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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 38)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(38) by Anne Bishop
  • “You don’t know that,” Blaed protested, keeping his voice low.

    “All I’m saying is Garth seems to understand some things. Maybe it’s a holdover from his training. Hell’s fire, I don’t know. But we’d be fools not to pay more attention to what sets him off.”

    “All right,” Brock said. “I’ll—”

    The door opened.

    Brock and Blaed released their supportive hold on Jared’s arms.

    Jared walked toward the Gray Lady, alone.

    In the light coming through the open door, her gray eyes looked almost black from exhaustion. Her voice quavered when she quietly asked him if he was all right. She looked frail, and he suspected her pride was the only thing keeping her on her feet.

    Her frailty made him want to push her until she struck out and proved she was still strong and powerful.

    “Thank you, Warlord,” she said solemnly.

    “I live to serve, Lady,” he replied, his voice lightly laced with bitterness to hide another emotion he didn’t want to acknowledge.

    Tears filled her eyes. She turned and retreated into the room as quickly as she could manage with her injured knee.

    Jared rocked back as if she’d slapped him. Shame filled him until he wasn’t sure he could stand beneath the weight of it. He tried to dredge up enough anger to burn away the shame, but it wouldn’t come.

    Swallowing hard, Jared looked behind him. Brock and Blaed had discreetly disappeared to finish the chores.

    “Jared?” Tomas stood in the doorway. “You coming in or you going to stand there letting the rain in until Thera gets mad enough to hit you with a skillet?”

    “Maybe it would help,” Jared muttered as he followed the boy inside and firmly closed the door.

    Silence strained tempers already frayed by fear and exhaustion, broken only by the scrape of utensils against plates and murmured requests to pass something that couldn’t easily be reached. They choked on the food that had been bought with a young witch’s life, but they ate it. Their bodies needed fuel. Landens might envy the Blood’s magical powers, but they didn’t understand the price that went with it; didn’t understand how fiercely that inner fire could burn, especially in those who wore the darker Jewels; didn’t understand how quickly it could consume the body that housed it if no other fuel was available.

    So they ate in silence, never meeting each other’s eyes, each one wondering whose life might pay for the next meal, the next shelter.

    Jared sighed with relief when the meal finally ended.

    Thera picked up her plate and walked over to the kitchen area of the large single room to begin cleaning up. Within moments, the only ones left sitting on the benches on either side of the long wooden table were Jared and the Gray Lady.

    He’d deliberately sat at the opposite end on the opposite side, as far away from her as he could get. Now, with the others dallying with the last chores in order to stay away from her and nothing but the long table separating them, he looked at her for the first time since she’d met him at the doorway and thanked him.

    After a minute, she raised her head and met his cold stare.

    There was nothing in her gray eyes. Nothing at all. As if all the fire in her had been doused.

    Then she flinched and fixed her eyes on the chipped blue jug filled with autumn wildflowers that sat on the table.

    Why? Jared wanted to ask her. He could understand that Sapphire-Jeweled bastard riding back here ahead of them to create the psychic wire in order to make sure they found the clearing. But why had the man taken the time to fill a jug with flowers? Because he was certain the Warlord Prince had done just that.

    He understood the rogues giving up the shelter and providing supplies in exchange for Polli, even if that son of a whoring bitchhadn’t given them the key for the protection spells. But the flowers gnawed at him. They were a sign of affection, something a man gave a woman to lift her spirits. Was the Warlord Princethat grateful to get a female? Or was there another reason for the gesture?

    Jared watched her reach out and delicately touch the petals of a dark-orange flower. He didn’t ask.

    His bitter reply when she had thanked him had wounded her deeply. It shouldn’t have mattered, but it did—because a rogue who should have hated her for owning slaves had given her flowers.

    She rose slowly, her hands braced on the table to support her.

    Jared clenched his fists and forced himself to stay seated as she slowly, painfully, limped toward the door.

    The other men glanced at her, glanced at him, and quickly looked away. He was the dominant male. His refusal to help her amounted to an order for the rest of them, and only a direct order from her would countermand it.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire