She won't go unpunished, I promise you that. No matter how long it takes to do it properly, I'll see the debt paid in full
"Lucivar," Daemon whispered. "Lucivar."
"They've all been looking for you."
He hadn't heard her come in, which wasn't surprising. It wasn't surprising she was there even though he'd locked the library door.
Daemon shifted on the couch. He held out one hand, watching her small fingers curl around his own. That gentle touch, so full of understanding, was agony.
"What happened to him?"
"Who?" Daemon said, fighting the grief.
"Lucivar," Jaenelle said with steely patience.
Daemon recognized that strange, unnerving something in her face and voice—Witch focusing her attention. He hesitated a moment, then took her in his arms. He needed to hold her, feel her warmth against him, needed reassurance that the sacrifice was worth it. He didn't know how or when the tears began falling again.
"He's my friend, my brother," he whispered into her shoulder. "He's dying."
"Daemon." Jaenelle gently stroked his hair. "Daemon, we have to help him. I could—"
"No!"Don't tempt me with hope. Don't tempt me to take that kind of risk. "You can't help him. Nothing can help him now."
Jaenelle tried to push back to look at him, but he wouldn't let her. "I know I promised him I wouldn't wander around Terreille, but—"
Daemon licked a tear. "You met him? He saw you once?"
"Once." She paused. "Daemon, I might be able to—"
"No,"Daemon moaned into her neck. "He wouldn't want you there, and if something happened to you, he'd never forgive me. Never."
Witch asked, "Are you sure, Prince?"
The Warlord Prince replied, "I am sure, Lady."
After a moment, Jaenelle began to sing a death song in the Old Tongue, not the angry dirge she'd sung for Rose, but a gentle witchsong of grief and love. Her voice wove through him, celebrating and acknowledging his pain and grief, tapping the deep wells he would have kept locked.
When her voice finally faded, Daemon wiped the tears from his face. He blindly allowed Jaenelle to lead him to his room, stand over him while he washed his face, and coax a glass of brandy into him. She said nothing. There was nothing she needed to say. The generous silence and the understanding in her eyes were enough.
Lucivar would have been proud to serve her, Daemon thought as he brushed his hair, preparing to face Alexandra and Philip. He would have been proud of her.
Daemon took a shuddering breath and went to find Alexandra.
Everything has a price.
Winsol approached rapidly. The most important holiday in the Blood calendar, it was held when the winter days were shortest, and it was a celebration of the Darkness, a celebration of Witch.
Daemon wandered through the empty hallways. The servants had been given a half-day off and had deserted the house to shop or begin their holiday preparations. Alexandra, Leland, and Philip were off on their own excursions. Robert, as usual, was not at home. Even Graff had gone out, leaving the girls in Cook's care. And he . . . Well, it wasn't kindness that had made them leave him behind. His temper had been too sharp, his tongue too cutting the last time he'd escorted Alexandra to a party. They'd left hastily after he'd told a simpering young aristo witch that the cut of her dress would make any woman in a Red Moon house envious, even if what she was displaying didn't.
Daemon climbed the stairs to the nursery wing. The only thing that eased the ache he'd felt since Kartane had told him about Lucivar was being with Jaenelle.
The music room door stood open. "No, Wilhelmina, not like that," Jaenelle said in that harried, amused tone.
Daemon smiled as he looked into the room. At least he wasn't the only one who made her sound like that.
The girls stood in the center of the room. Wilhelmina looked a bit grumpy while Jaenelle looked patiently exasperated. She glanced toward the door and her eyes lit up.
Daemon suppressed a sigh. He knew that look, too. He was about to get into trouble.
Jaenelle rushed over to him, grabbed his wrist, and hauled him into the room. "We're going to attend one of the Winsol balls and I've been trying to teach Wilhelmina how to waltz but I'm not explaining it well because I don't really know how to lead but you'd know how to lead because boys—"
"—lead in dancing so you could show Wilhelmina, couldn't you?"
As though he had a choice. Daemon looked at Wilhelmina. Jaenelle stood to one side, her hands loosely clasped, smiling expectantly.
"Yes, men," he said dryly, putting a slight emphasis on that word, "do lead when dancing."
Wilhelmina blushed, instantly understanding his distinction.
Jaenelle looked baffled. She shrugged. "Men. Boys. What's the difference? They're all males."
Daemon gave her a calculating look. In a few more years, he'd be able to show her the difference. He smiled at Wilhelmina and patiently explained the steps. "Some music, Lady?" he said to Jaenelle.
She raised her hand. The crystal music sphere sparkled in the brass holder, and stately music filled the room.
As Daemon waltzed with Wilhelmina, he watched her expression change from concentration to relaxation to pleasure. The exertion brought a glow to her cheeks and a sparkle to her blue eyes. He smiled at her warmly. Dancing was the only activity he enjoyed with a woman, and he regretted that court dancing was no longer in vogue.
Ifyou want to bed a woman, do it in the bedroom. If you want to seduce her, do it in the dance.
It was hard to imagine the Priest saying that to a small boy, but it was like so many other things that had come to him over the years in those moments between sleep and waking, and he no longer questioned whose voice seemed to whisper up from somewhere deep within him, a voice he'd always known wasn't his own.
When the music faded, Daemon released Wilhelmina and made an elegant, formal bow. He turned to Jaenelle. Her strange expression made his heart jump. The crust of civility he lived behind, all the rules and regulations, cracked beneath her gaze. Her psychic scent distracted him. His mind sharpened, turned inward, and he reveled in the keen awareness of his body, the smooth feline way he moved.
The music began again. Jaenelle raised one hand. He raised the opposite hand. Stepping toward each other, their fingertips touched, and the court dance began.
He didn't need to think about the steps. They were natural, sensual, seductive. The music caressed him, narrowing his senses to the young body that moved with him. Fingertips touched fingertips, hands touched hands, nothing more. The Black sang in him, wanting more, wanting much, much more, and yet it pleased him to have his senses teased this way, to feel so alive, so male.