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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(47) by Anne Bishop
  • “Warlords would be good,” Cassidy muttered. Her four months in the Dark Court had shown her the advantages—and disadvantages—of having so many dominating males working together. Warlords didn’t tend to argue as much about everything. Of course, the Warlord Princes in the Dark Court didn’t exactly argue. They just set their heels down and didn’t budge from their opinion.

    “Oh, one other thing about Warlord Princes,” Jaenelle said just before they rejoined the men. “The ones that belong to you will want to sniff your neck. Don’t make a fuss about it.”

    “Sniff my neck?” Cassidy muttered, turning away from the window when someone knocked on the door. “Come in.”

    Birdie, the maid assigned to clean her suite, entered with a hesitant smile and a breakfast tray.

    “Good morning, Lady Cassidy,” Birdie said. “The Warlord Princes are gathering to meet you, so Maydra—she’s the cook—thought you might like to have your breakfast in peace. And thought you might be feeling a bit nervous in the stomach.”

    An undercurrent of fear beneath the words.

    She’d been tired last night, and distressed by Theran’s attitude toward her as well as by some of the things Jaenelle had said, but now that she thought about it, that same undercurrent had been in Dryden, the butler, and Elle, the housekeeper, as well. They had been hired because they had experience working around a Queen’s court, but they, and the other servants, were all afraid.

    What had those other Queens done to these people?

    Hell’s fire, Cassidy. Those Queens were killed by the storm Witch had unleashed. That should tell you something.

    “Put the tray over there,” Cassidy said. Following Birdie to the little table, she lifted the cover off the dish. Scrambled eggs and buttered toast. A little serving dish of fruit jam. A small pot of coffee, with cream and sugar on the side.

    “Thank you,” Cassidy said. “That looks lovely. And please thank Maydra as well. This is exactly the kind of breakfast I need this morning.”

    “She’ll be relieved to hear it,” Birdie said. “Elle says we’ll be turning out your rooms for a proper cleaning while you’re selecting the men for your court.”

    If Jaenelle was right about how a court usually formed around a Queen, the selecting might not take as much time as everyone thought. Well, there would be plenty of other things to do that would keep her out of the servants’ way for a few hours.

    Suspecting this would be the last bit of solitude she would have for most of the day, Cassidy sat down to eat a quiet breakfast.

    Then a thought made her snort. She clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from spraying toast crumbs all over the table.

    Theran Grayhaven would never be hers, but she wasn’t the one who would spend the next year on the receiving end of Vae’s attention.

    *Theran? Theran! Those males are not herding properly. They are supposed to stay in this room to see the Queen. I will fetch them.*

    “You don’t need—”

    Why bother? Theran thought as Vae jumped off the platform that had been constructed for Lady Cassidy’s audiences. The little bitch didn’t listen to anything he said anyway, although she had plenty to say to him.

    Of course, since the other men weren’t being held responsible for the dog’s welfare, they had no reason to pay attention to her.

    But they were paying attention. Hard not to when a dog was standing on air so that she could bark in a man’s face. And she wasn’t floating at a height where she could nip at their heels, but was in a position to nip someone’s ass.

    Vae charged around the room, nipping and barking and issuing orders.

    *Come back here! It is time to meet the Queen! You there! Stop! Stubborn sheep.*

    The men in the room moved closer to the platform. The ones who had been wandering returned, curious about what was causing so much commotion. Some of the men looked amused; some looked a little pissed off and were, no doubt, wondering what kind of trick he might be playing.

    No question Ranon was more pissed off than amused. The Shalador Warlord Prince worked his way closer to the platform, gave the dog, who was now floating in front of him, a pointed look, then said, “Grayhaven, what is this?”

    I am Vae. I am a Sceltie. I am kindred. I am a witch. I know my Craft. You are male and foolish. And human.*

    Ranon blinked. “A witch? She’s a witch? That’s really a Purple Dusk Jewel?”

    *Yes,* Vae replied before Theran could respond. *It is my Birthright Jewel. When I am older, I will make the Offering to the Darkness and get my other Jewel. I am going to help the Queen train her males. Especially Theran. It is time.*

    Vae spun around and whapped Ranon in the face with her tail. *Theran? Theran! Go fetch the Queen.*

    “Yeah, Theran,” Ranon said, stepping back to avoid being whapped in the face again. “Go fetch.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire