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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Twilight's Dawn (Chapter 33)      Page
  • Twilight's Dawn(Black Jewels,Book 9)(33) by Anne Bishop
  • Saetan blinked. He’d used that same lock on his sons’ gifts when they were young. It used to take Daemon less than five minutes to unravel the thing.

    Winsol gifts weren’t just found in the boxes. They were the moments, and memories, treasured by the heart. Like this one.

    He tried to swallow the butterflies tickling his throat. Seeing the look on Daemon’s face, he tried hard.

    Then he gave up, plopped back on the pillows—and laughed.

    SHADES OF HONOR

    This story takes place before the events in The Shadow Queen.

    ONE

    Prince Falonar stood outside his eyrie, restlessly opening and closing his dark, membranous wings as he stared down at the village of

    Riada. Within minutes of her arrival, he’d felt Gray-Jeweled power ripple through the village and up the mountains like a challenge—or a warning.

    Surreal SaDiablo had returned to Ebon Rih.

    He had made two mistakes when he came to Kaeleer two years ago. The first was agreeing to serve Lucivar Yaslana, whom he’d despised from the moment they’d met as boys training in the same hunting camp. He’d thought he could swallow taking Lucivar’s orders for five years in exchange for living in Ebon Rih and being in a position to catch the attention of the Queen of Ebon Askavi. He’d been confident that she would see the value of having a true aristo Eyrien Warlord Prince in her First Circle and take over his service contract. Serving in the same court as Yaslana would have rubbed him a bit raw, but he would have accepted having to treat Lucivar as an equal—at least until he could persuade the Queen to find another way for Lucivar to serve her that would keep the man away from Askavi, leaving the Eyriens free to live without the constant embarrassment of acknowledging a half-breed bastard. Whether Yaslana’s Hayllian father acknowledged him now or not, Lucivar would always be a bastard with no standing in Eyrien society. And nothing would change the fact that Lucivar was a half-breed, and being a half-breed was, in many ways, even worse than being a bastard.

    Desperate to find a position in Kaeleer and avoid being sent back to Terreille, Falonar had signed the five-year service contract, gambling that he wouldn’t be under Lucivar’s control for most of it. But the following spring, Witch had unleashed her power to purge the Realms of Dorothea and Hekatah SaDiablo’s taint, and she’d been injured so severely by the backlash of her own power that she was no longer capable of ruling Ebon Askavi. That left Falonar with the choice of bending to Lucivar’s will for the full term of the contract or being tossed back to Terreille, where he had no future of any kind.

    His second mistake had been responding to Surreal’s initial interest in him—and his interest in her—and having sex with her. Oh, she was terrific in bed—strong and experienced and so knowledgeable when it came to playing with a man’s body to give him the sharpest release. She was worth every gold mark she’d charged as a whore in Terreille, and he’d had her for the asking. She had also been a sharp, interesting companion outside of bed—when she wasn’t trying to acquire skills that should be kept exclusive to warriors.

    Except the sex hadn’t been as free as he’d thought. At least, not after they came to Ebon Rih and he’d invited her to stay with him in his eyrie. He had been thinking of the relief of having as much sex as he wanted with a woman strong enough to handle being with a Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince. But he hadn’t considered that the SaDiablos, by allowing Surreal to use the family name, really would think of her as family. In Terreille, that was something no true aristo family would have done, because no matter how skilled she was and how exclusive the Red Moon houses were where she had plied those skills, the fact was that Surreal was still a half-breed whore who had started her career in dark alleys and dirty rooms.

    Unfortunately, he had realized too late that even whores could have unrealistic romantic notions. About the time he wanted Surreal to find other accommodations, leaving him free to express his interest in Nurian, the Eyrien Healer, he discovered that Surreal thought they were a step away from a handfast—and that Lucivar thought the same thing. As much as he’d enjoyed her, he wasn’t about to make any commitment to a woman who wasn’t Eyrien, let alone a woman who’d seen so many balls she was now trying to grow a pair of her own.

    In the end, Surreal had packed up and left, and Lucivar’s civility toward him had developed a sharp edge because of her hurt feelings. No doubt that edge would get sharper now that she was going to be in front of both of them again.

    And that other Warlord Prince. The crippled one. Hell’s fire. What was the point of bringing that one to Ebon Rih to train with Eyrien warriors?

    Which only confirmed what he’d suspected all along—Lucivar Yaslana might be Eyrien in looks, and definitely had the skills of an Eyrien warrior when he stepped onto a killing field, but he wasn’t, at heart, an Eyrien. As long as Lucivar controlled Ebon Rih, the Eyriens trying to build a life here and retain their heritage and culture were going to suffer.

    Unfortunately, for now, there was nothing Falonar could do about that except hide how much he was choking on that bitter truth.

    Surreal walked into the room that would be her home for the next few weeks and looked around. The furniture was basic but in good condition, and gleamed from a fresh cleaning. Everything felt a bit rustic, but that was in keeping with the rest of The Tavern. It wouldn’t suit an aristo prick who thought his farts didn’t smell, but she found nothing to complain about.

    “We’re nothing fancy,” Merry said as she hovered just inside the room. “I know we call the place a tavern and inn, but we’re really a tavern with a handful of rooms we converted because we had the space. There are two nice boardinghouses here in Riada, and a couple of fancier inns on the aristo side of the village.”

    Surreal studied the other woman, making note of the nerves. She’d had a passing acquaintance with Merry and Briggs during her previous stay in Ebon Rih, but she hadn’t gotten to know the owners of The Tavern because she had been living with Falonar. Merry and Briggs, and their establishment, were too common for a man like Falonar, especially since he thought being Lucivar’s second-in-command was a reason to act even more aristo than the aristos in Riada.

    Since Merry didn’t know her either except in passing, why was the woman so nervous? Maybe the Rihlander had heard about Surreal’s former professions and didn’t want to rent a room to a whore—or an assassin? If that was the case, she wanted to know before she unpacked her trunks.

    “Do you have a problem with me staying here?” Surreal asked.

    “Oh, no,” Merry replied quickly. “I just wanted you to know there are other options.” She hesitated, clearly debating if she should say anything more. Then she sighed. “Look. Lucivar is a good man, and Briggs and I count ourselves fortunate to call him a friend. But he can be single-minded at times. Lucivar likes The Tavern, but it’s not to everyone’s taste, and I don’t think he considered that you might prefer something a bit fancier.”

    Which confirmed that Merry had more than a passing knowledge of the man who was the second most powerful male in the Realm of Kaeleer. Despite coming from the most aristo family in the Realm, there was nothing aristo about Lucivar’s tastes or preferences.

    But Lucivar could be single-minded about a good many things, and that tickled a suspicion about the real reason for his choice of accommodations.

    “He comes in here fairly often?” Surreal asked.

    “Every day when he’s home,” Merry replied. “Sometimes he stops to have a mug of coffee just after we open. Other days he stops in for a bowl of soup or stew. He will have a glass of ale while he talks to the men and waits for me to pack up a steak pie or something else he’s bringing home for dinner. But that’s not every day.”

    “Uh-huh.” Hell’s fire. You know the man, but you still haven’t figured out how a Warlord Prince’s mind works, have you, sugar?

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire