Not caring what they thought, Daemon left the room, cold fury rolling off him, and went to the library. Jaenelle was there, gasping for breath, feebly trying to open a window. Daemon locked the door, strode across the room, viciously twisted the lock on the sash, and snapped the window open with wall-shaking force.

Jaenelle leaned over the narrow window seat, gulping in the winter air. "It hurts so much to live here, Daemon," she whimpered as he cradled her in his arms. "Sometimes it hurts so much."

"Shh." He stroked her hair. "Shh."

As soon as her breathing slowed to normal, Daemon closed and locked the window. He leaned against the wall, one leg stretched out along the window seat, and drew her forward until she was pressed against him. Then he hooked his other foot under his leg, effectively capturing her in a tight triangle.

It was insane to have her pushed up against him that way. Insane to take such pleasure in her hands resting on his thighs. Insane not to stop the slow uncurling of those psychic tendrils of seduction.

"I'm sorry I couldn't share the cup with you."

"It doesn't matter," Jaenelle whispered.

"It does to me," he replied sharply, his deep, silky voice having more of a husky edge than usual.

Jaenelle's eyes were getting confused and smoky. He pulled the tendrils back a little.

"Daemon," Jaenelle said hesitantly. "Your gift . . ."

There was a rumbling in Daemon's throat—his bedroom laugh, except there was fire in it instead of ice, and his eyes were molten gold. "That was no more your choice than the paint set was truly mine." He raised one eyebrow. "I had considered getting you a saddle that would fit both you and Dark Dancer—"

Jaenelle's eyes widened and she laughed.

"—but that wouldn't have been practical." One long-nailed finger idly stroked her arm. He knew he should walk away from this—now—when he had amused her, but her pain had twisted something inside him, and he wasn't going to let her believe she was alone here. It made him wonder about something else. "Jaenelle," he said cautiously as he watched his finger, "did the Priest . . ." If Saetan hadn't given her a Winsol gift, would his asking hurt her more?

"Oh, Daemon, it's so wonderful. I can't wear it here, of course."

He started to untwist. "Wear what?"

"My dress." She squirmed in his tight triangle and almost sent him through the wall. "It's floor-length and it's made of spidersilk and it's black, Daemon,black. "

Daemon concentrated on breathing. When he was sure his heart remembered its proper rhythm, he reached into his inner jacket pocket and took out a small square box. "Then this, I think, would be a proper accessory."

"What is it?" Jaenelle asked, hesitantly taking the box.

"Your Winsol gift. Yourreal Winsol gift."

Smiling shyly, Jaenelle unwrapped the box, opened it, and gasped.

Daemon's throat tightened. It was an inappropriate gift for a man like him to give a young girl, but he didn't care about that, didn't care about anything except whether or not it pleased her.

"Oh, Daemon," Jaenelle whispered. She took the hammered silver cuff bracelet from the box and placed it on her left wrist. "It will be perfect with my dress." She reached up to hug him and froze.

He watched her emotions swirl in her eyes, too fast for him to identify. Instead of hugging him, she lowered her hands to his shoulders, leaned forward, and kissed him lightly on the mouth, a girl child testing the waters of womanhood. His hands closed on her arms with just enough pressure to keep her close to him. When she pulled back, he saw in her eyes a whisper of the woman she would become.

Seeing that, he couldn't let it finish there.

Gently cupping her face in his hands, Daemon leaned forward and returned her kiss. His kiss was as light and close-lipped as hers had been, but it wasn't innocent and it wasn't chaste. When he finally raised his head, he knew he was playing a dangerous game.

Jaenelle swayed, bracing her hands on his thighs for support. She licked her lips and looked at him with slightly glazed eyes. "Do . . . do all boys kiss like that?"

"Boys don't kiss like that at all, Lady," he said quietly, seriously. "Neither do most men. But I'm not like most men." He slowly pulled in his seduction tendrils. He had done more than he should have already tonight; anything else would harm her. Tomorrow he would be the companion he'd been yesterday, and the day before that. But she would remember that kiss and compare every kiss from every weak-willed Chaillot boy against it.

He didn't care how many boys kissed her. They were, after all, boys. But the bed . . . When the time came, the bed would behis.

He removed the bracelet from her wrist and put it back in its box. "Vanish that," he said quietly while he disposed of the ribbon and paper. When the box was gone, he unwound his legs and led her back to the drawing room, where Graff immediately hurried the girls off to bed.

Philip glared at him. Robert smirked. Leland was fluttery and pale. It was Alexandra's jealous, accusing look that unsheathed his temper. She rose to confront him, but at that moment the guests began arriving for the night-long festivities.

That night Daemon didn't wait for Alexandra to "ask" him to accommodate a female guest. He seduced every woman in the house—beginning with Leland—teasing them into climaxes while he danced with them, watching them shudder while they bit their lips until they bled, trying not to cry out with so many people crowded around them. Or slipping away with one of the women to a little alcove, and after the first ice-fire kiss, standing primly against the wall, his hands in his trouser pockets, while his phantom touch played mercilessly with her body until she was sprawled on the floor, pleading for the caress of a real hand—and then his merest touch, the tickling slide of his nails along her inner thigh, the briefest touch to the undergarments in the right place, and she would be glutted—and starved.

Still, Daemon wasn't done.

He had deliberately avoided Alexandra, taunting her with his open seduction of all the other women, frustrating her beyond endurance. Before the door shut on the last guest, he swept her into his arms, climbed the stairs, and locked them into her bedroom. He made up for everything. He showed her the kind of pleasure he could give a woman when inspired. He showed her why he was called the Sadist.

When he stumbled into his own room long after dawn, the first thing he noticed was that his bed had been fussed with. One swift, angry probe located the package beneath his pillow. Cautiously pulling back the covers and tossing the pillow aside, Daemon looked at the clumsily wrapped package and the folded note tucked under the ribbon. He smiled tenderly, sinking gratefully onto the bed.

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books