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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(6) by Anne Bishop
  • “It’s a slice of cucumber, Poppi. You put a slice of cucumber over your eyes.” Cassidy mopped her face and blew her nose. “Mother swears by that remedy.”

    “Huh,” Burle said. “Nothing wrong with the way your mother looks. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, and every hour in between, she looks just fine.”

    He meant it. And because he meant it, and because she’d inherited the red hair and freckles from Devra, she’d thought the man who had been her Consort had also meant it when he said he thought she was lovely.

    When he’d left, the bastard had told her what he really thought.

    “Well,” Cassidy said, vanishing the handkerchief, “we’d best get to the table before Mother comes out here, don’t you think?”

    “That we should.” Slinging an arm around her shoulders, Burle aimed them for the house. “I’ll say one more thing. I remember meeting Lady Kermilla when she was serving her apprenticeship in your court, and I’ll tell you this, Kitten. If those fools chose her over you, then they deserve what they’re going to get.”

    “Maybe.” Probably. When she’d sent Kermilla’s evaluation to the Province Queen, she’d tried to be kind, but there had been no denying that she’d had concerns about Kermilla’s attitude toward anyone who wasn’t strong enough to fight back.

    “Their loss, my gain,” Burle said. “I’ve got the two finest women in the whole Territory living in my house.”

    “For a little while,” Cassidy said.

    “What’s that mean?”

    “I’m just visiting, Poppi. Next week, I’ll start looking for a place of my own.” A very simple place, since there hadn’t been much left of the tithes she received from Bhak and Woolskin, not after paying the court expenses and sending the Province Queen her share. That had been her income while she ruled, and the fact that there was any left was due to her careful upbringing and her mother’s firm belief that a good life didn’t have to be an expensive life.

    And since it was her income and what she’d saved from the tithes was all she had, she would continue to tear up Kermilla’s letters, which all asked the same thing: how much was the former Queen of Bhak going to “gift” the new Queen?

    “What do you mean, you’re getting your own place?” Burle said. “What for?”

    “I’m thirty-one years old, Poppi. A grown woman doesn’t live with her parents.”

    He stopped so fast he pulled her off-balance. “Why not? What can you do in your own place that you can’t do—?” His face flushed as he came to an obvious—and incorrect—conclusion about what a woman wouldn’t want to do in her parents’ house.

    “Well now,” he muttered, lengthening his stride and pulling her with him. “We’ll just see what your mother has to say about that. We’ll just see.”

    She already knew what Devra would say, but this wasn’t the time to tell her father he was outnumbered.

    “Yes, Poppi,” she said fondly. “We’ll just see.”

    CHAPTER 3

    Ebon ASKAVI

    “Why am I doing this?”

    Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, the former Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, glanced at Daemon Sadi, the current Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, and swallowed the urge to laugh. That tone of voice was more suited to a surly adolescent than a strong adult male in his prime, and being Hayllian, one of the long-lived races, Daemon had left adolescence behind several centuries ago.

    But he’d noticed that there were times when Daemon and his brother, Lucivar Yaslana, set adulthood—and a good portion of their brains—aside and were just . . . boys. They seemed to test the emotional waters of adolescence when they were alone with him. Maybe it was because he’d been denied the privilege of raising them and the three of them hadn’t gone through the pissing contests they would have all endured if they’d lived with him. Maybe it was because they’d had to grow up too hard and too fast in order to survive the vicious slavery that had been used to control them. At least, that had attempted to control them. The slavery, the pain, the fear, and the cruelty had turned two young men, two Warlord Princes who were natural predators, into lethally honed weapons.

    They were intelligent and vicious. Loyal and loving. Powerful and independent. Fiercely protective of those they loved to a sometimes annoying degree.

    They were his sons, and he loved them both. But the one standing at the other end of the table, looking at him through long black eyelashes, was his mirror, his true heir. And since he was, among other things, the High Lord of Hell, the fact that Daemon was a mirror was something he never forgot.

    “Why am I doing this?” Daemon asked again.

    “Because when you arrived at the Keep in Kaeleer and discovered I was here at the Keep in Terreille, you came through the Gate to this Realm in order to ask me something about the family estates. And when you saw me sorting reams of old papers, you asked if there was anything you could do to help.”

    “That was a polite offer, not a sincere one,” Daemon grumbled.

    “I know,” Saetan replied dryly. “But I chose to take the words at face value.”

    Daemon snarled softly and went back to sorting papers.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire