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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(44) by Anne Bishop
  • *Hi,Theran! Hi!*

    Vae bounced in front of him, doing her happy dance.

    *I have my special brushes, so you can brush me properly. And the clippers for my nails. Do you have Healers for kindred? In Scelt we have Healers for kindred. They heal other animals too, but they trained to take care of us. Maybe one of them will have to come and teach your Healer how to properly clip nails.*

    He’d fought. He’d proved his worth as a leader. He wore a Green Jewel. He was the dominant living male in Dena Nehele.

    And every time he was around these people, he seemed to stand there with his mouth hanging open while they ran right over him.

    *I will tell Jaenelle you are here,Vae said. *She and the new Queen are doing fussing things. You cannot eat until they are done doing the fussing things.*

    He waited until he was sure the Sceltie was out of the room and out of hearing. Then he turned to Daemon and said, “No. The dog is not coming with us.”

    “Yes, she is,” Daemon said in a voice that was pleasant in a way that liquefied the bones in Theran’s legs—and not in a good way. “She knows Craft, which she will not hesitate to tell you, and she knows Protocol, which she will not hesitate to tell you. And she’s decided to go with you.”

    “What will it take to keep her here?” Theran asked.

    “A lot more than you can afford. Accept it, Prince. You’re taking the Sceltie. Or you’re leaving without a Queen.”

    “That’s blackmail!”

    “Oooooh, that’s a harsh word.” Daemon smiled. “But I won’t quibble about it.”

    “I suppose you want a report on her too,” Theran said, not bothering to hide the bitterness he and the other Warlord Princes felt about these reports. They were too close a reminder of the “reports” that had been sent to Dorothea SaDiablo—and the people who had disappeared one night after those reports were sent.

    “No, that isn’t required,” Daemon said, “but Vae has worked out how you’ll do it.”

    “How I’ll—”

    “You’ll need to remember the basin of warm water so that you can clean the ink off her paw after she’s told you what to write and puts her mark on the bottom of the page.”

    “After she—” He gave up trying to form words and just sputtered. He’d avoided capture, avoided being leashed, avoided every damn snare that had been set for him, only to find himself chained to a dog.

    “Which side of the triangle are you taking?” Daemon asked.

    As a change of topic, it wasn’t any better. He felt some bitterness about that too. “First Escort.” No one else had been willing to do it. A few of the Warlord Princes had offered to fill the position of Master of the Guard, but they still hadn’t found anyone willing to be the Steward either. He’d considered it, but he would have hated being stuck behind a desk, and as Talon had pointed out, since he was being held personally responsible for this new Queen’s well-being, First Escort was really the only choice.

    Then Jaenelle Angelline walked into the room, followed by another woman, and Theran’s first thought was, Thank the Darkness I don’t have to bed her.

    His second thought was he was mistaken—this large-boned, gawky female with the awful red hair and spots on her face must be a companion or servant for Lady Angelline. If it weren’t for the Rose Jewel she was wearing and the fact that she was here, he would have thought she was a hefty farm girl, all right for a bit of relief—as long as the barn was dark enough—but no one he would consider otherwise.

    Mother Night!

    Her psychic scent, masked by the power all around him since the High Lord walked into the room behind the women, hit him a moment later.

    Queen.

    No!

    “Prince Theran Grayhaven,” Jaenelle said, “this is Lady Cassidy, the Queen who has consented to rule Dena Nehele. Cassidy, this is Theran Grayhaven”—she glanced at Daemon and her voice took on a strange, sharp edge—“who has offered to stand as First Escort, if he is acceptable to you.”

    “Prince Grayhaven honors me.”

    She sounded sincere enough, but he couldn’t read any emotion on that plain face.

    “Shall we go in to dinner?” Saetan asked, stepping to one side.

    Lady Cassidy hurried out of the room with Jaenelle right behind her. When the High Lord walked out of the room, the door began to close.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire