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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Shadow Queen (Chapter 18)      Page
  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(18) by Anne Bishop
  • “Theran.”

    He let go of his hair and gripped the chair’s arms again. “All right, we do have some Queens. But they’re old women. Or they’re little girls who are too young to deal with grown men, especially men as volatile as Warlord Princes. And there are a handful of adolescent Queens, but they’re already starting to act like the Queens we’re finally free of, and there’s been some muttering that the Warlord Princes would rather kill them than let a bitch become old enough to rule. If those girls act like the previous Queens and we accept them, we’ve won nothing. All the blood that was shed and the people who were lost would have been for nothing.”

    When Daemon didn’t respond, Theran plunged on with the shining coin of hope that Talon had given him. “When Jared was an old man, dying from the wounds of his last fight, he told a trusted friend this one thing. He said, ‘If the need is great and nothing the family can do on its own will help Dena Nehele survive, find Daemon Sadi. Ask him for help. But only once.’ ” Theran closed his eyes for a moment. “Those were the last words Jared spoke. Well, we did all we could. We fought and we bled and we watched our people drown in the filth of Hayll. And now I’m the last one left. The last one. So I’m here, asking for help.”

    A long silence, interrupted by a knock on the door. All the items on the desk vanished, replaced by a woven mat as Beale brought in a large tray and set it in the center of the desk.

    “Thank you, Beale,” Daemon said.

    After Beale left the room, Daemon poured coffee for both of them, then leaned back in his chair, ignoring the thin sandwiches and nutcakes that were also on the tray.

    “You say you need a Queen,” Daemon said. “What, exactly, are you looking for?”

    Theran took a sip of coffee to wet his suddenly dry throat, then took a deep breath—and told him.

    Dinner was over; the strained effort to be a courteous and entertaining host was finished—at least for tonight.

    Daemon stood in front of the dresser in the Consort’s suite and stared into the mirror.

    “You’ve had worse days, old son,” he told his reflection. “You know you’ve had worse days.”

    But being pummeled by Theran’s words had made him feel soiled and weary, and listening to that particular blend of hope and despair had stirred up memories until they swelled and burst in his mind like pus coming out of a wound gone septic.

    He’d heard it before. Heard it for centuries. He’d watched young men grow old and break under that blend of hope and despair.

    It didn’t help that Theran looked so much like Jared, as if all the generations in between had been erased. But Theran wasn’t Jared, and there was some internal difference that Daemon recognized but couldn’t name—and that difference was the reason he had considered Jared a friend and would never consider Theran as more than an acquaintance. Nothing indicated he wasn’t a good man committed to helping his people, but . . .

    A knock on the door that connected his bedroom with Jaenelle’s. “Come,” he said, turning away from the mirror.

    She came in, wearing a silky sapphire robe.

    His stomach clenched. He’d been the one who had hinted this afternoon—shit, more than hinted—that he was interested in sex tonight. But that was before he’d talked to Theran, before the barbs of memories had hooked into his mind and heart. Now he hoped she was too tired to want more than a cuddle.

    “You didn’t want to talk about it before dinner,” Jaenelle said, “but I need to know what sort of favor Theran wants.” She stretched out on the bed, propped her head in one hand, and studied him. “Daemon, do you feel all right?”

    “I’m fine.” He wasn’t fine, he was nowhere close to fine, and he needed to tell her that instead of trying to hide it.

    Talk. She wanted to talk. That, at least, he could do.

    He removed his wallet from the inside pocket of his black jacket and dropped it on the dresser before he shrugged out of the jacket and hung it on the clothes stand so that his valet could decide if it needed to be cleaned, pressed, or simply aired. He’d done without a personal valet for a lot of years, and there were times when he missed the independence of having his wardrobe be his. On the other hand, Jazen managed to keep his favorite shirts hidden, leaving others out as bait when Jaenelle went foraging in his closet. For that reason alone he was willing to follow his valet’s rules about where to leave the clothing that had been worn.

    “Theran wants my help to convince a Queen from Kaeleer to go to Terreille and rule Dena Nehele,” Daemon said, returning to the dresser. He positioned himself in the mirror so that he could see Jaenelle’s face, but his own reflection hid the rest of her.

    She’d sat on the bed dozens of times, talking to him while he got undressed, before they both retired to her bedroom. Their bedroom, since he used this room only when she wasn’t home. But tonight it bothered him, scratched on his skin. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Scraping at those pus-filled wounds.

    “Say that again,” Jaenelle said.

    “Dena Nehele needs a Queen who knows what it means to be a Queen, who knows Protocol and remembers the Blood’s code of honor. Who knows how to live by the Old Ways.”

    “And if he doesn’t find a Queen like that?”

    Daemon sighed. “If he doesn’t, I think what’s left of two races—Dena Nehele and Shalador—will wither and die.”

    He slipped his hands in his trouser pockets, then called in some coins to provide an excuse for why he was still standing at the dresser, emptying his pockets, and delaying the moment when he had to tell her he was too churned up to be of use to her.

    “What did you tell him?” Jaenelle asked.

    “I told him I’d think about it.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire