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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 55)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(55) by Anne Bishop
  • “And your cousin,” Jared added, not bothering to hide the grin.

    She muttered something extremely uncomplimentary.

    Lia. The name flowed over him like a warm summer wind. Lady Lia. He could imagine the village children calling to her to see the new puppy, the new kitten, the new bit of Craft that had been learned. He could hear the affectionate way the men and older women talked about her. Have you heard what Lady Lia’s been up to lately?

    And in the court, now and when she established her own . . . Lady Ardelia. The strong young Queen with too much courage.

    Which brought him back to the beginning.

    “Why?” he asked quietly.

    For a while Lia just sipped the brew and didn’t answer. Then she sighed. “It’s the last time, you see. The Gray Lady was attacked after the spring auction, and her escorts were killed. Dorothea SaDiablo was behind that attack. The Gray Lady insisted that she had to go to Raej one more time so that our enemies would know that the strength of a Gray-Jeweled Queen still protected Dena Nehele. The males in the First Circle felt that the risks far outweighed whatever might be gained. They politely requested that she remain within the borders of Dena Nehele—and then they pulled out every scrap of Blood Law and Protocol they could find about the rights and privileges of males in the First Circle. By the time they were done, she realized their request really amounted to a command— which they vehemently denied, of course.”

    “Of course,” Jared said politely.

    She looked at him with keen suspicion.

    “That doesn’t explain why you’re here,” Jared pointed out.

    She fiddled with her mug. “She couldn’t go to Raej again. Even if the First Circle hadn’t found a way to stop her, she couldn’t go. We almost lost her the last time, and if we’d lost her before—” Lia quickly sipped her brew.

    “Before?” Jared’s green eyes narrowed as he watched her.

    “Before the new Queen was fully trained to take her place.”

    Which meant that the majority of the Warlord Princes and other Queens in Dena Nehele had already agreed to accept the Gray Lady’s chosen successor.

    “Why did they send you? Why not a more experienced Queen?”

    She worried the ragged edge of the blanket beneath her. “Well, I look a lot like Gran, and I’m the only other Queen in the family.”

    For a moment, Jared couldn’t think of anything to say. Couldn’t think at all. “Gran?” His voice cracked and rose to a squeak. “Gran? The Gray Lady is yourgrandmother ? How?”

    Lia blinked. “The usual way. Her daughter had a daughter.”

    Jared drained his mug. All right. An illusion web spun by a gifted Black Widow had been able to fool the eye, had been able to somehow mask the fact that Lia wore a Green Jewel so that strangers wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t the Gray Lady. But there was nothing that could fool a male into believing any other kind of witch was a Queen—especially if he focused his attention on her.

    So it made sense that they would need a Queen to impersonate a Queen. And maybe the family bond made it easier to create the illusion web, especially if Lia resembled her grandmother. Maybe there hadn’t been another Queen willing to take the risk. Or maybe the Gray Lady hadn’t felt she could ask someone outside of her family. Or ...

    Jared’s shoulder blades twitched. He kept hoping there was another answer because, if there wasn’t, he was going to be furious all over again, and he couldn’t afford the luxury of telling her what he thought of the males in her Territory.

    “So,” he said pleasantly while the anger started simmering his blood, “since you were the only other Queen in the family, and the Gray Lady’s successor, you decided to do this yourself.”

    She eyed him warily. “Yes.” When he started swearing again, the kind of inventive curses that were designed to make another man flinch, she snarled at him. “Why are you so snappish about my father?”

    “What kind of man would stand back and let you do this?”

    “What would you have done if your Queen ordered you to let your daughter go?”

    “I would have fought it!”

    “He did! He lost.” She winced and wrapped her left arm around her belly. “And now he’s going to yell at me when I get home. He’ll hug me and get teary about the bruises, and then he’ll yell at me.”

    Since he wanted to do a bit of yelling himself, Jared leaned forward and patted her shoulder gently. And found he now understood his father’s outbursts while still able to remember how it felt to be on the receiving end. “Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Getting yelled at when you’ve already been through a hard time and survived it.”

    She shook her head and sniffed.

    The pats changed to soothing circles.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire