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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(92) by Anne Bishop
  • “I guess you’ve known Cassie for a long time,” Gray said.

    “All her life,” Burle replied with an odd smile and a twinkle in his eyes.

    Fool. Idiot. Gray wanted to smack himself. Now he was tripping over his tongue as well as his feet. Could he sound any dumber? Why couldn’t he sound like Theran or Ranon or any other grown man?

    And why did it suddenly matter so much that this man didn’t look at him and see a boy easily dismissed?

    “I guess Cassie was upset about the stuff in the shed,” Gray said.

    “I didn’t see the note myself, but I gathered she was pretty riled about it,” Burle replied.

    “She didn’t need to get riled. It’s not important.”

    Burle stopped walking. “You didn’t tell her that, did you?”

    “No, sir.”And considering the way Burle looked and sounded right now, he was very glad he hadn’t said anything.

    “Smart man. When a woman’s riled up about something, the biggest mistake a man can make is telling her it’s not important. She won’t hear it the way the words are meant, and sometimes it can take a long time to mend things between a man and a woman—if they can be mended at all. If she thinks something is important, it’s best for the man to treat it as such.”

    Gray thought about that. “Because treating the thing that’s got her riled as important tells her that she’s important?”

    “That’s the way of it,” Burle agreed, continuing on to the shed.

    When they entered the shed, Gray wished he had straightened the tools, swept the floor. Something. But, Hell’s fire, he hadn’t expected Cassie’s father to show up!

    Burle pushed the old blanket aside and pursed his lips. “You gonna get a new chair to put in that corner? With a better lamp, that would give you a place to read. I’m figuring you like books, since a bookcase is one of the pieces requested.”

    “I like books, stories and such,” Gray said. “And I’m studying the Protocol books.”

    “Protocol is a good thing to know,” Burle said, nodding.

    But Gray’s thoughts had followed a different path. “You would know stories about when Cassie was little.”

    “I know stories,” Burle agreed. “Might even share a few.”

    Gray smiled. He wanted to hear those stories, wanted to share more than the now of Cassie’s life. “When I have a daughter, can I call her Kitten?”

    Burle made a strange sound. “You’re skipping a few steps in the dance, aren’t you?”

    “Huh?”

    Burle studied him a bit too long before saying, “You know how to use a hammer?”

    “Not to build things.”

    “You want to learn?”

    Gray hesitated. He did want to learn, and he wanted to spend time with Burle,who understood an important difference between a daughter and a Queen—and had shown him, and everyone else, that Cassie understood the difference. That was something the Queens who had controlled Dena Nehele before the witch storm killed them all hadn’t understood. But he didn’t want to risk what might happen if he wasn’t honest before they began.

    “I can’t work a full day,” Gray said, feeling bitter because he didn’t want to be seen as someone less. “Not yet. I was . . . tortured . . . when I was younger, and sometimes my body doesn’t work right.”

    “Your body’s not working right because you overworked it recently?” Burle asked. “That’s what you’re telling me?”

    Gray nodded, unable to look the older man in the eyes. “Shira says I can work a few hours a day, but not more than that, not yet, and Vae will get yappy about it if I try to do more. And not just yappy. Vae bites.”

    “And who might Vae be?”

    “She’s a Sceltie.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire