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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(25) by Anne Bishop
  • Or had she bought him with the intention of giving him to a Shalador Queen in exchange for help reaching the Tamanara Mountains?

    Krelis smiled grimly.

    If getting help from Shalador had been her plan, she was already too late.

    Much too late.

    Chapter Nine

    An hour after sunrise, Jared gave a final pat to the bay gelding and roan mare that were already saddled and tethered to the back of the wagon, and approached the door. They’d broken last night’s camp and were ready to move on, but courtesy and a healthy sense of self-preservation told him he should get the Gray Lady’s permission first—especially since he’d never consulted her yesterday afternoon when he had decided they’d all had enough of slogging through rain and mud and had given the order to make camp.

    He raised his hand, but it froze before he could knock on the door. No matter what Jewels he wore, no man would willingly step into that cramped space while two witches were arguing in sharp, low voices that would have been raised to full volume if they hadn’t been trying to keep it private.

    Jared stepped back, unsure what to do—and wished, again, that he hadn’t begun the sham yesterday of being the dominant male. HisJewels might outrank everyone else’s except the Gray Lady’s, but what difference did that make? He was aslave . He was hollow inside. He didn’t want to have authority over the other males. He didn’t want the responsibilities that came with that authority. But he’d let a moment’s temper make that choice for him, and now he was stuck with it.

    But that didn’t mean he couldn’t back away now and just wait untilshe gave the order to move on.

    Before he could retreat, Tomas opened the door, looking flushed and angry.

    No longer muffled, Thera’s voice had a dangerous edge.

    “Youcan’t walk. That knee healed better than I thought it would overnight, but it’s not going to take that kind of exercise, and you know it.”

    “Then I can ride one of the saddle horses, or sit on the driving seat. That will give others the opportunity to be inside—”

    “It isn’t raining now,” Thera interrupted. “If you’re so concerned, let’s stay in this camp for a day and give everyone a rest. The animals certainly could use it.”

    Jared winced. Thera sure knew how to twist a verbal knife. By the end of that first morning on the road, they’d all recognized the Gray Lady’s love for animals. If she could have figured out a way to tuck the horses into the wagon to give them a rest, he was sure she would have done it.

    “No.” Was that physical or emotional pain in the Gray Lady’s voice? “We have to keep going. I can—”

    Tomas had been looking at Jared. Now he twisted around. “You can just sit and get better like you’re supposed to,” he shouted. “What if you slip in the mud and hurt yourself bad?”

    “If I’m riding a horse—” The Gray Lady had to be gritting her teeth to make the words sound like that.

    But Tomas wasn’t going to be warned or silenced by mere words. “You’ve been walking in the rain for two days now, and you’re a Queen.”

    “Queens don’t melt in the rain.”

    “You could take sick or something. What if your throat gets sore and you can’t talk? Then what are we going to do?”

    An awful silence filled the wagon.

    Jared held his breath, waiting.

    Whatever was said next wasn’t loud enough for Jared to hear, but Tomas grinned and scampered down the steps. His grin widened when the door closed behind him with a less-than-gentle slam.

    “They’re both feeling pissy this morning,” Tomas said cheerfully.

    Jared muttered, “Lucky us.” He looked at the closed door, thought about the “discussion” that had just taken place, then shook his head. His mother had been right: When faced with staying in bed because of illness of injury, even the maturest adult turned into an obstinate child.

    Giving in to the inevitable, Jared trudged to the front of the wagon and gave Thayne the signal to move out.

    Everyone else was ahead of him, Garth so far ahead he’d be out of sight once he topped the small rise. Randolf was leading the rest of them, and Brock had taken a mid position so that he could keep an eye on the wagon and the walkers. Corry was walking between Polli and Cathryn. Blaed was paired with Eryk, who looked grateful to be included again after being shunned by everyone since yesterday’s squabble with Tomas. Tomas walked alone, but there was no indication it wasn’t by choice.

    Jared turned up his coat collar and lengthened his stride enough to catch up to Tomas. The rain had stopped for the moment, but the morning air was cold—and those clouds piling up in the west were a sure sign that there would be another storm by afternoon.

    Tomas gave him a quick glance that told him his presence was an intrusion that would be endured.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire