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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 72)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(72) by Anne Bishop
  • “He was there, a favored Second Circle male. He gallantly offered to escort my mother through the intricacies of court life. Since he was the only person she knew there, she accepted his company with open arms. He couldn’t bear to be away from her. He begged her to marry him. And he begged to see her through her Virgin Night.

    “He broke her. An accident, they said. It happens sometimes. Even with all the care that’s taken, it happens sometimes. So sorry.

    “Of course, he couldn’t marry her after that. Neither his family nor his Queen would grant permission for an Opal-Jeweled Warlord to marry a broken witch who wasn’t aristo. But she could be his lover, and in his heart she would always be his wife. It didn’t take her long to discover there wasn’t much difference between being a lover and a slave. At least, not in a court that had spread its legs for Hayll.

    “He liked to hit. He enjoyed hurting anything or anyone who was weaker. He used to slap her to excite himself before he mounted her.”

    “Why didn’t she leave him?” Jared asked.

    “She had signed a contract to serve in the court. The Queen wouldn’t release her. Staying with him protected her from the other males.” Something fierce began to glow at the back of Thera’s eyes. “He didn’t think she’d challenge him about anything. But when I had the Birthright Ceremony and it was time for her to formally grant him paternal rights, to give him a claim to me, she denied paternity. Said it wasn’t his bloodline that ran in me. What could he do? Granting paternity is a public ceremony, and there are no second chances, no retractions.

    “She sent me to her sister. My aunt had left the home village a few years before—I never found out why.” Thera paused for a moment. “Auntie had a lover, a Purple Dusk Warlord. They’d never formalized their union in any way. There were no records to link one to the other. He was a good man, solid and strong, easy-tempered. He worked hard for the first hug I freely gave him.”

    Jared smiled sadly. He could imagine the pleasure and relief the man had felt when he finally overcame her sire’s viciousness. “What was his name?”

    Thera shook her head. “He had a sister, a Sapphire-Jeweled Black Widow who lived in another village. She was a force to be reckoned with, and males who tried to force themselves on women, Blood or landen, usually found themselves impotent for weeks afterward. She spent a few days each month with her brother and Auntie. She had friends in her own village; she also had enemies. So she spent those first days of her moontime where she had the protection of the one male she could trust.

    “She was born to the Hourglass, like me. Like calls to like. I’d barely settled in with Auntie when I met her. The next day, she began my training.”

    “You were very young to begin training in the Hourglass’s ways,” Jared murmured.

    Thera nodded. “Yes. Because of that, there was a lot she couldn’t teach me. I wasn’t mature enough mentally or emotionally to endure it. It wasn’t formal training. More like I’d show her how much I could do of what she’d shown me the last time. Sometimes we took the next step in that lesson; sometimes she began something new.

    “She never actually said anything, but we all understood that her training me had to be a secret, that my being a Black Widow had to be a secret. By the time I reached puberty and would have been recognized for a child of the Hourglass, I’d learned how to mask my psychic scent well enough to fool even a darker Jewel.

    “The ugliness had started by then—Queens and darker-Jeweled males muttering about Black Widows being dangerous, how they were emotionally unstable because of their journeys into the Twisted Kingdom, how only Hayllian witches had the lifespan and the maturity needed to handle the Black Widows’ Craft. The males began to break young Black Widows—for their own good, of course.”

    “Bastards,” Jared snarled softly.

    “The month before I turned eighteen, the Black Widow showed up unexpectedly. She said she’d been thinking about me while she was weaving a tangled web of dreams and visions. She said if I didn’t make the Offering to the Darkness before the next moon, I never would. And if I didn’t have my Virgin Night before the Offering, I would never reach my nineteenth year.”

    Thera leaned against Jared. Surprised by her sudden weariness, he slipped his arm from her shoulder to her waist to support her.

    “Auntie’s lover saw me through my Virgin Night,” Thera said quietly. “He wasn’t happy about it, but there was no one else we could trust, so he accepted his duty. He was generous and kind. When it was over and we were sure my inner web was intact and I still had my Jewels and my Craft ... I think he was more relieved than I.

    “A week later, we went to a Sanctuary a couple of days’ ride from Auntie’s village. The Priestess there and the Black Widow were friends. I made the Offering and came away with the Green Jewels.

    “The day after I turned eighteen, my sire sent a message. My mother was dying and asked to see me.”

    “You went back to the court,” Jared said, his temper simmering.

    “I went back.”

    “It was a trick.”

    “It was a trick,” Thera agreed.

    “Your mother wasn’t dying, was she?”

    “Oh, yes, she was,” Thera replied too calmly. “He’d tortured her. After what he’d done to her, there was nothing shecould do but die.

    “She hadn’t asked for me. She hadn’t wanted to see me. The anguish in her eyes was all the warning I needed. I was the last cruelty, you see. She’d thwarted his having any control over me, so now he’d take me. He wanted her to know that all the sacrifices she’d made, all the pain she’d suffered was for nothing.

    “He dragged me into the next room. There was a grille in the wall beside the door. There was no way she couldn’t hear what was happening in that room.

    “He raped me.”

    “Wait a minute!” Jared protested. “You said he wore the Opal. You outranked him. You were stronger.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire