The silence made him blink.
Dorothea rose from her chair, furiously pointing a finger at the Healer. "I told you to give him something to make sure he wouldn't faint on us. Look at him!" Her finger swung to the man hanging limply from the posts, his head dropped to his chest.
"I did as you asked, Priestess," the Healer stammered, wringing her hands. "I swear by the Jewels I did."
Was it his imagination, or was Daemon pleased about something?
"We'll have no more sport today because of your incompetence," Dorothea screamed. She made an impatient gesture. "Take it away." Then she swept from the room, her coven trailing behind her.
"I really did give him the potion," the Healer wailed, trailing after the barber as he left the room.
Kartane sat in his chair, too numb to move, until the guards bundled the man into the bloody sheets along with the discarded organs. Then he bolted for the nearest bathroom and was violently ill.
Dorothea slowly paced her sitting room. Her flowing gown swished with the sway of her hips, and the low-cut bodice displayed to advantage the small br**sts that still rode high.
She picked up a feather quill from a table as she passed. Most men's backbones turned to jelly when she picked up a quill. Daemon, however, just watched her, his cold, bored expression never changing.
She brushed her chin with the quill as she passed his chair. "You've been a naughty boy again. Perhaps I should have you whipped."
"Yes," Daemon replied amiably, "why don't you? Cornelia could tell you how effective that is in making me come around."
Dorothea staggered but continued walking. "Perhaps I should have you shaved." She waved the feather at him. "Would you enjoy being one of the brotherhood of the quill?"
She feigned surprise. "No?"
"No. I prefer being neat when I piss."
Dorothea's face twisted with anger. "You've gotten crude, Daemon."
"Must be the company I keep."
Dorothea paced rapidly, slowly down only when she noticed the cold amusement in Daemon's eyes.Damn him, she thought as she tapped the quill against her lips. He knew how much he upset her, and he enjoyed it. She didn't trust him, couldn't trust being able to control him anymore. Even the Ring didn't stop him when he went cold. And he just sat there, so sure of himself, so uncaring.
"Perhaps Ishould have you shaved." Her usual purr turned into a growl. She twitched the quill in the direction of his groin. "After all, it's not as if you have any use for it."
"Hardly good for business, though," Daemon said calmly. "The Queens won't pay you for my service if there's nothing to buy."
"A worthless piece of meat since you can't use it anyway!"
"Ah, but they do so enjoy looking at it."
Dorothea threw the feather down and stamped on it. "Bastard!"
"So you've told me time and time again." Daemon waved one hand in irritation. "Enough theatrics. You won't shave me, now or ever."
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't!"
In one fluid move Daemon was out of the chair, pinning her against the table. His hands tightened on her upper arms, hurting her, while his mouth clamped down on hers, bruising her lips with his teeth. He thrust his tongue into her mouth with such controlled savagery that she couldn't think of anything but the feel of him and the sudden liquid heat between her legs.
It was always like this with him. Always. It was more than just his body. Not quite the Jewels, not quite a link. She could never touch his thoughts or feelings, never reach him. Yet there was such a sense of savage, controlled power, of maleness, that flowed from him, swirled around him. His hands, his tongue . . . just channels for that flow. Sensory conductors.
When she thought she couldn't stand any more, when she thought she had to push him away or drown in the sensation, he thrust his hips forward and swayed against her. Moaning, Dorothea pushed herself against him, wanting to feel him harden, needing him to want her.
Just as she raised her arms to wrap them around his neck, Daemon stepped back, smiling, his golden eyes hot with anger, not desire.
"That's why you won't shave me, Dorothea." His silky voice roughened with disgust. "There's always a chance, isn't there, that someday I'll catch fire, that the hunger will become unbearable and I'll come crawling to you for whatever release you'll grant me."
"I'd never let you go hungry," Dorothea cried, one hand reaching for him. "By the Jewels, I swear—" Shaking with anger, Dorothea forced herself to stand up straight. Once again she'd humiliated herself by begging him.
Daemon smiled that cold, cruel smile he wore whenever he had twisted the love game to hurt the woman he was serving. It's so easy, his smile said. You're all so foolish. You can punish the body all you want, all you dare, but you can never touchme.
"Bastard," Dorothea whispered.
"You could always kill me," Daemon said softly. "That would solve both our problems, wouldn't it?" He took a step toward her. She immediately pushed back against the table, frightened. "Why don't you want me dead, Dorothea? What will happen on the day when I no longer walk among the living?"
"Get out," she snapped, trying not to sound as weak as she suddenly felt. Why was he saying this? What did he know? She had to get him away from Hayll, away from thatplace, and quickly. Furious, she threw herself at him, but he glided away, and she fell heavily to the floor. "Get out!" she screamed, beating the floor with her fists.
Daemon left the room, whistling a tuneless little song. As a butterball Warlord puffed his way down the hall toward Dorothea's room, Daemon turned halfway to face him. "I wouldn't go in there until she's a little calmer," he said cheerfully. Then he winked at the startled man and continued down the hall, laughing.
"Damn your soul to the bowels of Hell, hurry up with that!" Kartane screamed at the manservant assigned to him when he was at court. He threw his shirts into one trunk and fastened the straps.
When the trunks were packed, Kartane's eyes swept the room for anything he might have missed,
"Lord Kartane," the manservant panted.
"I'll take care of this. You're dismissed. Get out. Get out!"
The manservant scurried out of the room.
Kartane wrapped his arms around the bedpost. He desperately wanted to rest, but every time he closed his eyes, he saw the bloody sheets, heard the screams.
Away from here. And quickly. Before Dorothea summoned him, before he was trapped. Someplace where the witches were already being silenced. A place that stood in Hayll's shadow, where they would fawn over the Priestess's son, but not yet completely tainted with the ancient land's decay. Not quite virgin territory, but still a maid learning Hayll's desecrations.