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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Shadow Queen (Chapter 56)      Page
  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(56) by Anne Bishop
  • She knew what it signified when someone wasn’t usually available before sunset. So she knew what these men were waiting for.

    He arrived within minutes after the sun had gone down, too soon to have taken care of his own needs. An older man, maimed by battles. Sapphire Jewel, which made him the dominant male. But it was more than that. As she watched him approach, she also watched the other men and had a flash of insight gleaned from her months in the Dark Court. She’d seen the men in that First Circle, including her cousin Aaron, step aside for Andulvar Yaslana with the same respect the men in this room were showing this demon-dead Warlord Prince. He had trained them, had been an honorary uncle or a surrogate father to many of them.

    They had survived because of what he’d taught them.

    He looked straight ahead while he walked the length of the room, finally looking at her when he reached the edge of the platform.

    She felt the punch of that connection—and felt the same wariness she saw in his eyes. He hadn’t expected to feel that pull. Neither had she. She would have accepted him into the First Circle because of the feelings she was sensing from her other males, but she hadn’t expected him to belong to her.

    She watched him climb the stairs, then rose when he approached the table.

    Protocol. Her insides were quivering because he was, without question, the most dangerous man in the room. But she knew the words and the rituals, not just for dealing with a Warlord Prince, but for dealing with the demon-dead.

    “Prince,” she said.

    “Lady.” He tipped his head in a slight bow. “I am Talon.” His eyes narrowed as he studied her face. “Do you know what I am?”

    She smiled slightly. “My Master of the Guard.”

    He couldn’t hide his surprise. “I am honored, Lady, but that wasn’t what I meant.”

    “You’re demon-dead. I’m aware of that.”

    “That doesn’t bother you?”

    “Why should it?” She saw a heat in Talon’s eyes. A hunger. That was a danger with having one of the demon-dead walking among the living. “Prince Theran, would you bring in a bottle of yarbarah? I’m sure Prince Talon would appreciate a glass.”

    “A bottle of what?” Theran asked.

    Cassidy frowned at Theran. “Yarbarah. The blood wine.”

    Blank expression. And Talon’s expression was equally blank.

    Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful.

    “You’re unfamiliar with that particular vintage?” Cassidy asked Talon.

    “Can’t say I’ve heard of it,” he replied warily.

    “Well, then.” What had he been consuming if he didn’t know about yarbarah?

    Best not to think about that because she was certain that whatever had been given had not been given according to the Protocol and rituals that had been created for transactions between the living and the demon-dead.

    She called in the simple wooden box her father had made for the gift the High Lord had given her when she’d finished her apprenticeship in the Dark Court. Pressing the two spots on the sides to release the latches, she removed the cover, revealing the small silver cup and silver-handled knife. She set the cup on the table, pushed up her left sleeve, and, before anyone knew for certain what she intended, picked up the knife and opened a vein in her wrist.

    A wash of sounds and protests was drowned out by the snarl of a Sceltie who knew her Craft.

    *Stay!* Vae growled. *This is ceremony!*

    Ceremony. Ritual. Sometimes formal, sometimes casual, but always, always precise in the intention.

    As soon as the cup was filled, she turned the blade of the knife flat against her wrist, hiding the wound as she used the Healing Craft she’d been taught to seal this kind of cut.

    Setting the knife on the table, she held out the cup to Talon. “Freely offered,” she said, knowing every man in the room would remember the words. “Freely taken.”

    Talon hesitated, then took the cup, his hunger apparent in his face. “You honor me, Lady.”

    Two swallows. That was all the cup held. But blood freely offered had a different flavor from blood that was soured by fear.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire