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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(60) by Anne Bishop
  • She wanted to like him, if for no better reason than he was her First Escort and that required them to work closely. But as she walked to her suite, she wondered if it was worth the effort to try to like a man who was making it more clear every day that he didn’t like her.

    Bitch.

    Theran stared at the gardens, at the plot of ground that was noticeably cleaner, and at his cousin who was still out there, sweating too hard over some damn patch of dirt. A wrong move when the back muscles were tight and tired and Gray would be down for days, sedated to quiet the pain.

    But Cassidy had to have her ground cleared instead of focusing on what needed to be done, so Gray was out there working too long and too hard.

    Damn her. Why couldn’t she leave the boy alone?

    He’d done his best to keep her occupied, to pile up the work until she didn’t have a minute to think about playing with Gray and pushing the boy to tidy up the posies. But he hadn’t gotten to her room fast enough this morning to stop her, hadn’t even known she’d left her rooms until he’d knocked on her door to find out when she planned to get to work and Birdie had told him she was already gone.

    Gone. Yeah, she was gone. And how long would it be before she got tired of watching Gray dig up weeds and figured out something else she could do with him?

    Not going to happen, Theran thought as he went back into the house. He and Gray were the same height, the same build. They both had dark hair and green eyes. The women he’d bedded had considered him a good-looking man and skilled enough to be welcomed back for a second night.

    He didn’t want Cassidy. Who would? But her voice was the kind that could heat a man’s blood—as long as he didn’t have to look at her face.

    So he’d do his duty to court and family—and give Lady Cassidy enough reasons not to give Gray another thought.

    Theran couldn’t put off the unpalatable duty any longer. Cassidy had retired to her suite, and the First Circle was ready to have an hour or two without dancing for the Queen’s pleasure. Not that there had been any dancing. Or much of anything else once they had gathered in this sitting room after dinner.

    Picking up the shawl Cassidy had left behind, he smiled at the other men and started to open the sitting room door. “Guess this is my signal.”

    Startled silence.

    “Meaning what?” Ranon asked, sitting up straighter in his chair.

    “You know.”

    “I thought that duty wasn’t required of a First Escort,” Talon said.

    Theran shrugged. “Not required, but it can be requested.”

    He wasn’t sure about that. Wasn’t sure if offering wasn’t crossing some line according to those books of Protocol Cassidy had brought with her. But he figured a woman who hadn’t gotten a ride for a few days wasn’t going to turn down an offer, even if it wasn’t strictly following the damn rules.

    “Theran,” Ranon said, sounding concerned. “Are you sure about this?”

    He wasn’t sure about anything except that he had to do something to keep Gray safe. He smiled again. “I can fulfill my duties to the Queen. When it comes right down to it, all women look the same in the dark.”

    A rustle of material outside the room, but no one was there when he opened the door.

    Hell’s fire. Had a maid been standing there eavesdropping? Didn’t matter.

    He took his time walking up to that wing of the house, but he still arrived at Cassidy’s door much too soon. He knocked twice, and when she finally opened the door, he noticed that the spots on her face seemed to be popping out of her pale skin more than usual.

    “Is something wrong?” he asked.

    She just stared at him.

    “You left your shawl down in the sitting room.”

    No response.

    “May I come in?”

    “No.” Hoarsely spoken, as if she was fighting back some strong emotion.

    “Lady?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire