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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(145) by Anne Bishop
  • Who was with her? Not that it was any of his business. He was First Escort, not Consort, and the Queen could command the attention of any man in her court.

    Except it would kill Gray if Cassidy had taken another lover.

    “Am I intruding?” he asked when he heard some movement in her bedroom.

    Her look said Of course you are, but she replied, “Not at all.”

    Which was when Vae nudged the bedroom door open and joined them.

    “Just females here?”

    “Gray isn’t here, if that’s what you’re asking.” Her voice had a snippy edge to it.

    He knew that defensive tone. He’d used it enough times in his youth when Talon had called him on something and he’d tried to slide around admitting he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to do.

    What did she think he was going to do if she was with Gray? Go running to the Keep to tell Yaslana so he could storm down here and pound on everyone?

    Maybe that’s exactly what she thought. They had to work to get along on their best days, and he had given her enough reasons to dislike him. But getting into an argument now would end with her stomping out to the garden, and that wouldn’t make Gray happy.

    Theran scratched his head and resisted the temptation to pull out some hair. “Look, it’s like this. Gray is putting together a surprise for you, and my part of the task is to keep you occupied for a few hours.”

    Her face tightened, the pleasure of learning Gray was planning a surprise gone before it had been fully realized. She took a step back.

    He almost asked why she was acting that way when he considered what he’d said and where they were.

    “Not that way,” he growled.

    “That’s good, because the sun will shine in Hell before that happens.”

    She didn’t need to be so vehement about it. He gave a good accounting of himself in bed.

    He bristled. Before he said something about the amount of work a man had to do in bed being in direct proportion to the attractiveness of his partner, he remembered why he’d come to Cassidy’s suite to begin with.

    “I thought we could go into town—not for an official visit or anything like that, but to . . . I don’t know . . . shop . . . or whatever females do.”

    “ ‘Whatever females do’? Haven’t you ever spent an afternoon with a girl when you didn’t want sex?”

    His temper slipped the leash, and he didn’t try very hard to rein it in. “I grew up in the rogue camps in the Tamanara Mountains, not in some comfortable village where girls flirt with boys in order to have a packhorse for the afternoon’s shopping.”

    “Girls don’t need packhorses, you brainless ass,” Cassidy snapped. “We’re perfectly capable of carrying our own packages. You’d know that if you spent any time talking to women.”

    “There weren’t many women in those camps, and there certainly weren’t fancy shops. We were there to fight, to protect Dena Nehele, to escape being enslaved by a Ring of Obedience and made useless to our people. So I don’t have town manners, Lady. I didn’t need them in the mountains, and Talon didn’t waste time teaching me anything I didn’t need.”

    He saw her effort to pull back, to assess. And he saw something he hadn’t expected—and didn’t want: pity.

    “My apologies, Prince Theran,” Cassidy said quietly. “I didn’t realize you had such a difficult life.”

    “I had a good life,” Theran snapped. “I survived. A lot of men didn’t.”

    He took a mental step back, regaining control of his temper with effort. They didn’t like each other. So be it. He didn’t care if she understood him. Gray was stupid in love with her, and there was nothing he could do about it. He had to tolerate her as best he could because Gray and that damn contract with Sadi chained him to her.

    “Are we going to town or not?” he asked.

    Cassidy looked away. “Yes. Give me a few minutes to change clothes.”

    “I’ll get the pony cart and meet you at the front door.” Because he needed air and open space.

    Because standing here in her suite, he had the odd sense that something delicate was being weighed down by their words and feelings—and was about to break.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire