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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 32)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(32) by Anne Bishop
  • “What’s going on?” Blaed whispered.

    Since the answer seemed obvious, Jared didn’t bother to reply.

    The Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince urged his horse forward, meeting the two women halfway between his men and the wagon. He dismounted slowly, his eyes never leaving the Gray Lady. His lean, hard body moved with a warrior’s grace as he cautiously approached, one hand resting easily on the hilt of the knife attached to his belt.

    Too far away to hear, and not daring to probe in case it produced a violent reaction, Jared watched the negotiations. After one long, searching look, the Warlord Prince ignored Polli and seemed to listen courteously to the Gray Lady’s offer.

    Hell’s fire, what if the man wanted to inspect Thera and Cathryn before accepting the woman offered?

    A long few minutes later, the Warlord Prince raised his left hand. Two of his men immediately came forward and dismounted. One of them took Polli’s bag and tied it to his saddle. The other led Polli to the Warlord Prince’s horse and helped her mount.

    Jared narrowed his eyes. All the stories he’d heard about rogues said they lived hard, desperate lives, so emotionally scarred by Queens and courts that they wouldn’t yield to the distaff gender for any reason. Any female unfortunate enough to fall into their hands could only expect to be viciously used for the most basic and base needs.

    So why did the Warlord who had helped Polli mount handle her so gently? Why was this Warlord Prince still listening courteously to the Gray Lady?

    They talked for several more minutes. At one point, the Warlord Prince seemed aggravated enough that it took considerable effort to keep his temper leashed. At another point, he shook his head, his regret obvious. That’s when the Gray Lady’s shoulders sagged as if a great weight had settled on them.

    When there didn’t seem to be anything more to say, the Warlord Prince took her hand and raised it to his lips.

    As he watched, Jared felt the emotional ground shift beneath him again. That gesture wasn’t a meaningless salute as it would have been in a court. A rogue Warlord Prince who wore Jewels as dark as the Sapphire wouldn’t bother with empty gestures. And it wasn’t mockery.

    Why would a rogue deliberately show his respect for a Queen?

    Jared turned that thought over and over while the Gray Lady slowly limped back to the wagon. Her face looked pinched and pained, and she seemed more frail than she had a few minutes ago.

    Brock and Randolf stepped aside as she reached them. If ordered to, they would have assisted her, but that subtle defiance—forcing a Queen to order every small thing she wanted from a slave—was the only safe way for a man to show disrespect. He couldn’t be faulted because he did exactly what he’d been told to do. He just didn’t do anything beyond that.

    Jared watched her approach, knowing he’d have to make a decision within the next few seconds. He’d declared himself the dominant male. If he acted like a slave and stepped aside as Brock and Randolf had done, the others would accept that decision and act accordingly. If he responded as his instincts demanded and helped her, the others would, grudgingly, accept that, too.

    The mental shove struck him without warning, the anger behind it hitting his inner barriers like heavy surf. He turned his head and met the Warlord’s Prince’s stare.

    *She deserves the best you can give her,* the man said, using a Sapphire spear thread.

    *She deserves whatever she can squeeze out of a slave,* Jared snapped, unwilling to let this stranger sense how much her betrayal of trust hurt him.

    They stared at each other, the other rogues and slaves forgotten.

    *It seems I misjudged you,* the man sneered. *Despite your Jewels, you don’t have balls enough and you aren’t man enough to serve her.*

    The Warlord Prince strode to his horse and mounted behind Polli, his contempt apparent in every line of his body. At his signal, his men turned their horses and rode back down the road.

    Polli leaned to one side and looked back once.

    The Warlord Prince didn’t look back at all.

    Jared shook with anger. How dare that son of a whoring bitch judge him? It was one thing not to do more than what was demanded in order to make it clear he wasn’t there by his own choice. It was quite another to have a stranger, a man who hadn’t had the balls to remain with the Queen who had chosen him, say he wasn’t worthy of serving.

    He turned on his heel. In three strides, he caught up to the Gray Lady at the same moment Thera reached her. Thera didn’t look at him. She couldn’t have picked up the argument since it had been conducted on a Sapphire spear thread, so the implied disapproval was her own judgment. Stung, he reacted by grabbing the Gray Lady’s arm hard enough to make her gasp. He loosened his hold without apologizing for causing her pain and struggled to keep his temper leashed while he and Thera assisted the Gray Lady to the wagon’s door.

    She tried to raise her right leg to step up, but the knee wouldn’t bend.

    Thera swore under her breath.

    Whatever the Gray Lady might have said in response remained unsaid because she noticed the children solemnly watching her. Shadows filled her gray eyes as her gaze moved from Eryk to Corry to Cathryn and, finally, lingered on Tomas.

    “At least one of them is safe now,” she said so quietly Jared almost missed the words. Then she looked back at him. “A mile or so down the road, there’s a lane on the right-hand side. Follow the lane for another mile. On the left-hand side, there’ll be an entrance to a clearing that has some kind of a shelter. We’ll camp there tonight.”

    A lot of orders were implied in those words, the main one being that he would lead them to the shelter. If he was going to force her to acknowledge the enslavement instead of pretending he was serving her as if he were a free man, now was the time to make it clear she was going to have to give specific orders for each action.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire