"Doesn't matter," Lektra replied. "There are plenty of reasons why people pay for illusion spells to change their looks. Besides, I was assured sensing an illusion spell isn't the same as seeing beneath it."

Lektra was the niece of a Queen who ruled a two-village District in Dhemlan, so she was known to many of the aristo Blood in Amdarh and couldn't afford to draw attention to herself right now…not if their plan was going to work. That was why Roxie had volunteered to get the information they needed. But Lektra had come up with the idea of paying a Black Widow to create the illusion spell so Roxie, a Rihlander originally from Ebon Rih, would look like a Dhemlan witch.

"I bought this," Roxie said, taking the brooch out of her carry bag.

"This will do nicely," Lektra said as she examined the brooch. "It's certainly pretty, and, most important, it has Banard's mark on the back."

"There were prettier ones," Roxie said.

"What do you care? You're not going to wear it."

"But…" Even if it wasn't the one she would have chosen if she could have spent anything she wanted, she'd still expected to keep it. After all, it was a brooch by Banard…something she could never afford for herself.

"What was Daemon doing there? What was he buying?"

"I think he commissioned Banard to make something special… probably for that stupid cripple, Jaenelle. But hedid buy a bracelet. 'A special gift for a special Lady.' " As she described the bracelet, Lektra s gold eyes gleamed with delight.

"We can go to another jeweler and get a duplicate made," Lektra said excitedly. "It doesn't have to be exact, just have all the right elements, so when someone sees me wearing it, they'll think it's the one Banard made. And since Jaenelle Angelline isn't likely to be coming to Amdarh anytime soon, no one will know the difference."

"What about the brooch?" Roxie asked.

"While he was in Amdarh last time, Daemon attended several parties. There's always dozens of them just before the actual thirteen days of Winsol. Some of the theater folk attended one of them, and I heard Daemon spent some time with one of the actresses. Danced with her a couple of times. Even stood as her escort for dinner." Lektra pouted.

"So maybe he's not as chaste as everyone thinks."

"Don't be a fool. Of course he's chaste. Hell's fire! Any hint that he's been unfaithful to precious Jaenelle would have everyone worth knowing shunning him…which is the whole point, remember?" Lektra smiled. "That's why using this actress is the perfect starting point to freeing Daemon from Jaenelle's control. Peopledid notice the attention he paid the bitch. If she receives a gift from a secret admirer…a 'special gift for a special Lady'…she's going to wear it, and she's going to tell people it's from a secret admirer. So all we have to do is mention that someone had seen Daemon in Banard's shop buying a 'special gift' and people will tie the knot between those two bits of information themselves."

Lektra tapped her lips with a fingertip and looked thoughtful. "Maybe I won't have another bracelet made after all. It will be so much nicer when Daemon takes me to Banard's shop to buy one for me."

"What do I get out of this?" Roxie muttered.

"You get to share the prize, just as I promised," Lektra said coolly. "And you get to pay the SaDiablo family back for the way Lucivar Yaslana treated you. And as my friend and guest, you get to attend parties and dances you'd never be invited to on your own…not to mention the lovers who come home with us."

Lektra's seconds, that's what she got. But what Lektra said was true: being exiled from Ebon Rih six years ago had cost her almost all her social status. It had gotten so bad in Askavi, no man wanted to dance with her, let alone do something more interesting. So she had moved to Dhemlan, but it wouldn't have been any better if Lektra hadn't befriended her.

So she put up with the reminders that she owed what social standing she had in Amdarh to Lektra's efforts on her behalf, and she put up with men who wanted Lektra but made do with her.

Now that Lektra's interest in Daemon Sadi had ripened into obsession, the Dhemlan witch needed her help, and that worked in her favor. Besides, if they wonthis prize, she wouldn't mind taking whatever crumbs were left over.

"Oh, Daemon. It's beautiful."

The delight in Jaenelle's sapphire eyes as she picked up the bracelet warmed him and gave him hope. There was so little these days that delighted her.

"Try it on." He took the bracelet and fastened it around her wrist, painfully careful not to touch the fragile skin…skin he wanted to caress, kiss, lick. The memory of how even the gentlest touch had left hideous bruises whenever he'd helped her move still made him ill. So he didn't let his fingers brush her skin as he fastened the bracelet, then eased back.

As she held out her arm to admire the bracelet, he no longer saw something beautiful. He saw the shadow the bracelet cast on her skin. Or was it something else?

He stiffened. "It's not too heavy, is it?" Fool. Idiot. It hadn't occurred to him when he bought it that having the metal resting against her skin would bruise her. And it should have occurred to him. When he'd brought her back to the Hall last autumn, she couldn't wear anything but the lightest-weight fabrics, couldn't have more than a sheet over her in bed. Anything more had left her covered in bruises…and had left him terrified that the constant effort to keep healing the bleeding under the skin would interfere with her overall healing…or even make it impossible for her to ever completely heal.

"No, it's not too heavy," Jaenelle said as she lowered her arm.

Daemon winced. By reminding her of how frail she was, he'd spoiled her pleasure in the gift.

When she looked at him, the delight that had been in her eyes was gone.She was gone. She still sat beside him on the couch, but there was a distance between them again that he didn't know how to bridge.

He looked at the table in front of him, and his heart sank a little more. The book he'd given her at Winsol lay on the table, the bookmark indicating she'd barely gotten halfway through it.

"The story doesn't appeal to you?" he asked, wondering if any of the new books he'd brought her would please her. Wondering if there wasanything he could do anymore that would please her.

Jaenelle looked away, but not before he saw pain and sadness in her eyes. "I guess I've lost my taste for love stories," she said. Then she tried to smile. "I'm feeling a little tired. I think I'll get some sleep now."

He recognized a dismissal when he heard one. "I'll help you to bed," he said as he rose.

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com