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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(59) by Anne Bishop
  • “I don’t need—”

    “Thera got a double mattress, too.”

    That shut her up so he didn’t mention Thera’s reaction to Blaed’s proprietary courtesy, or that Thera had tried to bite Blaed when the young Warlord Prince tucked the covers around her. No point giving the little witch ideas.

    The men were all awake when he brought Lia into the building, but no one spoke, no one stirred. Subdued by their presence, she let him settle her on the mattresses and fuss with the blankets. Her only response when he snugged his mattress up to hers was to turn her face away from him.

    The rejection stung a little, but he stretched out beside her and tried to ignore it.

    A few minutes later, the slow, steady breathing told him everyone else was asleep.

    Jared propped himself up on one elbow and watched Lia.

    Knowing he would be free once they reached Dena Nehele felt like a different kind of slavery. He couldn’t run now, couldn’t escape, couldn’t go home. Her explanation had been fine as far as it went, but she hadn’t known about the wrongness when she bought him—which meant she had risked herself and the others to keep him from going to the salt mines of Pruul. How could he walk away when she needed his strength?

    He couldn’t. As much as he wanted to go home, he couldn’t leave her now.

    As he blinked back tears, he slipped his hand under Lia’s blanket, searching for her hand. She might have turned her face away from him, but her fingers curled trustingly around his.

    Lying there, watching her sleep, he was torn between what he wanted to do and what he had to do. He no longer needed any tangible proof that the Invisible Ring existed, because the Ring no longer mattered. There was only one choice he could make now and live with. Until this journey ended and Lia was safely home, his strength, his maleness, belonged to her.

    Sighing, Jared settled down and closed his eyes.

    My father would say you haven’t grown into your skin yet.

    He’d barely had time to get used to the feel of his Red strength when he’d been tricked into slavery. So maybe Blaed’s father was right about that. And if thatwas true . . .

    Had being enslaved somehow frozen him in that transition between youth and man? If he’d remained in Ranon’s Wood, would he have eased into the more aggressive nature of an adult Red-Jeweled male, the change happening slowly so that what he felt inside was justmore instead ofother ?

    Jared opened his eyes and stared at the dark ceiling above him.

    Other. Like the wild stranger. The part of himself that had been suppressed for nine years, until rage had let it burst free. Theadult Warlord who kept pushing at him to embrace it, accept it.

    He would have to embrace it, would have to accept it, no matter how much he feared it. He needed that strength and aggression if he was going to keep Lia safe.

    Two nights from now, the full moon after the autumn equinox would rise. For a Shalador male, it was the night of the dance.

    And the dance would be the right time to call the Warlord back to himself.

    Chapter Twelve

    Settled into one of the dainty chairs that were scattered around her sitting room, Dorothea SaDiablo sipped her morning coffee while she studied her Master of the Guard. She had one leg tucked under her, which made her red-silk dressing gown split enticingly high. Her hair flowed over her shoulders, creating a sleek, black frame for her half-bared br**sts. She looked more like a whore in the most expensive Red Moon house than a High Priestess.

    Then again, Krelis thought, all women were whores. Some were just honest about it.

    “Have you any news?” Dorothea asked, setting her cup on the low table in front of her. She picked up a warm breakfast pastry shaped like a crescent, broke it in half, then delicately licked the torn edge. And all the time, she watched him.

    It took effort not to shift his weight from foot to foot, but he reminded himself that he was no longer a Third Circle guard who didn’t understand the dangers of accepting an aristo witch’s sexual lures.

    “Well?” Dorothea put .the half crescent in her mouth, closed her lips around it, pulled it out again. Slowly. While she watched him.

    Krelis had to clear his throat before he found his voice. “No, Priestess, I have no news. But even riding the Winds, it takes time to reach Hayll,” he added quickly.

    “Of course,” Dorothea purred. “I’m simply concerned that the more time it takes to complete this little task, the more chances she’ll have to slip away.”

    He understood the threat beneath the pleasantly spoken words. “She won’t escape, Priestess. I swear it on my life.”

    Dorothea smiled brilliantly. “I’m sure you do.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire