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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(85) by Anne Bishop
  • “Theran?”

    Mother Night. Gray.

    Theran turned to find Gray standing in the other doorway—the doorway Cassidy had originally come in by. He watched, not sure if offering assistance would help or harm, as Gray walked into the room, shaking more and more with every step.

    Unable to stand it any longer, Theran covered the distance between them, oddly grateful that Ranon came with him as additional support.

    As he put his hands on Gray’s shoulders, he saw Ranon’s face tighten as the man got a look at Gray’s back.

    “She doesn’t understand,” Gray said. “That’s why she’s so mad at you.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Theran said.

    “Yes, it does. Family is important to Cassie. Family matters. That’s why she’s mad at you. She doesn’t know that it matters to you too.”

    “Gray . . .”

    “I’ll take the room, Theran. Then she won’t be mad at you anymore.”

    “You don’t have to do this. Not for her.”

    Gray gave him an odd smile. “That’s exactly why I have to do it. For her.”

    Theran stiffened at the sound of someone running. Footsteps too light to be a man’s, so who . . . ?

    Shira barreled into the room, pulled up short, and stared at Gray’s back for a long moment before she whispered, “Mother Night.”

    Theran felt a reluctant admiration for her when she quickly regained her composure and her professional attitude.

    “Would it hurt you if I touch your back?” Shira asked Gray.

    “No.” But his voice was becoming a tight whisper, a prelude to the pain that usually left him helpless.

    Gray shook, shuddered—and Theran saw the shame in his cousin’s eyes when Gray couldn’t stop himself from whimpering. Not because Shira’s light, gentle touch was hurting him, but because he was afraid of being touched by a female. Because that touch brought back too many memories.

    “We’ll start simple,” Shira finally said after her examination. “I’ve got a good, strong liniment that will help relax those tight muscles and ease the pain. And I’m recommending you take a mild sedative that will let you sleep.”

    “I have work,” Gray said, sounding too close to desperate.

    Damn the work! Theran thought.

    “Not today,” Shira said. “Today your only work is to rest and heal. If you do that, by tomorrow you and Lady Cassidy can go back to digging in the garden for an hour or so—under Vae’s supervision.”

    Despite the fact that he was still shaking, Gray tried to smile. “Vae bites.”

    “Which makes her the perfect choice for watching over the two of you,” Shira replied tartly. Then her voice softened. “Come on, now. Let’s get you settled wherever you feel comfortable. Then I can do something about the pain.”

    Gray didn’t argue when Shira led him away, his expression once more that of a docile boy.

    Theran watched Gray and Shira, ignoring the sounds of the other men leaving the room.

    “It took a lot of courage for him to walk into this house,” Ranon said.

    Theran continued to stare at that doorway, even though Shira and Gray were gone. Then he swallowed hard and said, “He’s always had courage.”

    The door of the Steward’s office was open, but Talon knocked on the wood anyway before entering.

    “You wanted to see me?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire