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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Shadow Queen (Chapter 19)      Page
  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(19) by Anne Bishop
  • “Will you?”

    “No.” When Jared had answered his summons that last time, Daemon had known Dena Nehele would fall under Dorothea’s relentless campaign to rule all of Terreille. Had he done the Shalador Warlord any favor by encouraging Jared to hold on to love for as long as possible? “The males in Kaeleer won’t tolerate one of their Queens going to Terreille.”

    A hesitation. “I know a Queen who might be willing,” Jaenelle said. “She knows Protocol, although she prefers to ignore it as much as the rest of us.”

    Daemon snorted softly as he fiddled with the coins, stacking and restacking them. The Territory Queens in Kaeleer belonged to Jaenelle’s coven. They had been her First Circle and they were still her closest friends. Thanks to Saetan, every one of them knew all the nuances of Protocol and the give-and-take of power between males and females. Thanks to their own perversity, the Ladies ignored the formality of Protocol every chance they could. And it was that blend that made them so formidable—and made them such good Queens.

    “She’s a distant cousin of Aaron’s,” Jaenelle said. “She’s a few years older than me. She’s not a close friend, but I like her. As part of her own apprenticeship, she lived at the Hall with the rest of us for four months to get ‘court polish.’ ”

    Since Jaenelle’s court had been the most informal gathering of power he’d ever seen, the humor of sending anyone there for training eased the tightness in his stomach a little. “Did she acquire any polish?”

    “She got lessons in Protocol from Papa,” Jaenelle replied. “Those will polish anybody.”

    It was easier to talk to her reflection, so he kept his back to the room while he continued to fiddle with the items on the dresser. “What will her court say about relocating to Terreille?”

    Jaenelle hesitated. “She doesn’t have a court at the moment. That’s why I think she would be willing to do this.”

    He looked at her exotically beautiful face, which only hinted at the wonderful and terrifying Self that lived beneath the human skin. She was capable of cruelty, but the cruelty was always entwined with justice.

    What had she seen in her tangled web?

    And why was the arm that had been covered by sapphire silk now bare?

    “What happened to her court?” His stomach tightened again as the edge of his temper sharpened.

    “Instead of renewing their contracts, her entire First Circle resigned, and that broke the court.”

    “Why?” he asked too softly. There were very few reasons why all the males would walk away from a Queen, and none of those reasons would help Theran or Dena Nehele.

    “You won’t like the answer.”

    He already didn’t like any of this. “Tell me.”

    Jaenelle sighed. “She wears a Rose Jewel, which makes her a minor Queen in a Territory like Dharo; she doesn’t come from an aristo family; and”—she winced—“she’s not pretty.”

    Fury rose in him, a molten ice. “That’s it? That’s all?”

    “She can’t offer flash and glitter. It’s not in her. But she’s a good, solid Queen, and she’s got the tenacity to dig in and work.”

    Daemon blew out a breath and rolled his shoulders to try to shake off some of the tension. Tried to shake off that terrible blend of hope and despair that was making it so hard to think clearly. But he’d done what he could, hadn’t he? Even now he was doing what he could. “Well, Jared will have to give up some of what he wants in order to get the rest, but—”

    “Jared?” Jaenelle asked.

    Her voice sounded oddly sharp, and that pricked his temper, honed it to a lethal edge. But he was so tired tonight. So desperately tired. Still had to play the game, though. Dorothea couldn’t prove he’d helped the Shalador Warlord, but lately the women she’d chosen to use him as a pleasure slave were an added barb of cruelty.

    “Why are we talking about Jared?”

    He turned toward the bed. “Because—”

    He slammed back against the dresser hard enough to make everything rattle. His heart hammered against his chest, and his body was suddenly—and painfully—aroused.

    There was a filthy bitch sprawled on his bed.

    She lay on her side, her head propped up on one hand, one leg forward and bent at the knee to help her balance. Nothing blatantly provocative about the position, which meant only that she was smarter than the bitches who had tried before her. She was wearing sheer white stockings that came up to midthigh. No need for a garter belt when Craft could hold the stockings in place. Above that, she was wearing a simple white shift that ended just above the stockings and was sheer enough that it didn’t hide the body beneath.

    It also didn’t hide the fact that she wasn’t wearing anything else.

    His c**k strained against his trousers, wanting to be sheathed inside her and flood her with come.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire