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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(53) by Anne Bishop
  • She called in her gardening hat and plunked it on her head. It was a simple straw hat with a wide brim that kept the sun off her face and neck.

    Gray didn’t laugh, but his smile kept getting wider and wider as he studied her hat.

    “Why does it have a chunk missing from one side?” he asked.

    “Because my brother was teasing me last summer and holding it behind his back—and didn’t notice when the goat snuck up behind him and took a bite out of it.”

    His smile got even wider. “Shouldn’t it have ribbons?”

    “I use Craft to keep it in place.”

    Nodding, and still smiling, he handed her one of the short-handled claws. “I’ll show you what doesn’t belong in this garden.”

    Where in the name of Hell did she go? Theran scanned the weed-tangled mess of raised beds that framed a terrace before he headed for the rest of the formal gardens.

    She’d said she wanted a little air and would be back shortly. That had been over an hour ago. A meal, and the men, were waiting for her return so they could get on with the rest of these meetings.

    Considering how bad everything looked, what could Lady Cassidy find out here that would amuse her for so long?

    The answer punched his heart. He lengthened his stride as he headed for the big stone shed. It had held the groundskeeper’s office at one time, but had become a catchall for unwanted tools. He’d helped Gray clear out the smaller room in the shed and put in a cot, a small chest of drawers, and a bookcase.

    Gray was used to living rough. So was he. But here, with the mansion in sight, it seemed . . . meaner, coarser.

    It was all Gray could tolerate.

    If Cassidy thought she could play with a damaged man just because Gray wasn’t able to fight back, she’d find out the truth quick enough. He, Theran, wasn’t fifteen anymore, didn’t—wouldn’t—hide anymore. And Gray wasn’t standing alone anymore, facing something that terrified him.

    He spotted Gray and hurried toward his cousin, no longer caring if he found Cassidy. A wheelbarrow full of weeds was on Gray’s left and someone—he caught a glimpse of a straw hat—was on the other side of the wheelbarrow.

    “That’s called pearl of wisdom,” Gray said, pointing to a plant. “See? The flower has a sheen like the inside of a shell, and the seedpod looks like a pearl. The flower only blooms for a couple of weeks in the spring.”

    “Gray,” Theran called, wondering what servant had befriended his cousin.

    Gray looked around, a queer wariness in his eyes before he spotted Theran.

    “Theran!” he said happily.

    From the other side of the wheelbarrow, a husky voice said, “Oh, shit. Theran.”

    When she popped up, it took him a moment to recognize her. She was the only person in Dena Nehele who had red hair, but it still took him a moment to recognize her.

    Not a Queen. Despite her caste, she was not a Queen.

    “Has an hour gone by already?” Cassidy asked.

    “And then some. We’ve held the midday meal, thinking you would be back soon.” He couldn’t keep the tightness out of his voice, couldn’t even keep it on the right side of respectful.

    “My apologies, Prince Theran.” There was a tightness in her voice too as she stood up and vanished that stupid hat. “I’ll wash up and join you as soon as I can. Please tell the men not to wait for me. They shouldn’t have to eat cold food just because I lost track of the time.”

    “We live to serve,” Theran said.

    She winced and wouldn’t meet his eyes as she hurried back to the mansion.

    Theran watched her for a moment, then looked at Gray. “Are you all right?”

    That queer wariness was back in Gray’s eyes. “I’m fine.”

    What did she do to you? He couldn’t ask, but he knew something wasn’t quite right.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire