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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(70) by Anne Bishop
  • Jared took a deep breath and released it slowly. He’d seen too many sulks and pouts used as manipulative games. Most of the time it had brought an edge to his temper and a stubborn refusal to respond. But he suspected this wasn’t Lia’s usual way of dealing with opposition of any kind. She had the safety of eleven other people weighing on her young shoulders, and she was feeling the strain.

    “Look,” Jared said, trying to bring his voice back to soothing, “when we stop to rest for the midday meal, you can walk around a bit.”

    “We’re not moving now,” Lia pointed out.

    Which reminded him of why he was there in the first place. “That’s because I wanted to see if you were willing to compromise.”

    Amazing how fast a pouting witch could change into an alert Queen.

    “What compromise?” Lia asked, watching him a little too sharply.

    “Well, I thought you might like to sit on the driving seat for a while. But you have to promise not to throw your boots at me, and you have to promise to keep the blankets tucked around you so that you don’t get chilled.”

    “There’s not much difference sitting on the driving seat and sitting in here,” Lia said calmly. “So I’ll stay here.”

    Jared rubbed the back of his neck. “Sure there is. You can get some fresh air, see some of the countryside . . . hum to the horses.”

    Lia’s smile was far too knowing and smug for his liking. “Having trouble with Boots and Button?” she asked sweetly.

    Jared raised his eyebrows. “What kind of names are those?”

    Lia shrugged. “They answer to them.”

    “What did you name the saddle horses?”

    “Flirt and Handsome. If the bay had been a stallion, I would have named him Stubborn, after you.”

    Jared smiled wickedly. “That’s not the only thing a stallion and I have in common.”

    Her mouth opened, but no sound came out.

    He liked the way she blushed, the way she suddenly turned shy.

    “So do you want to go out and hum to the horses or stay in here with me?” he asked.

    If he hadn’t found it so amusing, he would have been insulted by the speedy way she burst out of the nest of blankets.

    He carried her outside, ignoring her mutters about walking, and presented her to the horses—and tried not to resent the cooing and petting they received. Then he settled his bundle of witch on the driving seat, tucking the blankets around her to his satisfaction.

    “Well, that was simple enough,” Blaed said as he and Jared watched the happy horses and Thayne set off at a brisk walk.

    “Simple as could be,” Jared replied, dropping a hand on Blaed’s shoulder. “Especially since you’re going to keep her company.”

    “But—” Blaed looked wistfully up the road.

    Jared followed the direction of Blaed’s attention. “Itwas your idea to have Lady Lia sit out here, Blaed. Not that I told her that. So there’s no reason for her to feel annoyed withyou .” He gave Blaed a friendly punch in the arm and smiled too innocently. “Tell you what. You look after my Lady, and I’ll look after yours.”

    Knowing there was nothing Blaed could say to that, Jared jogged up the road to join Thera, leaving Blaed to entertain Lia.

    Frustration felt so much better when shared.

    * * *

    “Want some company?” Jared asked when he caught up to Thera.

    “No.”

    “Too bad.” Knowing Blaed was watching, Jared threw one arm around Thera’s shoulders.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire