"You wanted to see me, High Lord?"
Saetan's eyes glittered. He leaned against the blackwood desk in his private study in the Dark Realm and smiled at the Dea al Mon Harpy. "Titian, my dear," he crooned in a voice like soft thunder, "I have an assignment for you that I think will be very much to your liking."
1 / Kaeleer
Saetan, along with the rest of the family, lingered at the dinner table, reluctant to have the meal and the camaraderie end.
At least some good had come from that unpleasant night last week. Jaenelle's nightmare had lanced the festering wound of those suppressed memories, easing a little of her emotional pain. He knew that soul wound wasn't healed, but for the first time since she'd returned from the abyss, she was more like the child they remembered than the haunted young woman she'd become.
"I think Beale would like to clear the table," Jaenelle said quietly, glancing at the butler standing at the dining room door.
"Then why don't we have coffee in the drawing room," Saetan suggested, pushing his chair back.
When Jaenelle walked toward the door, followed by Mephis, Andulvar, and Prothvar, he lingered a moment longer. It was so good to hear her laugh, so good to—
A movement at the window caught his attention. Immediately probing for the intruder, he took a step back when strangely scented, feral emotions pushed against his mind, challenging him, daring him to touch.
Anger. Frustration. Fear. And then . . .
The howl stopped conversations midword as Andulvar and Prothvar spun around, their hunting knives drawn. Saetan barely noticed them, too intent on Jaenelle's reaction.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, tipped her head back, and howled. It wasn't an exact imitation of the wolf's howl. It was eerier somehow because it turned into witch-song. A wild song.
And he realized, with a shivering sense of wonder, that she and the wolf had sung this song before, that they knew how to blend those two voices to create something alien and beautiful.
The wolf stopped howling. Jaenelle finished the song and smiled.
A large gray shape leaped through the window, passing through the glass. The wolf landed in the dining room, snarling at them.
With a welcoming cry, Jaenelle rushed past Andulvar and Prothvar, dropped to her knees, and threw her arms around the wolf's neck.
In that moment, Saetan caught the psychic scent he was searching for. The wolf was one of the legendary kindred. A Prince, but not, thank the Darkness, a Warlord Prince. He also caught a glimpse of the gold chain and the Purple Dusk Jewel hidden in the wolfs fur.
Still snarling, the wolf pressed against Jaenelle, urging her toward the window while it kept its body between her and the Eyriens.
Pushed off-balance, Jaenelle's arms tightened around the wolf's neck. "Smoke, you're being rude," she said in that quiet, firm Queen voice that no male in his right mind would defy.
Smoke gave her a quick lick and changed his snarl to a deep growl.
"What bad male?" Jaenelle scanned each concerned male face and shook her head. "Well, it wasn't one of them. This is my pack."
The growling stopped. There was intelligence and new interest in the wolfs eyes as he studied each man, then waved the tip of his tail once as a reluctant greeting.
Another brief pause. Jaenelle blushed. "No, none of them are my mate. I'm not old enough for a mate," she added hurriedly as Smoke gave them all a look of blatant disapproval. "This is Saetan, the High Lord. He's my sire.
My brother, Prince Mephis, is the High Lord's pup. And this is my uncle, Prince Andulvar, and my cousin, Lord Prothvar. And that's Lord Beale. Everyone, this is Prince Smoke."
As he greeted his kindred Brother, Saetan wondered which had startled the others more: kindred suddenly appearing, Jaenelle's conversing with a wolf, or the family labels she'd given them.
There was an awkward pause after the introductions. Andulvar and Prothvar glanced at him, then sheathed their knives, keeping their movements slow and deliberate. Mephis remained still but ready to respond, and Beale, hovering in the doorway, was silently awaiting instructions. Smoke looked uneasy, and there was a bruised, uncertain look in Jaenelle's eyes.
He had to do something quickly. But what did one say to a wolf? More important, what could he do to make Jaenelle's furry friend feel comfortable enough and welcome enough to want to stay? Well, what did one say to any guest?
"May I offer you some refreshments, Prince Smoke?" Said out loud, the name combined with a Blood title sounded silly to him even if it was an apt description of the wolf's coloring. Then again, maybe human names sounded just as silly to a wolf. Saetan raised an eyebrow at Beale and wondered how his stoic Warlord butler was going to react to a four-footed guest.
It was quickly apparent that any friend of Jaenelle's, whether he walked on two legs or four, would be treated as an honored guest.
Beale stepped forward, made his most formal bow, and addressed his inquiries to Jaenelle. "There is the beef roast from dinner, if Prince Smoke doesn't object to the meat being cooked."
Jaenelle looked amused, but her voice was steady and dignified. "Thank you, Beale. That would be quite acceptable."
"A bowl of cool water as well?"
Jaenelle just nodded.
"We'll be more comfortable in the drawing room," Saetan said. He slowly approached Jaenelle, offering a hand to help her to her feet.
Smoke tensed at his approach but didn't challenge him or back away. The wolf didn't trust humans, didn't want him close enough to touch Jaenelle, but was at a loss of how to stop it without incurring his Lady's disapproval.
He's not so different from the rest of us,Saetan thought as he escorted Jaenelle to the family drawing room.
Without conscious thought, the men waited for Jaenelle to choose a seat before settling into chairs and couches far enough away from her so the wolf wouldn't be upset and close enough not to miss anything. Saetan sat opposite her chair, aware that Smoke's attention was focused on him and had been since the introductions were made.
He felt grateful for the distraction Beale provided moments later when the butler appeared with a silver serving tray holding coffee for Jaenelle, yarbarah for the rest of them, and bowls of meat and water for Smoke. Beale set the bowls of meat and water in front of Smoke, placed the tray on a table in front of Jaenelle, and, when no one indicated a further requirement, reluctantly left the room.
Smoke sniffed at the meat and water but remained seated by Jaenelle's chair, pressed against her knees. Saetan added the hefty dose of cream and sugar that Jaenelle liked in her coffee, then poured and warmed yarbarah, passing the glasses to the others before warming one for himself.