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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(97) by Anne Bishop
  • Randolf didn’t need to say the obvious. There was only one person—now, maybe two—who was worth this much effort and this kind of cost.

    “You defend well, Warlord,” Randolf said. “Now it’s time to kill.”

    “The bodies lying among the boulders aren’t resting,Warlord ,” Jared replied, feeling foolishly like an adolescent who’d just had an older male dismiss his efforts as barely adequate.

    “You’re wasting your strength that way. The way you’ve been doing it, you need two strikes—one for a man’s shield and one for the inner barriers. Plus you’re feeding the shields.”

    Jared ground his teeth. “I know that.”

    “Stop feeding the shields.”

    “If I do that, they’ll fall in a minute,” Jared protested.

    Randolf eyed him grimly. “Then a minute’s all you have. A fast descent to your core, come up under their inner barriers and unleash. Hold your strength in a half circle.” He drew a small figure in the air with his finger. “Keep the baseline directly in front of you. Then fan out the Red in front of that line. If you unleash in a circle, you’ll take out all of us as well as them.”

    Jared swallowed hard. “I’ve never tried anything like that. What if I can’t control it that way?”

    “Then, if we’re lucky, we’ll all be destroyed completely,” Randolf replied harshly. “If we’re not lucky, you’ll be looking at a lot of empty but still-living husks.” His hand clamped down on Jared’s arm. “No mistakes. No second chances. And no time to get squeamish. It’s a fast kill. We need to cut the odds.” The hand on Jared’s arm gentled. “And I won’t tell anyone if you puke your guts out afterward.”

    Not understanding that last comment, Jared swallowed again, took a deep breath, turned inward, and dove into the abyss.

    Except during his training when he’d been mentally tethered to an instructor, he’d never made a fast dive down to his core, his inner web. The speed and the panicky feeling that he was falling and out of control terrified him. If he plunged through his inner web, at best he’d cut himself off from his own power and destroy his ability to wear the Jewels; at worst, he’d shatter his own mind.

    He flashed past the level of the lighter Jewels, gaining speed.

    White, Yellow.

    He was falling too fast. But there was no time to slow down the descent.

    Tiger Eye, Rose.

    If he failed, Lia . . .

    Summer-sky, Purple Dusk.

    A woman had screamed.

    Opal, Green.

    A woman had screamed.

    He stopped thinking, let the Warlord in him reign. The dive changed instantly from a frantic, barely controlled plunge into a graceful, savage dive. His heartbeat drum kept the slow, steady rhythm as he flashed past the depth of the Sapphire and gathered his strength, preparing to make the turn just above his inner web.

    This is what Blood males meant when they talked of rising to the killing edge. The mind cleared of all distractions. A lifetime was contained between heartbeats. He had all the time he needed to think, to act.

    Jared made the turn and began his ascent. Above him, he saw those other minds as flickering, Jewel-colored stars, as candle flames that were about to be snuffed out by a wild Red wind. He drew a mental line, creating the half circle the way Randolf had told him.

    As he continued to rise, he waited, waited.

    A few Opals, but nothing stronger.

    As he rose to the level of the Green, he unleashed the Red, flooding those smaller containers until they burst from within.

    Up, up, up. Jewel stars exploded. Above the White were the colorless candles of the non-Jeweled Blood. He snuffed them out, too.

    A hand clamped on his shoulder. Fingers dug into his arm.

    Ignoring the hand, he turned and made another leisurely descent. Not so deep this time. He didn’t need to go deep. The Red still throbbed in his blood.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire