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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(75) by Anne Bishop
  • “Thera would have needed an escort.”

    “Thera doesn’t need anyone to watch her back.”

    Hearing the tightness in Blaed’s voice, Jared studied the Warlord Prince thoughtfully. “No, she doesn’t,” he agreed slowly. “What she needs—although she’d deny it with her last breath—is a patient man who could coax her into letting him warm her feet at night.”

    Blaed smiled. “I could say the same about a certain Queen.”

    “I suppose you could.”

    They sighed in unison.

    “Come on,” Jared said. “My mother always said a full belly dulls a sharp temper.”

    “Did your mother have a sharp temper?”

    “Occasionally, when we’d annoyed her past her formidable endurance. But she was referring to my father, my brothers, and me. Not that any of us could compete with her temper when she was really fired up.” Jared shifted in the saddle to get more comfortable. He smiled wryly. “It wasn’t always easy for her, living with four males. After all, when a boy’s first learning to serve, who better to practice on than his own mother? Shalador boys are given strict boundaries, but an intelligent boy can get into a fair amount of trouble without ever stepping over those lines. And my brothers and I were intelligent boys. Every so often, when all of us had frayed her temper, she’d throw up her hands and shout at the top of her voice, ‘I’m an intelligent woman, a skilled Healer. Why am I living in a house with four males?’ My father would answer meekly, ‘Because you love us?’ And she’d look at him and start to laugh. We always got sent to bed early on those nights. Took me years to figure out it wasn’t just so we wouldn’t annoy her further.”

    Blaed’s laughter faded as they approached the village.

    Not a good time to stir up memories and unspoken longings, Jared thought. Not when the Winds were within reach.

    “Do you ever think about going home?” Blaed asked quietly.

    Jared fixed his gaze between the gelding’s ears. “I think about it.” What would he do if Blaed tried to bolt? The Gray Lady was going to send the young Warlord Prince home anyway. Since he was one of the five Lia had been looking for, his family must know the Gray Lady intended to set him free. But what if his familydidn’t know? What if the request to find him hadn’t come from them? They, and Blaed, would believe he was rogue. His family might hide him for a few days, but after that? No chance to dream. No chance to love. “You’re not going to do anything foolish, are you?”

    Blaed stared straight ahead. He swallowed hard. “No, I’m not going to do anything foolish.”

    Thank the Darkness.

    They rode into the village.

    It looked too well kept to be deserted, but the streets were empty.

    “Looks like someone spotted us,” Blaed said, watching the buildings on their right.

    Jared nodded, keeping an eye on the buildings on their left. The lightest possible psychic probe had confirmed how many people were hiding within those buildings. Most of the time, landens realized it was suicide to attack one of the Blood, especially the Jeweled Blood, but sometimes desperation and sheer numbers could balance out power at a horrific cost.

    “Call in your Jewels,” Jared said softly. He reached into his shirt and pulled out the Red Jewel so that it was visible. “Let them see they’re dealing with the Opal and the Red. If anyone has any ideas about tangling with the Blood, that should be enough to discourage them.”

    Nodding, Blaed quickly used Craft to settle his Opal pendant around his neck, then slipped the Opal ring on his finger.

    As they rode slowly down the empty main street, Jared added, “And stay shielded.”

    As if realizing a deserted street would cause suspicion, a door opened a few yards ahead of them. An old man stepped out, leaning on a cane for support.

    *The young bucks won’t face us, so they shove an old man into the street to do what they don’t have the balls to do,* Blaed said on a spear thread.

    Worried by the bitterness in Blaed’s voice, Jared reined in the gelding and nodded to the old man. “Good day to you.”

    “And you, Lords.” The old man clutched the cane with both hands.

    Jared scanned the street. “I see we haven’t arrived on market day. Is there a place we can get supplies?”

    The old man hesitated. “Don’t have a market day as such, Lord. But the old woman across the street keeps a store. Food and such. Likely you’ll find what pleases you there.”

    The Blood couldn’t read landens’ thoughts without linking with them, which usually tore apart minds that had no inner barriers, but landen emotions were on the surface and easily read.

    The old man’s sorrow speared Jared. “Thank you,” he said, struggling to keep his voice neutral.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire