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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 31)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(31) by Anne Bishop
  • As he approached the wagon, he smiled grimly. Interesting how easily all the males had responded to the protective instinct. Brock and Randolf had placed themselves so they effectively blocked the narrow road. Ludicrous since they weren’t wearing Jewels and didn’t have any weapons. Then he caught the look in Brock’s blue eyes and wondered what hidden things the guard might be carrying.

    Garth hovered near the wagon. The children and Polli were bunched next to the rear wheel. Thayne held the team of horses and anxiously watched Blaed, who was standing in the middle of the road, a peculiar, blank expression in his hazel eyes.

    A jolt of realization swept through Jared, strong enough to take his breath away. Mother Night. Courteous, easygoing Blaed was a Warlord Prince.

    As their eyes met, Jared felt some emotion—pain? regret?—flash through Blaed.

    Knowing he’d have to talk to the younger man later—if there was a later—Jared nodded as he passed Blaed and continued to the wagon.

    The shutters that gave access to the driving seat were wide-open. Shoulder to shoulder, Thera and the Gray Lady watched the road.

    “Rogues or marauders?” Thera asked as Jared reached them.

    Jared looked back. The thirteen men had stopped, barely visible in the rain.

    He almost asked what difference it made, but his attention was caught by the quickly hidden look of relief in the Gray Lady’s eyes.

    “Rogues,” she said quietly.

    Thera narrowed her eyes and studied the Gray Lady. “They can be more vicious than marauders, and that’s a Warlord Prince leading them.”

    Saying nothing, the Gray Lady backed away from the opening.

    Thera gave Jared a puzzled look and followed.

    A few seconds later, the shutters were slammed shut with enough force to startle the horses and the sharp, muffled voices told Jared a hot-tempered argument had started.

    It ended just as abruptly.

    Jared’s body tightened as his anger warred with his fear: anger because the two of them were indulging in a temper tantrum while all of them were at risk from an outside danger; and fear because the continued silence might mean one of them, namely Thera, was badly injured—or dead.

    The door opened a few minutes later. The Gray Lady emerged, followed by Thera, who was carrying one of the cloth bags they used to store spare clothes.

    Jared breathed a sigh of relief when Thera appeared, only then aware of how badly his legs were shaking.

    “Polli, come with me,” the Gray Lady said quietly.

    No one moved. No one made a sound.

    “Polli, come with me,” she said again, holding out her hand.

    Polli looked at the Gray Lady, then looked at the rogues whose features were obscured by the rain. She backed away from the Gray Lady, shaking her head. “No. It’s my moon-time. I don’t have to spread my legs when it’s my moon-time.” She continued backing away as the Gray Lady slowly advanced. When she bumped the front wheel, her hands closed fiercely around the spokes. “It’s my moon-time,” she wailed, slowly folding up until she was sitting on the muddy road, her hands still clutching the spokes.

    Because he wanted to argue and didn’t dare, Jared stepped back until he bumped into Blaed. Betrayal burned his throat and stomach. Despite all of his experience during the past nine years, he’d begun to respect the Gray Lady. Now she was trading Polli—Polli!—to a pack of rogues so the rest of them could leave without a fight.

    What made it even worse was that he understood her reasoning. Rogues tended to be more vicious because they had a price on their heads. They were either escaped slaves, or they’d broken their service contract with a Queen, or they’d refused to serve when a Queen had chosen them for her court. But they were still men, and any of them who hadn’t been castrated would enjoy having a female to mount.

    And who else could she give them? Sharp-tongued Thera, who was intelligent and useful? Little Cathryn?

    Bracing one hand on the wheel, the Gray Lady leaned over and spoke to Polli, her voice too low for Jared to hear. As she spoke, she brushed a hand over Polli’s head.

    She must have used a calming spell, he concluded bitterly as the fear gradually left Polli’s face.

    The Gray Lady straightened up slowly. Polli scrambled to her feet. Looking thoughtful, Thera hugged Polli and handed her the cloth sack. The Gray Lady linked her arm with Polli’s and, walking with care, led her toward the rogues.

    Bitch, Jared thought as he watched the two women.What lies did you tell her to make her so accepting ?

    There was tightness in Brock’s expression and anger in Randolf s eyes as the women passed them. Jared suspected that, if the trade didn’t work, both men would be able to suppress their instincts sufficiently to let the Gray bitch fight her own battles.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire