"Go on," he said too softly. That blend of fear and wariness in her eyes was too familiar. He'd seen that look in every woman he'd ever bedded after he began wearing the Black. Even Hekatah, although she had hidden it well for her own purposes. But Cassandra was Witch. She wore the Black. At that moment he hated her for being afraid of him. "Go on," he said again.
"I don't think she was very impressed," Cassandra said hurriedly, "and I doubt she knew who I was. But she was disconcerted when she realized I was a Guardian. Anyway, she seemed more interested in finding out if I knew of a child that might be of interest to you, a 'young feast,' as she put it."
Saetan swore viciously.
Cassandra flinched. "She went out of her way to tell me about your interest in young flesh, hoping, I suppose, to create sufficient jealousy to make me an ally."
"And what did you tell her?"
"That your interest here was the restoration of the Dark Altar that was named in honor of the Queen you once served, and while I was flattered that she thought you might find me amusing, it was, unfortunately, not true."
"Perhaps I should rectify that impression."
Cassandra gave him a saucy smile, but there was panic in her eyes. "I don't tumble with just anyone, Prince. What are your credentials?"
Out of spite, Saetan walked around the table, drew Cassandra to her feet, and gave her a gentle, lingering kiss. "My credentials are the best, Lady," he whispered when he finally lifted his lips from hers. He released her, stepped away, and settled his cape over his shoulders. "Unfortunately, I'm required elsewhere."
"How long are you going to wait for her?"
How long? Dark witches, strong witches, powerful witches. Always willing to take what he offered, in bed and out, but they had never liked him, never trusted him, always feared him. And then there was Jaenelle. How long would he wait?
"Until she returns."
It tingled his nerves, persistent and grating.
Growling in his sleep, Saetan rolled over and pulled the bedcovers up around his shoulders.
The tingling continued. A calling. A summons.
Along the Black.
Saetan opened his eyes to the night-dark room, listening with inner as well as outer senses.
A shrill cry of fury and despair flooded his mind.
"Jaenelle," he whispered, shivering as his bare feet touched the cold floor. Pulling on a dressing robe, he hurried into the corridor, then stopped, unsure where to go. Gathering himself, he sent one thunderous summons along the Black. "Jaenelle!"
No answer. Just that tingling laced with fear, despair, and fury.
She was still in Terreille. The thought spun through his head as he raced through the twisting corridors of the Hall. No time to wonder how she'd sent that thought-burst between the Realms. No time for anything. His Lady was in trouble and out of easy reach.
He ran into the great hall, ignoring the burning pain in his bad leg. A thought ripped the double front doors off the Hall. He raced down the broad steps and around the side of the Hall to the separate building where the Dark Altar stood.
Gasping, he tore the iron gate off its hinges and entered the large room. His hands shook as he centered the four-branched silver candelabra on the smooth black stone. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he lit the three black candles that represented the Realms in the proper order to open a Gate between Hell and Terreille. He lit the candle in the center of the triangle made by the other three, the candle that represented the Self, and summoned the power of the Gate, waiting impatiently as the wall behind the Altar slowly changed from stone to mist and became a Gate between the Realms.
Saetan walked into the mist. His fourth step took him out of the mist and into the ruin that housed this Dark Altar in Terreille. As he passed the Altar, he noticed the black candle stubs in the tarnished candelabra and wondered why this Altar was getting so much use. Then he was outside the building, and there was no more time to wonder.
He gathered the strength of the Black Jewels and set a thought along a tight psychic thread. "Jaenelle!" He waited for a response, fighting the urge to catch the Black Web and fly to Chaillot. If he was on the Winds, he'd be out of reach for several hours. By then it might be too late. "Jaenelle!"
"Saetan? Saetan!" From the other side of the Realm, her voice came to him as a broken whisper.
"Witch-child!" He poured his strength into that tenuous link.
"Saetan, please, I have to . . . I need . . ."
"Fight, witch-child, fight! You have the strength!"
"I need . . . don't know how to . . . Saetan, please."
Even the Black had limits. Grinding his teeth, Saetan swore as his long nails cut his palms and drew blood. If he lost her now . . . No. Hewouldn't lose her! No matter what he had to do, he'd find a way to send her what she needed.
But this link between them was spun out so fine that anything might snap it, and most of her attention was focused elsewhere. If the link broke, he wouldn't be able to span the Realm and find her again. Holding his end of it was draining the Black Jewel at a tremendous rate. He didn't want to think about what it had cost her to reach him in Hell. If he could use someone as a transfer point, if he could braid his strength with another's for a minute . . . Cassandra? Too far. If he diverted any of his strength to search, he might lose Jaenelle altogether.
But he needed another's strength!
And it was there. Wary, angry, intent. Another mind on the Black psychic thread, turned toward the west, toward Chaillot.
Saetan froze. Only one other male wore the Black Jewels.
"Who are you?" It was a deep, rich, cultured voice with a rough, seductive edge to it. A dangerous voice.
What could he say? What did hedare say to this son he'd loved for a few short years before he'd been forced to walk away from him? There was no time to settle things between them. Not now. So he chose the title that hadn't been used in Terreille in 1,700 years. "I'm the High Priest of the Hourglass."
A quiver passed between them. A kind of wary recognition that wasn't quite recognition. Which meant Daemon had heard the title somewhere but couldn't name the man who held it.
Saetan took a deep breath. "I need your strength to hold this link."
A long silence. "Why?"
Saetan ground his teeth, not daring to let his thoughts stray. "I can't give her the knowledge she needs without amplifying the link, and if she doesn't get the knowledge, she may be destroyed." Even without a full link between them, he felt Daemon weighing his words.