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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 52)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(52) by Anne Bishop
  • Jared cursed, thought about throwing his weight against the door to give whoever was on the other side a taste of wood, heard the feminine snarl, and thought again. Rubbing his arm, he stepped farther into the wagon to let Thera enter.

    “That’s enough,” Thera said, her eyes chips of green ice. “The Lady needs care, which even a male should be able to figure out.”

    Jared bared his teeth at her, at the same time wondering if a man could be castrated by a look.

    Thera tossed a blanket at him. “Hang that up and get out of those wet clothes before you get sick and become completely useless. I’ll help the Lady.”

    He’d just bet she’d help the Lady, Jared thought as he used Craft to hang the blanket. He called in the cloth traveling bag he’d been given to store his extra clothes and dug through it, looking for something to wear that didn’t smell too ripe.

    Of course Thera would help the Lady. Why wouldn’t she? Two of a kind, that’s what they were. Stubborn, temperamental, always sure they knew better than a man even if he had more experience, always so damn sure they could do just fine on their own, thank you very much.

    Not finding anything clean to wear except the thin tunic and trousers he’d been given at Raej didn’t help his temper. He tossed them back into the bag and stripped. Smelling ripe would keep everyone away from him, which suited him just fine. Besides, after what they’d just been through, they needed time to recover, time to think, time to plan. And while they were doing that, he was damn well going to find a way to wash these clothes.

    “I’m sorry,” Thera said, her voice a little muffled by the blanket. “When Garth got Eryk and Tomas out of the creek, I pulled out the chest with your heading supplies.

    Foolish. My wits must have been scattered ... or else those damn spells were muddling my head. There was no reason to try to drag it outside since they were bringing the boys to the wagon. It was heavier than I thought.“

    “It would have gotten heavier,” the Lady said quietly. “Several spells had been put on it to prevent anyone but me from moving it.”

    Thera sighed. “I should have realized that.I should have realized that .” She sounded fierce and upset. Then she sighed again. “Anyway, when I pulled it out the door, I dropped it on the steps. The back of it got punctured and must have torn the tangled web that created the illusion.”

    Jared kept still, hardly daring to breathe. He had the feeling whatever they might say to each other now might not be said at all if they remembered he was there.

    ‘“It doesn’t matter,” the Lady said. After a moment, she added, “Besides, you knew anyway.”

    Jared could almost feel Thera’s shrug. “I guessed. Since I was trained in it, it’s easy enough for me to recognize the Hourglass’s Craft.” Another bit of silence. “I guessed,” Thera said, sounding careful, “just like you guessed I wasn’t broken.”

    What?

    Jared stared at the blanket. Then he closed his eyes and swallowed hard. Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. Thera. Unbroken. They’d all been fencing with a Black Widow who still wore the Jewels and had the full use of her particular Craft.

    “Come on,” Thera said. “Let’s get you out of those wet clothes.”

    Hearing the familiar sounds of someone getting undressed, Jared hurriedly pulled on layers of clothes. If he added warming spells to them, they should keep him comfortable enough for the next few hours since his coat was soaked. Even Craft couldn’t instantly dry material. At least he didn’t think it could. The next time he met a hearth-witch, he’d ask her.

    The rustling on the other side of the blanket stopped.

    “Mother Night,” Thera said. “You’re a mess. Didn’t you missany of the rocks?”

    Jared clenched his hands to keep from tearing down the blanket. He gritted his teeth to keep silent.

    She was hurt. She was hurt. She was hurt.

    All the training that had lain dormant for the past nine years came rushing back, overwhelming him with its fierceness. He wanted to lift his head and howl out his frustration. He wanted to hold her, yell at her, examine every bruise, and then kiss her to soothe the hurt.

    How dare she be so careless, jumping into the creek like that? She was lucky she only had bruises instead of broken bones. How dare she, avirgin who was so terrifyingly vulnerable to a male attack, make a journey like this without evenone loyal male to look after her? Didn’t she realize how precious Queens were, how vital to the Blood’s survival? And how dare she create this frenzied need in him to protect without giving him the outlet of honorable service?

    Well, he’d be damned if he’d let her get away with it.

    Fuming, Jared vanished the traveling bag and called in his Jewels. Two thin, wooden, rectangular boxes floated in front of him. He opened the first one and stared at his Birthright Opal, the gold jewelry gleaming against the box’s black-velvet lining. He brushed his finger over the ring and pendant. He’d worn the pendant since the Birthright Ceremony he’d had when he was seven, but the Opal ring had been made just before he’d made the Offering to the Darkness and came away with the Red. It had been a gift from his parents for his eighteenth birthday.

    That was the only day he’d ever worn it.

    He closed that box and vanished it, then opened the box that held the Red. Except for a few desperate moments over the years when he’d slipped on the ring, craving the feel of it on his finger, he hadn’t worn the Red Jewels— hadn’t wornany Jewels—since the night he was Ringed. Slaves weren’t allowed to acknowledge their strength openly, not even the strength that was their birthright.

    He slipped the Red-Jeweled ring onto the third finger of his right hand. His left hand covered it protectively as he savored the bond that had been denied for nine years.

    Taking a steadying breath, he licked his lips and picked up the pendant. No clasp to break or open. Just a chain of carefully formed gold links, long enough to let the power in that reservoir rest beside his heart.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire