or so the innkeeper said. Lots of small roads branch off it, traveling west and northwest. She could have changed direction. Been lots of rain around there. She can’t be traveling fast, and she’s not traveling light. She packed that wagon with supplies.”

    Krelis’s hand closed around the button. “Which still doesn’t explain what she’s doing!”

    The guard shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Maybe that attack in the spring was more successful than anybody thought. She’s an old woman.”

    Krelis let the idea take root. “Itwas a vicious attack.” The Gray Lady had escaped last spring, but the violent unleashing of power might have left her mentally unstable. Could she be wandering aimlessly, all the time thinking she was heading for the Tamanara Mountains and safety?

    Krelis slipped the brass button into his pocket. At least he had something to report. “Let the marauder bands know where she was last seen. They’ll know the land around there better than we do.”

    After dismissing the guard, Krelis slumped in his chair. So far his plan was working. If his pet hadn’t left the spelled button, though, he would have had no idea where to start looking for her.

    That Shalador Warlord troubled him a little. There had been no reason for her to go down to those slave pens and even less reason to buy him. She’d already bought a young pleasure slave. She didn’t need another, especially one who had turned savage.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire