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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(146) by Anne Bishop
  • I survived. A lot of men didn’t.

    The words circled round and round in her mind.

    Cassidy didn’t want to get into a serious discussion, and Theran’s stiff posture as he drove the pony cart into town didn’t invite small talk. So she kept silent and absorbed the look and feel of the land during the short ride into town.

    I survived. A lot of men didn’t.

    Those few words told her more about Theran Grayhaven than she’d learned in the past few weeks.

    No, he didn’t want pity. He wasn’t the only boy who had been taken into the mountains to be trained to fight. He wasn’t the only boy who had been hidden from the Queens who had been corrupted by Dorothea SaDiablo. And there had been other boys who had suffered far more than he had.

    Gray, for instance.

    But she saw his quest for a Queen differently because of those words. It hadn’t been as simple as having a Queen who knew Protocol and the Old Ways of the Blood. It had been about having a Queen who could dazzle, who could restore the heart in men weary of fighting—men who might be asked to fight some more in order to restore Dena Nehele and then keep it safe from the Blood in the rest of Terreille.

    The Queen was the heart of a land, its moral center.

    Theran had needed a heart he could believe in without reservation. He hadn’t found that. Not in her.

    That was something she was going to have to think about. But not today. Today she would be a visitor from Kaeleer who was being given a tour of her host’s home village. Today she would be Cassidy instead of a Queen.

    Tomorrow was soon enough to think about who she would be in the days ahead.

    As they entered the town of Grayhaven, she reviewed a mental list of what she could use against what she could shop for with a man trailing along. Yesterday she would have dragged Theran into shops that were bound to make most men uncomfortable. Now she considered which kinds of places her brother, Clayton, had gone into without balking; she figured those probably wouldn’t discomfort Theran either.

    “Any particular place you want to go?” Theran asked, sounding like he’d bitten into something sour.

    “Like tends to gather with like, so every town has communities. I would like to ride through the town and see as much of it as possible, but, for now, I’d like to see the shops where the court usually makes purchases.”

    She’d made an effort to keep her tone “interested visitor” instead of Queen. He eyed her for a moment, as if he knew something had changed, but he wasn’t sure what.

    “All right,” he finally said.

    The shopping district had several carriage parks—plots of land where conveyances could be left while people were going about their business. Each park had a couple of youths who kept an eye on the horses and would even deliver a carriage if its owner didn’t want to walk back and claim it.

    Since that took care of the pony cart, Cassidy was quick to suggest walking and wondered why Theran hesitated.

    She didn’t wonder long. The men who recognized Theran nodded in greeting, then jolted when they saw her and realized who she must be.

    “I gather the Blood here don’t make a distinction between a formal and informal visit?” Cassidy asked, stopping in front of a shop window. She wasn’t paying attention to the merchandise; she just wanted a moment to ask Theran about this behavior.

    Which was when she focused on a movement close to the window and caught a glimpse of the proprietor’s face before the man rabbited out of sight.

    Theran placed a hand on her elbow and tugged her away from the window.

    “What . . . ?”

    “That particular shop caters to men.”

    “So?”

    “Let’s just say you were staring at things that most ladies pretend don’t exist.”

    Which made her sorry she hadn’t been paying attention, because she had no idea what he was talking about—and she was certain he wouldn’t let her go back and look.

    “What distinction?” Theran asked.

    “What was in that window?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire