"I'd eat worms first. Live." Since the image made her a little queasy, she took a healthy swallow of brandy. "Not that I don't like him," she added. "Maybe even love him a little in a sisterly way… when he's not being a stubborn prick about something."

"Hmm, all of five minutes a month."

She grinned. "If you add it up." The grin faded. "What about you?"

He rolled the snifter between his hands and studied the way the brandy followed the motion. "We're doing all right. He's… wary. Can't blame him for that. But he'll stand. If I need him, he'll stand."

And you and Jaenelle?

"Anyway," she said, "I thought I'd spend some time in Amdarh, if you have no objection to me using the town house."

"It's the family's town house. You're family." He hesitated for a moment. "I have to go to Amdarh in a few days. If you're willing to wait, we can go at the same time. I have a box at two of the theaters, if you'd like to see a play…and wouldn't mind some company."

I think you're the one who needs some company. Shit, Sadi, what's going on here?

"Fair enough." She set the snifter on the blackwood desk, stood up, and stretched. "I'd better see what Graysfang is up to. He's of the wolfie opinion that I enjoy drying him off and brushing him when he comes in wet and muddy. Don't know why."

"He's male. He's getting petted. This is hard to understand?"

The words were said lightly, but there was an undertone of anguished yearning.

Not knowing what to say, she left the study. But she thought about it on and off for the rest of the day. She watched the two of them throughout dinner. And when she was staring at the ceiling late that night, with Graysfang curled up beside her, snoring softly, she came to a decision.

All right, Sadi. I'll keep the peace while we're at the Hall. But once we get to Amdarh… The Blood in Terreille had good reason to call you the Sadist. If I have to dance with that side of your temper to find out what in the name of Hell is wrong between you and Jaenelle, then that's what I'll do. But one way or another, you're going to talk to me.

And if she couldn't get anything out of him, informing the patriarch of the family that there was serious trouble between Daemon and Jaenelle would get some results. One way or another.

Five

1

Jealousy coiled around Lektra's heart as she watched Daemon settle the lovely woman in the seat beside him. Henever invited anyone to sit with him when he came to the theater.Never. "Who is she?" Lektra asked, struggling to hide the feeling of betrayal that welled up at the sight of Daemon with another woman. He should be keeping other women at arm's length until he could be withher.

Lord Braedon, the Warlord who had agreed to be her escort tonight with gratifying eagerness, looked across the theater to the box opposite theirs. "Who? Oh. That's Sadi's 'cousin.' "

Tavey Lektra's cousin on her father's side, snickered and leaned forward a little to see around Roxie, who was sitting on Lektra's right. "Convenient, isn't it?"

"Meaning what?" Lektra snapped.

"I heard she used to be a whore," Roxie replied primly.

"A high-priced one, from whatI heard," Tavey said. "Wonder if she and Sadi had a standing arrangement when they both lived in Terreille."

"I doubt there was much standing," Braedon said blandly.

Shocked, Lektra stared at her escort. "Do you mean Dae… Prince Sadi and that woman used to… ?"

Braedon shrugged. "It'spossible she's really related in some way to the

SaDiablo family. But if a man needed to be very discreet about getting certain… needs… met, having a 'cousin' who could stay under the same roof without anyone thinking twice about it would make it much easier."

"Especially an 'experienced' cousin," Tavey said, snickering again.

"You're both being ridiculous," Lektra said, remembering she was supposed to be Daemon's defender.

"Is she wearing a bracelet?" Roxie said, then hunched her shoulders as if she'd said something she shouldn't have.

"Who's going to notice a bracelet when you can notice other things?" Tavey asked, cupping his hands close to his chest.

Lektra bit back a snappish remark about making such gestures in public. Tavey was a Yellow-Jeweled Warlord who was devotedly loyal to her, which made up for him not being very bright. He also had a thirst for gossip that accounted for his never having a contract renewed when the family managed to get him accepted in a court.

"Well," Roxie said, sounding reluctant, "I'd heard Prince Sadi had bought a bracelet from Banard. A 'special gift for a special Lady' "

"Thought it was a brooch," Tavey said, frowning.

"There was an actress showing off a brooch that had been sent by a secret admirer," Braedon said. His eyes flicked from the stage to Sadi's box and back again. "You don't think…"

"No, I don't," Lektra said firmly. "Everyone knows Prince Sadi is devoted to Jaenelle Angelline."

"Who hasn't been seen in months," Braedon murmured.

"Oh, hush," Lektra said. "The play will start in a few minutes. I'm looking forward to seeing it." Her eyes flicked to the box opposite hers as she added softly, "I'm definitely looking forward to it."

2

Surreal watched Daemon remove two items from the wooden box he'd called in as soon as they were settled in their seats, at first with idle curiosity, then with growing apprehension.

"Is that a tangled web?" she asked. She knew he was a Black Widow. Hell's fire, she'd lived with him for several years while he was struggling to come back from the Twisted Kingdom and then rehone his Craft skills.

"Of a kind," Daemon replied as he used Craft to set the frame holding the tangled web on air where it couldn't easily be seen by other people attending the play. Behind the tangled web, he set a faceted, oval crystal. "I started with the kind of web the Hourglass uses to see dreams and visions and adapted it for a specific purpose."

"Which is?"

He grinned, but there was an acknowledgment in his eyes of why she was asking the question…and why she was wary of the answer. Daemon rarely announced his intentions when he went hunting, and she'd often wondered how many of the Blood he'd destroyed in the Terreillean courts were aware of what had killed them until the last moment when that slash of Black power burned out their own power, finishing the kill.

"By using a spell I worked out and channeling through the web, I can retain the play in the crystal so that it can be played again."


Tags: Anne Bishop Books The Black Jewels Series Books Science Fiction Books
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