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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(51) by Anne Bishop
  • He stopped at the sound of her voice, shifting his weight from one foot to another, not sure if he should get closer or step back.

    “I’m Gray,” he finally said, taking another step toward her.

    His eyes roamed her face. When he got close enough, he reached out, almost touching her cheek. Then he snatched his hand back, like a boy who had almost touched the forbidden.

    Wondering what he saw that baffled and intrigued him so much, she touched her cheek to see if something was on her skin.

    Oh. She wrinkled her nose. “You’ve never seen freckles?”

    “Freckles.” He said the word softly, as if it were a fragile gift. “Are they just on your face?”

    She knew her cheeks flamed with color. She also knew that, despite the man’s body, it was a boy asking out of curiosity. Still . . .

    “I don’t know you well enough to answer that.”

    He nodded, accepting.

    He was half a head taller than she, if that. It would have been easy enough to look him in the eyes if his own weren’t so busy roaming over her face.

    “Did you come out to look at the gardens?” she asked.

    He cringed, as if she had scolded him for doing something wrong.

    “I tend the gardens. It’s my job now. I don’t stay in the big house. I’m not in the way.”

    Who said you were in the way?

    His voice had risen to a kind of desperate keening and he looked ready to bolt, so she turned toward what might have been a flower bed at one time. “Well, you’ve certainly got enough work. This land hasn’t been loved in a long time.”

    Something changed so suddenly, she gasped in response to that flash of strong emotion. She couldn’t decipher the look in Gray’s eyes, couldn’t get a feel for where he was now, mentally or emotionally. Which wasn’t good because even if he was diminished in some way, he was still a Warlord Prince and he outranked her. She couldn’t tell if the Purple Dusk power she was sensing was from his Birthright Jewel or his Jewel of rank, but either way, it was darker than her Rose.

    And then, oddly, she had the feeling that some broken piece inside him suddenly settled back into its rightful place.

    A moment after that, it was as if nothing had happened. Except that Gray seemed a little less like a boy.

    “No, it hasn’t been loved for a long time,” he said.

    Too many feelings. She’d come out here to walk and get away from all the feelings, to do something to settle herself before she went back to the next group of males who would be disappointed in the chosen Queen.

    “Do you have a basket or a wheelbarrow?” she asked.

    “We have both.”

    “Good. I have an hour before the next meeting, so that’s enough time to clear a bit of ground.”

    “Clear ground?”

    “Weed the flower bed.”

    His eyes widened. “You can’t weed.”

    “Yes, I can.”

    “But . . . you’re the Queen.”

    “Yes.”

    He rocked back on his heels, clearly at a loss.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire