Afraid his legs would buckle, Jared locked his knees.

Fainting sounded like a very good idea right now.

“You’re not this shy with Lia, are you?” Grizelle asked.

“No, but I—” Jared clamped his teeth together. In another minute, he’d start babbling. He knew it. He raked his hand through his hair, pulling it out of the leather thong. “Hell’s fire,” he muttered, stuffing the thong into his coat pocket. “Facing the Hayllians was easier.”

Grizelle laughed. “Yes, I suppose it was.”


Jared spun around at the sound of Lia’s voice.

“Gran, I’ve got everything . . .”

Lia came over the top of a slight rise and saw him.

A wave of joy, filled with her psychic scent, washed over him, quickly followed by uncertainty.

She was wearing trousers, muddy boots, and the too-large sweater she’d gotten at the traveler’s inn.

His heart ached because he didn’t see a young Gray-Jeweled Queen who most people now would treat with cautious respect. He saw Lia.

“I have one question for you, Warlord, and I want an honest answer,” Grizelle said quietly, as Lia started down the rise.

It took all of his self-discipline to take his eyes off Lia and face the Gray Lady.

“If you come back into her life, what Ring will you wear?”

It didn’t surprise him that a Queen like Grizelle would know about the Invisible Ring.

He wished he’d been there when Lia had found out that the Ring she’d insisted she’d made up to fool the guards at Raej really existed.


He turned to watch her walk hesitantly toward them.

“Warlord? What Ring do you wear?”

“The Gold, Lady,” Jared said softly. Lia was close enough that he could see the hope—and the love—shining in her eyes. “I wear the Gold.”