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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(59) by Anne Bishop
  • “Yes,” he said, glad he hadn’t smeared any more of the roll. “But it’s good,” he added quickly.

    She laughed. She had a wonderful laugh, warm and earthy. Not the bright, brittle sound of cruelty.

    “My mother and I like the jam with the eggs. My brother prefers this red sauce that’s a little spicy.”

    “That sounds better.”

    She gave him an odd look—and an even odder smile. Not bad, just odd.

    He ate his sandwich and drank his coffee, not sure what else to do.

    “You didn’t come back,” he said quietly. “I brought the barrow out for you each day, but you didn’t come back.” He’d also watered that flower bed late each night so the ground would stay rain soft and be easier for her to dig.

    “I wanted to come back, but there’s been an awful lot of work to do. All these meetings and reports . . . Every time I’ve tried to take an hour in the garden, Theran has herded me to another meeting. I think he’s spending too much time with Vae, and he’s turning into a Sceltie.”

    Gray laughed. He’d met the Sceltie and was more than willing to play a short game of fetch with her, but she did spend more time with Theran.

    Cassidy poured more coffee for both of them. “Last night I decided I can only work so long and so hard without taking some time for myself, and I can spend some time in the garden each morning before getting cleaned up for the business part of the day.”

    Gray felt light enough to float. “You’re going to come every day?”

    She nodded. “I need some time to be Cassidy before I have to be ‘the Queen.’ I know there’s so much work to be done, but I need some time in the garden. I need this time.”

    Me too.

    He set his cup back on the tray. “Then let’s not waste the time you have to be Cassidy.”

    Smiling, Cassidy headed back to the house. Her arms and shoulders were a little tired and achy, but it was a good feeling to let her body work while her mind rested. Or while her mind focused on something besides maps and lists and persuading wary men to trust her enough to give her accurate information.

    The Warlord Princes didn’t trust Queens. They needed them for themselves and for the rest of Dena Nehele, but they didn’t trust the caste of witches who had represented a brutal control for so long. Even the males who belonged to her were circling warily, and each action, each piece of information offered, was a way of testing the ground to find out what she would do, how she would respond.

    Shira too was wary, but that had to do with her being a Black Widow and coming from the Shalador reserves. She wasn’t used to being accepted.

    Were Shira and Ranon lovers? Or were they still dancing around each other?

    Not her problem—she hoped. But wouldn’t it be lovely to watch two people fall in love?

    About the only person here whom she could simply talk to was Gray, but even Gray was struggling with something whenever he was around her. At least they could talk about plants. At least there was the companionship and satisfaction of working together and seeing results.

    Hours spent poring over maps might accomplish something in the long run, but an hour spent weeding a flower bed provided results she could see.

    And Gray had provided her with something else this morning. She’d already sent her first report to Prince Sadi and a note to her mother, but now she had a reason to write to Clayton—and wouldn’t her brother be surprised at her request to send her a jar of the red sauce he liked so much?

    Her smile widened to a grin as she pictured Clayton’s face when he read the note. Yes, this morning—


    —had been a good morning. “Prince Theran.”

    “Prince Powell has been waiting to go over the reports with you.”

    “The Steward has plenty to do,” Cassidy said with stiff polite-ness. “Talking to me an hour ago or an hour from now won’t make any difference. And if I was truly needed for something immediately, I wasn’t hard to find.”

    Theran’s lips tightened, as if he was struggling to hold back words that shouldn’t be said.

    “Now if you’ll excuse me, Prince, I need to get ready for the day’s work.”

    He stepped aside, letting her pass.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire