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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 73)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(73) by Anne Bishop
  • “She dragged herself to the grille and pleaded with him to stop. She couldn’t really talk, couldn’t really form words. Not that it would have made any difference.”

    “Thera!” Red mist coated the road and land around them. Jared shook his head to clear the rage from his vision.

    Thera stared at nothing. “When he found out he was too late to break me, he beat me.” Her eyes frosted. She looked fiercely triumphant. “And I let him.”

    “Why?” Jared’s voice broke.

    “To buy time. I’d slipped under his inner barriers just enough to find out why he’d done this. Revenge, Jared. He knew where Auntie lived. He’d learned enough to know about her lover and the Black Widow sister. He planned to have them all killed because my mother had defied him. He intended to make sure I had no one to run to if I managed to get away from him again. But he’d wanted me under his control before he ordered the executions. That was his first mistake.

    “So I fought hard enough to enrage him, to excite him with the spilled blood. And while he raped me again, I sent a message to Auntie on a distaff thread and told her to leave, to vanish and never look back. The Green was strong enough to reach that far. I knew they’d warn the Black Widow.

    “Even Auntie wouldn’t have recognized me when he was done. My mother died the next day. The day after that, he sold me to an acquaintance. He never told the man who I was. Since I couldn’t speak clearly, my owner gave me a name. By the time the bruises and swelling went down, I’d woven illusion spells around myself. I didn’t look like a fresh, young eighteen-year-old.” Thera laughed harshly. “I drooled a lot. Staggered around glassy-eyed. Anytime a male sat down, I’d climb into his lap and ask him if he’d like to be castrated because I was sure it would make him feel better not to have those nasty urges.

    “The son of a whoring bitch couldn’t sell me fast enough.

    “I’ve had nine owners in the past year. Sometimes the old one remembered to tell the new one my name. When he didn’t, I took another name, confusing the trail even more. My sire tried to keep track of me, you see. He never found my aunt or her lover or the Black Widow. Different names, a different place. They vanished like dreams.”

    Jared didn’t know what to say. His grief for her made him ache. “You’ll never look for them, will you?”

    “No. My sire lost me two owners ago. The name doesn’t match. The description doesn’t match. And by manipulating the last bastard into putting me on the auction block . . . no name, no land, no people. I became no one and anyone. I’d intended to snare some weak-willed fool who wouldn’t even be able to remember buying a female on the auction block. Once he got me out of Raej, I, too, would vanish.”

    Thera bit her lip and shook her head. “But Lia bought me, so I guess I fouled that spell.” Pulling away from Jared, she started walking quickly.

    Staggered by what she’d told him, Jared stood in the road for a full minute before he hurried to catch up to her. When he was an arm’s length behind her, he said, “Then your name isn’t Thera?”

    She looked over her shoulder. What he saw in her eyes chilled him. “It is now.”

    “Landens.” Randolf made the word for the non-Blood of each race sound like an obscenity.

    Ignoring Randolf’s surliness, Jared rubbed his chin. The village nestled in the lowland a mile from the hilltop he’d chosen as their midday resting place looked fairly prosperous. From a distance, anyway. His father had always been fair about the tithes required from the landen villages that were bound to Ranon’s Wood, but he’d seen ragged, half-starved people in other Territories who were stripped of so much of their goods and harvests there wasn’t enough left for the whole village to get through the winter months.

    “We might be able to get supplies there,” Jared said slowly, turning to look at Lia.

    She stared at something in the distance and didn’t answer.

    Jared waited, knowing her answer wouldn’t really have anything to do with supplies—because the Winds ran over that landen village, and anyone she sent was going to be tempted to catch one of those psychic roadways for a fast ride home.

    Hell’s fire,he was certainly tempted, and heknew freedom waited at the end of this journey. Would men like Brock and Randolf, who still believed they were slaves, be able to resist a chance to escape?

    “You’ll need marks to pay for the supplies,” Lia said abruptly.

    Jared narrowed his eyes and studied her stiff back as she slowly walked to the wagon and went inside. He felt the absence of something—as if she’d closed some inner door he hadn’t been aware of, leaving him on the outside. He couldn’t define it, couldn’t even say what was suddenly missing except that, without warning, she’d taken something away that she’d shared with him until now.

    And he resented the loss because he’d done nothing to deserve it.

    Fine, he thought as he brushed past the others and strode toward the wagon. If she wanted to give him the cold shoulder all of a sudden, that was just fine with him. He’d be a good boy and run her errands for her. Just see if he didn’t.

    Why in the name of Hell had she shut him out?

    He pulled up short to keep from knocking her down when she came around the corner of the wagon.

    “Here,” Lia said, holding out a thick bundle of folded marks.

    Jared stared at her. There was no color in her voice, nothing he could read in her gray eyes.

    She was hiding something from him.

    Resentment simmered, deepened into hurt.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire