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  • Twilight's Dawn(Black Jewels,Book 9)(104) by Anne Bishop

    Surreal studied the room that would be her home for the next few weeks. The furniture was basic but in good condition, and gleamed from a fresh cleaning. Everything felt a bit rustic, but this was Dea al Mon. Could any furnishing be considered rustic when there was a tree growing through the room?

    Chaosti had told her there were a dozen homes within sight of the meadow that served as a play area for the children. She hadn’t been able to spot one of them—and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to find this one again on her own.

    Nervous butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she put her clothes away. Her mother had lived nearby in a house like this. The people who lived in the houses around this meadow came from the same clan, were kin. Even now in the heart of winter there was a sharp beauty to this place. She could picture her mother playing beneath these trees, watching the stars. Such a long way from the slums in Terreille where Titian had tried to raise a daughter and survive.

    She was looking over the selection of books she’d bought during a two-day shopping spree in Amdarh, and pondering which to read first, when Chaosti knocked on her door.

    “You’re settled in?” he asked. “Is there anything you need?”

    “Yes, I’m settled in, and no, there is nothing I need.” But you’re not settled, she added silently. “Something wrong?”

    “You’re safe here, Surreal,” he said. “Nothing will enter our land and harm you. I give you my word.”

    Mother Night. “All right. Although I will point out that I’m pretty good with a knife.”

    His lips curved in a hint of a smile. “How could you not be? You’re Titian’s daughter.” Then he sighed. “Falonar has disappeared, just vanished from the court of the Rihlander Queen he was serving. It’s thought by some that he’s gone into hiding in the Askavi mountains.”

    “If that is what people think, then it must be true,” Surreal said.

    Chaosti studied her. “And what do you think, cousin?”

    “I think that just as I am Titian’s daughter, Daemon Sadi is his father’s son.”

    Chaosti’s eyes filled with understanding. “I see. Something understood among the family but unspoken?”

    “Yes.” Although if she ever felt ballsy enough, someday she might ask Daemon if Falonar was still a threat to anyone. Problem was, anyone who asked the question would most likely receive the answer from the Sadist—and regret it.

    But maybe someday.

    “So whatever business you brought from Ebon Rih is finished now?” he asked.

    “It’s finished.”

    Chaosti held out a hand. “In that case, cousin, Grandmammy Teele is waiting to meet you.”


    Ten years later . . .


    Pulling the collar up around her ears, Sylvia added more power to the warming spell in her coat as she followed another path through her hosts’ gardens. She needed the crisp night air and the silence. More, she needed to be away from her hosts. Was her uneasiness due to staying at an estate that bordered the Territory called Little Terreille, or was there a tangible reason she wanted to grab her sons and Tildee, catch the Winds, and flee?

    Remembering the cloying, desperate civility that had surrounded her at the dinner table, she used Craft to put a shield around herself under her clothes—a subtle precaution that made her feel better. And because having that much protection did make her feel better, she stopped trying to rationalize her feelings.

    There was something wrong with this place, with this family, maybe with the whole damn village.

    Her son Beron had reached the age where he was allowed to attend house parties in order to become acquainted with youngsters beyond his home village. At one of those parties he had struck up a friendship with Haeze, a Warlord his own age, and had asked if his new friend could spend a few days with them at the end of Winsol. Her father had chaperoned Beron to that particular party and had voiced no objection to Haeze, so she agreed.

    Haeze had been staggered by the proximity of Beron’s home to SaDiablo Hall—and even more staggered when the boys passed the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan on the street and Daemon stopped to talk to them, making it clear he took a personal interest in young Lord Beron. Add to that a couple of weapons lessons from Prince Yaslana and Haeze’s first encounter with a kindred Sceltie, and she’d seen the impact that a few days with them had on the boy. By the end of the visit, Haeze had sounded more confident and carried himself with an assurance that had been hidden by his initial shyness.

    A few weeks later, Haeze extended an invitation to Beron to visit his family’s estate. Sylvia would have asked a Warlord from her Second or Third Circle to stand escort for the short visit, but the invitation had included her other son, Mikal, claiming that Haeze’s younger brother was eager to become acquainted. Making connections was an intrinsic part of the Blood’s society, not just for friendships in general, but for the kind of association that could eventually provide a young man with the opportunity to train in a specific court.

    This house party hadn’t sounded like it would be any different from others Beron had attended, except that the invitation hadn’t included her, and it should have if a boy Mikal’s age was going to be visiting a family who was unknown to her. That had scratched her sense of propriety enough that she had declined the invitation on her sons’ behalf.

    The next invitation from Haeze’s family arrived shortly after that, crammed with apologies and gorged with assurances that they had meant no insult. They did not have the means to entertain a Queen, since that would mean guesting her escorts as well, and they had thought she wouldn’t want to visit their small estate simply as a mother with her sons.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire