Copyright © 2000 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.
(Suggested reading age: 15 years and older.)
Lord Krelis, the new Master of the Guard, tried not to fidget
as he watched Dorothea SaDiablo slowly pace the length of her
private audience room. If she'd been any other woman, he might
have openly admired her slender body, might have wondered if
the black hair gracefully coiled around her head felt as silky
as it looked, might have dared to run a hand over the brown skin
that wasn't covered by her long red dress. He might have enjoyed
the way the dress swished in counterrhythm to her swaying hips.
He might have wondered if the way she caressed her chin with
that large white feather was a subtle invitation for other kinds
But Dorothea SaDiablo was a Black Widow, a member of the Hourglass,
the most dangerous and feared covens in the Realm of Terreille.
Black Widows specialized in poisons and journeys of the mind,
in shadows and illusions, in dreamscapes that could ensnare a
man and leave him locked in an endless nightmare.
She was also the Red-Jeweled High Priestess of Hayll. Since
there were no Queens in the Hayllian Territory who could match
the psychic strength that Jewel signified, and since no weaker
Queen who wanted to stay whole and healthy challenged her authority,
Dorothea ruled as she pleased
which was something no male in Hayll dared to forget.
Have you seen your predecessor lately? Dorothea
purred as she swished past him. Her coquettish smile didn't match
the vicious pleasure in her gold eyes.
Yes, Priestess, Krelis replied, trying to keep his
voice neutral. When he and a troop of men had gone into the slums
of Draega, Hayll's capital, to round up some of the dregs for
expendable labor, he had seen his former commander stumbling
out of a filthy alleyway.
The former Master of the Guard was now a maimed, tortured mockery
of the man he'd been. Worse, his inner web, that intimate core
of Self that made the Blood who and what they were, had been
shattered so that he could no longer wear the Jewels, could do
no more than basic Craft, if even that. The keen tactical mind
that had protected Dorothea for so many decades had been split
open like a melon and scraped clean. But not completely. If the
haunted eyes in the scarred face were any indication, enough
thought had been left for him to remember what he had been. And
who had done this to him.
Dorothea swished past Krelis again. Sweat beaded his forehead
as he blanked his mind and prayed to the Darkness that she wouldn't
sense anything that would make her want to open his inner barriers
and sample his thoughts.
I gave your predecessor an important task, and he failed
me. Stopping in front of him, Dorothea smiled as she brushed
the feather against his cheek.
Now he belongs to the Brotherhood of the Quill.
Krelis shuddered. Mother Night! To be shaved of all the organs
that made a man a man. To need one of those large quills to...
Are you going to fail me? Dorothea purred,
leaning close to him.
No, Priestess, Krelis stammered. Tell me what
you wish of me, and I'll do it.
A wise man. She tickled his lips with the feather
before turning away. You know of the Gray Lady?
Had he failed already? Oh, he'd heard vague whispers a few months
ago, but he'd still been a Third Circle guard at the time and
commanders weren't in the habit of telling their men more than
was necessary. Feeling sick, he swallowed hard, and managed to
whisper, No, Priestess.
Dorothea flashed a malicious, amused look at him before resuming
her leisurely pacing. She's a dangerous enemy, a Gray-Jeweled
Queen who rules the Territory called Dena Nehele on the other
side of the Tamanara Mountains. She's been a thorn in my side
since she set up her court forty years ago, and she continues
to fight my attempts to bring the Realm of Terreille under the
beneficent guidance of Hayll.
Krelis said hesitantly, Since she's not from one of the
long-lived races, surely she must be old by now.
But still strong,
Dorothea snapped. As long as she continues to live, Dena
Nehele will be able to resist being drawn into Hayll's shadow,
and the Territories bordering it will be strengthened by that
resistance. Even if she died tomorrow, it would still take at
least one of their generations to eliminate her influence.
You intend to declare war on this Gray Lady?
Dorothea's gold eyes turned hard yellow. Hayll does not
lower itself to such barbarities as war. What would be the point
of acquiring a Territory that had been savaged by the kind of
war the Blood fight? She tapped the feather against her
chin. There are subtler ways of making a Territory ripe
for the plucking. But that doesn't concern you.
Krelis stared at the floor. No, Priestess.
Your task is to eliminate the Gray Lady.
He didn't think before he blurted out, How?
She looked disgusted. Was she regretting savaging the old Master
and losing that tactical mind? Then her expression changed.
Poor boy, she murmured, gently stroking his cheek. I've
been cruel to you, haven't I? No, darling she pressed
her fingers against his lips you needn't deny it.
There's no reason why you would know that bitch's habits. She
stepped back and sighed.
Grizelle is too well protected in her own Territory for you to reach
her there. However, over the past few years, she's come out of her lair twice
each year for the slave auctions at Raej.
Slave auctions. Krelis's gold eyes lit up.
Dorothea shook her head. Raej is considered neutral ground.
If a Queen were killed there for any reason, others might hesitate
to visit, and then how would everyone sell the toys they're ready
to discard and buy new ones?
A slave could be replaced with a loyal servant and then
She doesn't buy anyone from Hayll, and there are no loyal
servants outside of our own people. Sometimes not even within
our own people.
Krelis leashed his frustration. This was the first important
task she'd given him since he became Master of the Guard a few
months ago. He wouldn't fail. He wouldn't.
Then what should I do, Priestess?
Dorothea stopped pacing. Lord Krelis, you're the Master
of the Guard. How you accomplish this is entirely up to you. Her
expression softened. However, if you wish me to, I'll use
my particular Craft to assist you in whatever way I can.
He breathed a sigh of relief.
Thank you, Priestess.
Dorothea studied him for just a little too long. Then she smiled. I
knew I'd made the right choice in my new Master of the Guard.
I made the same offer to your predecessor, but he didn't want
my help. Since the bitch escaped his trap rather easily, that
was reason enough to doubt his loyalty, don't you think?
Remembering what the former Master's face looked like now, Krelis
shivered. Yes, Priestess.
I'm not going to have to worry about your loyalty,
Dorothea walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. You
know, darling, I'm very generous with a male who pleases me. She
rubbed her breasts against his chest, kissed him thoroughly,
That's to remind you of the rewards that come from serving me well. And
this she tucked the large white feather into his belt will
remind you of the penalties of failure.
Nothing that had been done to him over the past nine years
had hurt as much as the harsh truth that he had brought this
on himself. With one error in judgment, the eighteen-year-old
boy he had been, that young strutting buck who had been so
sure of himself, had sent him down this pain-filled road. A
road that would soon end in the brutality that waited for men
in the salt mines of Pruul.
Over the past few days, while he had waited to be brought
to the slave auction, he had tried very hard to forgive that
boy for ignoring the uneasiness his friends had felt and the
warnings the older Warlords had given him when that witch had
walked into the inn. He had tried to forgive him for not looking
beneath the surface, for not sensing the rot that existed beneath
the beautiful face and lush body, for grabbing that musky bait
with such enthusiasm. He had tried to forgive him for believing
the whispered words that had promised a forever filled with
nighttime romps, for being so caught up in the pleasure between
his legs that he'd let her put that gold ring around his cock
because she'd poutingly told him about all the naughty things
she wanted to do with him and for him but not until
he wore a Ring of Obedience because she needed a little control
over his passion.
She'd played with him for a day before he learned just how
cruel the Ring of Obedience could be when it was used by someone
who enjoyed inflicting pain.
Having been a pleasure slave for the past nine years, he
couldn't remember why he'd ever wanted to get into bed with
And he blamed that boy, bitterly. With the salt mines of
Pruul waiting for him, oh, yes, he blamed that boy.
What's a Red-Jeweled Warlord doing in this pen? one
of the slaves whispered. They don't usually put the likes
of him down here.
Another slave spat. Don't matter what Jewels a slave wears.
True enough, but... I remember seeing him before. I thought
he was a pleasure slave.
He was, a third man answered, until he became
a Queen killer.
A Queen killer!
Queen killer. Queen killer.
Jared remained in the corner of the slave pen he had claimed
for himself, ignoring the whispers that swirled around him, pretending
he didn't see the way the other men avoided him. Even here, in
the vilest slave pen, Blood males who were now considered unmanageable
for anything but the meanest labor didn't want to be contaminated
by a man who had a Queen's blood on his hands.
He understood that. When the blinding rage had faded enough
for him to see the bodies of the Queen and her Prince brother,
he had been horrified by what he'd done.
His breath hitched as emotional pain ripped through him again,
threatening to tear him apart.
One part of himself had been horrified, that was true enough the
part that had learned the Warlord's code of honor from his father,
the part that had been raised to serve the distaff gender. But
another part, a savage part that he hadn't known existed, had
howled in triumph.
The pain eased, again, while that wild stranger inside him prowled
the edges of his mind and heart.
He didn't trust that stranger, even feared its presence. It wasn't him. But
he would use its savagery one more time for just one reason:
he wanted, needed, to get home just long enough to see
his mother and take back the words he'd had years to regret saying.
There was no point thinking there would be anything after that.
But it would be enough. Had to be enough.
Which meant he had to escape tonight. Tomorrow, Raej's autumn
slave auction would begin. The witches who came to this island
to buy and sell would be on the auction grounds accompanied by
hired guards, and the guards watching the pens would be too edgy,
too quick to react to anything a slave did.
So tonight he would find a way to get close enough to the official
landing place outside the fairgrounds and catch one of the Winds,
those webs of psychic roadways that allowed the Blood to travel
through the Darkness. He would catch one and ride it all the
way back to Ranon's Wood.
The decision made, Jared watched the sun set and the quarter
moon rise while he thought about his mother, his father and brothers,
his home...and the boy he used to be.
Krelis closed the small wooden box Dorothea had given him, then
used Craft to vanish it.
All the plans were made. There was nothing he could do but wait.
Staying in the Master's office made him feel too confined, so
he left the building that housed the First Circle guards and
began walking aimlessly across the practice fields.
Thank the Darkness Dorothea hadn't demanded his presence at
dinner tonight. While his bloodlines could be traced to two of
Hayll's Hundred Families, his family on both sides was from minor
branches. He'd grown up in a small village, and he still wasn't
comfortable in the jaded, glittering aristo society that made
up the social power of Hayll. A man on guard duty during one
of these functions could watch the seductions and the games,
could listen to the double-edged conversations, could observe
the dance of wealth and power without having to participate.
But the Master of the Guard was one of the three most important
males in a court, and, when required, he was expected to socialize
with the people who gathered around his Lady. He was expected
to talk with the other men and dance with the women, was expected
to flirt just enough not to give offense, without flirting so
much that servicing the woman would be required.
He'd already sweated through a couple of smaller functions.
He didn't need to dance on the knife edge tonight.
Leaving the practice fields, Krelis followed a bridle path until
he reached a small reflecting pool. Sitting on a stone bench
near the pool, he watched the still water.
Either the former Master of the Guard had become arrogantly
foolish or he'd turned traitor. That was the only way Krelis
could explain the failed attack on the Gray Lady when she was
returning to Dena Nehele after the spring auction at Raej.
It wasn't strange that the Master hadn't led the attack. Along
with the Steward and the Consort, the Master seldom left the
court unless he was accompanying his Lady. His duties were no
longer in the field. But one of those duties was to choose the
right men for an assignment.
The old Master had sent a handful of lighter-Jeweled, Fifth
Circle guards and a small band of marauders to destroy a Gray-Jeweled
Queen and the escort waiting for her at the Coach station. There
had been no time to overwhelm the escort before the Gray bitch's
arrival. There had been no backup force to attack her if she
tried to escape on the Winds. There had been nothing.
Only one of those lighter-Jeweled Hayllian guards had returned
to report the failure.
One was all Dorothea had needed.
Well, he hadn't made that mistake. He had tame marauder bands
waiting at the Coach stations the Gray Lady would most likely
use on her return from the auction. They would eliminate any
escorts waiting for her and send a messenger to Lord Maryk, his
second-in-command. Maryk, along with carefully selected, experienced
First and Second Circle guards, would arrive at the station just
ahead of the Gray Lady to finish the kill. If that ambush wasn't
completely successful, and Maryk and the men were killed, he
still had a way to keep track of the bitch and leave a trail
the marauder bands could follow. The hunt would continue until
the Gray Lady was destroyed.
Krelis fingered the Master's badge on his left shoulder.
With the spells Dorothea had woven for him, his strategy would
bring down her most dangerous rival. That would prove to the
aristo bastards in the First and Second Circles that he wasn't
some upstart Third Circle guard who had gained a coveted position
in the court by using his cock.
Of course, he didn't know any male who wouldn't use sex in order
to achieve his own goals.
It hadn't always been like that.
He remembered that night so many, many years ago. He'd been
permitted to stay up when some of his father's friends had come
to the house for their weekly chess games and male conversation.
The evening had grown late and he'd been dozing on the couch
when his father, who had a strong interest in Hayll's history,
especially where it pertained to the Blood, had gently voiced
his concern about some of the changes that had taken place in
their society over the past few centuries. Olvan had made no
accusations, had named no names, had merely pointed out some
differences in the way males who didn't serve in a court were
The next day, when he and Olvan were taking a rambling walk
along one of the country lanes near their village, the Queen
of the Province and twelve of her guards came riding up. The
Queen had snapped a few questions at Olvan, becoming more and
more enraged with his respectful replies.
A few minutes later, Olvan dangled from a tree branch. The spelled
ropes around his wrists had prevented him from using Craft to
undo the knots or sever the ropes. Even if he'd managed to free
himself, his Jewels weren't dark enough to challenge the combined
power of the Queen and her guards.
They let him hang there while he pleaded with the Queen to tell
him how he had displeased her. When the pleading finally stopped,
six of the guards uncurled their whips.
The force of the blows swung Olvan back and forth, back and
There had been no sympathy in the guards' faces, no mercy in
the strong arms that wielded the whips. If anything, there had
been a hint of fear in their eyes, as if coming in contact with
a male who didn't understand obedience would taint them somehow
and make them less desirable to the Queen they served.
Through it all, another guard had held Krelis and made him watch.
When they rode away, they left his father hanging there, half-dead.
Krelis still remembered running desperately to the nearest house
for help, still remembered sitting next to his father's bleeding
body during the ride back home, still remembered the Healer's
reluctance to do anything.
And he still remembered the moment, years later, when he realized
that the whipping had nothing to do with the courteous answers
his father had made to the Queen and everything to do with Olvan's
oldest and most trusted friends never once coming back to the
house or inviting his father to any of theirs.
That was the moment he decided to train to be a guard.
That was the moment he understood that how males were treated
in the past didn't matter. The only thing that mattered to a
young Hayllian male was surviving the way things were now. And
the only way to do that was to serve in a strong court.
Krelis stood up and stretched.
So here he was just beginning his sixteenth century a
young man by the standards of the long-lived Hayllian race and
he was already the Master of the Guard of the strongest court
in Hayll. An important goal in itself, but now just a stepping-stone
toward the other things he wanted.
He had worked too long and too hard to let some Gray-Jeweled
bitch who would die in a few decades anyway spoil his plans.
He had almost made it, had almost gotten close enough to
catch one of the Winds. If he'd had a few more seconds before
the auction steward had used the Ring of Obedience to pull
him down and make him easy prey for the guards and their whips,
he would have been home by now.
He would have had those seconds if he had killed the guard
keeping watch on the slave pen. But at the last moment, when
that wild stranger inside him had surged forward intent on
the kill, he had seen the same fear and knowledge in the guard's
eyes that had been in the eyes of the Queen just before her
blood had covered his hands...and he had yanked that savagery
back. His attack had stunned the guard long enough for him
to escape from the pen, but the man had recovered too quickly,
had been able to sound the alarm too soon.
There would be no other chance. Not after last night.
I'm sorry, Mother. I'm sorry.
Don't look so pretty now, do ya, twat-licker?
Pain and the guard's sneering words brought Jared back to the
present. He looked at the man
a vicious brute whose Yellow Jewel was as grimy as the rest of him and
The guard hawked and spat. All you pretty boys, prancing
around in your fancy clothes, acting like you was better than
other men, real men, who know what to do with their spears.
Well, no one's going to want to play with you now, are they,
pretty boy? 'Cept the Queens in Pruul, and everyone knows what
kind of games they like to play.
The guard grinned, showing a black hole where a couple of teeth
Jared watched the guard warily. He'd been brought back to this
slave pen at dawn, forced to his knees, and then tied so securely
to the four waist-high iron posts he couldn't move at all, not
even his head. He'd had no food or water since yesterday afternoon's
ration. The auction steward in charge of the controlling ring
connected to his Ring of Obedience had been sending low-level
pain through the Ring since his capture last night. His genitals
were so tender that even a fly walking across his balls made
him grit his teeth to keep from screaming.
The flies were an additional torment, buzzing around the lash
wounds on his back and belly that had reopened when the guards
had pulled his hands behind his back and yanked his arms up to
tie the straps to the back posts.
One fly landed on Jared's cheek. He closed his eye before the
fly could reach it.
The guard stared at him for a moment, then cursed savagely. You
son of a whoring bitch, are you winking at me? Grabbing
Jared by the hair, he used Craft to call in a knife, then slowly
turned the blade until all Jared could see was the sharp edge. Well,
slut, you don't need two eyes to dig salt.
Jared panted as the blade came closer, closer. Explaining wouldn't
help him. Neither would pleading. If he used Craft to protect
himself, all the guards would be down on him and, by the time
it was over, he'd end up losing more than an eye.
Just before the blade came close enough to cut, the guard jerked,
stumbled back a step. He shook his head as if to clear it, then
rubbed the small of his back with a fist. When he turned around,
he froze and let out a soft whimper.
Jared blinked rapidly, not sure if it was tears or sweat blinding
him. Didn't matter. The guard was between him and whatever had
caught the man's attention.
During those long seconds when the guard stood frozen, Jared
became aware of the silence. All the usual, small noises inside
a slave pen had stopped, as if slaves and guards alike were afraid
to do anything that might call attention to themselves.
Finally, the guard vanished the knife and moved away slowly,
awkwardly, as if his legs had become unsteady.
No longer blocked by the guard's body, Jared looked straight
into Daemon Sadi's cold, golden eyes.
If pleasure slaves were the aristos in the slave hierarchy,
then Daemon Sadi was as far above the rest of them as they were
to the slaves used for hard labor. Looking at his broad-shouldered
body and beautiful face or listening to his deep, sexy-edged
voice was enough to arouse most women
and quite a few men, regardless of their preference. He could
seduce anything that breathed.
They called him the Sadist because he was as cruel as he was
beautiful. Owned by Dorothea SaDiablo, he'd been a pleasure slave
for centuries and wore the Ring of Obedience. He was also a strong
Warlord Prince, and people who annoyed Sadi had an odd way of
Jared sighed in relief when Daemon finally looked away, the
bored expression on that beautiful face betraying no thoughts,
no feelings. But the voice that reached Jared on a Red psychic
spear thread held sympathy and understanding.
*So. You finally couldn't stomach it anymore.*
Jared thought of the last Queen who had owned him, and the kinds
of bedroom games she and her Prince brother had wanted to play.
He shuddered. *No, I couldn't stomach it anymore,* he replied.
*I couldn't stomach them.*
If Daemon hadn't taken an interest in him eight years ago when
they'd been in the same court, he wouldn't have survived this
long. Pleasure slaves tended to become emotionally unstable after
a few years of serving in the bed. Daemon's lessons had helped
him stay detached from what he was ordered to do, or what was
being done to him.
Even that detachment hadn't been enough that last time.
*The bitch deserved to die,* Daemon said, as if killing a Queen
was so commonplace it wasn't worth more than a casual remark.
Which, for Sadi, was probably close to the truth. Then his tone
changed, and he sounded like a teacher who was mildly annoyed
with a favorite student. *But you could have been more subtle.*
The woman next to Daemon tugged on the sleeve of his black,
tailored jacket. She seemed confused to find herself so far away
from the amusements and the merchant booths. Compared to Daemon's
looks and Hayllian coloring
golden-brown skin, glossy black hair, and gold eyes she
looked bleached and plain. She mumbled something and tugged again.
Daemon ignored her.
Jared couldn't hear the words, but he heard the whine in her
voice. His muscles tensed. He held his breath.
She spoke again, but her whining was cut off by Daemon's low,
vicious snarl. She quickly stepped away from him. Once she was
safely out of reach, she raised her voice. I could use
Daemon smiled, a cold, brutal smile.
The guards exchanged nervous glances and shifted their feet.
*It seems my Lady requires some entertainment,* Daemon said.
There was something beneath the bland tone that made Jared wonder
if the Lady wasn't going to be very sorry she'd made that threat.
*May the Darkness embrace you, Lord Jared,* Daemon said as he
offered his arm to the Lady and started to walk away.
*And you, Prince Sadi,* Jared replied.
They were out of sight when Daemon's last words reached him.
*That guard's going to come down with a mysterious fever. He'll
recover, but he'll never regain enough strength in his limbs
to resume his duties. What use do you think a man like that will
have in a place like Raej?*
Jared shuddered, grateful Sadi had already broken the link between
them. He owed Daemon a great deal, but there were things about
the Sadist he preferred not to know.
Another fly landed on his cheek.
Jared closed his eyes, and tried not to think. Tried not to
remember. And failed.
When he opened his eyes again, the day had waned to dusk. At
any moment, the bell that signaled the end of that day's auctioning
would ring. The Blood Lords and Ladies who came to buy preferred
to do so in harsh sunlight that didn't hide flaws that wouldn't
be as apparent when a naked slave was displayed in muted candle-light
or, better yet, flickering torchlight.
He saw the guard standing outside the pen, watching him. Not
one of the usual brutes. The badge on the clean uniform jacket
indicated that this was one of the guards who hired out as an
escort. It was a fixed rule at the auction; Ladies were required
to hire two of Raej's guard escorts to help with any slaves they
might purchase. Since the man was alone, his partner was probably
guarding the slaves that had already been purchased.
Which still didn't explain why the man was wandering around
near the pens that held the most-condemned males. It still didn't
explain why the bastard was staring at...
Something crept through the air. Something tantalizing. Something
intriguing. A psychic scent that made his heart speed up and
his muscles quiver. A scent that made the wild stranger inside
him strain toward it, wary and eager
A Queen's scent.
Jared looked at the empty space beside the guard escort. Except
it wasn't empty.
Despite feeling certain of what he would see, he looked straight
at her and still almost didn't see her. She was gray, and stood
so still she blended into the dust and the waning light and the
taste of despair.
No. No! Not that one.
He began hoping, desperately, that the auction bell would ring.
Then, maybe, if the Darkness was kind, she wouldn't return in
the morning, wouldn't come back to stare at him with those hard
There were a few courts where being a slave was almost tolerable.
There were others where every command abraded a man's soul.
In the slave quarters, stories and rumors were fearfully whispered
in the dark. Warnings and advice were passed along. Because of
that, the slaves had a saying: the bite of a lash was better
than being owned by Dorothea SaDiablo; being owned by Dorothea
was better than dying in the salt mines of Pruul; but dying in
the salt mines was better, far better, than being touched by
Grizelle, the Gray Lady.
No slave who went into her Territory ever came out again. No
slave survived being owned by the Gray-Jeweled Queen who was
standing outside the pen, so silent and so still, looking at
Fear swelled inside him until it overwhelmed all the rest of
the day's torments. Tied to the iron posts, he couldn't turn
away, couldn't even look down since the wide, tight leather collar
kept him from moving his head. Isolated, he couldn't blend in
with the other slaves who clustered on the other side of the
pen. He was pinned, alone, physically and emotionally naked beneath
that gray stare.
She terrified him. The only advantage he'd ever had was that
the Queens who had owned him hadn't worn Jewels that could threaten
his inner web. But the Gray Jewels were darker than the Red,
and a Queen who could tear apart his inner barriers and shatter
his inner web as easily as she could tear apart his body wasn't
a woman he wanted to get close to. In any way.
But the wild stranger, that beast that had been so angry and
so eager to kill, now wanted to crawl to her and expose its belly
in an act of complete submission.
That terrified him even more.
Lady, there's nothing here of interest. These males are
unmanageable, unfit for anything but hard labor.
Hearing the undercurrent of worry in the man's voice, Jared
focused on the guard escort standing next to Grizelle. The man
had reason to worry. A hired escort who failed to protect the
Lady in his charge would probably find himself on the auction
block the next morning.
Ignoring the escort, Grizelle withdrew one hand from her robe's
wide sleeves and pointed at Jared. That one.
Jared's chest clenched so hard he couldn't draw a breath. Hell's
fire! Even her voice was gray!
And she wanted him.
No no no no no!
That one? The escort sounded shocked. Lady,
that one killed the last Queen who owned him and attacked a guard
last night, trying to escape. He's going to the salt mines unless
someone buys him for a killing sport.
Listen to him, Jared thought fiercely, trying to make
her feel the words without risking a direct link. I'm tainted,
twisted, past any hope. I'll fight you with everything I am for
as long as I can, and I'll hate you long after that.
The finger didn't waver. The gray eyes didn't blink.As he focused
on the finger pointing at him, nine years of pain and fear began
to crystallize into deadly, chilling hatred. He'd once believed
in service and honor. Now all he believed in was cold hatred
and rage. He was a Red-Jeweled Warlord from Shalador. He was
Blood. He'd fight her, and die in the fighting. That was better
than cringing and cowering while she tore him apart piece by
piece.The wild stranger howled in distress and desire, fighting
against the very rage it should have embraced, shattering it
almost before it formed.That one, the Gray Lady said
You will not have me, Jared thought as he watched the
reluctant approach of the auction steward who had been summoned. I
will not yield to you. Even if I can't do anything else, I can
still do that much. Will do that much.
When a price was finally agreed
upon, the steward bowed to Grizelle, then gestured to two of
the guards inside the pen. We'll clean him up for you,
he said. His pompous smile died beneath that steely stare. I'll
have him and the papers ready in...an hour?Thirty
minutes.The steward paled. Of course, Lady. I'll
see to it personally.
Offering no response, Grizelle and her unhappy escort walked